“’I knew you hadn’t spent your life on this frontier. You’ve mentioned several far places. You’ve traveled widely?’
‘I’ve roamed far; farther than any other man of my race ever wandered. I’ve seen all the great cities of the Hyborians, the Shemites, the Stygians and the Hyrkanians. I’ve roamed in the unknown countries south of the black kingdoms of Kush, and east of the Sea of Vilayet. I’ve been a mercenary captain, a corsair, a kozak, a penniless vagabond, a general – hell, I’ve been everything except a king, and I may be that, before I die.’ The fancy pleased him, and he grinned hardly. Then he shrugged his shoulders and stretched his mighty figure on the rocks. ‘This is as good life as any. I don’t know how long I’ll stay on the frontier; a week, a month, a year. I have a roving foot. But it’s as well on the border as anywhere.’” – Beyond the Black River
Conan is stating that he has been in all the great cities of the Hyborians. It would be interesting to know what is considered a great city and if some Hyborian nations like The Border Kingdom have any. By this time in his life he has been to Hyperborea, Brythunia, Nemedia, Zamora, Corinthia, Ophir, Aquilonia, Zingara, Argos, Koth, Khoraja, and Khauran of the Hyborian kingdoms. He has been in the land of Shem, and also among the Stygians in the ancient realm of Stygia. By this statement it seems he has also been in Hyrkania possibly as a Kozak, but had definitely seen some of the Hyrkanian’s great cities in the empire of Turan in addition to those he might have seen east of the Sea of Vilayet. Conan states he has been in the unknown countries south of Kush, possibly meaning unknown to Hyborians, having traveled to Keshan and Punt. He has been in the Himelias and Vendhya.
To me it seems like Howard is plugging previous Conan yarns in this passage, referencing previously published Conan stories for fans of the series in Weird Tales
.Published in Weird Tales
The first two are King Conan stories and would be chronologically after Conan makes the statement, but still a wink and sly reference for the fans, as Conan grins hardly and so do the fans knowing it will be so. 1. The Phoenix on the Sword (Dec 1932)
– hell, I’ve been everything except a king, and I may be that, before I die.2. The Scarlet Citadel (Jan 1933)
– hell, I’ve been everything except a king, and I may be that, before I die.
Conan proceeds to list professions he has been, and and places been to:3. The Tower of the Elephant (Mar 1933)
I’ve seen all the great cities of the Hyborians. I’ve been a penniless vagabond.4. Black Colossus (Jun 1933)
I’ve seen all the great cities of the Hyborians. I’ve been a mercenary captain, (and) a general.
5. The Slithering Shadow (Sep 1933) Xuthal of the Dusk
I’ve seen all the great cities of the Hyborians, the Shemites, (and) the Stygians. I’ve roamed in the unknown countries south of the black kingdoms of Kush. 6. The Pool of the Black One (Oct 1933)
I’ve seen all the great cities of the Hyborians.7. Rogues in the House (Jan 1934)
I’ve seen all the great cities of the Hyborians. I’ve been a penniless vagabond.
8. Shadows in the Moonlight (Apr 1934) Iron Shadows in the Moon
I’ve seen all the great cities of the Hyborians, and the Hyrkanians. I've been a kozak.9. Queen of the Black Coast (May 1934)
I’ve seen all the great cities of the Hyborians, (and) the Stygians. I’ve roamed in the unknown countries south of the black kingdoms of Kush. I've been a corsair.10. The Devil in Iron (Aug 1934)
I’ve seen all the great cities of the Hyrkanians. I've been a kozak.11. The People of the Black Circle (Sep/Oct/Nov 1934)
I’ve roamed in the unknown countries east of the Sea of Vilayet.12. A Witch Shall be Born (Dec 1934)
I’ve seen all the great cities of the Hyborians, the Shemites, and the Hyrkanians. I’ve been a mercenary captain.
13. Jewels of Gwahlur (Mar 1935) The Servants of Bit-Yakin
I’ve seen all the great cities of the Shemites, (and) the Stygians. I’ve roamed in the unknown countries south of the black kingdoms of Kush. I've been a general.14. Beyond the Black River (May/Jun 1935)
It’s as well on the border as anywhere. I’ve been a mercenary captain.
These stories were published after so naturally are not included in the reference:
15. Shadows in Zamboula (Nov 1935) The Man-Eaters of Zamboula16. The Hour of the Dragon (Dec 35/Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr 1936)17. Red Nails (Jul/Aug/Sep 1936)
"I’ve roamed in the unknown countries south of the black kingdoms of Kush, and east of the Sea of Vilayet."
As I've said (and your quote below demonstrates), the Kushite kingdoms were NOT unknown to the Hyborians.
In REH's own words, the black kingdoms of Kush (which term encompasses all of the black kingdoms; Howard never gave any indication otherwise) were known to Hyborians in general.
The passage in question doesn't make grammatical sense with the above facts taken into account; not the way you seem to interpret it. If there were simply more black kingdoms south of Kush which were unknown to Hyborians, then it would make more sense to say "unknown black kingdoms south of Kush". The way that passage is constructed has "unknown countries" which lie "south of the black kingdoms of Kush". Conan isn't referring to the single kingdom of Kush, he's referring to all the lands of the "Kushites" who inhabit "Kush", "Kush" being every single realm ruled by blacks.
"Kush", in the sense used by Conan (and in the REH quote you supplied above) IS all of the black realms. If there were "unknown black kingdoms", they'd STILL be part of the "black kingdoms of Kush" because that is what "Kush" is, in the broad sense Howard outlined above. If a place is ruled by blacks, then it is "Kushite" in the mind of a Hyborian, so Conan would have no need to voice that passage in that fashion. Therefore, the "unknown countries" must be inhabited by peoples other than blacks.
- Beyond the Black River
I view this sentence this way, with two geographic place names separated by a comma but sharing the action verb "roamed" and the descriptive adjective "unknown", with the conjunction "and" serving as a connector between the common clause "I've roamed in these countries:
I've roamed in the unknown countries south of the black kingdoms of Kush
) I've roamed in the unknown countries east of the Sea of Vilayet
The argument as to whether the countries south of Kush are known or unknown is the same argument as the countries east of the Vilayet, some know them, some only know of them, having never traveled there the lands themselves are unknown to them.
I agree the black kingdoms are known by some Hyborians, but not all, and to many the countries themselves would have been unknown (meaning they had never known them by traveling there) even if they had had contact trading with blacks in Stygia, Shem, or any of the Hyborian coastal cities, or seen black slaves (mentioned in The Man-Eaters of Zamboula
) or mercenaries (they are mentioned in Black Colossus
) anywhere in the mapped Hyborian world. On most maps mentioned the northern, eastern, and far southern regions are sparsely represented if at all.
The countries east of the Sea of Vilayet would likewise be unknown to many Hyborians in the sense that they probably never had traveled in that region, however there is ample evidence that they had traded with and seen persons from countries east of the Vilayet Sea. I think just as some Hyborians know of Kush they know of these eastern lands, but the geography itself may be unknown (hence poorly mapped) because very few had visited there. We know that Conan has been to Vendhya, the Zhaibar region of the Himelians, Afghulistan, and possibly Kosala."'I’ve looted enough from the Khitan caravans to know what I’m talking about,’ he asserted. ‘That’s jade!’”
– Red Nails
We know Conan did not travel to Khitai until after The Hour of The Dragon
as king, so he encountered these easterners somewhere else as did others in the Hyborian world i.e. the trading destinations of the caravans.
The reference to the unknown countries south of Kush could mean, the uncharted regions south of Kush which is usually described as deserts as in Xuthal of the Dusk
, or thick jungle as in the region of the Zarkheba River in Queen of the Black Coast
that Conan had traveled to using the word countries as synonymous with countrysides instead of established countries with borders and cities, with governments. I believe that since he is speaking to Balthus an Aquilonian from Tauran, he is probably guessing that the countries south of Kush (a Hyborian may be familiar with with Kush itself), and east of the Vilayet Sea would be unknown (not visited) to Balthus and describes them as such.
Merriam-Webster defines Country with the plural Countries as:
1 : an indefinite usually extended expanse of land: region <miles of open country>
a : the land of a person's birth, residence, or citizenship
b : a political state or nation or its territory
a : the people of a state or district : populace
b : jury
c : electorate
4 : rural as distinguished from urban areas <prefers the country to the city>
5 : country music
They also list Countryside as a synonym of Country.
I know of Europe and Asia and even what the Europeans and Asians are called and can correctly name and place several of the countries in those areas on a map. However I may in my ignorance lump several citizens of various former USSR countries together or Asian countrymen together not being able to distinguish those peoples by appearance into whatever Slavic, Baltic, Russian country etc, or not be able to distinguish a Philippino from a Malay, Thai from a Burmese person, a Laotian from a Cambodian or Vietnamese, a Nepalese from a Tibetan, or a Taiwanese from a Chinese citizen. To me Asia and Europe are unknown having no experience being there, however I have met people from there and know of them and their countries. I do know North America, Central America, and South America having been to countries in each (but still probably having some difficulty identifying a Uruguayan from a Paraguayan by appearance alone) and the regions where I have lived in the Americas both North and South I know more intimately and the places I have visited are not unknown to me but may be to someone who has never been there maybe only having met a traveling native of those lands. I think that is what is meant by unknown and Conan is speaking to someone he believes has not traveled to the same countries even if he has met a native from there, those lands being unknown to Balthus. I don't think unknown in this case means never heard of. I do think that knowing of someplace and actually knowing someplace are far different things the former being unknown in a practical sense.
I stick by my idea that he is referring to Keshia and Punt being nods to The Servants of Bit-Yakin that
had been previously published. I do not discount the possibility of a brown non ne groid race south of Kush, but do not think he is referring to them and there is no mention of his traveling to a country of them, not to say it couldn't have happened just that it is not chronicled. It would be cool indeed if it was as more Conan stories by Howard would be awesome regardless of locality.
Edited by Amra_the_Lion, 31 December 2010 - 08:12 PM.
If life is an illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. Queen of the Black Coast 1934 Robert E. Howard