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Kull And Conan: Who Is More Heroic, In The Traditional Sense?


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#1 mario

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Posted 25 October 2011 - 11:40 AM

I know I know I post alot of Kull but I was thinking, who do you think is more heroic Kull or Conan?I am likely out of my depth asking this which is why i do. we know far more about Conan's life ( as more was written about him) and we know he is often made hero in his stories by circumstance not intent.
Most of what we know about Kull (save some vague backround and the story Exile of Atlantis )is during his Kingship which he took very seriously and like Conan fought to relatively keep whats his. But based on psychology and philosophical makeup who do you think would truly do everything he could for their kingships friends selves etc to be a classical hero?
Exile of Atlantis is what makes me think of this: In it kull has to kill a girl inorder to save her from a more gruesome end....do you think Conan would have done the same or tried to find a way to save her? Again based on their very different psychological makeup ( Kull being even more moody and prone to doubt reality itself based on his life, conan not worrying about such matters and living burning with life loving and slaying) I suspect theres more to this question than meets the eye.and i thought it would be more interesting than the old " my dad can beat your dad /conan vs kull fight" sort of discussion.

#2 johnnypt

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Posted 25 October 2011 - 05:55 PM

In a strict traditional sense, Kull would veer more towards what would be considered the "hero", if only because as you mentioned, we don't know much about his past before he was king. Apart from the bits mentioned in the stories, we only have two stories of a pre-king Kull. In Exile, he does the heroic thing by saving a girl from burning (by killing her, go figure). In Curse of the Golden Skull he killed Rotath the wizard, though we're not really sure why (sounded like the guy probably deserved it, but the circumstances are left somewhat up in the air). He was an outlaw, but what did that mean? Robin Hood was an outlaw and so was Jesse James, two very different characters with different motivations who have the same noun attached to them. Which kind was Kull? One thing we know about Kull is he was transported thousands of years out of his time and he still fought the same as he did while defending what was his.

I can certainly see Conan doing a similar thing to "save" a woman, he was prepared to do that to Natala had they not stumbled on Xuthal. As to "saving her" saving her, it would've depended on the odds and his age. A younger Conan may have tried to wipe out everyone standing around the pyre, whereas an older Conan probably would've made the same calculations the younger Kull did.

#3 Taranaich

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Posted 26 October 2011 - 04:37 AM

It's an interesting question, one that I'm finding fiendishly difficult to answer. Personally, I think Kull is more "modern heroic" than Conan, in that he's more concerned about upholding his particular moralities and enforcing them, while Conan is more "classical heroic," in that he's more similar to the heroes of mythology and folklore, some of which could be downright nasty individuals at times. It bears more examination, but based entirely on instinct, I go with that.

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#4 mario

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Posted 26 October 2011 - 11:16 AM

you know johnnypt, i had forgotten about the opening of 'xuthal' I had thought of conans choice to save the girl at the end of bit yatkin actually. And yeah Taranaich I am having a tough time answering the question myself it opens the doors to different definitions of heroism to start with. I identify both men as heroic in the respect of the mere scope of the obstacles alone they both have to plow through takes heroic effort,but when it comes down to motivations, things get greyer so to speak.I think you may be correct on the grounds that Kull, as a more philosophical and introverted sort of barbarian, is more concerned about it (morality)than Conan. But conan again by the time he is in Kull's shoes ( king that is) has evolved and the Hour of the dragon is quite a heroc tale. the man gives it all up to save his kingdom and his people, any ol barbarian probably couldve walked away and said onto the next adventure.( not counting all the symbolic "find the heart of your kingdom "stuff.which is probably important to this as well) Conan made a very heroic choice unflinchingly showing his evolution which going round in the circle again, we never really see in Kull ( if anything we begin to see doubts of reality and increasing paranoia)because more is written on conan. How old is Kull when he becomes king/? I always assumed he was much younger than conan when he gets the crown, if thats the case woudl the conan of "xuthal " rogues in the house have made the same choice the older conan did in hotd?How would Conan had dealt with serpent men ( no cartoon star metal jokes please lol) disguised as people or even tuzan thune? would he be shaken out of his sense of reality despite his claims as a young man in qotbc?

#5 johnnypt

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Posted 26 October 2011 - 03:17 PM

It all comes back to the fact that there's more of a breadth of stories about Conan. There are some heroic aspects to Conan in Rogues In The House, Vale of Lost Women and Pool of the Black One and some in the same stories that are decidedly not. As Taranaich mentioned, characters in the classical heroic mode aren't always upstanding individuals and in fact stories tend to deal with their failings or twists of fate out of their control and their reactions.

It'd be interesting to throw some other Howard heroes into the mix and see how they match up. Solomon Kane I think is similar to Kull. We do have hints of his dark side, but in the stories themselves he battles against wrong and the receivers of his actions are those committing it. On the other hand Bran Mak Morn, while also a king/chief/leader of his people, would fall more towards the "relative morality" (for lack of a better term) of Conan. In Kings he shows he will go to improbable lengths to protect his people. In Worms, he defeats the enemy, but has he lost his soul in the process? Classical hero indeed.

#6 icarus

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Posted 26 October 2011 - 08:06 PM

I would have to put Kull in the more classical hero category. He seems more concerned about Conan in the interests of the kingdom and the subjects. There's a lot of times where he purposefully changes the law to benefit certain characters. It seems that Conan is more driven by his own personal benefits of his kingly choices... but on the other hand there is The Scarlet Citadel which describes how his subjects loved him and it described his kingdom as well ruled and prosperous. So in conclusion, I guess I'm back to the start lol.

#7 Fernando

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Posted 29 October 2011 - 09:59 PM

I would have to put Kull in the more classical hero category. He seems more concerned about Conan in the interests of the kingdom and the subjects. There's a lot of times where he purposefully changes the law to benefit certain characters. It seems that Conan is more driven by his own personal benefits of his kingly choices... but on the other hand there is The Scarlet Citadel which describes how his subjects loved him and it described his kingdom as well ruled and prosperous. So in conclusion, I guess I'm back to the start lol.


A very interesting point! :) About Kull, we have more tales of him as a king than Conan's ones. Sometimes I wonder if Kull's behavior - despite the fact Kull was sexless, and Conan didn't - was, before the Atlantean becoming king, too different of Conan's one before the Cimmerian's kingship. ;)

#8 witchfire

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Posted 30 October 2011 - 01:22 PM

kull seem more heroic but Conan is more entertaining
"today the blood of battle upon my weapons will never dry
many i'll send into the ground, laughing as they die"

#9 mario

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 11:58 AM

how many people here might figure mental toughness would play a factor into this? i ask this because I think Conan shows a bit more mental toughness than Kull. Kull seems to internalize the events that happen to him , and in some instances ( the mirrors of tuzan thune for example) he begins to seem to question whats around him.There's almost a paranoia to Kulls mindset that while can be more frightening , shows a sign of vulnerability mentally, psychologically.What kind of path would Kull have taken had more stories of his kingship been written?would his physical resilience carried him through all the plotting and vile sub cultures that teemed in his world .
They were there in a sense for Conan too, but Conan not has the physicality, he has a good mindset for dealing with these matters, as said in qotbc, or even listening to scholars in tote. Would he succeed where Kull might not?
Again this isnt " who would win in a fight?" sort of thing, but more of a who would rise above and be the hero under enormous odds.

Edited by mario, 03 November 2011 - 11:58 AM.


#10 Taranaich

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Posted 04 November 2011 - 12:28 AM

Definitely think you have something there, Mario. The question is, is this a matter of mental toughness, or is it simply because Kull hadn't been exposed to the supernatural as frequently, or as early, as Conan was? Kull's dealings with the supernatural remind me a lot of young Conan in "The God in the Bowl" and "The Tower of the Elephant": he's somewhat overwhelmed and awed, though will battle the horrors out of desperation. Compare this with older Conan, who's seen enough demons and devils to consider them "nothing unusual" by "Beyond the Black River." Could it be that Kull simply hasn't encountered as much sorcery as Conan? Kull did seem a lot more gregarious, confident and outgoing in "Kings of the Night."

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#11 stonecold-mike

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 07:55 PM

Kull is more heroic. His morals are a little more virtuous compared to those of Conan's.

#12 mario

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 06:11 PM

Definitely think you have something there, Mario. The question is, is this a matter of mental toughness, or is it simply because Kull hadn't been exposed to the supernatural as frequently, or as early, as Conan was? Kull's dealings with the supernatural remind me a lot of young Conan in "The God in the Bowl" and "The Tower of the Elephant": he's somewhat overwhelmed and awed, though will battle the horrors out of desperation. Compare this with older Conan, who's seen enough demons and devils to consider them "nothing unusual" by "Beyond the Black River." Could it be that Kull simply hasn't encountered as much sorcery as Conan? Kull did seem a lot more gregarious, confident and outgoing in "Kings of the Night."

I think the thing here is age: you see we have little of young kull and quite a bit of young conan , which is actually a microcsom of the whole problem: its hard to tell because there is little of kull known compared to conan, so we dont know who would go the extra mile to fit the description of a traditional hero. Based on what we do have ( and not what could be implied) conan has had alot more experience at a young age with the unnatural , as early as fgd and tote. I think the earliest based kull story is exile of atlantis , in which( correct me if I'm wrong) i do not remember any supernatural element.Kull is king ( I think a younger king than conan was but maybe his late thirties ...anyone know the time line?) when he first comes across elusive serpent men which makes him doubt his own self, but
now that said maybe the question isnot so much who is more heroic; but who is the nobler savage? Defining a traditional hero these days can be a tricky task in itself so maybe who is the nobler savage is a sort of more appropriate inversion,lol?!the funny thing is that the answer should be a sort of negative on that person, even though it wouldnt sound that way. I remember reading a Howard letter describing his characters quite the opposite as the 'noble savage' like a tarzan who does the right thing despite his upbringing.( to keep it brief). I think ( if someone knows of which letter I speak of) Howards barbarians were dark subject to muderous mood swings due to their time in the elements and such.if that were the question I would be more confident in saying Kull.Kull was raised feral at one point arguably actually had a rougher upbringing than conan ( though it cant be certain , as little as we know about kull, it seems there is a bit on his early life. Now tdoes that make him a 'noble savage 'in general? no , but mayhaps nobler to conan??