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In Topic: REH Word Of The Week

20 October 2014 - 07:47 AM

The Word of the Week for October 20, 2014 is hod




This week’s poem “Roundelay of the Roughneck” appeared in the Daniel Baker Collegian April 12, 1926. That was the year of his twentieth birthday.


He sent a number of songs to Robert W. Gordon (1888-1961). Gordon edited the department “Old Songs That Men Have Sung” for Adventure magazine from 1923-1927. REH’s submissions including a verse to “Young Johnny” that he omitted in a previous letter plus three additional songs: “On the Lakes of the Ponchartrain”; “Sandford Burns”, and “My Old Beaver Cap.”


A couple months later in another letter to Gordon, he adds:


As you have doubtless received several thousand versions of “Barbara Allen” I will not bore you with the song, except that I wish to say that the last verse seems to have been dropped from most of the versions that I have seen, which is, as you know,


But by and rade the Black Douglas

And Wow! But he was rough!

For he tore up the bonny briar

And threw it in St. Levins (?) loch


Other songs he sent to Gordon were: “The Bell of Edinburgh Town” which REH considered “one of the most perfect examples of the old Scotch ballad.” Other songs included: “Pretty Polly”, “A Fragment”, “Nelly Till (?)”, “Brady”, and “Tavern Song”.


On April 14th he wrote to Clyde


Being in an (un)poetical mood, I shall take a fiendish glee in flinging various unrhythmic time-squanderings at you.


The REH poems included


The Dancer




Then he quotes “Song of the Seasons” by Faith Baldwin. Then he writes two untitled poems (“We are the duckers of crosses”) and (“The shades of night were falling faster,”). Over the next few months of 1926 he writes the following poems:


(“Give ye of my best though the dole be meager”)

(“Early in the morning I gazed at the eastern skies”)











Dancer (different from The Dancer)










Mountains of California



The Alamo

San Jacinto (Flowers bloom on San Jacinto)


Arcadian Days

Twilight on Stonehenge


Campus at Midnight.


Paging through volume one of The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard, for 1926, I found letters to Clyde Smith about everything under the sun from harlots, to whiskey to Celtic heritage. In between poems he comments on sexual perversions of various authors and poets. Ben Hecht, Sinclair Upton, Swinburne, Oscar Wilde, George Sylvester Viereck. He also says there is great poetry being written now: G. K. Chesterton, H.H. Knibbs, Langdon Smith, Alan Seeger, Shelley, Lanier, and Poe.


He sent a letter to The Ring ca. early 1926, discussing boxing along with his ratings of heavyweights, some of whom are mentioned in his poetry:

James J. Jefferies

James J. Corbett (“When You Were a Set-Up and I Was a Ham”)

Jack Dempsey (“Jack Dempsey” and “And Dempsey climbed into the ring…”)

Peter Jackson

Bob Fitzsimmons (“Jack Dempsey”)

John L. Sullivan (“John L. Sullivan”)

Tom Sharkey

Kid McCoy

Sam Langford

Jack Johnson

Louis Firpo

Jess Willard.


I also found this little gem: On May 7, 1926, he wrote to Clyde “My arms all right. A fool experience. I have ridden nightmares over fences and down roads, but never through windows before.”


It reminded me of something I had read in Mark Finn’s Blood & Thunder (pp 142-43):


Robert took a trip to Brownwood in late April or early May, [1926] and he spent the night with Clyde Smith. That night, Robert had one of his sleepwalking incidents. Robert’s terrified scream woke the whole house. Smith, groggy, opened his eyes to find Robert grappling with a large shape, and, thinking an intruder was in the house, jumped in to help. Before he could do anything, Robert went headlong out the closed window, through the screen. The Smith family found Robert outside, wandering around, apparently dazed. Smith, having been told previously what to do by Robert in the event that a sleepwalking incident happened, talked to Robert until he fell back asleep. Once Robert closed his eyes again, Smith woke his friend up. Robert started. “I’m glad you woke me,” he said. “I dreamed I saw a newspaper and the headlines said, ‘Axe Murderer Slays Three.’” When Smith told him what had happened, Robert said, “I’m glad you couldn’t get to me. I have the strength of a goddamn ape when I’m in the middle of one of these nightmares.” Robert suffered cuts on his face and a deep gash on his arm. Smith’s mother recalled that Robert had let out the most chilling scream she had ever heard.


Dave Lee also confirmed Robert’s nocturnal struggles in an interview with Texas author Howard Waldrop: “Robert would tie his right hand to the bed because he had violent dreams and would wake up swinging.” Robert’s night terrors were a long-standing thing. He mentioned them in Post Oaks and Sand Roughs, and his friends knew him to be a sleep walker, as everyone slept over on road trips and out of town visits. Both sleepwalking and night terrors, particularly in adolescents and adults, are linked to high levels of stress. Children who move to new cities, houses, etc. with great frequency are prone to night terrors. This would clearly be a source of stress and confusion for Robert as a child, but as a young man, it’s an indicator that he was dealing with more than he let on; the desire to succeed in his chosen profession, parental tension, a combination of both, or maybe even neither. It’s obvious that the subject matter of his dreams, the axe-murder slaying families, comes directly from his seven week stay in New Orleans as a young man. In later years, he speaks of New Orleans with a mixture of fascination and disgust—fascinated with its history, and troubled by the number of undesirables currently living there, particularly the Italian. This is also interesting considering that the Italian immigrants were the primary target for the New Orleans Axe-Man. To what degree he carried all of this around with him is a mystery, and since Robert never thought to examine his stress to the point that he wrote anything down, we will never know what was really pulling at him.


Another friend mentions REH’s nightmares according to L. Sprague de Camp.


Tom Ray Wilson, who lived in Cross Plains until 1924, became another intimate. As a high school boy, Tom sometimes drove Dr. Howard on his rounds while the doctor dozed in the back seat of his car. From time to time, Bob slept over at Tom's house, but later Tom reported that he had been scared of Bob because he always carried a hunting knife and often a pistol and suffered from nightmares. So severe were these nightmares that Tom used to tie Bob's toe to the bedpost with a piggin string lest, in his sleep, he rise up and attack his roommate. (DVD, pp 142-43)


The 1926 section in volume one of the Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard is about 40 pages. In the midst of his poems and comments about authors and poets is this passage from a letter to Clyde Smith dated April 14, 1926. It’s something I marked long ago when I first read it.


Comrado mio, we stand at the peak of the ages. Our feet spurn the pinnacles of the Centuries. Don’t you see? Look! Countless eons have gone before Eons uncounted will follow after! The centuries sleep with forgotten kings; ages lie unborn in the womb of infinity. Today is ours! We must seize time swiftly and with strong hand grasp its mane, for Time passes like the night wind. Live! every hour, every minute. Tomorrow, in a hundred years, careless feet will stir our dust, heedless of we who lived and laughed and toiled and passed. Listen! He who fixes his eye on a distant goal and follows unswerved follows the right path, but he whose eyes are blinded to all else is a fool. Our purse may be empty, our back bare, but the Present is ours. The gold of sunset, the rose of dawn, the whisper of the night wind, the breezes on the grass and the trees—today the Universe if ours! And after—who knows?


What a year—365 days reduced to 40 pages of REH letters that are filled with lots of information about REH.


In Topic: Masculinity in the 21st Century: REH and Beyond

16 October 2014 - 05:14 PM

I don’t qualify as a manly man in any shape or form, but I am a huge Conan fan which may give me a passport to post here.


I listened to the podcast and came away with several good points:


What is the difference between being a good man and being good at being a man?


A good man is defined by cultural norms: religion, political ideologies etc.


Being good at being a man is defined as someone who is successful in a survival situation, e.g., warriors. Donovan also mentions four Tactical Virtues


1. Strength (most men are stronger than most women) I found myself asking about internal strength (intestinal fortitude or guts) something that leaders and survivalists exhibit. Perseverance is one form of this.

2. Courage (risk taking)

3. Mastery (of yourself including includes competence at what you do)

4. Honor (uses the traditional definition of reputation as a man who lives up to the Tactical Virtues)


He and Bret McKay talk about flamboyant dishonor which is roughly defined as making a big show of openly rejecting manliness; but also mentioned being shameless about your dishonor.


He also discusses the lack of opportunity in today’s society of office cubicles to show the Tactical Virtues and talks a lot about Dead Men Walking TV program as an example of being able to use (and revel in these virtues.) It’s all about survival.


I definitely agree with the concept of the Tactical Virtues: Strength, Courage, Mastery (of yourself and competence at what you do) as well as Honor. These also apply to women and children of both sexes. If you’re talking about a survival situation, women and children with these qualities would be of value to the tribe or group.


My research about Jack Donovan confirms that he is a very interesting person. According to Wikipedia:


Jack Donovan is an American author known for his writing on masculinity and for his criticisms of feminism and gay culture….Although Donovan is a homosexual himself Androphilia, A Manifesto is a polemic directed at the gay community and contemporary gay culture.


In Androphilia, Donovan employs the word androphilia to distinguish his own experience of homosexual desire, which he defines as a Mars/Mars attraction between two men, from the label “gay” which, Donovan claims, is inseparable from connotations of “effeminacy” and “a whole cultural and a political movement that promotes anti-male feminism, victim mentality, and “leftist” politics.” Donovan uses the term androphilia to emphasize masculinity in both the object and the subject of male homosexual desire, and rejects the gender nonconformity that he sees in gay identity. Donovan advocates withdrawal from the gay community and mainstream gay culture, the rejection of the label “gay,” for those men who feel limited by it, and advises those men to concentrate on developing friendships with heterosexual men and to explore traditional male gender roles.


I had some problems with a few of the disparaging remarks that were made in the broadcast but all in all, it was an interesting and informative 39 minutes. I didn't think he gave any current examples for the opportunity to utilize his definition of manliness (warrior survival skills). However his explanation of the Tactical Virtues was worth listening to and in today’s society of “get as much as you can, as fast as you can, anyway that you can” they represent a different way of thinking. Personally, I hope those Virtues can survive in the current atmosphere.


I’ll be interested to see what others have to say…

Thanks Deuce for posting this…


In Topic: REH Word Of The Week

13 October 2014 - 07:17 AM

The Word of the Week for October 13, 2014 is mizzen




This week’s poem “Drake Sings of Yesterday” was never published during REH’s lifetime. It’s one of his descriptive sea poems and has been used in Word of the Week several times in the past five years.


7/19/10 for moidore (http://www.rehupa.co...cat=13&paged=22 toward the bottom of the page)

10/22/12 for pieces of eight (http://www.rehupa.co...cat=13&paged=11 top of page)

2/4/13 for tun (http://www.rehupa.co...?cat=13&paged=9 middle of the page)

8/18/2014 for Damascus steel (http://www.rehupa.com/?cat=13 middle of the page)


In addition to “Drake Sings of Yesterday”, REH mentions Sir Francis Drake in: A Dying Pirate Speaks of Treasure, The Isle of Hy-Brasil and Solomon Kane’s Homecoming 2. variant version.. “The One Black Stain,” one of REH’s most important and epic poetic tales IMO is the story about Sir Francis Drake and Solomon Kane. I still get chills every time I read the stanzas:


Hell rose in the eyes of Francis Drake. “Puritan knave!” swore he,

“Headsman, give him the axe instead! He shall strike off yon traitor’s head!”

Solomon folded his arms and said, darkly and sombrely:


“I am no slave for your butcher’s work.” “Bind him with triple strands!”

Drake roared in wrath and the men obeyed, hesitantly, as men afraid,

But Kane moved not as they took his blade and pinioned his iron hands.


REH also wrote about other legendary sea captains: In poems such as A Dying Pirate Speaks of Treasure and Flint’s passing mention Captains J Flint, Kidd, Henry Morgan and Long John Silver. REH refers to Captain John Paul Jones in An Incident of the Muscovy-Turkish War and Ferdinand Magellan in The One Black Stain.


Captains were not the only seamen in his poetry. He also included the deck-hand, helmsman, mariner, mate, sailor, sea-farer, sea-rover, sea wolf and skipper.


These do not include his mention of ships these men sailed—the barge, battleship, bireme, coracle, dhow, dragon ships, felucca, flagship, galleon, galley, galliot, junk, lateened rover, long ships, man-o’wars, proa, schooner, shallop, sloop, tall ships, triremes, warships and the Viking serpents. Most of these are mentioned in the poem “The Isle of Hy-Brasil” and are defined and pictured in “The Ships of Hy-Brasil, parts I and II)—which were the last posts for Word of the Week on The Cimmerian website: http://leogrin.com/C...rd-of-the-week/


Most of all, REH wrote about the sea itself using it often as graphic metaphors and symbols ranging from ancient sea (Baal, Seven Kings, To a Certain Cultured Woman) to clawing sea (When Death Drops Her Veil) to sea of gore (The Riders of Babylon, Tarantella) roistering sea (The Adventurer) to white surf fiends in The Call of the Sea and one of my favorites: the sea of eon-ancient fears (The Road to Rome).


In his poems he mentions the Arctic, Asiatic, Baltic, Falgarai, Mediterranean, Middle, North, Polar, Red and the seven, southern and western seas as well as the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.


He wrote about sea creatures in Deeps; dolphins and other sea-things in The Sea; the sea-snake in Rune; seal in Ocean Thoughts; snake of the sea in The Doom Chant of Than-Kul; and the whale in The Outgoing of Sigurd the Jerusalem-Farer and the untitled (“Let me live as I was born to live”)


There are mythical sea creatures such as the kraken (The Return of the Sea-Farer, The Sea) Lorelei (The Sea Girl), and sea serpents (The Sea and Serpent). Maid of the mer, mermaids and mermen appear in Buccaneer Treasure, Arcadian Days, The Gods Remember 1 and 2, The Return of the Sea-Farer, Sailor, The Sea and Yesterdays.


I estimate there are well over 200 poems whose theme is the sea in some shape or form. Because many different sea-related words may appear in one poem and have terms in common with others, it’s difficult to give an exact number. Sometimes he wrote about the sea itself—and many of these poems have a freedom theme. He also used the sea and sea terms as metaphors and symbols to vividly describe himself and the world around him. This week’s poem, “Drake Sings of Yesterday” has many of these elements:


On Devon downs I met the ghost of Drake;

His sigh was a sea-wind that whispered past:

“Dost know barnacles crust the rotting strake,

And salt weed shrines the fallen mizzen-mast?

The sword of glory long has turned to rust. . .

Aye, shattered now the prows that long of yore

Beat up the sunset through the blinding gust

That lashed us off the gold-fat Carib coast.


“The glory and the glamor and the glee,

The raiding and the roving and the rage

Have faded like the spume upon the sea,

And History sands down another page.


“Where are the bawcocks and the bullies bold,

The swaggerers, the rufflers, all of they

Who strutted on the deck and filled the hold

With silk and spice and yellow Spanish gold:

The loot of Ind, of Panama and Cathay?


“Frown hard upon their deeds if so ye will,

And name them crimson-handed, black of heart—

They braved unknown worlds and seas, had their fill

Of death and danger where the sunsets spill

Unreckoned perils, and they took their part

Of cannonade and cutlass, wind and rack.

They paved the way for ye who were to come;

Aye, ye who followed rode a beaten track. . .

Oh, winds, winds, winds, winds, winds;

Oh, winds that set our rigging all a-hum!

Oh, tides, tides, tides, tides, tides;

Oh, tides that gripped our sterns on unmapped seas!

Oh, galleons, galleons, galleons,

Oh, galleons that loomed against the dawn!

Oh, battle-thunder, battle-thunder,

Oh, battle-thunder off the wide, white leas!

Oh, hissing cutlass, hissing cutlass,

Oh, hissing cutlass backed by English brawn!

Oh, plunder, plunder, plunder,

Oh, plunder from a thousand cargoes drawn!


“Boots of Cordovan leather, chests of ash,

Damascus steel, rare silks and silver plate;

Rough-carven gems to match the starlight’s flash,

And gold moidores cresting a piece-of-eight!

Tuns of brown ale and barrels of black rum,

And many a pipe of sharp Canary wine;

Toledo blades that shimmer, gleam and hum,

And bales of spice and idols of odd design!


“Ah, such dreams grip and cut me like a knife!

Let others rest in sweet slumbering death—

I cannot sleep; I need the sting of life,

The pounding of my veins, the fire, the strife,

The slashing spray, the sea-wind’s blasting breath;

The joy, the pain, the peril, sun and snow,

The tavern, and the ale at Plymouth Hoe!


“I cannot rest in Nombre Dios Bay.

Up through the seething fathoms I arise.

When night reefs sails to drink the dying day

And stars are longboat lanterns in the skies,

Then sea to sea I live it all again—

My youth and manhood. . . Devon and the Main!”


I met the ghost of Drake one Devon night;

He sang of sail and sword and reaving stench—

And in his eyes there burned the sea-thrown light

Of life-loving life not even Death can quench.


“And in his eyes there burned the sea-thrown light.”


Hmmm. That sounds like a pretty accurate description of REH.....


In Topic: REH Word Of The Week

06 October 2014 - 07:24 AM

The Word of the Week for October 6, 2014 is kopje




This week’s poem “The Zulu Lord” is one of several that mention Chaka (var. Shaka). In the unfinished “Chief of the Matabeles” REH writes of kopjes, tribal counselors and chiefs and wars:


Then up the kopje came old Umengan,

One of the oldest men of the kraal,

A counselor of the chief of the Matabeles,

And one who knew the legends of his race.

“When I was young,” Umengan said, “I followed many a chief,

Fought many a fight. Chaka, I followed first, the Zulu chief.

Chaka the bloody, Chaka the Wild Beast. There was a king!

When we had smote our foes so none remained,

And Chaka lusted for the battle-blood,

He bade the impis turn their spears on one another.

So we turned, impi on impi, Kaffir against Kaffir, and we smote,

And all the tribes made up those impis, all the tribes

Of Kaffirland. Spear clanged on spear and so we smote and slew.

And Chaka watched, his strange, black eyes, flaming with lust of slaughter.

So we slew, and slaughtered one another,

Till Chaka bade us cease.

So, as I said, I followed Chaka, for a king

To be a king and reign, must be a slayer.

For they rule by fear and power. Let a king

Allow his tribe to lose their fear of him and they will hurl him down.


“Then the young chief, Um Silikaz, arose in power,

A chief of my own tribe, Mosilikatze.

A mighty chieftain of the Matabele.

He was a Matabele and so am I. Should I, Umengan, serve a Zulu king?

In a daring plan, the young chief Mosilikatze allows himself to be captured by Chaka’s warriors.


Then they dragged Mosilikatze before the king.

And on him Chaka glared, and bold Mosilikatze

Shrank back before the glare of Chaka’s eyes, for none could

Face the Inkosa’s eyes when savage rage blazed from them.

‘Fling this jackal in a hut,’ then Chaka said,

‘And slay him when I order.’ So they took

Mosilikatze and placed him in a hut, whereby a warrior stood with an assegai.


“Then came Umlimo and with him warriors of the Matabeles.

The Zulu warrior they smote senseless and they freed

Mosilikatze and fled to the Matabeles.

And when Chaka learned his prey had fled,

He slew a dozen warriors in his rage, with his own spear.

And to Mosilikatze came many warriors of the Matabeles.


Lines in the “The Chief of the Matabeles” refer to Chaka holding battles where his own troops fight each other:


When we had smote our foes so none remained,

And Chaka lusted for the battle-blood,

He bade the impis turn their spears on one another.

So we turned, impi on impi, Kaffir against Kaffir, and we smote,

And all the tribes made up those impis, all the tribes

Of Kaffirland. Spear clanged on spear and so we smote and slew.

And Chaka watched, his strange, black eyes, flaming with lust of slaughter.

So we slew, and slaughtered one another,

Till Chaka bade us cease.


The first three stanzas of “The Zulu Lord” are shown on the REHupa website (see link above). These last stanzas show the same impi versus impi battle that are referred to in "The Chief of the Matabeles":


Then he formed his impis rank upon rank and bid them smite and slay;

Three thousand warriors of Zululand fell on that bloody day.

Spear clanged on shield and the squadrons reeled under the hot blue skies;

From his throne of state King Chaka watched with his gleaming, magical eyes.


And now when the dim stars light their brands

And the night wind brings its musk

The ghosts come out of the Shadowlands

And stalk through the shuddering dusk.


They say, when the night wind stirs the leaves and the starlight gleams and peers,

That ’tis the rustle of unseen shields and the glitter of shadow spears.

And there in the dim of the ghostly night, far out on the silent plain,

The phantom hordes form ranks and charge, retreat, surge on again.


And the moon that rises above the ghosts

And silvers the dusky land

Is Chaka, watching the spectral hosts

That died at his command.


Whether this event ever took place is difficult to say. Chaka’s history has been distorted by early histories written by white men in Africa who were after Zulu land grants and better sales of their books. That he was a military genius is not disputed. According to Wikipedia a number of historians argue that Shaka changed the nature of warfare in Southern Africa from a ritualized exchange of taunts with minimal loss of life into a true method of subjugation by wholesale slaughter. Others dispute this characterization. A number of writers focus on Shaka's military innovations such as the iklwa – the Zulu thrusting spear, and the "buffalo horns" formation. This combination has been compared to the standardization implemented by the reorganized Roman legions under Marius:


Combined with Shaka's "buffalo horns" attack formation for surrounding and annihilating enemy forces, the Zulu combination of iklwa and shield—similar to the Roman legionaries' use of gladius and scutum—was devastating. By the time of Shaka's assassination in 1828, it had made the Zulu kingdom the greatest power in southern Africa and a force to be reckoned with, even against Britain's modern army in 1879.


The Wikipedia article also states that much controversy still surrounds the character, methods and activities of the Zulu king. At one time, he ruled 250,000 people and could field over 50,000 troops. From a military standpoint, historian John Keegan notes exaggerations and myths that surround Shaka, but nevertheless maintains:


Fanciful commentators called him Shaka, the Black Napoleon, and allowing for different societies and customs, the comparison is apt. Shaka is without doubt the greatest commander to come out of Africa


He was a military genius who could also be exceedingly cruel. An example is the particularly gruesome revenge he took against the mother of his enemy. He locked her in a hut and then put jackals or hyenas inside. After they devoured her, in the morning, Chaka burned the house to the ground. 


According to Chaka history,


He had many enemies and was assassinated by his half-brothers after showing extreme brutality towards members of his own tribe when his mother [Nanci] died. According to Donald Morris, author of The Washing of the Spears A History of the Rise of the Zulu Nation Under Shaka and Its Fall in the Zulu Wars of 1879, during the mourning period Shaka ordered that no crops should be planted during the following year, no milk (the basis of the Zulu diet at the time) was to be used, and any woman who became pregnant was to be killed along with her husband. At least 7,000 people deemed insufficiently grief-stricken were executed, though it wasn’t restricted to humans, cows were slaughtered so that their calves would know what losing a mother felt like. (Wikipedia)


However, more recent scholarship about Chaka which delves into the legends and oral traditions of the Zulu’s offers this information about the slaughter after the death of his mother:


Oral sources record that in this period of devastation, a singular Zulu, a man named Gala, eventually stood up to Shaka and objected to these measures, pointing out that Nandi was not the first person to die in Zululand. Taken aback by such candid talk, the Zulu king is supposed to have called off the destructive edicts, rewarding the blunt teller-of-truths with a gift of cattle.


The figure of Shaka thus remains an ambiguous one in African oral tradition, defying simplistic depictions of the Zulu king as a heroic..nation builder on one hand, or a depraved monster on the other. This ambiguity continues to lend the image of Shaka its continued power and influence, almost two centuries after his death.


REH mentions Chaka in three poems, none of which were published in his lifetime. “The Chief of the Matabeles” and “The Zulu Lord” have already been discussed. The third, “A Negro Girl” has these lines:


I have heard that song the whole night long from the holds of the slaver ship;

And I heard it rise to the naked skies through the veldt’s hot, burning breath,

When Chaka’s hosts sent white men’s ghosts to beat at the doors of death.


The untitled “A haunting cadence fills the night with fierce longing” with its reincarnation theme was sent to Clyde Smith ca. February 1929 when REH was twenty-three years old (The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard, v. 1, p. 320):


I was a chief once, an ebon iron-thewed warrior.

The scent of the lush grass was wine to my nostrils.

The scent of cooking meat soothed me.

I sat without the doorway of my grass roofed hut

And watched the springbok graze,

The wildebeest come up from the east with a clash of antlers,

And a rattle of hoofs.

The crocodile smote the river with its tail and my heart


The birds flew over, the veldt birds, in long streams

From west to east.

And afar, afar, oh pulsing heart in my black body!

And the night rose and the stars rose, great white

Spear points in the velvet black.

The flames beat up the night in the village and the

Tom-toms rumbled through the dusk.


And REH’s deep respect for Africa and African warriors, including Chaka shows up in his letters too. This excerpt from oner to Harold Preece ca. January-February 1928 is worth repeating:


The characters I write about in my fiction are all primitive, see. The one I like to write about best and which I have sold best is kind of a combination of Jack Dempsey, a Zulu chief and a prehistoric man. (The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard, v. 1, p. 167)


There are a couple other interesting words in this week’s poem “The Zulu Lord” that have already been featured on Word of the Week:


kraal on 2/14/2011 http://www.rehupa.co...cat=13&paged=19 (middle of page)

assagai on 6/2/2014 http://www.rehupa.co...?cat=13&paged=2 (bottom of the page)


For more history and interesting background on the fascinating Zulu chief and warrior, Chaka and also the Zulu people, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaka



In Topic: REH Word Of The Week

29 September 2014 - 07:11 AM

The Word of the Week for September 29, 2014 is haft




According to The Neverending Hunt, this week’s poem, “Am-ra the Ta-an” was never published during REH’s lifetime. It is also listed as being unfinished. In his book The Selected Poems of Robert E. Howard, Howard scholar, Frank Coffman notes that the character Am-ra has been viewed as a proto Conan.


Kull of Atlantis (Del Rey Trade Paperback 2006, p. 249)—in the section “The ‘Am-ra of the Ta-an’ Fragments”—mentions that two poems and three texts about Am-ra were “found among Howard’s papers in 1966 and represent the entirety of the surviving “Amra of the Ta-an” material, predating the first Kull story by several years. The importance and influence of these texts on the Kull stories is delineated in the essay “Atlantean Genesis.” (p. 287)


The essay “The Tale of Am-ra.” offers this


When the days are short and the nights are long in the country of the people of the caves, and the snow covers hill and valley and one may cross the River of Pleasant Water on the ice, then the people of the caves gather about the fire of old Gaur, to listen to his legends and folk-lore and his tales of his youth. Wise and shrewd was old Gaur. Cunning in hunting-craft. His cave was hung with hides of elk and bear and tiger and lion, cunningly and skillfully tanned and dressed. On the walls there hung against the walls, there leaned, antlers of elk and moose, horns of buffalo and musk-ox and tusks of rhinoceros and mammoth and walrus, the ivory beautifully polished, much of it carved, depicting love and war and the chase, for Gaur was skilled in the mystery of picture making and cunning with the tools of the art. Skilled in war also, was Gaur…


Am-ra is not mentioned but Gaur’s identity becomes clear in one of this verses from “Am-ra the Ta-an”. In the first stanzas (see the verses on the REHupa website) Am-ra has been banished or perhaps fled his tribe. In this following verse we find out who Gaur is:


A youth in the land of the Ta-an,

A slim, young warrior, Gaur,

Had followed Am-ra in the chase,

And fought by his side in war.

He yearned for his friend Am-ra

And he hated the high priest’s face,

Till at last with the spear he smote him,

And fled from the land of his birth race.

Am-ra’s foot-prints he followed,

And he wandered far away,

Till he came to the land of the tiger,

In the gateway of the day.


The two untitled and unfinished fragments which follow in Kull Exile of Atlantis offer more background.


In “Atlantean Genesis” Howard scholar Patrice Louinet gives additional information:


In his A Biographical Sketch of Robert E. Howard, which originally appeared in 1935, Alvin Earl Perry quoted from a now-lost letter from Howard. In that letter the Texan offered a few comments on the genesis of some of his characters. About Kull, he wrote that he “was put on paper the moment he was created…In fact he first appeared as only a minor character in a story which was never accepted. At least, he was intended to be a minor character, but I had not gone far before he was dominating the yarn.”


The only extant story that fits the description is the first tale of this book, previously published under the title Exile of Atlantis. This short vignette, in which Kull is but one of three lead characters and is indeed soon “dominating the yarn” is the only Kull story that was written before The Shadow Kingdom. It was thus the first Kull story, but at the same time it was also the last to feature one of Howard’s earliest creations, Am-ra, whose origins will help us understand the genesis of the Kull stories: Am-ra apparently played the same role for Kull that the Atlantean would later play for Conan.


The “Untitled Story” (previously published as “Exile of Atlantis”, is basically an origin story of Kull. It gives this first description of Ta-an:


“All ready, Kull—Gorna—let us eat.”


The speaker was young—little more than a boy. A tall, slim-waisted, broad-shouldered lad who moved with the easy grace of a leopard. Of his companions, one was an older man, a powerful, massively built hairy man, with an aggressive face. The other was a counterpart of the speaker, except for the fact that he was slightly larger—taller, a thought deeper of chest and broader of shoulder. He gave the impression, even more than the first youth of dynamic speed concealed in long, smooth muscles


“Good,” said he, “I am hungry.”

“When were you ever otherwise?” jeered the first speaker.

“When I am fighting,” Kull answered seriously.

The other shot a quick glance at his friend as to fathom his inmost mind, he was not always sure of his friend.

“And then you are blood hungry,” broke in the old man, “Am-ra, have done with your bantering and cut us food.”


When Kull challenges the teachings of his adopted tribe Gorna admonishes him saying:


“Kull, we are close friends and I bear with you because of your youth—but one thing you must learn—respect for tradition. You mock at the customs and ways of our people—you whom that people rescued from the wilderness and gave a home and tribe.”


“I was a hairless ape roaming the woods,” admitted Kull frankly and without shame. “I could not speak the language of men and my only friends were the tigers and the wolves. I know not whom my people were, or what blood am I—“


Am-ra stands by his friend, Kull throughout Kull’s discussions with Gorna. After Kull commits an unforgivable act (don’t want to spoil the story for anyone who has not read it) this is the last mention of Am-ra: as Kull is escaping a man raises his bow: “Am-ra, as if by accident, lurched headlong into him and the arrow sang wide and aside.”


It doesn’t seem likely that Am-ra followed his friend Kull any further than the jungle since the Kull stories do not mention Am-ra again. Gaur follows Am-ra into the jungle. The poem is unfinished so we never know whether Gaur found him.  According to “The Tale of Am-ra” Gaur is with a tribe. Did he stumble into friendly tribe much the same as Kull? There is another possibility. The second fragment mentions Am-ra and a young girl. Perhaps that’s the basis of the tribe that Gaur speaks of many decades later.