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‘Where the Black Wind Rushes’
A Song of the Werewolf Folk by Robert E. Howard


Reading from The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard, Del Rey, 2008, page 5

On a metaphoric level—in consideration of Howard's body of work—I see Howard employing the werewolf as the wild man trapped within the civilized life, just as the wolf is trapped within the domestic dog. Later on in his Conan stories he would hit this theme straight on, often comparing the hero as a wolf among the mere dogs that were other men, and when among barbarians or outlaws the hero stood out as a tiger among wolves.

Howard’s mythic world is clearly ordered:

Civilization, gleaming at its center, peopled by ox-eyed dullards and decadent addicts, herded by fool dogs, ruled by cruel princes, fooled by fiendish sorcerers, stalked by elder gods…

Barbarism, the outlying heroic dimension, peopled by fierce races, frequented by outlaws, wandered by heroes, subject to gods both racial, elemental and alien…

A Song of the Werewolf Folk

Sink white fangs in the throat of Life,

Lap up the red that gushes

In the cold dark gloom of the bare black stones,

In the gorge where the black wind rushes.

Slink where the titan boulders poise

And the chasms grind thereunder,

Over the mountains black and bare

In the teeth of the brooding thunder.

Why should we wish for the fertile fields,

Valley and crystal fountain?

This is our doom – the hunger-trail,

The wolf and the storm-stalked mountain

Over us stalk the bellowing gods

Where the dusk and the twilight sever;

Under their iron goatish hoofs

They crunch our skulls forever.

Mercy and hope and pity – all,

Bubbles the black crags sunder;

Hunger is all the gods have left

And the death that lurks thereunder.

Glut mad fangs in the blood of Life

To slake the thirst past sating,

Before the blind worms mouth our bones

And the vulture’s beak is grating.

Werewolves as Barbarians

Of the three postmodern horror archetypes, the vampire [representing the autocrat and the vampire clan representing a macroparasitic political organism] and the zombie [representing the domesticated, herd-like mass of unthinking humanity] and the werewolf, the latter is usually the most conflicted and most sympathetic. In our increasingly anemic society, the vampire has developed quite an allure, the allure of power as a salve for alienation. The werewolf, though, lacks the god qualities that make for easy fantasy, being more of a tragic Hellenic-style hero, a conflicted, alienated soul, who insists on agency and is ultimately driven to his doom by his passion.

Like the werewolves fancied in the poem above, Howard’s barbarian heroes are mortals, doomed but defiant, as are their tribe, their race—their civilization if they managed to rise above the barbaric natural state before being swallowed again by the tidal fates that sweep away all, even the bellowing gods grotesquely approaching mortality with their devilish characteristics.

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