Click to Subscribe
▶  More from Blog Book Reviews REH Dream
‘The Slayers Come’
The Return of Richard Grenville by Robert E. Howard

Formerly published as ‘Like Shadows Out of Hell’, revised

In a much more racially charged story than The Spirit of Tom Molyneaux, Howard presents Solomon Kane, his Puritan avenger serial killer with the manners of a goatish headmaster, in a pleasing poem, consisting of 11 four-line verses that rhyme nicely, and reads easily.

This piece was not published until 1968. The scene takes place seemingly during Solomon Kane’s second sojourn in Africa, and begins with:

“One slept beneath the branches dim,

Cloaked in the crawling mist,

And Richard Grenville came to him

And plucked him by the wrist.”

Kane’s old shipmate from his days sailing with Drake, then warned him:

“The Hounds of Doom are free;

The Slayers come to take your head

To hang from a ju-ju tree.”

Kane then fights off a shadowy band of blacks with pistol and sword, and when he turns to thank Sir Richard, the man was gone, not having been there in the first place.

This is one of Howard’s better renderings of this theme, with the verse helping quite a bit in elevating it above the level of his early effort in the boxing ghost story. He was well on his way to combining the two forms masterfully, and to finally nail the theme in the penultimate scene of Queen of the Black Coast, which will be among the last of his stories covered on this survey.

Richard Grenville was a slighted captain of the late 16th Century British navy that was made to sit out the battle against the Spanish Armada by Drake—who was jealous of his heroism—and who would later fight a Spanish squadron off the Azores in a lone ship, never to be seen again. No Englishman of the age of Solomon Kane and the British sea-dogs was more honorable. Howard’s antipathy toward Drake as a symbol for English duplicity and tyranny carries through the Kane saga like a half visible red thread and also finds expression in Black Vulmea’s vengeance.

Under the God of Things

Add Comment