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'Sparing Nothing, Fearing Nothing'
Footfalls Within by Robert E. Howard
Formerly published as ‘The Very Symbol of Militant Islam’, revised
Solomon Kane has journeyed far into Central Africa on his aimless quest to kill wrongdoers. He is caught sleeping in the hut of a friendly tribe of blacks, harried by other tribes, and preyed upon by Arab slavers who swoop down upon them and carry off the entire village in chains.
It is very possible that this might be a rewrite of the unfinished The Children of Assur as the setup scene for the plot is so similar. This tale has an intensity the other lacks—and extreme intensity of purpose even for Howard.
Kane, clearly insane, follows the small army of black and Arab gunmen, muttering to himself:
“Even into this lonesome land they come…Destruction goeth before them and death followeth after. Wo unto ye, sons of iniquity, for the wrath of God is upon ye.”
Kane then fights it out with the slavers, and is overcome when an Arab “with the craft of his race” pushes a black onto Kane’s sword and the rest grab him!
Kane, the prized captive of a cruel Arab sheikh, is now set on his starkest stage. Howard liked having Kane taken captive, unlike his other characters, so that Kane’s single-minded mania could be placed on display. The supernatural elements I will not give away, only to say that this story tells the tale behind the ju-ju staff given to Kane by his black blood-brother N’Longa.
Interestingly, the religious reverence and cruelty of the Arab character is accurately illustrated by Howard, who had never been beyond the region of Texas and Arkansas. As becomes obvious of any reading of pre-World War II adventure fiction and nonfiction world affairs literature, thinkers in America and Europe knew well there would be a showdown between militant Islam and the West, a race-wide realization that was somehow lost and submerged between the 1930s and 1990s to emerge as some kind of shocking surprise, with the fall of the Twin Temples of the God of Things, on His sacred island.
The character Yussef the Hadji is a well-wrought and compelling figure.
Howard goes on to offer a profile of something that has recently become a mainstay of world news broadcasts and liberal angst. Yussef Hadji's Master, Sheikh Hassim, "...was the very symbol of militant Islam—bold, reckless, materialistic, sparing nothing, fearing nothing, as sure of his own destiny and as contemptuous of the rights of others as the most powerful Western king."
The Footfalls Within is a tale that weaves horror of a rare purity with the soiled souls of men, and is the single story in the Kane canon in which the dour avenger is given a clear glimpse of his purpose.
Under the God of Things
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