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'Into the Void of Naught'
The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune by Robert E. Howard
Reading from Kull Exile of Atlantis, Ballantine, 2006, Illustrated by Justin Sweet, pages 53-64
This dream-fraught tale is another in the Kull canon, in which the dominant theme of the character is explained. He is an outsider coming lately to an ancient, decadent, toxically layered society, who sits as king on an uneasy throne. I take Kull to be the American version of the classic Aryan hero, a late-coming, rough-handed barbarian rising to rule those who had come to rule those who had risen before. Kull is tormented by pondering the meaning of life and challenged to discern fact from fantasy. He is the consummate writer's muse fleshed out as a character. Kull's lack of passion and monastic reclusiveness is more stunning in this yarn than in most.
The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune begins with a quote:
"A wild, weird clime that lieth sublime
Out of Space, out of Time."
The opening paragraph sets the melancholy tone for the tale, which, although the protagonist sleep-walks through it, maintains the reader's interest:
"THERE comes, even to kings, the time of great weariness. Then the gold of the throne is brass, the silk of the palace becomes drab. The gems in the diadem and upon the fingers of the women sparkle drearily like the ice of the white seas; the speech of men is as the empty rattle of a jester's bell and the feel comes of things unreal; even the sun is copper in the sky and the breath of the green ocean is no longer fresh."
Kull sits gloomy and forlorn upon the throne, the archetype of Howard's bachelor kings, which is the queerest thing about his heroes, particularly considering his obsession with ancestry. A beautiful slave girl, who holds no interest for him, sparks no raw note of lust within him, no desire at all, comes to him and suggests he journey to see the greatest wizard of her eldest race. This wizard lives on a placid lake in the center of the civilization Kull rules, making him the most realistic wizard in fiction.
Kull spends many days pondering the mirrors in the house of Tuzun Thune even as the wizard denies that he has great knowledge. When asked if he can summon demons he answers that he could summon the worse demon of all if he were to strike Kull. In evasive, leading ways the wizard tempts Kull to consider the world for himself, to find his own answers, all the while guiding him upon a path of self-negation, of self-doubt, of a fatalistic acceptance that there is a better version of him in one of these mirrors that should be brought into being. Gaining perspective Kull says, "Yet is it not a pity that the beauty and glory of men should fade like smoke on a summer sea?"
On he is led to doubt reality and question greater possibilities as the wizard stands behind him, guiding him with his sage voice. On the verge of merging with a greater reality, Kull experiences an epiphany with the aid of a kindred spirit present in most Kull tales. Kull is exposed as a man who only lays blame on the puppet masters of the world not the puppets, in this strangely cautionary tale that seems to have emerged from a writer's alternating depressions and vivid inspirations, into a realization that he held the tools in his own mind to erase his identity. Whether this was overt or seeped from the subtext of the author's own life, or whether the theme was chosen to join the microcosm of personal negation with the macrocosm of cultural negation, remains a mystery, as are the 97 mirrors that Kull did not gaze into.
This reader is of the opinion that Howard's bachelor kings, Kull most specifically, and The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune most vividly, reflect a uniquely American view of the cycle of tribal fate. Kull, more than any hero in myth or fiction, carries the stamp of a writer's wrestling with truth in the lonely hours before dawn and the need to face the subliminally opaque world again.
Seeking an audio book of the title, I was only able to find the following recording by a metal band which seems to have Robert E. Howard themed songs.
The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune
An Audio Book Read by Nathan Kloske
This reading is so good I prefer Nathan’s audio version to my own eyes.
A Well of Heroes
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Add Comment
Tex AlbrittonNovember 26, 2016 12:56 AM UTC

>Sees the "Tex signal" reflecting off the smog and answers the call<


(na-na na-na na-na na-na etc)
responds:November 26, 2016 9:34 AM UTC

Thank you, Tex!