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Two against Tyre by Robert E. Howard
Reading from Lord of Samarcand and Other Adventure Tales of the Old Orient, Bison Books, 2005, Edited by Rusty Burke, pages 407-20
The University of Nebraska should be commended for publishing Howard’s work in this and three other anthologies.
In what I find as Howard’s lone venture into ancient [historical] times, he presents a Conan prototype or knock-off—which I cannot tell—in the character of Eithriall the Gaul, a large, rude and gloomy fellow of perhaps 750 B.C., looking to sell his sword to the highest bidder in the Assyrian wars. The unfinished draft runs two chapters, into what would have been one of his standard lengths of either five or seven.
Finding himself in Tyre during a festival devoted to Tammuz [not Howard’s spelling, which is Thammuz] he falls foul of a mob on a count of sacrilege and finds himself fighting back-to-back with a man who comes to his aid, a man of some distant Aryan kinship which they recognize in one another amid the Semite masses.
What Howard portrays in this story is a subject close to my heart, to which I have devoted numerous books, concerning the role of the outsider, the outcast, the taboo man [or Omega male], in relationship to the Alpha male, against the intervening masses of betas, gammas and deltas who lack agency and fall to the wiles of the predatorial or managerial individualist in their mewing, collective aggregates. Howard, of course, favors the predatory character over the managerial, the direct actionist over the conspiratorial plotter. His overall heroic philosophy is well-served by the following passage, concerning the moral debt owed by Eithriall to his rescuer:
“‘A life for a life,’ Quoth the Gaul, smacking his lips over the wine. ‘He aided me; I will aid him, even to death.’
“It was no idle boast. Beyond the frontiers of civilization obligations were real, men aided men from dire necessity, until it became a veritable religion among the barbarians to repay such debts.”
Howard speaks a timeless truth here, a truth that is forgotten by the civilized mind—even the civilized mind who holds onto a tribal or racial identity. The truth is, where life is hard and scarce—whether on a mountain or in an alley—performance and fidelity is what matter. It is the same in the inner wilderness where the barbarians of the cities dwell. I have enjoyed functional alliances with men who came from enemy racial groups and who held to moralities opposed to mine, and have been able to rely with surety on the reciprocal payment of honor debts from men who would kill me for the contents of my wallet if I had not previously done them a good turn. On the other hand, fellow managers, fellow white men, long-time friends and even family members have shrunk from standing with me during hard times merely out of moral or physical cowardice.
This cannot be understood by the civilized man, nor can it be fathomed by the false neo-barbarian who holds to rigid allegiance based on race or ideology. I have undertaken the examination of all of Howard’s work largely as the payment of a pervasive debt, that I learned such truths from reading his stories while my parents and the greater society filled my head with ideological, religious, civic and managerial lies. When I have defaulted to Howard—to the world of reciprocal deeds, to the primal way of men—I have enjoyed spiritual success throughout my life.
Howard preached one truth throughout his work, a truth which I have experienced revealed as ultimate in many, many instances, that when life is hard and scarce, the only thing that matters outside the hero’s resolve—and we are all the heroes of our own tiny saga—is who stands with him. And while, as Howard often notes, it is prudent to look to your own biological kind in your day-to-day life, in extremis the only thing that matters is fidelity of action.
He: Gilgamesh: Into the Face of Time
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UlricKerenskyDecember 11, 2016 4:22 PM UTC

The Vikings, the Arabs, the Native Americans, to name just three, all had traditions of non-birth "Blood Brothers" trumping loyalty to one's own siblings.
responds:December 11, 2016 7:23 PM UTC


Thank you, Ulric.

We are perfectly prone to being saddled with shit siblings—when the meat hits the maul why settle for shit?