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'Like the Scent of a Dying Rose'
Dermod's Bane by Robert E. Howard

"If your heart is sick in your breast and a blind black curtain of sorrow is between your brain and your eyes so that the very sunlight is pale and leprous—go to the city of Galway, in the country of the same name, in the province of Connaught, in the country of Ireland."

So Howard takes the reader back through time and space by way of a hero's blood memory to the place that gave rise to his race. The brief tale will not be addressed here in terms of plot but rather elements.

Belit of Queen of the Black Coast is predicted in Dermod's Bane.

Howard's penchant for placing Norse and Gaelic men at odds is deeply sensed in this reading as is his much underrated use of blood memory—of ancestral affinity—unwinds in this race-sojourner's quest to know the land of his people's birth—again—rather than be stuck in the land of his birth.

As in much of Howard's fiction outside of the Conan character—who knows melancholy only in his byline—Dermod's Bane is saturated in spiritual depression, of the nagging rot of souls dripping from the unseen, presumptive spires of "Civilization." Dermod's Bane could well have been included in Marchers of Valhalla. I leave the reader with the bulk of the third paragraph as the author's sense of spiritual displacement wells up in his narrative:

"I came to Galway as a wounded beast crawls back to his lair in the hills. the city of my people broke upon my gaze for the first time, but it did not seem strange or foreign. It seemed like a homecoming to me..."

And so the egoless hero, who has just lost his twin sister in the land to where their people were taken, returns, a lost member of the Kirowan clan, to find the heart of his people's scattered essence, not knowing what he brings with him down through the generations.

Dermod's Bane is worth a few, slow reads.

Under the God of Things

Add Comment
IshmaelApril 19, 2017 4:00 PM UTC

I heard a younger man, as he was looking over a basin, watching for elk, he said, I have a melancholic joy setting here in this spot, I replied being 20 yrs or more older, maybe this position has served others in the past, I could turn into a stone with eyes, and still have that same feeling, watching this basin, because this has happened to me all my life, will never grow tired of that emotion.