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‘Who Ride Beyond the Sunrise’
Untitled Draft of a Kull Story by Robert E. Howard
Reading from pages 67-86 of Kull Exile of Atlantis, 2006, Del Rey, NY,
In yet another story of King Kull, the barbarian usurper of the throne of a rotting empire—the Donald Trump of Antediluvian Age—Howard is at his best in presenting a band of heroes, not a single hero, but a protagonist worthy of Beowulf or Achilles or Gilgamesh, who commands the loyalty of warriors only slightly less dominant than himself.
Kull, disdainful of the laws of civilization, a man who jokes back and forth with his even more savage companion with quips such as, “There spake the barbarian,” is moved to avenge the elopement of a young noblewoman with royal blood to a rogue and hopeful regicide of a bordering kingdom. Kull searches across the known world to avenge his honor along with other barbarians in service to the decadent Valusian empire and then seeks to go beyond the very bounds of the world.
Repeatedly, characters, including Howard’s version of Charon, the boatman of the underworld from ancient Hellenic myth, mention that a human may not journey beyond the sunrise and come back. Kull and his warriors are up for the challenge, prepared to go whence no men have returned in all the ages of the world. The inability to travel beyond the source of life, beyond the place where the sun rises and where the ancestral home of mankind lies in a spectral past and the heroic urge to challenge the divine prohibition against travelling into the heroic past, to reach for the heroic, to achieve concourse with our heroic heritage and with our identity as men, a challenge that Howard seems poised to take up as the story is cut short. This reader takes the tone of this unnamed narrative as indicative of the author’s determination to plumb the heroic spirit, casting this story into the pallid gale of an anti-heroic age. This story was never sold, seemingly not finished and possibly not submitted even in draft for publication. This untitled draft, in many ways, marks Robert E. Howard’s yearning for a connection to his heroic ancestry and possibly—perhaps fancifully—an urge to supersede the mundane, materialistic, anti-heroic tomb that is and was in Howard’s time and ours, Modernity.
Below are some choice quotes from the text:
“…Kull was too much the savage to connect the insult with the bearer; it must remain for civilized rulers to wreak vengeance on courtiers.”
“…Valusian hillmen, the strongest and most vigorous of a degenerating race.”
“ ‘Steel, all steel,’ thought Kull in admiration, secretly wondering if he could ever attain the perfect mastery over himself that this man, also a barbarian, , had attained.”
“A soft and lazy land, thought Kull, a dainty girl, waiting helpless for some ruthless conqueror…”
A Well of Heroes
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