Click to Subscribe
▶  More from Blog The Man Cave REH Race
'The Wolf'
Howard's Most Totemic Character, Cormac Mac Art

"Now I know you for Cormac Mac Art, an Cliuin, which is to say the Wolf, righthand man of Wulfhere Hausakliufr...hated of my race."

-The Night of the Wolf

Howard's most racially conscious character is, in this reader's opinion, Cormac Mac Art, who did not see publication in Howard's life time. Cormac is a member of the following character bloodline, which Howard traces to characters set in modern westerns and horror tales:

-Kull, pre-cataclysmic

-Conan, pre-historic

-Cormac of Connacht, late Roman

-Cormac Mac Art, who uses the alias Partha Mac Othna, Dark Ages

-Conn, Early Middle Ages

-Turlogh Dubh O'Brien, High Middle Ages

-Black Terrence Vulmea, Age of Sail

Alongside this dark Irish bloodline runs that of the Picts:

-Brull, Kull's companion

-The Pictish tribal entity, Conan's collective enemy

-Bran Mac Morn, ally of Cormac of Connacht against Rome, who uses the alias Partha Mac Othna

-Brulla, ally of Cormac

These heroes strive along parallel bloodlines down through the ages, with the most prominent of the dark Irish having telling totems:

Kull's totem is the tiger, he is the lethal loner, the focus of admiration and elevated leader, yet incapable of fathoming the civilized order which elevates him

Conan's totem is the lion, he is the man naturally fitted for leadership

Cormac's totem is the wolf and he is the Howard hero most often referred to as "sinister" with a scarred face, the pirate and fixer, the criminal expression of his prehistoric ancestors who ruled, he, with their same traits, relegated to the margins of the masculine-negating human world.

The bloodline bears psychotic fruit in the forms of Conn, O'Brien and Vulmea, men so against the grain that they rage out into the world in bloody exile as unhinged killers. But Mac Art is ruthlessly shrewd, predicting Xavier Gordon, an oil-hinged killer with a cunning to balance the fear he instills in men. Mac Art is not a figurehead, not a lion-like man who men want to lead them, but a classic interloper that the chiefs of men value, a taboo character, beholding to his wits and the trust these instill in the mightiest of men.

On the back of Robert E. Howard Library Volume 1: Cormac Mac Art, published by Baen in 1995, the editors characterize Howard's most ruthless and complex creation:

Warrior—ready to fight the forces of Hell and nightmare if they stand in his way.

Renegade—a Celt leading a band of Viking reivers, their hands against all men.

Pirate—who would storm the towers of fabled Atlantis for a friend—or a jest.

Outcast—condemned to die if he returns home, having disagreed with his king over a point of honor.

The outcast aspect of Cormac, which he shares with Kull, Conn, Obrien and Vulmea as a central aspect of his makeup, is most tellingly reflected in Vulmea being banished from his homeland by the Anglos who have conquered Ireland and set him on a life of piracy. Howard seems to consistently echo the rage of the hundreds of thousands of Gaels sold into slavery and displaced to America by their English conquerors in many of his stories. His totemic imagery, of the wolf, tiger and lion—and often the leopard as an illustrative totem—places the hero beyond civilized ken by embodying the spirit of the animals which give way before the cities, ranches and farms of men, and in so doing his words pluck the wild chord frayed and dormant within our domesticated souls.

Howard's racial consciousness emerges again and again as tribal rather than zoological and it is telling that his most racially conscious heroes, Cormac Mac Art and Bran Mak Morn, one an outcast and the other the last king of a doomed race [who both use the same alias] reflecting the homogenized modern American's separation from his race, his tribe, his past, severed from his ancestral root by a consumption-based society, but remaining defiantly distinct and life-based in his mind.

Ultimately, Howard's totemic heroes remain distinct as they seek allies against the greater erasing evil of the monstrous world order, best reflected in the Gaelic-Pictish bloodlines which begin in the author's early work with Kull and Brule, direct-actionist comrades standing together—even when apart—against the unseen manipulators of the world.

The Lies That Bind Us

The Foundational Falsehoods of the American Dream

Of Lions and Men

Add Comment