Robert E. Howard Readers discussion

Kull & the Thurian Age > November 2011 Group Read: The Shadow Kingdom

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message 1: by Michael (new)

Michael | 305 comments This month we're going back to a time that was legendary even to Conan and the Hyborians: the Pre-Cataclysmic age of Kull of Atlantis.

The Shadow Kingdom is (if I remember correctly) set early in Kull's reign on the throne of Valusia and is full of court, and inhuman, intrigue.

message 2: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 542 comments This story is available for free on the Australian Gutenberg site:
or here on WikiSource:

message 3: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 542 comments I'm about half way through it. Howard is doing a wonderful job of creating an eerie sensation of hidden, elder civilizations.

message 4: by Michael (new)

Michael | 305 comments Jim wrote: "This story is available for free on the Australian Gutenberg site:
or here on WikiSource:"

Thanks for the links, Jim. I was in a bit of a rush setting up :-)

message 5: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 542 comments I'm just happy you're keeping the group active, Michael. Any bit I can do is just my way of saying thanks.

message 6: by Joseph (new)

Joseph | 63 comments Kull is quite possibly my favorite Howard character. I just wish there was some way I could get the Ned Dameron illustrations from the Donald M. Grant edition Robert E. Howard's Kull by Robert E. Howard combined with the text from the recent Del Rey edition.

message 7: by John (new)

John Karr (karr) | 117 comments Jim wrote: "I'm just happy you're keeping the group active, Michael. Any bit I can do is just my way of saying thanks.

Much appreciation here too, Michael.

message 8: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 542 comments I finished this & it was a wonderful story. It's not the first or even the fifth time I've read it, but I still enjoyed it very much. It's right up there with any of the Conan or Bran Mak Morn stories.

message 9: by Henrik (new)

Henrik | 2 comments it's been a while since I read this but I do remember enjoying it quite a bit. Ought to read it again in the near future.

message 10: by Michael (new)

Michael | 305 comments Thanks, Jim and John :-D

Henrik - this month is the near future ;-)

message 11: by Michael (new)

Michael | 305 comments Started The Shadow Kingdom and enjoying Howard's moody barbarian king after too long an absence. This really is very atmospheric.

message 12: by Michael (last edited Dec 10, 2011 05:02AM) (new)

Michael | 305 comments The Shadow Kingdom is set not long after Kull has usurped the throne of Valusia. He's a stranger in a strange land - immersed in an opulent, decadent culture that he doesn't really understand, surrounded by civilized courtiers who consider him a savage barbarian brute. But the people hail him (at least for now) as their liberator from the despotic King Borna, whom Kull has recently deposed - by killing him.

Isolated, he's not yet sure which of his Valusian advisers he can really trust, and he's deeply suspicious of the representations made towards him by Ka-Nu, the ambassador of the Picts, hereditary enemies of Kull's Atlantean forebears.

All of this is set in a decaying empire that feels like the last days of Rome or Byzantium - probably more the latter, as Valusia's ancient heritage seems to have congealed into a bewildering morass of ritual and tradition that not even the king can flout with impunity.

Then, Kull is let into the revelation that in Valusia (view spoiler)

Howard does such a good job of conveying the feeling of enormous gulfs of time past - Kull himself is set in an incredibly remote past - 100,000 years ago - but is king of a country so ancient that they can't remember all of their history, nor that of the ancient beings that bestrode the Earth before the rise of mankind.

I'm re-reading all of the Kull stories - one just isn't enough!

message 13: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 542 comments I'm never quite sure how I feel about the huge gulfs of time that Howard writes about. He does it so well & it lends such an air of horror & mystery, but it also requires quite a suspension of belief living in the times we do. Those huge amounts of time are often a pet peeve in other fantasy novels.

message 14: by Michael (new)

Michael | 305 comments The present scientific opinion is that anatomically modern humans evolved about 250,000 years ago, so that's still 150,000 years of human pre-history before you get to Kull. Willing suspension of disbelief does the rest for me.

Of course, there are those that still expound the theory of a high civilisation in pre-history as a serious alternative to the mainstream of historical thought. For them, I guess Howard's Thurian and Hyborian ages, sans the supernatural, are conjecturally feasible.

The "gulfs of time" work especially well with Kull, I think, and with Howard's Cthulhu mythos works.

message 15: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 542 comments I thought it was a bit less than that physically, about 200K, while behaviorally it was only 50K. The last number always sticks in my head because of Future Shock & the wonderful example that Toffler supplies (800 lifetimes of 60 years laid end to end) which makes his over view of our civilization so understandable.

message 16: by Michael (new)

Michael | 305 comments Yes, you're right on your date at 200K. The date for modern behaviour is somewhat disputed due to gaps in the archaeological record - Kull and Conan: Heroes of the Gaps!

message 17: by Miles (new)

Miles Cain | 22 comments Just started Shadow Kingdom and I see I am 3 years too late however, I felt I had to respond here. I am loving the brooding nature of Kull, having only read Exile of Atlantis before this, I am still not as knowledgeable as most when it comes to Kull however he is quickly becoming a favorite character of mine. I enjoy Conan as much as the next guy, however I just seem to respond better with Kull, someone not of royal bloodline and someone who is truly an alien of the crown, Kull's emotions during his reign seem too realistic to not enjoy, the realism however fantastic is begging me to ask for more.

message 18: by Vincent (new)

Vincent Darlage | 633 comments Kull was definitely more broodingly atmospheric than Conan, and, even though written before Conan, somehow more mature in style. Personally, I think the Kull stories are generally superior to the Conan stories in many ways.

message 19: by Miles (new)

Miles Cain | 22 comments I would have to agree with you on that, I enjoyed Conan but Shadow Kingdom I loved more than any Conan story.

message 20: by Mathieu (new)

Mathieu | 26 comments The problem with Kull, in my opinion, is that there are too few complete and satisfying stories compared to Conan.

The Shadow Kingdom, Mirrors of Tuzun Thune, By this Axe I Rule! and Kings of the Night (which is more a Bran story). That’s about it. I very much enjoy the very short ones, especially the Gong one, by the are just small punctuations between the longer ones that help define the character.

The others, like Swords of the Purple Kingdom and The Skull and the Cat, while enjoyable, read like imperfect drafts. Also, incomplete drafts belong at the end of a book, not in between complete stories. They just enhance the feeling that REH was struggling with his character. In the end, he abandonned Kull for Bran, in Kings of the Night, probably because he couldn’t find the inspiration to complete such a great tale as his first effort, The Shadow Kingdom.

message 21: by Vincent (new)

Vincent Darlage | 633 comments I think REH struggled with the character as well. The draft status of the stories you mention are indeed unfortunate. For several of them, such as By This Axe I Rule! and Swords of the Purple Kingdom, the definitive final versions (the ones he submitted to publication to have them rejected) have been lost. All we have are the drafts.

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