Post by Jason Aiken on Feb 20, 2016 17:38:41 GMT -5
I've heard pulp and REH scholar Rick Lai say that "Worms of the Earth" may be the best story REH ever wrote. That's REALLY saying something to me, as Rick's read a lot of fiction and I trust his opinion. I haven't read it yet, but plan on reading all the Bran Mak Morn stories before the year is over.
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You can get a good sense of Bran if you only read the 4 main stories in the cycle: Men/Kings/Worms/Dark Man (reading them in order written, which would flip Worms and Dark Man, also works). But to get the full impact of Howard's vision, you also have to add what I guess you could call the Little People Quartet: The Lost Race/The Little People/Children of the Night/People of the Dark (the last one I don't usually see included but it's as much the ending of their story as Dark Man is the end to Bran's) and the three poems: Drums of Pictdom/Song of the Race/Bell of Morni.
I haven't developed the idea in an essay or anything, but I sort of theorize that Atla's promise to Bran at the end of "Worms" ( ... in their own time, they will come to you again!") came terribly true. Maybe he paid the price for dealing with them by having his spirit trapped in the image of the Dark Man that Turlogh Dubh -- a "dark man" himself -- found as he sailed to rescue Moira from the Vikings.
The secretive cult of Bran that revered the image and lasted into the twentieth century may have held the delusional belief that he would return and make the Pictish race great again, facts to the contrary. It may even have believed that the "bell of Morni" described in REH's poem would, when rung at the right time, bring Bran's image back to life and herald the great new age of Pictdom. The poem makes clear that what it would in fact do is awaken "the dead men under the sea" and call "the dead men into the day, and the living into the night." Nobody would really benefit but the loathsome Worms of the Earth. "But God defend the sons of men/when the bell of the Morni tolls."
Let's hope nobody's left who still knows where that hidden cave is.
Alright, I finished reading it a couple of days ago; so I've had some time to digest it. It's a good one, that's for sure. I got a good feel for Bran as a character, which is something the previous stories I had read did not give me. I sympathized with him, he is a rather tragic character. Whole hardheartedly regretting the method of revenge he chose to execute upon his foe. The atmosphere is thick, and pretty spooky. There's one moment that really got under my skin; made me genuinely scared. I'm going to read the rest of the Del Rey edition. Not one of my favourites tho, I think several of Howard's Conan, Solomon Kane and Kull stories are much better. My favourite Howard story is Hour of the Dragon.
Post by bartonamra on Feb 11, 2019 12:46:34 GMT -5
The thing with Bran is that with a whole book dedicated to him, you would think there would be more substance to it. But in the end, there are only three stories worth it, and one has him as a statue. The rest of the content is interesting for those, as I am, who want to understand more about the author and his developping ideas.
For example, Men of Shadows (if I remember the totle correctly), has a promising start, but develops more into an essay than a story.
I do think Kings of the Night, The Dark Man and Worms of the Earth belong in a Best Of volume. But I wouldn’t recommend a whole Bran Mak Morn book, unless from a completionist or scholar perspective.