The Elder Race -- According to Robert E. Howard Mar 15, 2017 2:35:59 GMT -5
Post by deuce on Mar 15, 2017 2:35:59 GMT -5
There's been a lot of loose talk over the years about the Elder Race. This much-ballyhooed and -pondered race is seen in a mere two Kull stories -- and one was a fragment. Let's take a look...
The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune:
Then to Kull stole a girl of the court and whispered:
“Great king, seek Tuzun Thune, the wizard. The secrets of life and death are his, and the stars in the sky and the lands beneath the seas.”
Kull looked at the girl. Fine gold was her hair and her violet eyes were slanted strangely; she was beautiful, but her beauty meant little to Kull.
“Tuzun Thune,” he repeated. “Who is he?”
“A wizard of the Elder Race. He lives here, in Valusia, by the Lake of Visions in the House of a Thousand Mirrors. All things are known to him, lord king; he speaks with the dead and holds converse with the demons of the Lost Lands.”
“I will seek out this mummer; but no word of my going, do you hear?”
“I am your slave, my lord.” And she sank to her knees meekly, but the smile of her scarlet mouth was cunning behind Kull’s back and the gleam of her narrow eyes was crafty.
There in a great chamber, whose walls were of mirrors, he came upon Tuzun Thune, the wizard. The man was ancient as the hills of Zalgara; like wrinkled leather was his skin, but his cold gray eyes were like sparks of sword steel.
"Ere Atlantis was, Valusia was, and ere Valusia was, the Elder Nations were. Aye, we, too, trampled the shoulders of lost tribes in our advance. You, who have come from the green sea hills of Atlantis to seize the ancient crown of Valusia, you think my tribe is old, we who held these lands ere the Valusians came out of the East, in the days before there were men in the sea lands. But men were here when the Elder Tribes rode out of the waste lands, and men before men, tribe before tribe."
“This fiend wrought most craftily,” said Brule. “Kull, do you not now see how he spun and flung over you a web of magic? Kaanuub of Blaal plotted with this wizard to do away with you, and this wench, a girl of Elder Race, put the thought in your mind so that you would come here."
The "Stagus Fragment":
An ancient man stood upon the bank [of the River Stagus] and a large, flat boat floated on the sullen surface of the water. The man was aged, but mightily built, as huge as Kull himself. He was clad only in ragged garments, seemingly as ancient as himself, but there was something kingly and awe-inspiring about the man. His snowy hair fell to his shoulders and his huge white beard, wild and unkempt, came almost to his waist. From beneath white, lowering brows, great luminous eyes blazed, undimmed by age.
“Nay. Grondar ends here. Here is the end of the world; beyond is magic and the unknown. Here is the boundary of the world; there begins the realm of horror and mysticism. This is the river Stagus and I am Karon the Ferryman.”
“Aye. I am a man of the Elder Race, who ruled the world before Valusia was, or Grondar or Zarfhaana, riders from the sunset. Ye would cross this river? Many a warrior, many a king, have I ferried across. Remember, they who ride beyond the sunrise, return not! For of all the thousands who have crossed the Stagus, not one has returned. Three hundred years have passed since first I saw the light, king of Valusia. I ferried the army of King Gaar the Conqueror when he rode into World’s End with all his mighty hosts. Seven days they were passing over, yet no man of them came back. Aye, the sound of battle and the clash of swords clanged out over the wastelands for a long while from sun to sun, but when the moon shone all was silence. Mark this, Kull, no man has ever returned from beyond the Stagus. Nameless horrors lurk in yonder lands and terrible are the ghastly shapes of doom I glimpse beyond the river in the vagueness of dusk and the grey of early dawn. Mark ye, Kull. "
Karon ferried them across, rowing over and returning until the entire force stood on the eastern bank. And though the boat was heavy and the ancient man rowed alone, yet his clumsy oars drove the unwieldy craft swiftly through the water and at the last journey he was no more weary than at the start.
There you have it. Basically everything Robert E. Howard ever said about the Elder race. There's a girl with blonde hair and slanted, violet eyes. Tuzun is a shriveled old man so physically unremarkable that we know nothing else beyond his grey eyes. He definitely doesn't seem particularly tall. Karon is more remarkable. He's as big as Kull (~6ft2in.) and is 300 years old. He probably has something magical about him. There doesn't appear to be a particular "Elder Racian" physical type. Considering how long the ethnic Thurians have been in Valusia, there's probably been some admixture as well.
That's what we got. The Elder Race rode out of the "wastelands" and conquered humans just like themselves that preceded them in the West. Notice that Karon refers to the lands east of the Stagus as being "wastelands". The Elder Race is interesting, but I'm not sure they warrant all of the frenzied speculation over the years. Something to keep in mind is that other nations like Farsun and Zarfhaana are not ethnically Thurian. If they aren't also "Elder Racian", then what are they? If they preceded the Elder Race, that makes the Elder Race a little less special right there. Elder Racians wander around at the Valusian court and whisper to kings. They're also allowed to openly practice wizardry and own fine mansions on prime real estate within the city of Valusia itself. They don't seem particularly feared or discriminated against by the ethnic Thurians of Valusia, either.
Just something to think about.