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Authors: Robert E. Howard,Gary Gianni

Bran Mak Morn: The Last King

BOOK: Bran Mak Morn: The Last King
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Contents

Cover Page

Title Page

Dedication

Foreword

Introduction

Men of the Shadows

Kings of the Night

A Song of the Race

Worms of the Earth

The Dark Man

The Lost Race

Poem

Miscellanea

Notes on Miscellanea

The Little People

The Little People -Typescript

The Children of the Night

Bran Mak Morn

Bran Mak Morn - Manuscript

Synopsis

Worms of the Earth -Draft Version

Fragment

Poem�reviously Unpublished

Untitled

Endnotes

Appendices

Robert E. Howard and the Picts: A Chronology

Robert E. Howard, Bran Mak Morn and the Picts

Notes on the Original Howard Texts

Acknowledgments

Also by Robert E. Howard

Praise for Robert E. Howard

Copyright

For Julie, Nicole and Gina

�ary Gianni

Men of the Shadows

first published Bran Mak Morn, Dell 1969

Verse in Men of the Shadows

first published Always Comes Evening, Arkham House 1957

Kings of the Night

first published Weird Tales, November 1930

A Song of the Race

first published Bran Mak Morn, Dell 1969

Worms of the Earth

first published Weird Tales, November 1932

The Dark Man

first published Weird Tales, December 1931

The Lost Race

first published Weird Tales, December 1927

Poem originally published as The Drums of Pictdom

Bran Mak Morn, Dell 1969

The Little People

first published Coven 13, January 1970

The Little People �Typescript

appears here for the first time

The Children of the Night

first published Weird Tales, April�ay 1931

Bran Mak Morn originally published as Bran Mak Morn: A Play

Bran Mak Morn: A Play, and Others, Cryptic Publications 1983

Bran Mak Morn �Manuscript

appears here for the first time

Synopsis originally published as Bran Mak Morn Synopsis

Cromlech No. 3, 1988

Worms of the Earth �Draft Version

appears here for the first time

Fragment

first published Bran Mak Morn, Dell 1969

Poem

appears here for the first time

Untitled

appears here for the first time

Foreword

I had been working on illustrating Bran Mak Morn for a couple of months when a friend of mine made the following remark: �hat is there to draw?�he asked. �hose stories rely heavily upon mood and things half-seen in the shadows.� I mulled over his observation for a long time without a reply. After almost two years, I think I have an answer.

I agree there are a lot of shadowy half-seen things in the Bran stories and I�e tried to remain true to the author� intent by keeping them so. On the other hand, there is a singular quality crying out for embellishment (at least in my view), a quality which sets these stories apart from the rest of Howard� work.

It� the quality of pathos.

Compassion is an element generally not associated with Howard. Here he transcends the fantasy and the heroics he� known for by creating genuine sympathy for his noble Picts, the dark men who overcome all obstacles by their courage but are finally themselves overcome by fate. It� this attribute I� chiefly attracted to and I hope in some way my pictures reflect that.

I will try to leave Robert E. Howard� shadowy figures to your imagination. Perhaps after reading Bran Mak Morn �The Last King you�l want to sketch those things yourself.

Gary Gianni 2001

Introduction

Robert E. Howard (1906�936), in a writing career that spanned less than a dozen years, created many memorable fantasy adventure characters, such as Conan, Kull, and Solomon Kane, who continue to thrill readers long after they first appeared in the legendary magazine, Weird Tales. The seemingly endlessly inventive author also created enormously popular characters in other genres, such as the western tall-tales of Breckenridge Elkins, the rollicking misadventures of Sailor Steve Costigan, and the Middle Eastern exploits of El Borak and Kirby O�onnell. But of all the many characters he created, none seem to have held for the Texas author a fascination to equal that of the people he called Picts, and their great king, Bran Mak Morn.

Writers for the pulp magazines often found that a single character who became popular with readers could turn into a significant meal ticket (Tarzan, for example, or Doc Savage). Unlike many of his contemporaries, though, Howard found that, no matter how popular his characters might be with the readers, he could not continue a series indefinitely. He told fellow Weird Tales author Clark Ashton Smith, regarding his most famous creation, Conan, �he time will come when I will suddenly find myself unable to write convincingly of him at all. This has happened in the past with nearly all my numerous characters; suddenly I would find myself out of contact with the conception, as if the man himself had been standing at my shoulder directing my efforts, and had suddenly turned and gone away, leaving me to search for another character.� Most of his tales of Kull, the Atlantean adventurer who becomes king of a fabled land, were written between 1927 and 1929. When H.P. Lovecraft, in 1934, suggested that Howard write more, the Texan replied, �o sit down and consciously try to write another story on that order would be to produce something the artificiality of which would be apparent.�The Solomon Kane stories were written between 1927 and 1930, the Conan tales between 1932 and 1935. Despite the popularity of these characters �Weird Tales readers were still asking for more Kull and Kane stories four and five years after the last had appeared �Howard simply could not bring himself to write more stories after he had lost touch with the conception.

The Picts, though, appeared in some of Howard� earliest, hand-written manuscripts, dating from perhaps 1923, and in one of the last-written Conan stories, in 1935, and rarely a year went by that they did not figure in some Howard tale.

�here is one hobby of mine which puzzles me to this day,�Howard wrote to Lovecraft in 1932. �hat is my interest in the people which, for the sake of brevity, I have always designated as Picts. I am of course aware that my use of the term might be questioned. . . . But to me �ict�must always refer to the small dark Mediterranean aborigines of Britain. This is not strange, since when I first read of these aborigines, they were referred to as Picts. But what is strange, is my unflagging interest in them.� The reasons for Howard� fascination with the Picts are undoubtedly as complex as the man himself, and represent a potentially fertile field for generations of scholars and critics. Whatever these reasons might be, the fact remains that the Picts appeared in stories throughout his career, even while better-known or more popular characters played only briefly across the stage of his imagination. Certainly this must be attributed, at least in part, to some strong sense of identification Howard must have felt with this people. But his conception of the Picts also stretches across a vast canvas, from the remotest recesses of a mythical prehistory to the modern era, and though they are based upon a historical people, the conception is �ixed with a bit of fantasy,�so they could be made to serve in stories set not only in the historical past, but in the purely imaginary prehistory of Kull and Conan, and even in more modern tales based on the so-called �thulhu mythos.� Howard� first published story of the Picts (and his second story accepted for professional publication), The Lost Race, is set in the historical past, a period when the Britons have only recently displaced the earlier Gaels from the south of what is now England. The Picts here are the remnants of the pre-Celtic inhabitants of the Isles, a race that had migrated from the Mediterranean region during the Stone Age. In relating his race� history, the ancient Pict seems to suggest that they originated in Africa. This view of the race� origins is consistent with prevailing historical opinion in Howard� time (though then, as now, the term �ict�was not generally applied to these Mediterraneans), as is the idea that they were driven �nderground�(to caverns, or to dwellings called �rannogs�built on lakes), and that from them derived legends of �ittle people.� Howard� second complete tale of the Picts, though, is another matter. Men of the Shadows was turned down by Weird Tales in 1926, about a year after The Lost Race was accepted by the same magazine. Editor Farnsworth Wright complained that �t is too little of a �tory.�. . . It is rather a chronicle of a tribe, a picture of the evolution of a race.�The criticism seems just, but for those seeking to understand Howard� conceptions of the Picts, it is a very important tale. In this story, as in The Lost Race, we find the history of the Picts related by an ancient member of the tribe (in this case an unnamed wizard), but now it extends much farther into antiquity, beyond the bounds of what we consider �istory.�Here we find our earliest example of what will become a Howard trademark: the idea of a vastly ancient, cyclic history of mankind, in which whole peoples undertake long migrations, surviving world-shattering cataclysms that destroy their hard-won cultures and hurl them back into savagery, whence they slowly, steadily make the upward climb until the next cataclysm.

Men of the Shadows is also the first completed story of Bran Mak Morn, though we know of at least two earlier attempts to commit him to paper. Here, as in the earliest extant work in which Bran appears (the unfinished play, Bran Mak Morn), we find him bound to his people by a sense of mission, the feeling that he must single-handedly lift them out of savagery. And even in these very early works, we find the sense of doom hanging over Bran� story. �uppose I do drag them a little way toward the goal? I will fall in battle and they will back deeper than ever into the pit of barbarism.�Author David Weber has suggested that this is one of the characteristics that makes the Bran stories stand out from Howard� other heroic tales: �he brooding darkness which clings to virtually all of Howard� heroic fantasy is nowhere stronger than in the case of Bran Mak Morn, last king of the oldest race �an alien among his own degenerating people, set apart by a pure bloodline they no longer share, who knows his entire race is going down into the dark no matter what he does. Yet for all his awareness of the inevitability of the Picts�doom, Bran refuses simply to submit to it. . . . I think it� the fact that Bran Mak Morn, more than any of Howard� other characters, sees the doom awaiting him so clearly which makes Bran the quintessential Howard hero, for all of Howard� heroes share that refusal to surrender, yet few of the others are brought as inescapably face-to-face with the ultimate futility of their struggle.� In Men of the Shadows, Bran is identified only as a �hief,�not a king. At the time this story was written, the theme of kingship had not yet emerged in Howard� work. When it did, though, in the Kull stories, the Picts were there, but Bran was not. The Picts and Atlanteans, in these tales, both inhabit island chains to the west of Kull� kingdom of Valusia, and are ancient foes, but Kull� best friend and ally comes to be Brule the Spear-Slayer, a Pict. Brule, whose name echoes Berula, of The Lost Race, appears in nearly all the stories in the Kull series, written, as noted before, largely between 1927 and 1929.

The next significant appearances of the Picts in Howard� work brought them back into the historical world, though in somewhat different eras. Kings of the Night, the Howard masterwork that features both Bran Mak Morn and Kull, seems to be set in roughly the same period actually specified by Howard in a synopsis for a never-written Bran story: �etween 296 and 300 A.D.�(Lest we too hastily assume this to solidly place Bran in history for us, on a separate listing of his stories and characters Howard had given Bran� era as 100 A.D.) The Dark Man, which was accepted for publication at the same time as Kings of the Night (March 1930), is set in the early 11th century. In the former tale, Bran is the son of a chief who has, by his own efforts, united many of the Pictish clans into something that might become a nation. In the latter story, Bran has become a god to the remnants of the Picts, surviving on the outer fringes of the British Isles. In both tales, Howard decisively links Bran to the age of Kull, telling us that he is the direct descendant of Brule the Spear-Slayer, and in these stories he first identifies Bran as �ing�of the Picts, rather than a �hief.�The Dark Man also provides a glimpse of Bran� eventual fate, and that of his people, and it is exactly that foretold in the earlier tales: �ran Mak Morn fell in battle; the nation fell apart. Like wolves we Picts live now among the scattered islands, among the crags of the highlands and the dim hills of Galloway. We are a fading people. We pass.�(It may be worth noting that Night of the Wolf, a tale of the 5th century reiver Cormac Mac Art, written in the spring of 1930, also showcased the Picts, though Bran was not mentioned.)

Later in 1930, Howard began corresponding with H.P. Lovecraft, the highly esteemed weird fictionist, who encouraged the Texan to join with him and Clark Ashton Smith in inserting glancing references to one another� fictional creations in their own work, thus lending all an aura of verisimilitude. Howard� own additions to the �thulhu mythos�include the forbidden tome, Unaussprechlichen Kulten (Nameless Cults) and its author Von Junzt, the mad poet Justin Geoffrey, the Black Stone, the serpent men from the Kull stories �and the Picts and their great king/god, Bran Mak Morn. In his first attempt at a Lovecraft-type story, The Children of the Night, Howard refers to �he Bran cult,�the remnants of the Pictish race who, even in the present day, worship The Dark Man, the stone effigy of their great king. Further inspired by Lovecraft� letters, he also decisively turned from an earlier theory about the fate of the Picts. In The Little People, written about 1928, he had linked the Picts with the loathsome subterranean dwellers of Arthur Machen� The Shining Pyramid, suggesting that, having been driven into caves (as in The Lost Race), they had degenerated into these hideous creatures. In The Children of the Night, though, these subterranean creatures are said to have degenerated from a Mongolian race which Lovecraft told him were displaced when the Neolithic peoples first began to spread through Europe and into the British Isles, and we learn that the Picts detest them as much as the Celts do.

BOOK: Bran Mak Morn: The Last King
11.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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