Friday, September 12, 2014

Bran Mak Morn - The Last King!

Bran Mak Morn is an utterly fascinating character and one of the most mysterious created by Robert E. Howard. The Ballantine collection Bran Mak Morn - The Last King actually is a collection of not just Howard's Bran Mak Morn stories, but of his Pict stories in general.

Only three stories about Bran Mak Morn were published in Howard's lifetime, and only one, the outstanding "Worms of the Earth" is a full-fledged story from the Pictish king's perspective. Also included are "Kings of the Night" which co-stars Kull of Valusia and "The Dark Man" which showcases not Bran himself but his enigmatic statue which is the object of worship a thousand years after his death. One story rejected originally by Weird Tales was "Men of the Shadows" which lays out the Pictish history very nicely in a wonderful tale.

Also in this volume are some stories about Picts such as "The Lost Race", "The Little People", and "Children of the Night". There are lots of essays and background materials in this volume to flesh it out, all of it of keen interest to a Howard devotee.

Of all of Howard's burly heroes, the smaller dark king of the Picts seems in many ways the closest to the man himself.

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  1. It's amazing to think how young REH actually was - he;d written all his famous stories before he was even 30 years old. When I was reading Marvel's Conan in the '70s it would always say "adapted from the story by Robert E. Howard" but I didn't know who REH was or anything about him - I suppose I assumed he was an elderly gentleman who smoked a pipe and sipped brandy. Only in later years did I discover how young he'd been and about his endless problems over payment and then his tragic death. When he was writing those pulp stories in the late '20s and the '30s he'd surely have been amazed if he'd known that they'd still be famous in the 21st Century.

    1. The ferocious energy of Howard's original writing is the very stuff of youth and vigor. Perhaps, since he always imagined he'd die young, he wrote so that he'd get it down before he passed. There's that barbaric sense of a life lived briefly but vibrantly in many of his better pieces.

      He was certainly as removed from the elder scholar Tolkien as he could be. But as I've been reading him this time, I'm struck more than ever by his command of history, something he and Tolkein had very much in common.

      His writing feels like alchemy at its best.

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