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‘In Wonder’
Summer Morn by Robert E. Howard and Atlantean Genesis by Patrice Louinet
The following brief verse was found in Howard’s papers in 1966, and is put into context by Patrice Louinet in his excellent essay, Atlantean Genesis, published in Kull: Exile of Atlantis, Del Rey, 2006, pages 287-304. With the exception of the story Gods of the North, all of the Am-ra material, verse and draft, is in the back matter of the Kull collection.
Although Gods of the North was a story in which Am-ra served as a Conan proto-type, the collected material concerning this hero in the Kull volume is, as explained by Louinet, clearly a springboard from which the Kull cycle began.
According to Louinet, Am-ra’s Atlantis was a semi-historic setting in Howard’s mind, a setting he abandoned for the pure fantasy setting of Valusia, a term he apparently coined. I highly recommend Louinet’s essay, in which he discusses early Howard stories that underpin this brief composition and what is to follow, cites letters from Howard and also discusses Howard’s use of totemic imagery, with Conan as the dominant lion and Kull as the solitary tiger.
From this reader’s vantage, Kull was a pure masculine dream-vehicle which Howard required to better realize his craft, and would abandon when he was ready to return to a semi-historic setting, in which Am-ra would return as Conan—known among the black people as Amra “The Lion.”
Am-ra is a pure Achilles figure, wondering at the natural world and rejecting the contrived human overlay. Kull is a shamanic warrior type, a purer vehicle for Howard. Many readers and writers do not realize that authors, including myself—who seem unable to write pure fantasy, who ever require a historical hook to hang the tale on—are having trouble accessing dream space and relinquishing the temporal world. For Howard, it seems that Am-ra was the viewpoint from which he glimpsed that space, Kull the viewpoint from which he most intimately experienced it, and that both of these viewpoints came together in his ultimate masculine expression, Conan.
In the poem below, we see Am-ra wondering of big natural things on his way to rejecting small human things. Consider this perspective portrait in the context of the follow-on material being superseded by something much more vested in dream and trance [Kull], understanding that eventually Kull and Am-ra would congeal as Conan, a hero as temporally engaged as Am-ra, and afflicted with the dreams and melancholies of Kull.
Summer Morn
“Am-ra stood on a mountain height
At the break of a summer morn;
He watched in wonder the starlight fall
And the eastern scarlet flare and pale
As the flame of day was born.”
This brief poetic introduction of the hero from over his shoulder, enjoying his perspective, contrasts meaningfully with the overture to the first Conan story, The Phoenix on the Sword, where Conan is shaped in the mind by the words of a court poet of a later era. To this reader, Summer Morn is the seed that eventually became Howard’s ultimate creation.
A Well of Heroes
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