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Against The Tribe
An Untitled Story by Robert E. Howard
© 2013 James LaFond
Untitled short story
Robert E. Howard
Written circa 1929, first published as Exile of Atlantis in 1967
This is a seven page story with as many illustrations. I prefer illustrated stories over comics or un-illustrated fiction. For me illustrations work best as a supporting atmospheric element.
This story is in the collection Kull: Exile of Atlantis by Del Rey, illustrated by Justin Sweet in 2006. Kull was the character that seems to have been Howard’s Conan progenitor. There is something different about Kull though. The Conan character is tribal in loyalty. Kull is not, being a conflicted cosmopolitan barbarian, who holds to personal loyalties.
This entire story is about questioning tradition, rejecting myths and clannish assumptions, and going against your own kind for a greater good; not a greater political good, but rather in service to a natural moral imperative. Most of the tale concerns a fireside conversation between two cavemen and Kull, a feral barbarian child that was something of a Tarzan/Moses. There is no action for action’s sake. The only actions are triggered by racism and allegiance to natural law and tribal law and are expressions thereof. A theme Howard explored often in essay and fiction was that less civilized people are naturally less rotten than more civilized people. You might say it is his strongest theme, and it never shows through more clearly than in this simple story that he never sold.
This might have been Howard's most shamanic piece.
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