Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Texan tale-spinner in J.R.R. Tolkien's court

I had my first book review published in Mythprint, the journal of the Mythopoeic Society. The Mythopoeic Society is an international organization dedicated to promoting the study of fantastic literature with an emphasis on Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams. My review however was not on one of the works of the Inklings but of Robert E. Howard's Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures.

This is not exactly a barbaric coup of the Mythopoeic Society as Mythprint publishes reviews of a wide range of fantasy and historical fiction. But I am proud to have played perhaps some small part in bringing Howard, and in particular Howard's lesser-known characters like Cormac FitzGeoffrey and Agnes de Chastillon, to (potentially) a new audience.

The review initially appeared in the October 2011 issue of Mythprint but you can also read it in its entirety here on the Mythopeic Society website: http://www.mythsoc.org/reviews/howard-sword-woman/.

Sword Woman is the last in the Del Rey line and is highly recommended, by the way. In addition to wonderful stories and some fine scholarly essays it features a handful of excellent Howard poems, too. This was my first time reading “The Outgoing of Sigurd the Jerusalem-Farer," and I found it, well, positively Tolkien-ian. In it Sigurd seeks some "doom beyond the dooms" across an expanse of sea, rather like the Númenórean prince Aldarion of Unfinished Tales whose heart may have belonged to Erendis, but whose passion lay with the sea:

The fires roared in the skalli-hall,
And a woman begged me stay—
But the bitter night was falling
And the cold wind calling
Across the moaning spray.

How could I stay in the feasting-hall
When the wild wind walked the sea?
The feet of the winds drew out my soul
To the grey waves and the cloud’s scroll
Where the gulls wheel and the whales roll,
And the abyss roars to me.

Man the sweeps and bend the sail—
We need no oars tonight
For the sharp sleet drives before the gale
That dashes the spray across the rail
To freeze on helmet and corselet scale,
And the waves are running white.

I could not bide in the feasting-hall
Where the great fires light the rooms—
For the winds are walking the night for me
And I must follow where gaunt lands be,
Seeking, beyond some nameless sea,
The dooms beyond the dooms.


Lagomorph Rex said...

I think it's a fitting thing.

Howard and Tolkien are in my mind the Argonath of the Anglo-American fantasy world. They extend their hands, palm up, saying stop, you will go no further. No matter what you do you will never escape their shadow. Proceed at your peril or turn back.

All the rest are either imitations made by a later age, eroded ruins of greatness obscured by time, or crude mockeries erected over the smashed remains of whatever sparked the ire of their creators.

Anarchivist said...

I just bought myself Sword Woman as a Christmas present, and now I'm even more eager to read it! Good to see someone spreading the word.

francisco said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
francisco said...

ehem... what is exactly mythopeic? I think in spanish we don't have this concept

Brian Murphy said...

ehem... what is exactly mythopeic? I think in spanish we don't have this concept

It's a fancy way of saying "myth-making," as in Tolkien was creating a myth for England when he wrote LOTR.

T. Everett said...

I think there is a lot of fertile ground to be covered in Inklings-Lovecraft Circle "crossover" scholarship, and so I applaud this tiny step in that direction.

The review was good, too, and if I wasn't already planning on reading this one I would definitely be planning to do so now.

Taranaich said...

On yourself, Brian! Very glad to see the combined Howard-Tolkien Shieldwall continuing to march. Was your essay well-received?

Brian Murphy said...

Thanks guys. No immediate feedback on the piece, as there's no comments enabled on the blog, but I will be doing another review (not on anything Howard or Tolkien related) for Mythprint.

Keith Taylor said...

Hey, Brian!
I'm with you completely on the score of SWORD WOMAN's being a book to grab. I did, as it happens, as a gift to myself for Christmas, along with THE HORROR STORIES OF ROBERT E. HOWARD. The latter is worth the price of admission just for "The Song of A Mad Minstrel", "Pigeons From Hell," and "Worms of the Earth", although it has much, much more.

But being a madman for historical adventure, I like the other even better. Hell, anything that has the two complete stories of Dark Agnes de la Fere, plus the fragment "Mistress of Death" plus the Cormac FitzGeoffrey yarns and "The Shadow of the Vulture" -- well, no further words needed. When it also has the poems and various non-series stories, all with the Howard touch, we can both forget about the bars and fleshpots for a few late nights at least.

I'm really enjoying your weblog. Stay well, mate.



Brian Murphy said...

Thanks Keith, glad to have you stop by!

I do need to pick up the horror stories, too.