Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Escape From Eden: Genesis Subverted in "The Garden of Fear"

[This essay was originally published in The Dark Man: The Journal of Robert E. Howard Studies, Issue 5, Winter 2001. Copyright 2001 by Mind's Eye HyperPublishing / Iron Harp Publications. I have revised it slightly for this appearance.]

One of Robert E. Howard's most celebrated tales is "The Valley of the Worm." Since its original publication in 1934, it has been reprinted and anthologized many times. Its reknown is especially noteworthy since it features none of Howard's well-known series characters. "The Valley of the Worm" does, however, contain a number of common themes and motifs that Howard deals with individually in other stories: a barbarian hero, an imaginary prehistoric era, mysterious ruins, racial migration, reincarnation, the Picts, revenge, giant serpents, and an unearthly subterranean horror. For this reason, "The Valley of the Worm" has been cited as the quintessential Howard story. (See "The Valley of the Worm: A Gathering of Howard's Essential Creative Themes" by Rick McCollum in The Fantastic Worlds of Robert E. Howard.)

"The Valley of the Worm" is narrated by James Allison, a dying invalid who is able to recall all of his past incarnations. The tale begins with Allison's assertion that the narrative he is about to relate is the archetypal story of the dragon-slayer, the actual basis of all the world's myths of this type from Siegfried to St. George. In a past so remote that the continents have been reshaped a score of times since, Allison was the mighty warrior, Niord of the AEsir. In a mysterious lost valley, Niord does battle with a gigantic slug-like abomination he calls "the Worm." He perishes in the battle, but manages to slay the monster. Niord is reborn both as James Allison's incarnations and as every heroic myth-figure of Western civilization.

Niord is not a series character like Kull or Conan, but "The Valley of the Worm" is part of a loosely connected cycle linked by the common narrator James Allison. Howard wrote a handful of other tales narrated by Allison, mostly drafts and fragments unpublished in his lifetime. "Marchers of Valhalla," published posthumously, comes down to us as a complete draft, but the presentation of the reincarnation theme and James Allison himself differ markedly from that in "The Valley of the Worm." In "Marchers of Valhalla," Allison actually has something of an active role in the story's prologue and epilogue, and an explanation is offered for his visions of past lives. In "The Valley of the Worm," on the other hand, Allison remains offstage, narrating the incredible story of Niord from the shadows. This more ambiguous portrayal of Allison and his racial memory enhances the sense of wonder and awe that is so vital to the atmosphere of "The Valley of the Worm."

The Allison story that most closely resembles "The Valley of the Worm" is "The Garden of Fear." This is the only other James Allison narrative published during Howard's lifetime. In it, the role of Allison is once again that of the shadowy off-stage narrator. His past incarnation this time is another powerful blond warrior of the AEsir, Hunwulf. To rescue his mate, Hunwulf must somehow traverse a garden of deadly, bloodsucking plants and confront a strange winged man-like being. As in "The Valley of the Worm," the narrative transpires in an almost-unthinkably remote era of the distant past, during which tribes of the northern AEsir wander the globe in centuries-long drifts. Once again, a barbaric hero from the dawn of time confronts a chilling and mysterious supernatural menace. The narrative structure of "The Garden of Fear" closely matches that of "The Valley of the Worm." Each title refers to a geographic setting fraught with terrible danger --a garden of fear, and a valley of the worm, which is a common metaphor for death.

Given these similarities, "The Garden of Fear would seem a fitting companion piece to "The Valley of the Worm." It has not heretofore been regarded as such, however. No less than the more obscure Allison narratives, it has long been overshadowed by "The Valley of the Worm." This is not so surprising considering that the latter is regarded by many as Howard's best story. "The Garden of Fear," on the other hand, is usually viewed as a good, but not great, Howard story. One reason may be that "The Garden of Fear" ends on a quiet note that lacks the punch of the denoument of "The Valley of the Worm." "The Valley of the Worm" also opens on a high note:

You have heard the tale before in many guises wherein the hero was named Tyr, or Perseus, or Siegfried, or Beowulf, or Saint George. But it was Niord who met the loathy demonic thing that crawled hideously up from hell...[1]

Resonating with the power of the ageless myths it invokes, this opening passage is an irresistable hook that draws the reader in. But what of mythical allusions in "The Garden of Fear"?

The links between Niord's saga and those of Tyr, Perseus, et al, are made explicit by Howard in "The Valley of the Worm." There are ties to one of the great tales of antiquity in "The Garden of Fear" as well, only here the links are not so explicit. But even though he does little in the way of direct allusion, Howard nonetheless invokes an ancient story that lies at the very heart of Western culture. By looking just a little more closely at "The Garden of Fear," we can discern a wildly distorted version of nothing less than the Biblical account of creation from the Book of Genesis. And if that were not enough, Howard does more than simply rework elements of Genesis; he turns the Biblical creation myth completely upside down!

In comparing the story of Hunwulf with the story of Adam, we find instance after instance in which Howard stands Genesis on its head. We can start with the location evoked in the story's title; "the Garden of Fear" as opposed to "the Garden of Eden." In either case the garden is designated by a four-letter word, one beginning with "E" and one beginning with "F." However, Eden was a place where Man could dwell in a state of untroubled bliss, oblivious to worry or care. Fear, on the other hand, is the emotional state most fraught with turmoil and distress.

The story itself opens as James Allison recounts his ability to recall his past incarnations:

...I see with a clear, sure sight the grand panorama of lives that trail out behind me. I see the men who have been me, and I see the beasts who have been me.

For my memory does not end at the coming of Man. How could it, when the Beast so shades into Man that there is no clearly divided line to mark the boundaries of bestiality?...I see a vast shaggy, shambling bulk that lumbers clumsily yet swiftly, sometimes upright, sometimes on all fours. He delves under rotten logs for grubs and insects, and his small ears twitch continually. He lifts his head and bears yellow fangs. He is primordial, bestial, anthropoid; yet I recognize his kinship with the entity now called James Allison...[2]

It is worth noting that Howard makes no mention of Allison's bestial incarnations in "The Valley of the Worm." Their inclusion here stands as another contradiction to the Book of Genesis --evolution, not creation.

As in "The Valley of the Worm," the dying invalid James Allison derives satisfaction from describing the brawny warrior he was in a bygone age. He speaks of Hunwulf's yellow, lion-like mane, mighty shoulders, and " woven steel cords" [3] with evident pride. In two brief paragraphs, the bedridden Allison wistfully recalls growing to "manhood," "full manhood," and "fierce, sinewy, untamed manhood." [4] The source of all this manly pride is "the love of Gudrun" [5]:

What shall I say of Gudrun? How describe color to the blind? I can say that her skin was whiter than milk, that her hair was living gold with the flame of the sun caught in it, that the supple beauty of her body would shame the dream that shaped the Grecian goddesses. But I cannot make you realize the fire and the wonder that was Gudrun. You have no basis for comparison; you know womanhood only by the women of your epoch, who, beside her are like candles beside the glow of the full moon. Not for a millenium of milleniums have women like Gudrun walked the earth. Cleopatra, Thais, Helen of Troy, they were but pallid shadows of her beauty, frail mimicries of the blossom that blooms to full glory only in the primordial. [6]

This introduction is all the more remarkable considering that Gudrun appears in one of Howard's lesser-known tales, and is given no dialogue and little action. However, solely on the basis of this description, Gudrun emerges full-blown as the ultimate Howardian uber-babe. Not even such notable temptresses as Belit, the queen of the Black Coast, and Atali, the frost giant's daughter, are praised in terms quite this lavish. Yet when we consider the parallels between "The Garden of Fear" and the story of Eden, we realize why Howard has placed her at the apex of human womanhood. Gudrun is the counterpart of Eve, the first woman. Note that, except for collective references to women of the tribe, females are absent from "The Valley of the Worm." The relationship examined in that story is the male bonding between Niord and his Pictish comrade Grom. In the present story, however, Hunwulf must have his Gudrun because Adam had his Eve. And, in keeping with Howard's reversals of Genesis, the two mate-women could not be more dissimilar. Genesis unambiguously recounts how God creates Eve from Adam's rib. In "The Garden of Fear," Gudrun's origins are mysterious; she is an orphan of some lost tribe of the AEsir. Eve is created full-grown. Gudrun is discovered as "a waif...a child wandering in a dark forest." [7] Eve is Adam's demure companion and helper; before tasting of the forbidden fruit, she is without sexuality. Gudrun, on the other hand, is a sex goddess without peer.

Adam obtains Eve without any effort on his part, even sleeping through her arrival. Hunwulf can obtain Gudrun only by vigorously inflicting deadly physical violence. Eve is generously given to Adam as a gift from God. Gudrun is also given as a gift, only not to Hunwulf. Once Gudrun grows into "the full ripeness of her glorious young womanhood," [8] the tribal elders decree that she be presented to the tribe's mightiest hunter, Heimdul the Strong, as a reward. Since "the dream of Gudrun was a madness in my soul, a flame that burned eternally," [9] Hunwulf bashes in Heimdul's skull with a stone axe. Here the mention of a cave man's weapon suggests the prehistoric world as known to anthropologists; it therefore stands in further juxtaposition to the Biblical creation account. Even so, Hunwulf's slaughter of Heimdul during a fit of jealous rage recalls Cain's murder of Abel. Abel is favored by God over Cain; Heimdul the Strong is favored by the tribe over Hunwulf. The story of Cain and Abel occurs subsequent to that of Adam and Eve. The killing of Heimdul occurs prior to Hunwulf and Gudrun's adventure in the Garden of Fear.

Up to this point, the story of Hunwulf and Gudrun has been told as exposition, a briefly recounted backstory. Their actual narrative begins with them in flight. Hunwulf has murdered the tribe's favorite son, and must now flee the tribe's vengeance. He recalls how he "went into the wilderness, an exile and an outcast, with blood on my hands," [10] suggesting the mark of Cain. Since Gudrun reciprocates Hunwulf's passion, she accompanies him willingly. The story of Adam and Eve ends with their expulsion from Eden. Conversely, the story of Hunwulf and Gudrun begins with their flight into exile. And, in Howard's most ironic subversion of Genesis, Adam and Eve of Jewish lore are recast as characters with very Germanic-sounding names.

Hunwulf and Gudrun flee together with their angry tribesmen in hot pursuit. They escape by swimming the rapids of "a rising river," [11] a torrent so dangerous that even the bold AEsir break off their chase. The fugitive couple reaches the farther bank of the river "beaten and torn by the frenzy of the flood." [12] Given our Biblical analogy, Howard's choice of the word "flood" here does suggest the story of Noah from later chapters of Genesis. On the far side of the river, the couple enters unknown territory. They traverse forests and mountains where they are stalked by tigers, leopards, and giant condors. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were given dominion over the animals. As Hunwulf and Gudrun approach the Garden of Fear, animals are a constant threat.

The weary pair finds refuge in a village inhabited by a peaceful brown-skinned people. Arriving at dusk, they are treated with hospitality. At a feast held in their honor, Hunwulf indicates that he intends to press on towards the grasslands he glimpsed to the south while descending from the mountains. The villagers cry out and gesture frantically. Though Hunwulf cannot understand their language, it is clear that they are attempting to warn him away from some terrible danger that inhabits that region.

Even as the villagers yammer their panicked warnings, Hunwulf finds himself under sudden attack. A large, dark winged shape swoops down out of the night sky, knocking him to the ground. He hears Gudrun scream as "she was torn from my side." [13] The wording here recalls how Eve was taken from Adam's side, only in the more literal sense of being molded from one of his ribs. In that episode, Adam and Eve were brought together. In Howard's version, Hunwulf and Gudrun are cruelly seperated. Looking skyward, Hunwulf watches in helpless fury as his mate is borne away into the night.

Horrified and enraged, Hunwulf charges into the darkness, weapon in hand. He quickly realizes that his blind chase is hopeless. The friendly villagers calm him and show him a crude painting of the winged creature that abducted Gudrun; it is not one of the giant condors that inhabit the region, but something far more deadly. They try to dissaude him from pursuing this being, but Hunwulf is firm in his resolve. The villagers furnish him with a map and some provisions, and the blond warrior sets off immediately in search of his mate.

As he travels by night, Hunwulf is aware of the proximity of cave bears and saber-toothed tigers. Again these are images we associate with cave men, rather than Adam and Eve. Hunwulf presses on fearlessly. At daybreak he enters a large valley that narrows at the convergence of two lines of cliffs. Nearing his destination, Hunwulf passes wandering herds of mammoths. Once more we are reminded of the Stone Age, not Eden.

Emerging from a wooded area, Hunwulf enters a clearing. At its center he spies a green tower of jade-like stone standing in the midst of a field of unusual red flowers. The tower is about seventy feet high and crowned with a smaller structure surrounded by a gallery and parapet. Doors and barred windows are visible in the top portion alone; this appears to be the only point of entry.

A tower also appear in Genesis, specifically the Tower of Babel in Chapter 11. The Tower of Babel is a human achievement so impressive that God himself feels jealousy. The tower in "The Garden of Fear," on the other hand, is of inhuman origin. Humans at this point in the dim distant past are not yet capable of erecting such a structure. Hunwulf himself does not even have the words to describe it; he has never seen man-made dwellings other than tents and huts. Only the modern James Allison, narrating the story, is able to identify the tower as such.

Hunwulf feels sure that Gudrun is held captive in the tower, yet is wary in approaching it. Surrounding the tower on all sides for hundreds of yards is a field of tall, sinister looking flowers. Growing closely together, the strange plants consist of thick, four-foot stalks adorned with "poisonously green leaves...drooping on long snaky stems." [14] Each is topped with a large blossom of "livid crimson" whose "fleshy" petals are "the hue of an open wound." [15] In Genesis, the plants in the Garden of Eden are described as being good to eat and pleasing to look upon. Concerning the plants in the Garden of Fear, we are told that, "Their whole aspect was repellent..." [16]

His "wild-born instincts" [17] warning him of danger, Hunwulf observes the garden from a place of concealment. Those instincts are confirmed by the "charnel-house reek of death and decay and corruption that rose from the blossoms." [18] In one of Howard's more obvious allusions to Genesis, Hunwulf wonders if "some great serpent" [19] is concealed in the garden. A satanic figure does indeed appear, but not in the form of a serpent.

Noticing movement in the tower, Hunwulf watches as a strange figure emerges onto the parapet, "a man, but such a man as I had never dreamed of, even in nightmares." This man is described as tall and powerful, black as ebony, with batlike wings folded on his shoulders. He leans upon the parapet and looks out over the garden. Howard explicitly ascribes a satanic aspect to this being: "When I, as James Allison, dream again the dreams of Hunwulf, that image is etched in my mind, that gargoyle figure with elbows propped on the parapet, like a medieval devil brooding on the battlements of hell." [21]

In a major revision of Genesis, the serpent of Eden is replaced with a satanic figure from a much later era. A very ancient symbol also associated with Jason and Hercules, the serpent was not even originally identified with Satan in Genesis. That link was established in later books of the Bible. Genesis was written circa 1,000 BCE, with roots in an oral tradition going back undoubtedly much further. In "The Garden of Fear," however, the winged man is explicitly likened to "a medieval devil," with the term "gargoyle" further suggesting the cathedrals of the Middle Ages --an era thousands of years after the time Genesis was set in writing. Howard is also explicit in describing the winged man as black, but with "no suggestion of the negroid." [22] This recalls the Black Man that appears in the writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne and elsewhere. In any case, Howard substitutes a comparatively modern satanic image in place of the serpent of ancient myth.

It is also worth noting that the winged man operates in a manner totally at odds with that of the serpent of Eden. The serpent seduces Eve, subtly enticing her with guile. The winged man, on the other hand, abducts Gudrun in the most direct way possible, using blatant physical force to seize and carry her away.

James Allison, recalling what he witnessed as Hunwulf, is given to wonder whether the winged man was an isolated freak of nature or the last survivor of an extinct species. He favors the latter theory: "Winged men are not uncommon in mythology...As far back as man may go in myth, chronicle, and legend, he finds tales of harpies and winged gods, angels and demons." [23] (emphasis added) Allison reminds us that; "Legends are distorted shadows of pre-existent realities." [24] He concludes that "once a race of winged black men ruled a pre-Adamite world..." [25]

Here we have an actual direct reference to the book of Genesis. It is unlikely that, in writing "The Garden of Fear," Howard consciously recognized the numerous reversals of Genesis he embodied in the tale. The mythical allusions he deliberately included concern the harpies and related legends. However, the use of the term "pre-Adamite" does seem to indicate some awareness on Howard's part of the Biblical elements that were percolating in his subconscious.

The reflections concerning the nature of the winged man are those of the modern James Allison. The primitive Hunwulf superstitiously takes the existence of devils and monsters for granted. The bold AEsir warrior believes in demons, but does not fear them. Even so, he does not charge into the field of crimson flowers to recklessly assault the tower. The "wariness of the wild" [26] compels him to be cautious.

Hunwulf's instincts are confirmed when the winged man re-enters the tower and emerges once more with a stuggling captive. It is not Gudrun, but one of the brown villagers. The winged man flies out over the field of crimson flowers bearing his captive, and drops him into their midst. The nearest plants latch onto the pitiful victim and drain way his blood, killing him.

It is during this episode that we notice that serpentine imagery is by no means absent from "The Garden of Fear." As the plants await their victim, they hiss and sway like snakes. Their leaves vibrate and whir "like the singing of a rattlesnake." [27] The fleshy petals of the blossoms open "like the necks of serpents." [28] The thick stalks of the plants arch "like the necks of serpents" [29] as the blossoms latch onto their victim. Howard's personal aversion to snakes is well documented, and not atypically the inclusion of serpentine imagry enhances the horror of this sequence. The Garden of Eden was paradise on Earth, but the Garden of Fear is presumably the worst place in the world.

After feeding the villager to the flowers, the winged man withdraws to within the tower. Hunwulf emerges cautiously from his hiding place and approaches one of the plants on the fringe of the garden. Its petals spread "like the hood of a roused cobra." [30] When it lunges at him, Hunwulf uses his axe to sever the stalk. Now able to examine the plant more closely, Hunwulf takes note of the clinging barbs on the leaves and the tiny sucking mouths on the petals. With the sole exception of the one he eats of to gain knowledge, Adam is permitted to eat of all the plants in the Garden of Eden. With the sole exception of the one he cuts down to gain knowledge, all of the plants in the Garden of Fear are capable of eating of Hunwulf.

As he completes his examination of the blood-sucking plant, Hunwulf becomes aware of the winged man's return. He looks up as the winged man emerges once more from the tower, bringing the captive Gudrun. Although Gudrun possesses the "supple strength" of a "she-panther," [31] she is helpless in the winged man's powerful grasp. The evil of the winged man is evident as he indulges in deliberate cruelty, laughing at Hunwulf and mocking him in an unknown tongue. In the Tower of Babel episode of Genesis, God causes mankind to speak numerous languages instead of a single one in order to divide humanity. In "The Garden of Fear," several mentions are made of language barriers.

Toying with Hunwulf, the winged man lifts Gudrun as though intending to cast her into the crimson flowers. However, he fails to goad Hunwulf into running into the field of deadly plants. Though distressed, Hunwulf is clear-headed enough to realize that perishing in such a futile act would only deprive Gudrun of any hope of rescue.

Turning away, Hunwulf formulates a plan. He returns to where he saw the herds of mammoths grazing earlier. Setting a number of well-placed brush fires, he causes the mammoths to stampede in the direction of the tower. Hunwulf's use of fire her recalls another creation myth, that of Prometheus. The mammoths flee from the brush fires, "bulls trumpeting like the blast of Judgement Day." [32] Here is yet another direct Biblical allusion. The Day of Judgement is not mentioned in Genesis, however, but in the New Testament. It is described at length in Revelations, the last book of the Bible.

The panicked mammoths stampede right over the Garden of Fear. The deadly plants might be capable of downing a single mammoth, but not a whole thundering herd. The crimson flowers are mashed to pulp. When the mammoths depart, Hunwulf is able to approach the tower in safety. Using a rawhide rope, he is able to scale the tower where Gudrun is pent. Hunwulf is just a few feet below the parapet when the winged man reappears. The winged man draws a knife and is about to cut the rope, sending Hunwulf plummeting to his death.

It is then that Gudrun goes into action. Though not quite Valeria of the Red Brotherhood, she is still capable of breaking down a door and grappling with a monster long enough for Hunwulf to leap onto the parapet. With his trusty axe, Hunwulf caves in the head of the winged man. The winged man's skull proves no tougher than that of Heimdul the Strong. Hunwulf regains his mate in exactly the same manner he won her originally.

The axe Hunwulf uses throughout the story is made of stone, specifically flint. In "The Valley of the Worm," the AEsir are equipped with weapons of bronze. This indicates that "The Garden of Fear" takes place in an even earlier era. We are told that the events of "The Valley of the Worm" transpired so long ago that "the surface of the earth has changed, not once but a score of times...and the very stars and constellations have altered and shifted. [33] "The Garden of Fear," therefore, occurs at the very dawn of humanity...fittingly, considering its parallels with Genesis.

After their devilish adversary falls dead, Hunwulf and Gudrun embrace over the grisly corpse. It is then that Hunwulf catches a glimpse into the room Gudrun had escaped from. Within the tower, he sees strange furnishings and "shelves heaped with rolls of parchment." [34] The modern James Allison expresses regret that his former incarnation did not explore the tower and examine the scrolls. To the primitive Hunwulf, however, the tower and its contents represent nothing more than a fiendish trap; he and his mate waste no time in taking their leave of the place. Adam and Eve were punished for their pursuit of forbidden knowledge. Hunwulf and Gudrun discover arcane knowledge that is theirs for the taking, but want no part of it. They flee the tower and continue on their way into the wilderness. Their story ends with Hunwulf and Gudrun, like Adam and Eve, alone in a newborn world.

"The Garden of Fear" was originally published in the July-August, 1934, issue of Marvel Tales. "The Valley of the Worm" had beaten it into print, but only by a few months, debuting in the February, 1934, issue of Weird Tales. Weird Tales, where the bulk of Robert E. Howard's fantasy first appeare, is well remembered today. Marvel Tales, on the other hand, was an obscure publication, and "The Garden of Fear" marked Howard's only appearance in its pages. Arriving like a kind of stillborn twin, "The Garden of Fear" never achieved the recognition of "The Valley of the Worm."
It is not hard to understand why "The Garden of Fear" has been so over-shadowed. At the heart of "The Valley of the Worm" lies one of the Western world's great mythic tales, that of the dragon-slayer. Howard was fully conscious of this theme, and embodied it in the story with a sure hand. In writing "The Garden of Fear," however, Howard was most likely not consciously aware of the parallels with Genesis. But even if he had been, he could never have been explicit in citing them in the body of the tale. Such a thing would be controversial even today. Even if most Christians don't take the story of Adam and Eve as literal history, it is still an esteemed part of a text widely held as sacred. Therefore Howard could hardly have included a pronouncement like, "Here, then, is the ghastly truth that lies, garbled and distorted, behind that quaint Sunday School fable." The only legend he could explicitly point to was the less-compelling one of the harpies.
However, with recognition of its parallels with Genesis, "The Garden of Fear" does take on additional dimensions. We now see that the past incarnations of a single man, James Allison, include both the prototype of the dragon slayer and the prototype of the Biblical Adam. This raises the intriguing question of whether Allison might simply be insane. As an embittered cripple driven to madness by his affliction, Allison savors delusions of ultimate grandeur that place him at the very center of the collective consciousness of Western civilization.
That's one interpretation, but not one that the author himself would have embraced. Among Howard's most consistent themes is the preeminent importance of the individual and individual effort. In Robert E. Howard's vision, the deeds of one man can become the archetypal basis for myths and legends the world over. Not coincidentally, Howard is very vocal in celebrating the individual in the opening paragraph of "The Garden of Fear."
...I tell you the individual is never lost, neither in the black pit from which we once crawled, blind, squalling and noisome, or in that eventual Nirvana in which we shall one day sink --which I have glimpsed afar off, shining as a blue twilight lake among the mountains of the stars...[35]
This passage is interesting in several different respects. First there is the womb imagry of the black pit, in which humanity's origins are likened to the physical birth of an individual. Then Howard mentions Nirvana, a concept from a religious tradition altogether different form that which concerns him in the bulk of the story. Finally, there is the image of the blue lake and the mountains. He repeats this image in the last line of the story, after Hunwulf and Gudrun make their escape:
...we went hand and hand along the path made by the mammoths, now seen vanishing in the distance, toward the blue lake at the southern end of the valley and the notch in cliffs beyond it. [36]
A blue lake, seen from afar, was used earlier as an explicit metaphor for Nirvana. Now the protagonists are linked to the blue lake by a path made by mammoths seen "vanishing in the distance." In this context, the path of the vanishing mammoths suggests itself as a metaphor for extinction. Again, there is a juxtaposition of religion and paleontology. Nirvana and extinction are intertwined in the author's imagination.
Another of Robert E. Howard's most prevalent themes is the inevitable passing of all things. Empires rise and fall. Races fade away. Seas change their beds and rivers their courses. Glaciers wax and wane. Birth itself is but the beginning os a journey that ends in death. And so it is that Hunwulf and Gudrun, Howard's own Adam and Eve, join hands and start their journey down the path of the mammoths, towards the Nirvana in which humanity shall one day sink.
[1] Robert E. Howard, "The Valley of the Worm," Weird Tales Vol. 23, No. 2 (February 1934), p. 193.
[2] Robert E. Howard, "The Garden of Fear," Marvel Tales Vol. 1, No. 2 (July-August 1934), pp. 11-12.
[3] Ibid., p. 13.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid., pp. 13-14.
[7] Ibid., p. 14.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid., p. 16.
[14] Ibid., p. 20
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Ibid., p. 21.
[21] Ibid., pp. 25-26.
[22] Ibid., p. 27.
[23] Ibid., p. 21.
[24] Ibid.
[25] Ibid.
[26] Ibid., p. 22.
[27] Ibid., p. 23.
[28] Ibid.
[29] Ibid.
[30] Ibid., pp. 23-24.
[31] Ibid., p. 24.
[32] Ibid., p. 26.
[33] "The Valley of the Worm," Op cit. p. 195.
[34] "The Garden of Fear," Op cit. p. 29.
[35] Ibid., p. 12.
[36] Ibid., p. 29.
Special thanks to David Gentzel for furnishing me with the original publication of "The Garden of Fear."

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