Tuesday, December 4, 2018

‘My Sour Friend’

James LaFond's impressions of The Right Hand of Doom by Robert E. Howard

The Right Hand of Doom is not highly regarded, even by fans of Howard. However, in this reader’s opinion it is the very font of Howard’s unique ability to present the psychic aspect of sorcery after the Promethean tradition, not placing the sorcerer as the mercurial trickster but as the lit mind of one who sees clearly the unseen puppet strings of the human world and manages to tug them enough to impose his will in the face of all of Man’s mechanistic affectations to being beyond the reach of the fates, furies and saviors which negate our willful actuality.

In this case, Kane is not the worker of vengeance, but the judge of the avenging deed as a callous fop, John Redly, boasts by the tavern lights that he has betrayed “Roger Simeon, the necromancer” and Solomon Kane, self-appointed judge and executioner of men, casts a shadow of words over the scene:

“I say,” said he in a low powerful voice, “that you have this day done a damnable deed. Yon necromancer was worthy of death, belike, but he trusted you, naming you his one friend, and you betrayed him for a few filthy coins. Methinks you will meet him in Hell one day.”

In heroic fashion, loyalty is chosen over society even by the man who sees himself as the very avenging hand of God. This points to a theory which Howard holds forth in his fiction and has recently been articulated by Jason Reza Jorjani in Prometheus and Atlas, a metaphysical deduction that sees our human consciousness as a cork plugging the bottle of our subconscious, which knows that powers beyond our conscious ken impinge upon our lives and that only stepping beyond the bounds of society may one enter the realm of evil to combat it where it lives.

The revealing of Kane as a person who acts on impulse and piously refuses to reflect internally is combined with one of the most horrific scenes sketched in fiction, establishing Simeon the necromancer as the prototype of the swords and sorcery villain, the man of extra-human will.

(c) 2018 James LaFond

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