Saturday, February 08, 2014

Final Thoughts on The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane: The Platypus Reads Part CCLVII

Excluding fragments, the final Solomon Kane story is Footsteps Within.  Drawing near to the far side of the African continent, Solomon Kane is captured by Arab slave traders who recognize the Englishman and decide to sell him to his enemies among the Turks.  One of the Arabs, a wise man and a hadji, also recognizes Kane's staff as the mystic staff of Solomon.  According to the legend the hadji tells, King Solomon used the staff to banish all the jinn of Arabia into Africa.  His discover goes unheeded by the others and they soon find themselves stumbling on the tombs/prisons of one of the jinn.  The sheik, thinking that there is gold inside, ignores the hadji's protests and opens the vault thereby unleashing the horror within.  Kane, regaining his staff, confronts the beast, frees the slaves, and finds new purpose as he realizes the religious significance of the talisman he has been carrying.

And that's where our story ends.  For whatever reason, Howard gave up the character.  There have been a few attempts by other authors to continue the story, but since the rights are in doubt a true continuation seems unlikely.  What we can see, is that Howard was beginning to work in more Lovecraftian elements while at the same time trying to shore up Kane's religious faith and status as a Paladin.  Popping out on the far side of Africa leads me to believe that Howard was also setting up a series of oriental adventures followed perhaps by a series of American adventures (we already know that Kane has fought against Native Americans in Darien -a reference to the Pequot War seems chronologically problematic, but who knows).  It all sounds interesting, and I'm sad that there isn't more.

So where do I go with final thoughts?  The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane is a wonderful triumph of pulp fiction.  However, like so many stories from this time period, it is marred by fits of ethnocentrism and outright racism.  The writing lacks the polish of Howard's later Conan stories, but also lacks their quixotic amorality.  As with everything in Robert E. Howard's brief literary career, the only real statement I can make is that I wish there was more.  Perhaps it's fitting, then, that the collection closes with poem The Homecoming of Solomon Kane, a poem which ends with our hero striding out along the dunes bent on further adventure.

Sic transit gloria mundi    

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