Zaklog the Great, John C. Wright, and Nate discuss the Robert E. Howard poem “Solomon Kane’s Homecoming” in this recent podcast.
My take on this…? The guy that acts like a T-800 terminator cast in multiple year(s) long Taken scenarios is going to continue soldiering away on the vengeance front until he drops.
More importantly, if you’re talking Solomon Kane, then you’ve got to have Howard’s pulp fantasy Africa. Africa, the Dark Continent, land of shadows and horror, of bewitchment and sorcery, into which all evil things had been banished before the growing light of the western world! (One more reason why the Solomon Kane movie isn’t a Solomon Kane movie, y’all!) On one hand, Kane is an evolution of Tarzan’s premise. On the other… he is the original anti-Conan: a civilized man delving deep into the heart of savage darkness!
But that’s just my opinion after reading all the Solomon Kane stories published in Weird Tales from 1929 to 1932. Is there anything in all that that speaks directly to that? Yes there is! The final Solomon Kane installment to be published in the thirties touches on this question directly.
First off, you have to admit that Kane dearly loves his homeland:
“I am no god,” Kane answered, “but a man like yourself. I come from a far land amid the sea, which land, mind ye, is the fairest and noblest of all lands. My name is Solomon Kane and I am a landless wanderer….”
But no matter how desperate, how isolated, how remote a poor, beknighted, terrorized people may be… Solomon Kane will find a reason stick around and pitch in:
Kane clasped his temples with his hands. “You know not what you ask!” he cried. “God knoweth it is in my deepest heart to rid the land of this evil, but I am no god. With my pistols I can slay a few of the fiends, but I have but a little powder left. Had I great store of powder and ball, and the musket I shattered in the vampire-haunted Hills of the Dead, then indeed would there be a rare hunting. But even if I slew all those fiends, what of the cannibals?”
“They too will fear you!” cried old Kuroba, while the girl Nayela and the lad, Loga, who was to have been the next sacrifice, gazed at his wife, their souls in their eyes. Kane dropped his chin on his fist and sighed.
“Yet will I stay here in Bogonda all the rest of my life if ye think I be protection to the people.”
Personally, I really was quite moved by the selflessness Kane displays in this passage the first time I read it. Such compassion! It really is awesome. Naturally, a fair portion of my contemporaries would find it odious– after all… this is a prime example of the notorious Mighty Whitey trope. I have no doubt that the last university educated critic to take a serious look at “Wings in the Night” spontaneously burst into flames.
Is it really that bad? Ah no, it’s worse. Consider:
Kane stood with the ju-ju stave in one hand and the smoking pistol in the other, above the smouldering ruins that hid forever from the sight of man the last of those terrible, semi-human monsters whom another hero had banished from Europe in an unknown age. Kane stood, an unconscious statue of triumph—the ancient empires fall, the dark-skinned peoples fade and even the demons of antiquity gasp their last, but over all stands the Aryan barbarian, white-skinned, cold-eyed, dominant, the supreme fighting man of the earth, whether he be clad in wolf-hide and horned helmet, or boots and doublet—whether he bear in his hand battle-ax or rapier—whether he be called Dorian, Saxon or Englishman—whether his name is Jason, Hengist or Solomon Kane.
This really is an intriguing passage, and not just because it contains a 5.2 megaton yield of wrongthink. And it is of course pure Howard. According to him, the West is great not because of its science, its philosophers, or even its concepts of rights and freedoms. No, according to him it is because it produced “the supreme fighting man of the earth.” This is so far out there it’s not something I can readily imagine anyone making an effort to champion in the decades after Howard’s death.
Something to ponder!