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These things be deeds of some power of evil. The lords of darkness have laid a curse upon the country. A strong man is needed to combat Satan and his might.
-Skulls in the Stars

We all know, of course, which prominent Republican politician we're supposed to associate with one of Robert E. Howard's great pulp fiction heroes: Arnold Schwarzenegger with Conan the Barbarian. But consider another possibility--a bigger pol and more interesting protagonist: George W. Bush and Solomon Kane, the Puritan avenger.

The set of tales I find closest to hand just happens to contain the great story, The Moon of Skulls (Weird Tales, June 1930/July 1930), in which Kane has tracked a lost English girl to the heart of darkest Africa after a search of months or even years. He's dedicated his life, and risked it too many times to count, just to right the injustice done to her. The story builds to a confrontation with "Nakari of Negari, demon queen of a demon city, whose monstrous lust for blood had set half a continent shivering." It's an altogether thrilling yarn.

What interests us here though is the story's oft-cited description of the hero:
He never sought to analyze his motives and he never wavered once his mind was made up. Though he always acted on impulse, he firmly believed that all his actions were governed by cold and logical reasonings. He was a man born out of his time--a strange blending of Puritan and Cavalier, with a touch of the ancient philosopher, and more than a touch of the pagan, though the last assertion would have shocked him unspeakably. An atavist of the days of blind chivalry he was, a knight-errant in the somber clothes of a fanatic. A hunger in his soul drove him on and on, and urge to right all wrongs, protect all weaker things, avenge all crimes against right and justice. Wayward and restless as the wind, he was consistent in only one respect--he was true to his ideals of justice and right. Such was Solomon Kane.
That Puritan/Cavalier combination seems to confuse folks, as if a religious man should have to be a pacifist, an odd conceit in a nation that Puritans violently wrested from its original inhabitants. The fanaticism, relentlessness, self-confidence, and unwavering sense of good and evil all remind of at least the caricature of President Bush. But what really stands out and makes a comparison seem plausible is Kane's perception of Providence:
["M]ethinks you lack somewhat in faith, both in Providence and me. Nay, alone I am a weak creature, having no strength or might in me; yet in times past hath God made me a great vessel of wrath and a sword of deliverance. And, I trust, shall do so again.

[I]n the last few hours as it were, we have seen the passing of an evil race and the fall of a foul empire. Men died by thousands about us, and the earth rose beneath our feet, hurling down towers that broke the heavens, death fell about us in a red rain, yet we escaped unscathed.

"Therein is more than the hand of man! Nay, a Power -- the mightiest Power! [...]

"Think you that having led me this far, and accomplished such wonders, the Power will strike us down now? Nay! Evil flourishes and rules in the cities of men and the waste places of the world, but anon the great giant that is God rises and smites for the righteous, and they lay faith on him."
President Bush has put the same idea less dramatically but no less forcefully in his 2003 State of the Union:
Americans are a resolute people who have risen to every test of our time. Adversity has revealed the character of our country, to the world and to ourselves. America is a strong nation, and honorable in the use of our strength. We exercise power without conquest, and we sacrifice for the liberty of strangers.

Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity.

We do not know--we do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history.
Presidents obviously are not action heroes, and President Bush has caught enough grief over simply flying a Navy jet that we'd best not try to make him seem a swashbuckler out of a tale of sword-and-sorcery, but it does seem that he and Solomon Kane would at least be at ease with each other's view of the world.


Grade: (A+)


See also:

Robert Howard Links: (Official Web Site)
    -The Complete Robert E. Howard Story Index
    -The Dark Man: The Journal of Robert E. Howard Studies
    -Robert E. Howard (Wikipedia)
    -Welcome to Cross Plains, Texas. Home of Robert E. Howard, Author of "Conan the Barbarian"
    -Robert E. Howard (Ian Davey)
    -ESSAY: Good Guys Wear Black: Solomon Kane (John Robey, Amazing Adventures)
    -The Solomon Kane Chronology (Matthew Baugh)
    -ESSAY: The Weird Tales of Solomon Kane (Terry Fountain)
    -REVIEW: of Solomon Kane (Pulp & Dagger)

    -FILMOGRAPHY: Robert E. Howard (
    -Solomon Kane (TBA) (Counting Down Movies)
    -ARTICLE: The Return of Solomon Kane: New Line Cinema tackles Robert E. Howard character. (Film Force, October 07, 2002)

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