Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Filmgoer's Guide to Conan the Barbarian (1982): The Cimmerians

Smoke from the early morning cooking fires curls up from the wheeled huts of the Cimmerian village. There is a sense of solitude, of peace. Women and children wander about, clad in warm furs against the morning frost.
 - Description of Conan's tribe, Conan the Barbarian script (1980 revision)

Milius' Cimmerians are fairly rustic sorts: they work mills and other agricultural tools, herd sheep and cattle, live in kudzahs, wear clothing and use tools that seem inspired by Eastern Europe, Mongolia and Scandinavia. They seem to have a variety of hair colours, ranging from dirty blonde to dark brown. They are a hardy race, but not all are warriors like Conan's father: for the most part, they are just a peaceful, gentle folk eking out a living in a harsh landscape.

Howard's Cimmerians, on the other hand...

Anatomy of a Cimmerian

Howard gave a detailed description of Cimmerians in his notes:
Cimmerians. These people were descendants of the ancient Atlanteans, though they themselves were unaware of their descent, having evolved by their own efforts from the ape-men to which their ancient ancestors had sunk. They were a tall powerful race, averaging six feet in height. They were black haired, and grey or blue eyed. They were dolichocephalic, and dark skinned, though not so dark as either the Zingarans, Zamorians or Picts
- "Notes on Various Peoples," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p348-349
As mentioned previously, the Cimmerians are uniformly black-haired and light-eyed, and never noted to have tawny or blonde hair: this is a Hyborian or Nordheimr trait. Howard used hair colour as an important form of distinction between disparate tribes: the Vanir are red-haired, the Aesir golden-haired, and the Cimmerians black-haired. Since this is set in a period before admixture between different ethnic tribes became fairly common, it's perfectly feasible to have "barbarians of different colours" populating the world, especially since they are nearly constantly at war.  Tawny-haired Cimmerians blurs the lines considerably, and wouldn't really happen until after the Hyborian Age.

There is only a single mention of Cimmerian clothing:

“I saw again the battlefield whereon I was born,” said Conan, resting his chin moodily on a massive fist. “I saw myself in a pantherskin loin-clout..."
 - "The Hour of the Dragon," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p90

Since the Cimmerians appear to live a hand-to-mouth lifestyle in "The Hyborian Age," it seems that they would primarily be clad in furs. Presumably Conan only wore his pantherskin loin-clout in the summer, though it would not be unheard of for rites of passage to involve exposure to the elements.

Ancestry and Descendants

The history of the Cimmerians is well-detailed in Howard's world-building essay "The Hyborian Age." To make a long story short, they are the descendent of the barbaric Atlanteans, who were described in similar terms as the Cimmerians themselves: dark-haired, light-eyed, tall, muscular, and extremely dangerous. The Atlanteans warred continually with the other peoples of the era before the Hyborian Age, called the Pre-Cataclysmic, or Thurian Age. At some point, a cataclysm struck the world, drowning the islands of Atlantis, Lemuria and the Picts, and devastating the main world continent.  The barbarians of the age fared better than the civilized folk, but endemic warfare between the Atlanteans and Picts sent them spiralling down a regressive path, to the point where they became little more than apish savages, all memory of their past selves gone. Millennia later, the descendent of the Atlanteans climbed from the depths of savagery back into barbarism, under a new name: Cimmerians.

Howard was entirely consistent in characterising the Cimmerians as being Scots-Irish in inspiration, as opposed to Norse, Germanic, or even historical Cimmerian. Every word that can be considered to be Cimmerian language has roots in Irish:

“By Badb, Morrigan, Macha and Nemain!”
 - Names Conan swears by, "The Phoenix on the Sword," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p37
"Lir an mannanan mac lir!"
 - An exclamation Conan makes in exasperation, "Xuthal of the Dusk," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p213
Crom, Badb, Morrigan, Macha, Nemain, Diancecht, Dagda
- List of Cimmerian deities, "Hyborian Names and Countries," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p418
Eithriall, Eanbotha, Rotheachta, Giallchadh, Cruaidh, Eamhua, Criomnthan, Tuathal
- List of Cimmerian names, "Hyborian Names and Countries," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p418
King Cumal
 - King of Cimmeria during the reign of Conan, "Hyborian Names and Countries," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p418

Crom (as Crom Cruach), Badb, Morrigan, Macha, Nemain, Diancecht (see Dian Cecht), Dagda, Lir and Manannan mac Lir are figures in Irish Mythology.  Eithriall (see Ethriel), Eanbotha, Rotheachta (see Rothechtaid), Giallchadh, Cruaidh, Eamhua, Criomnthan (see Crimthann), Tuathal, and Cumal are all Old Irish names, either the names of legendary High Kings of Ireland, historical persons, or even Irish words. The name Conan itself is Irish.

The connection to the Cimmerians can be found in 19th Century theories of the Celts' origins: names such as Cimbri, Cymru (Wales), Cumbria and other Celtic countries were believed to be etymologically derived from the Cimmerians, and it was popular belief that the Cimmerians travelled westward, giving rise to the aboriginal tribes of Britain.

Finally, the Cimmerians are described as similar to some of Howard's Irish characters:

This man was nearly a head taller than the stocky fisherman, and he had the bearing of a fighting man. No single glance would suffice, but any man or woman whose eyes fell on Turlogh Dubh would look long. Six feet and one inch he stood, and the first impression of slimness faded on closer inspection. He was big but trimly molded; a magnificent sweep of shoulder and depth of chest. Rangy he was, but compact, combining the strength of a bull with the lithe quickness of a panther. The slightest movement he made showed that steel-trap coordination that makes the super-fighter. Turlogh Dubh--Black Turlogh, once of the Clan na O'Brien. And black he was as to hair, and dark of complexion. From under heavy black brows gleamed eyes of a hot volcanic blue. And in his clean-shaven face there was something of the somberness of dark mountains, of the ocean at midnight. Like the fisherman, he was a part of this fierce land.
  - Turlogh Dubh na O'Brien, "The Dark Man"

This was a tall, rangily built man, deep-chested and strong, whose square-cut black hair and dark, smooth face contrasted with the yellow manes and beards about him. This man’s eyes were narrow slits and of a cold-steel grey, and they, with a number of scars that marred his face, lent him a peculiarly sinister aspect. He wore no gold ornaments of any kind and his mail was of chain mesh instead of the scale type worn by the men about him.
 - Cormac Mac Art, "Swords of the Northern Sea"

FitzGeoffrey was clean-shaven and the various scars that showed on his dark, grim face lent his already formidable features a truly sinister aspect. When he took off his plain visorless helmet and thrust back his mail coif, his square-cut, black hair that topped his low broad forehead contrasted strongly with his cold blue eyes. A true son of the most indomitable and savage race that ever trod the bloodstained fields of battle, Cormac FitzGeoffrey looked to be what he was--a ruthless fighter, born to the game of war, to whom the ways of violence and bloodshed were as natural as the ways of peace are to the average man.
 - Cormac Fitzgeoffrey, "Hawks of Outremer"

Though there are significant differences between Conan, Cormac Mac Art and Cormac Fitzgeoffrey, they do seem to have highly similar physical phenotypes: that of the Black Irish. There is nothing to suggest that the Cimmerians have any Teutonic, Germanic, or Mongolian influence, beyond personal interpretation and extrapolation by the reader.

Cimmerian Psychology

"You laugh greatly, drink deep and bellow good songs; though I never saw another Cimmerian who drank aught but water, or who ever laughed, or ever sang save to chant dismal dirges."
"Perhaps it’s the land they live in," answered the king. "A gloomier land never was – all of hills, darkly wooded, under skies nearly always gray, with winds moaning drearily down the valleys."
"... They have no hope here or hereafter," answered Conan. "Their gods are Crom and his dark race, who rule over a sunless place of everlasting mist, which is the world of the dead. Mitra! The ways of the Æsir were more to my liking."
  - "The Phoenix on the Sword, The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p24

The Cimmerians are marked by their gloomy, sombre, grim personalities, with loveless and dark religions and cheerless celebrations.

"Strange and moody, indeed," answered Conan. "Life seems bitter and hard and futile. The men of those dark hills brood overmuch on unknown things. They dream monstrous dreams. Their gods are Crom and his dark race, and they believe the world of the dead is a cold, sunless place of everlasting mist, where wandering ghosts go wailing forevermore. They have no hope here or hereafter, and they brood too much on the emptiness of life. I have seen the strange madness of futility fall upon them when a little thing like a spinning dust-cloud, or the hollow crying of a bird, or the moan of the wind through bare branches brought to their gloomy minds the emptiness of life and the vainness of existence. Only in war are the Cimmerians happy."
-- "The Phoenix on the Sword," draft version, The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, pg 332
They were barbaric and warlike, and were never conquered, although, at the end of the Hyborian Age, the southward drifting Nordics drove them from their country. They were a moody, brooding race, whose gods were Crom and his brood. They did not practise human sacrifice, for it was their belief that their gods were indifferent to the fate of men.
- "Notes on Various Peoples," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p348-349

Conan's reflection of his life in Cimmeria is far colder than the fondly-remembered childhood in Conan the Barbarian. The Cimmerians are a dark, brooding, melancholy people, oppressive and bleak. They are not the sort to enjoy ice-fishing in winter, or picking wild blueberries in summer. The only thing to bring a smile to their cheerless lips is the prospect of battle, combat, and war.  To paraphrase one of the better lines in the film: for Cimmerians, there is no summer, just the wind that smells fresh before the storm.

Lastly, the Cimmerians are noted to be very intelligent.

"The Cimmerians were barbarians as ferocious as the Picts, and much more intelligent."
 - "Beyond the Black River," The Conquering Sword of Conan, p51

Considering the Picts are capable of organizing attacks on civilized settlements far more advanced than themselves, are master trackers, and can even outwit well-meaning priests, the intelligence of the Cimmerians should not be underestimated. Conan may not be a typical Cimmerian - his name was "repeated around the council fires" when he was still a youth - but considering his abilities, even an "average" Cimmerian would be a formidable opponent.

The Destruction of Conan's Tribe

A woman stops, looks up from her fire, grabs her little girl by the arm.
A Cimmerian warrior turns from gnawing on his breakfast. His nostrils flare as he senses the quiet.
A young girl's eyes open wide. She starts to scream -- but nothing comes out.
The riders thunder across the stream, splashing water and ice. Their charge is heavy, violent and sudden, catching women and children in its momentum. Men rush out, but are bowled down...
...A woman runs, screaming with child in hand, a huge horseman close on her heels.
Vanir!  Vanir!
He thrusts out his lance through her. She is carried, impaled this way, and drops her baby into the snow. It wails pitiably as the hooves thunder by.
... They spear the wounded, ride around the burning huts. Death is everywhere. Their victory is complete. Only a few children wander about, crying or holding onto their dead parents' hand. The violence is over as swiftly as it began.
 - Description of the raid on Conan's village, Conan the Barbarian script (1980 revision)
In Conan the Barbarian, the Cimmerians are hopelessly outmatched against Doom's horsemen. For every brave man who takes up axe or sword to defend the village, another two die with spears, axes or swords in their back. It's heartbreaking enough that the women are cut down, but some of the men are gripped by fear, and flee for their lives. The most pitiful example is the poor soul in the horned helmet above, screaming in terror as Rexor bears down upon him.

The destruction of Conan's tribe simply could not happen in Howard's Hyborian Age. The Cimmerians have faced far deadlier foes than Doom and his men:

"But the Picts are divided into small clans," persisted Balthus. "They'll never unite. We can whip any single clan."
"Or any three or four clans," admitted the slayer. "But some day a man will rise and unite thirty or forty clans, just as was done among the Cimmerians, when the Gundermen tried to push the border northward, years ago. They tried to colonize the southern marches of Cimmeria: destroyed a few small clans, built a fort-town, Venarium - you've heard the tale."
"So I have indeed," replied Balthus, wincing. The memory of that red disaster was a black blot in the chronicles of a proud and warlike people. "My uncle was at Venarium when the Cimmerians swarmed over the walls. He was one of the few who escaped that slaughter. I've heard him tell the tale, many a time. The barbarians swept out of the hills in a ravening horde, without warning, and stormed Venarium with such fury none could stand before them. Men, women and children were butchered. Venarium was reduced to a mass of charred ruins, as it is to this day. The Aquilonians were driven back across the marches, and have never since tried to colonize the Cimmerian country."
- "Beyond the Black River," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p51

For an example of the sort of men the Gundermen were, here's a description:

The pride of the Gundermen was no less fierce than that of the knights. They were not spear-fodder, to be sacrificed for the glory of better men. They were the finest infantry in the world, with a tradition that made their morale unshakable. The kings of Aquilonia had long learned the worth of unbreakable infantry. They held their formation unshaken...
 - "The Hour of the Dragon," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, pg 234

The Gundermen may have destroyed a few tribes, but they could only do this in a concerted invasion. Aquilonia is a nation with access to armies numbering in the hundreds of thousands. The Gundermen are the premier footsoldiers of the world, and even they weren't enough.  The Aquilonians did not just rely on the mightiest infantry in the world, but the greatest archers of the age:

The Bossonians are of medium height and complection, their eyes brown or grey, and they are mesocephalic. They live mainly by agriculture, in large walled villages, and are part of the Aquilonian kingdom. Their marches extend from the Border kingdom in the north to Zingara in the southwest, forming a bulwark for Aquilonia against both the Cimmerians and the Picts. They are stubborn defensive fighters, and centuries of warfare against northern and western barbarians have caused them to evolve a type of defense almost impregnable against direct attack.
 - "The Hyborian Age," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, pg 356

The Bossonians were not enough either. It wasn't just the Aquilonians and their who had trouble with the Cimmerians.  The Picts continually warred with the Cimmerians, but were never able to conquer them:

North of Aquilonia, the westernmost Hyborian kingdom, are the Cimmerians, ferocious savages, untamed by the invaders, but advancing rapidly because of contact with them; they are the descendants of the Atlanteans, now progressing more steadily than their old enemies the Picts, who dwell in the wilderness west of Aquilonia.
 - "The Hyborian Age," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, pg 356

Perpetual endemic warfare against the Picts would be bad enough, but the Cimmerians had other problems to deal with beyond their lifelong foes:

In the north there was incessant bickering along the Cimmerian borders between the black-haired warriors and the Nordheimr; and the Æsir, between wars with the Vanir, assailed Hyperborea and pushed back the frontier, destroying city after city. The Cimmerians also fought the Picts and Bossonians impartially, and several times raided into Aquilonia itself, but their wars were less invasions than mere plundering forays.
  - "The Hyborian Age," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p356

Hemmed in on all sides, it's amazing the Cimmerians have survived as long as they have. Yet they have had to deal with much deadlier foes than even their barbarian and civilized neighbours:

"No; he is a Cimmerian, one of those wild tribesmen who dwell in the gray hills of the north."
"I fought his ancestors of old," muttered Xaltotun. "Not even the kings of Acheron could conquer them."
 - "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p87

Acheron was an ancient empire which ranged from what was, in Conan's time, southern Nemedia and Brythunia, most of Corinthia, most of Ophir, western Koth and the western lands of Shem, northern Argos, and eastern Aquilonia. One Acheronian, Xaltotun, had magical powers that make Doom look like a party magician:

With his words there came a grinding rumble and a thunderous concussion, and the ground trembled. Over the roar of the battle sounded screams of mad terror.
“The cliffs have crumbled!” cried the livid squire. “They have thundered down into the defile and crushed every living creature in it! I saw the lion banner wave an instant amid the dust and falling stones, and then it vanished! Ha, the Nemedians shout with triumph! Well may they shout, for the fall of the cliffs has wiped out five thousand of our bravest knights – hark!”
 - "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p97
“Aquilonia is doomed,” answered Xaltotun, unmoved. “Lance and ax and torch shall conquer her; or if they fail, powers from the dark of ages shall march against her. As the cliffs fell at Valkia, so shall walled cities and mountains fall, if the need arise, and rivers roar from their channels to drown whole provinces.
 - "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p106
“I have seen the very hills take on an alien and ancient aspect under the spell of his incantations. I have glimpsed, like shadows behind the realities, the dim shapes and outlines of valleys, forests, mountains and lakes that are not as they are today, but as they were in that dim yesterday – have even sensed, rather than glimpsed, the purple towers of forgotten Python shimmering like figures of mist in the dusk.
“And in the last conclave to which I accompanied him, understanding of his sorcery came to me at last, while the drums beat and the beast-like worshippers howled with their heads in the dust. I tell you he would restore Acheron by his magic, by the sorcery of a gigantic bloodsacrifice such as the world has never seen. He would enslave the world, and with a deluge of blood wash away the present and restore the past!”
...He plots the return of Acheron, with its towers and wizards and kings and horrors, as it was in the long ago. The descendants of Acheron will serve him as a nucleus upon which to build, but it is the blood and the bodies of the people of the world today that will furnish the mortar and the stones for the rebuilding... Acheron will be Acheron again, and even the hills, the forests and the rivers will resume their ancient aspect. Why not? If I, with my tiny store of knowledge, could bring to life a man dead three thousand years, why cannot the greatest wizard of the world bring back to life a kingdom dead three thousand years? Out of the dust shall Acheron arise at his bidding.”
 - "The Hour of the Dragon," The Bloody Crown of Conan, p217-218

This all the above was the work of a single sorcerer: Acheron was a nation of sorcerers, born of a thousand centuries steeped in dark magic.  Even the might of Acheron wasn't enough to conquer the Cimmerians. Finally, later in the Hyborian Age, the Cimmerians meet one of their greatest challenges: a mass invasion of Hyrkanian horsemen.

Then again the Hyrkanians rode from the blue east. The withdrawal of the imperial legions from Zamora was their incitement. Zamora fell easy prey to their thrusts, and the Hyrkanian king established his capital in the largest city of the country. This invasion was from the ancient Hyrkanian kingdom of Turan, on the shores of the inland sea, but another, more savage Hyrkanian thrust came from the north. Hosts of steel-clad riders galloped around the northern extremity of the inland sea, traversed the icy deserts, entered the steppes, driving the aborigines before them, and launched themselves against the western kingdoms. These newcomers were not at first allies with the Turanians, but skirmished with them as with the Hyborians; new drifts of eastern warriors bickered and fought, until all were united under a great chief, who came riding from the very shores of the eastern ocean. With no Aquilonian armies to oppose them, they were invincible. They swept over and subjugated Brythunia, and devastated southern Hyperborea, and Corinthia. They swept into the Cimmerian hills, driving the black-haired barbarians before them, but among the hills, where cavalry was less effectual, the Cimmerians turned on them, and only a disorderly retreat, at the end of a whole day of bloody fighting, saved the Hyrkanian hosts from complete annihilation.
 - "The Hyborian Age," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p361-362

Driven before the onrushing tides of Nordic invasion, the Cimmerians were on the march, and neither army nor city stood before them. They surged across and completely destroyed the kingdom of Gunderland, and marched across ancient Aquilonia, hewing their irresistible way through the Pictish hosts. They defeated the Nordic-Nemedians and sacked some of their cities, but did not halt. They continued eastward, overthrowing an Hyrkanian army on the borders of Brythunia.
 - "The Hyborian Age," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p363

Meanwhile the Cimmerians, wandering southeastward, destroyed the ancient Hyrkanian kingdom of Turan, and settled on the southwestern shores of the inland sea. The power of the eastern conquerors was broken. Before the attacks of the Nordheimr and the Cimmerians, they destroyed all their cities, butchered such captives as were not fit to make the long march, and then, herding thousands of slaves before them, rode back into the mysterious east, skirting the northern edge of the sea, and vanishing from western history, until they rode out of the east again, thousands of years later, as Huns, Mongols, Tatars and Turks.
 - "The Hyborian Age," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p364

Yet even the Hyrkanians, who swept into the country on mass in forces numbering thousands, could not conquer the Cimmerians.

Doom manages to do something incredible with an absolutely minuscule force, something that no other nation could: not the Aquilonians, who sent entire legions north and established forts; not the Gundermen or Bossonians, who have shared a bloodstained border with the Cimmerians for millennia; not the Picts, Aesir or Vanir, who war with them over the course of millennia; not the Hyrkanians, whose unstoppable hordes finally met their match in the sombre hills of Cimmeria; not even the Kings of Acheron, an empire of sorcerers, against any one of whom the might of the film's Thulsa Doom would be as straws in the wind.

It is true that single tribes can be wiped out, as attested in "Beyond the Black River": however, to do so requires a much stronger force than Doom's two dozen bandits. They would certainly be far abler fighters than the poor peasants cut down from behind as they fled in terror. For one thing, not only would all the men fight, but many of the women, not just Conan's mother:

Evidently Conan supposed Yasmela intended to strap on a sword and take part in the actual fighting, as the barbarian women often fought.
"The women of the Hyborians do not fight like your Cimmerian women, Conan," he said.
 - "Black Colossus," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p163

Even the children - the infants - would put up a fight. Though Howard never described Cimmerian children, he did describe the barbarian children of other peoples, who are of the same violent temperament as his Cimmerians:

We were a whole tribe marching on foot, old men, wolfish with their long beards and gaunt limbs, giant warriors in their prime, naked children running along the line of march, women with tousled yellow locks carrying babies which never cried - unless it were to scream from pure rage. I do not remember our numbers, except that there were some 500 fighting-men - and by fighting-men I mean all males, from the child just strong enough to lift a bow, to the oldest of the old men. In that madly ferocious age all were fighters. Our women fought, when brought to bay, like tigresses, and I have seen a babe, not yet old enough to stammer articulate words, twist its head and sink its tiny teeth in the foot that stamped out its life. Oh, we were fighters!
 - Description of the Æsir, "The Valley of the Worm"

I find it inconceivable to believe that Howard would intend his Cimmerian children to scream in terror, or cry, or hold onto their dead parents' hands hopelessly, nor for Cimmerian babies to "wail pitiably" when dropped to the ground, when he has the children of the Æsir so stoic, brave and dangerous from a young age. Certainly no Cimmerian, man, woman, or child, would suffer themselves to be taken captive if they were still conscious:

"A god must have his sacrifices. When I was a child in Stygia the people lived under the shadow of the priests. None ever knew when he or she would be seized and dragged to the altar. What difference whether the priests give a victim to the gods, or the god comes for his own victim?"
"Such is not the custom of my people," Conan growled, "nor of Natala’s either. The Hyborians do not sacrifice humans to their god, Mitra, and as for my people – by Crom, I’d like to see a priest try to drag a Cimmerian to the altar! There’d be blood spilt, but not as the priest intended."
 - "Xuthal of the Dusk," The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p221

Map of Howard's Hyborian Age, cropped to relevant areas. Since Conan fights Picts and Vanir in his youth, it stands to reason that his tribe may well be close to the triple junction between Cimmeria, Vanaheim and the Pictish Wilderness - which makes things even more difficult for Thulsa Doom.

However, even if we are to assume that a single horde of bandits could defeat a Cimmerian tribe and knock the children unconscious before putting them in chains, this would still contradict Howard. Conan's tribe is situated in Northwest Cimmeria, yet Doom must not only get there, but fight through Southern Cimmeria when he went south! Either we must assume that Doom managed to get all the way through Cimmeria alive -- a feat even the Kings of Acheron with the funds and armies of an empire could not match -- or Conan's tribe is not situated in Northwest Cimmeria at all, thus still contradicting Howard.

The only way to access Northwest Cimmeria without going through the treacherous Pictish Wilderness, Cimmeria, Asgard or the Hyborian Kingdoms is through Vanaheim. At first, this seems to present the solution, since Doom employed "Vanir" as his soldiers, so one could assume that the army was able to reach their destination. But how did Doom get to Vanaheim? He certainly can't have gone through Cimmeria, nor the Pictish Wilderness. If he was affiliated with the Vanir, then he definitely couldn't have gone through Asgard. The only way to get to Vanaheim would be taking a boat there - and that means braving not only the treacherous northern seas, but the Pictish Wilderness. That said, even Vanaheim wouldn't necessarily be safe to get through: like the Cimmerians, the Vanir fought among themselves as well as with their neighbours, so Doom's tribe of Vanir would have to go through leagues of enemy Vanir territory before they even approach Cimmeria.

The Cimmerians of Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age were not simple peasant folk, peaceful farmers with no more desire than to live a good life: they were the barbarians of nightmare. The Cimmerians are the horrors civilized mothers tell their children to make them behave.  The Cimmerians are the dangers politicians use to frighten the populace.  The Cimmerians are the savages that should be feared. They are the darkest face of barbarism incarnate. In Howard's Hyborian Age, it would be the Cimmerians riding with torch and sword, slaughtering and pillaging, grinding their foes into the dust, making orphans and widows.


  1. a few things...
    what is a black irish?
    what was the political system in Cimmeria? you talk about a king but I think more, just like in the north of villages with some chieftain or warchief vinculated (does do well this word in english?) with other villages by clan
    couldn't be a good idea you or some other scholar to write a kind of expansion or new version of the essay The hyborian age, it's short for me thinking in the interesting and greats events that it tells, I think hyborian age and afterwards deserves a much more longer essay, even a book

  2. what is a black irish?

    The Black Irish is a phenotype characterised by black hair and light eyes, which is commonly noted among certain parts of the Irish (as well as Scottish and Welsh) populace. Examples include Gabriel Byrne, Colin Farrell, Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta-Jones and others.

    what was the political system in Cimmeria? you talk about a king but I think more, just like in the north of villages with some chieftain or warchief vinculated (does do well this word in english?) with other villages by clan

    King Cumal is something of a mystery, and it's difficult to know what Howard meant by it. The best explanation I can think of is that whenever the Cimmerians mobilize for war, they nominate a "de facto" king for the duration of battle. Once the invaders are dealt with, each tribe goes back to their own clans. Either that, or like the Nordheimer, each Cimmerian tribe has its own "king" which would be more akin to a chieftain.

    couldn't be a good idea you or some other scholar to write a kind of expansion or new version of the essay The hyborian age, it's short for me thinking in the interesting and greats events that it tells, I think hyborian age and afterwards deserves a much more longer essay, even a book

    Hmm, interesting idea.

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  4. I suspect that Cimmeria, like early Ireland had a king for each tribe or clan and a nominal high king over those, whose power was generally more symbolic than actual.