Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Season 4, Episode 19: Worms of the Earth

Hile, Cromrades! This week, we bear witness to the destruction of a man's soul. Worms of the Earth by Robert E. Howard was published in November of 1932 in Weird Tales, but you can read the story online here. This one is a doozy, and is a great way to kick off Cromtober! Time to get yer scare on!!!
An adaptation of this story appeared in Savage Sword of Conan #16-17, and was interpreted by Roy Thomas with art by Barry Smith and Tim Conrad. Here's a bit of Tim Conrad's contribution:
One Things
Jon - O.J.: Simpson, Made in America
Luke - Jake Xerxes Fussell's eponymous album
Josh - Straight Outta Compton

Questions? Comments? Curses?
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Legal Mumbo-Jumbo
Our episode is freely available on archive.org and is licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
Beginning theme: Sudden Defeat by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0.

Closing theme: Raggy Levy by Jake Xerxes Fussell from his eponymous album. All music was obtained legally; we hope our discussion of this content makes you want to go out and purchase the work!


  1. Digging this episode! "Worms of the Earth" is one of my all time faves. Regarding your "What comic titles would you have Howard write?" discussion, I would go for "Thor" (a bit on the nose perhaps, but full of possibility nevertheless) and DC's "The New Gods".

  2. (as for artists: Joe Kubert and Jack Kirby.

  3. I love that Savage sword adaptation of Worms! There is a colored version available as well which in my opinion even better though many prefer the B&W version.

    The first Conan story the Phoenix on the Sword mentions the "Nameless Old Ones". An earlier draft of it had Cthulhu and other Lovecraft's deities mentioned but REH left them out from the final version ultimately.
    That story and this one you covered were written around same time when REH was trying some Lovecraftian stuff.

  4. Only a month behind - but a few comments....

    In my view, the "Lovecraftian" terminology in "Worms" (R'lyeh, Dagon, etc.) is superficial. It was written at the very tail-end of the period in which REH was writing HPL-type stories (starting with a flurry in the latter part of 1930: "The Children of the Night," "The Footfalls Within," "The Black Stone," "The Thing on the Roof"). By the time of "Worms," he had taken on what he needed or wanted from the HPL playbook, and subsumed it into his own. At this point all he used the Lovecraftian names for was exactly what HPL encouraged from his fellow WTers - added spice, the "air of verisimilitude" lent to his "artificial mythology" by "wide citation." There is Lovecraftian influence in this story, yes, and in fact that influence continued throughout the remainder of Howard's career. But from here on it is not as overt. As for there being no Lovecraftian influences in the Conan series: Yag-kosha ("Tower of the Elephant") was an alien being who came from the stars; the horrors in "The Scarlet Citadel"; Thog in "Xuthal of the Dusk"; the "god" in "The Vale of Lost Women"; there are more, but if those don't convince you of Lovecraftian influences in the Conan series, nothing will.

    REALLY liked your discussion of the "inverted" monomythic quest themes, both Arthurian and Christian. Seeds for some essays in all that.

    I've always thought of the giant thing that shadowed Bran in Dagon's Mere as the Loch Ness Monster, "the time-worn myths of the ancient land"..."taking form and coming to life before his eyes." Identifying it with Dagon is interesting.

    Right after Howard and Lovecraft started corresponding, in 1930, HPL introduced REH to the concept that, before the "Mediterranean" peoples (Howard's Picts) had spread across Europe, it had been home to a race of "squat Mongoloids" who were driven into hiding places by the invaders. Howard seems to have immediately adopted this as a way to rescue the Picts - with whom he strongly identified - from the fate of becoming "the little people" (or "worms"), who were loathsome. In his earliest "little people" stories (like "The Little People") those creatures were degenerated Picts. This probably caused ol' Bob some psychic pain, so when Lovecraft gave him an out, he jumped on it. In a letter from August 1930 he wrote, "Your observations regarding the Mongoloid aborigines and their relation to the fairy-tales of western Europe especially interested me. I had supposed, without inquiring very deeply into the matter, that these legends were based on contact with the earlier Mediterraneans, and indeed, wrote a story on that assumption which appeared some years ago in Weird Tales - "The Lost Race." I readily see the truth of your remarks, that a Mongoloid race must have been responsible for the myths of the Little People, and sincerely thank you for the information." The Picts, of course, DO degenerate, but not THAT far.

    You only gave cursory mention to Arthur Machen, but his influence on the "Little People" stories is incalculable. Indeed, his "The Shining Pyramid" is cited in the story "The Little People," and his "The Novel of the Black Seal" is named in "The Children of the Night" as one of the "three master tales" of horror.

    More than two cents, I guess. And more than a little late, but I'll just leave it here for posterity.

  5. I love that Savage sword adaptation of Worms! There is a colored version available as well which in my opinion even better though many prefer the B&W version.
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