Monday, June 02, 2008

The Department of Lost Barbarians: Kardios

Manly Wade Wellman is probably best know for his horror fiction and for his series about John the Balladeer, a wandering minstrel who travels the Appalachians fighting supernatural menaces. A lesser known character of Wellman's is Kardios, also a minstrel, and in fact sort of a sword & sorcery version of John the Balladeer, since he wanders the world of pre-history, fighting supernatural menaces.
Kardios is also apparently the last survivor of the sinking of Atlantis and was indirectly responsible for that sinking. You'll have to read the first Kardios story, 'The Straggler From Atlantis' to find out how.
According to Wellman, he wrote the first Kardios story back in the 1930s and submitted it to Weird Tales, but it was rejected by WT editor Farnsworth Wright, because Wright felt he was already well supplied with that sort of story by a fellow named Robert E. Howard. Luckily, when Andrew J. Offutt contacted Wellman about writing something for his 1977 sword & sorcery anthology Swords Against Darkness, Wellman dusted off Kardios and put him to work. He would appear in four of the five Swords volumes and make one final appearance in the 1979 DAW anthology Heroic Fantasy.
Kardios isn't technically a barbarian. He's a learned man, a poet, and a minstrel. He carries a lute as well as a sword. But he's also a man of action, ready to face off against evil spirits, extra-terrestrial monsters and sorcerers. However, his adventures are certainly sword & sorcery, so he fits in here at the DoLB.
Manly Wade Wellman was a thoroughly professional writer and one whom I've only recently begun to appreciate. The Kardios stories are cleanly written, tightly plotted, and very satisfying to read. I'm currently reading the Carcosa Press collection of Wellman's horror fiction Worse Things Waiting, which covers a wide range of the writer's career so I can see that he was always a talented writer. Prolific too.
Wellman had a second heroic fantasy series, this one about Hok, a sort of caveman version of Hercules. These are also extremely entertaining and deserve to be collected. In fact if someone took the five Kardios stories and the five Hok stories, they would make a very nifty book. There is a Lulu version of Hok and I think Paizo, the publisher of many other older S&S series is looking at a possible Wellman collection. I'd certainly buy a copy just to have all the stories in one place.


Steven R. Harbin aka coachhollywood67 said...

I totally agree with you that it would be a great thing for all the Hok and Kardios stories to be printed together in one volume. Like you, I've come to appreciate Wellman more and more over the years. I'm presently rereading the Lulu press version of Hok and have The Third Cry to Legba waiting on the "to be read" table.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

From looking at your blog, I'd say we have a lot of similar reading tastes, Steven. Yeah, that Wellman is something. I think I'm beginning to see how he was an influence on Karl Edward Wagner as I read more of Wellman's stuff. Maybe Paizo will do the Hok/Kardios volume. I juts finished up Worse Things Waiting and I've read a couple of the John the balladeer stories in that collection. Great stuff. Are you familiar with Ramsey Campbell's S&S hero Ryre? Worth tracking down.

Blue Tyson said...

Well, I should just read all your blog then. Ignore earlier question, please.