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Literature / Kull

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King Kull of Atlantis in mortal combat with the Snake Men — The Shadow Kingdom

"I did not dream far enough. I always visualized merely the seizing of the throne — I did not look beyond. When king Borna lay dead beneath my feet, and I tore the crown from his gory head, I had reached the ultimate border of my dreams. From there, it has been a maze of illusions and mistakes. I prepared myself to seize the throne — not to hold it."
Kull, By This Axe I Rule!note 

Kull is a character appearing in a series of short stories by Robert E. Howard, the few of which published during his lifetime appeared in Weird Tales. Kull is a barbarian hailing from Atlantis, but was exiled from his homeland. After some years as an adventurer, Kull made himself king of Valusia in a bloody coup. He lived approximately 100,000 years ago (according to Kings of the Night).

Howard's more famous Conan the Barbarian inhabits the same continuity as Kull, but lives many thousand years later. Kull is a precursor of sorts of Conan; indeed, the first Conan story was a rewrite of a Kull story Howard had not sold. Both are fierce barbarian warriors, but Kull is a more thoughtful, philosophical character.

The Kull stories are a peripheral part of the Cthulhu Mythos. Perhaps most notably, Cthulhu fans will recognize the Serpent People who appear in The Shadow Kingdom.

    Kull stories written by Robert E. Howard 

Few Kull stories were actually published in the lifetime of Howard, as the character was not particularly popular.

  • The Shadow Kingdom. First published in August, 1929. First Kull story.
  • The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune. First published in September, 1929.
  • Kings of the Night. First published in November, 1930. Features a crossover with Bran Mak Morn.
  • The King and the Oak, a poem. First published in February, 1939.
  • The Altar and the Scorpion. First published in 1967.
  • Black Abyss, also known as The Black City. First published in 1967. Howard actually left the story unfinished. Lin Carter added further chapters and a conclusion to the story.
  • By This Axe I Rule. First published in 1967. Famed because Howard revised the story to The Phoenix on the Sword (1932), the first Conan story.
  • The Curse of the Golden Skull. First published in 1967.
  • Delcarde's Cat, also known as The Cat and the Skull. First published in 1967.
  • Exile of Atlantis. First published in 1967. Howard finished the story, but never gave it a title.
  • The Skull of Silence, also known as The Screaming Skull of Silence. First published in 1967.
  • Swords of the Purple Kingdom. First published in 1967.
  • The Striking of the Gong. There are two version of this tale. The original Howard version was first published in 1976, and a version revised by Lin Carter in 1967.
  • Riders Beyond the Sunrise. There are two version of this tale. The original Howard version was first published in 1976, and a version revised by Lin Carter in 1967.
  • Wizard and Warrior. There are two version of this tale. The original story draft by Howard was published in 1978, an expanded tale by Lin Carter appeared in 1967.

Some Kull stories here.

See also: Robert E. Howard, Conan the Barbarian, Bran Mak Morn.

Not to be confused with the big Urgals from Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle (though Kull probably inspired their name) or with the movie Krull, which is completely unrelated to Kull.

There was a 1997 movie Kull the Conqueror with Kevin Sorbo in the title role.


  • Always Chaotic Evil: The Serpent People are completely malevolent, with no goal beyond ruling humans.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Serpent People have been infiltrating then taking over human society for thousands of years, ever since humans overthrew them long ago when they ruled openly.
  • Appeal to Force: The implication of Kull's famous Badass Boast is this. He is not bound by the previous code of laws that he inherited after taking over Valusia, and anyone who objects can argue with his axe.
  • Ax-Crazy: The reader often gets the feeling that Kull is bored very easily with his job. "Kull, who opens Pandora's Boxes like birthday gifts".
  • Badass in Distress: Kull himself in Swords of the Purple Kingdom. He thought Brule was one in The Cat and the Skull.
  • Big Bad: Thulsa Doom is a self-proclaimed one (though he only appears in one of Howard's stories)
  • Berserk Button: Kull will look for any excuse to go kick someone's ass. He's easily bored. However the opening Riders Beyond the Sunrise takes the cake: Tu explains to Kull that Lala-ah eloping with Felgar violates Valusian tradition and custom... and Kull doesn't care, Tu tells him that her marrying a foreigner without his permission is an insult to the crown... and Kull cares not, but then the rider who led the search for them relays a message from Felgar insulting Kull personally... and Kull completely loses his shit!
  • Bound and Gagged: Happens to no less than 5 characters, one of them being Kull himself.
  • Brutish Character, Brutish Weapon: Kull uses a battle axe as his main weapon. After he becomes king, his advisors make several attempts to civilize him, including training him in swordsmanship. He never quite takes to it and goes back to his axe, showing he's truly a barbarian at heart.
  • Crossover: Kings of the Night, featuring Kull and Bran Mak Morn.
  • Decadent Court: The state of existence in Valusia for so long that literally no native Valusian can conceive of any other way to be.
  • The Exile: Kull has been exiled from Atlantis ever since he performed a Mercy Kill on a woman who would have been burned at the stake for marrying a Lemurian. The untitled story that occurred in has even since been called "Exile of Atlantis."
  • Fake King: The Serpent People do this, murdering and replacing the rulers of Valusia and other lands.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Kull and Brule the Lance-slayer, justified by the fact Brule acts as his bodyguard and also is one of his few true friends and collaborators.
  • I Am the Noun: "I AM THE LAW!", Kull said, fed up with the Can't-Marry-Slaves law. He takes an ax to it.
  • Kill and Replace: This is the method of the Serpent People. First they impersonate humans using magical illusions and then replace them with their own people permanently, taking over entire kingdoms doing so. Kull nearly succumbs to an attempt at this in "The Shadow Kingdom".
  • Lizard Folk: The Serpent-men who are the villains of "The Shadow Kingdom." They are quite literally half-human and half-snake but strangely have legs in contrast to Snake People, making them closer to this trope in appearance.
  • Made a Slave: Following his exile of Atlantis, Kull became a galley slave onboard a Lemurian galley.
  • Magic Mirror: The titular mirrors in "The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune" with one apparently crafted by the "Deepest magic."
  • Master of Illusion: The Serpent People are capable of casting illusions that make them look human.
  • Pet the Dog: Kull has a soft spot for young lovers and other such fools.
  • The Power of Friendship: Despite being from enemy races Brule shares with Kull a great friendship, in more than one occasion each one has saved the life of the other, even in one situation where they had to face a cosmic entity.
  • Power Trio: King Kull is The McCoy, Councillor Tu is The Spock, and Brule is The Kirk.
  • Precursors: The Serpent People and other races (implied).
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Kull is an Atlantean, Brule is a Pict, both belong to ethnic groups considered barbarians and both are proud warriors.
  • Recursive Precursors: Atlantis, Kull's homeland, is a young and barbaric island nation while Valusia and its culture is considered ancient beyond reckoning, extending back to the very dawn of Man as a free, non-enslaved species.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The Serpent People, through which Howard distantly connects with the Cthulhu Mythos of his friend H. P. Lovecraft.
  • Reptilian Conspiracy: The Trope Maker-"The Shadow Kingdom" has the Serpent People, an ancient race who have infiltrated human society through their glamoring abilities and secretly rule many.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Screaming Skull of Silence. Kull almost ends the world out of sheer boredom.
  • Shoot the Dog: In "Exile of Atlantis", Kull throws a knife in a girl's heart to spare her from being burned to death.
  • Spared By Adaptation: The Marvel comics adaptation of "By This Axe I Rule" spared Ridondo to give Kull a travelling companion while he sought a way to regain his throne. As you might have guessed, it was a loose adaptation.
  • Time Travel: In Kings of the Night, Kull visits Bran Mak Morn who lives 100,000 years later.
  • Trust Password: The Serpent Men can magically disguise themselves as humans, often posing as other people, but due to their facial anatomy they cannot say the phrase "Ka nama kaa lajerama".
  • Victory Is Boring: Kull spends most of his time after becoming king in an existential funk, because it's so much more enticing to conquer than to rule.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: Judging by his behavior, Kull regards liars as scheming weaklings. Real men always tell the truth...and kill all who take offense to it.

Alternative Title(s): Kull The Conqueror