Kull of Atlantis

Kull of Atlantis

Kull of Atlantis or Kull the Conqueror is a fictional character created by Robert E. Howard, also creator of Conan the Barbarian, Solomon Kane, and Bran Mak Morn. The character was more introspective than the subsequent Conan, whose first appearance was in a re-write of a rejected Kull story.

His first published appearance was "The Shadow Kingdom" in "Weird Tales" (August, 1929). Kull was portrayed in the 1997 movie "Kull the Conqueror" by actor Kevin Sorbo.

Fiction character biography

Life in Atlantis

Kull was born in pre-cataclysmic Atlantis c. 20,000 BC. At the time Atlantis was ruled by barbarian tribes. East of Atlantis lay the ancient continent of Thuria, divided among several civilized kingdoms. Including among others Commoria, Grondar, Kamelia, Thule, and Verulia. Most powerful among these was Valusia. East of Thuria were located the islands of Lemuria, which were the mountaintops of the sunken continent of Mu.

Kull was born into a tribe settled in the Tiger Valley of Atlantis. However, both the valley and tribe were destroyed by a flood while Kull was still a toddler. Leaving the young Kull to live as a feral child for many years. Kull was eventually captured by the Sea-Mountain tribe but was adopted into it. In "Exile of Atlantis", an adolescent Kull grants a woman a quick death so that she would not be burned to death by a mob; for this he is consequently exiled from Atlantis.

Slave, pirate, outlaw and gladiator

Kull attempted to reach Thuria but was instead captured by the Lemurians. He spent a couple of years as a galley-slave before regaining his freedom during a mutiny.

He tried the life of a pirate between his late adolescence and his early twenties. His fighting skills and courage allowed him to become captain of his own ship, creating a fearsome reputation for himself in the seas surrounding Atlantis and Thuria. Kull lost his ship and crew in a naval battle off the coast of Valusia but once again survived. He settled in Valusia as an outlaw but his criminal career proved to be short-lived as he was soon captured by the Valusians and imprisoned in a dungeon. His captors offered him a choice: execution or service as a gladiator. He chose the latter. After proving to be an effective combatant and gaining fame in the arenas of the capital, a number of fans helped to regain his freedom.

Soldier and king

Kull did not leave Valusia or return to the life of an outlaw. Instead, he joined the Royal army as a mercenary, pursuing elevation through the ranks. In "The Curse of the Golden Skull", a Kull approaching his thirties is recruited by King Borna of Valusia in a mission against the ambitious sorcerer Rotath of Lemuria. Kull proves to be an effective assassin.

Borna promoted Kull into the general command of the mercenary forces. Borna himself, however, had gained a reputation for cruelty and despotism. There was discontent with Borna's rule among the nobility leading eventually to civil war. The mercenaries proved more loyal to Kull than any other leader, allowing him to become first the leadership of the revolt and then King. Kull killed Borna and took his throne whilst he was still in his early thirties. In "The Shadow Kingdom", Kull has spent six months upon the Valusian throne and faces the first conspiracy against him.

The series continued with Kull finding that gaining the crown was easier than securing it. He faces several internal and external challenges throughout the series. The conspiring of his courtiers leaves Kull almost constantly threatened with loss of life and throne. The ageing King is ever more aware of the Sword of Damocles that he inherited along with the crown.

"The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune" finds Kull reaching his middle-forties and becoming progressively more introspective. The former barbarian is left lost in contemplations of philosophy. At this point the series ends. His fate is left uncertain.

In the chronology of the Thurian and Hyborian Ages, all the countries of the period were destroyed in a cataclysm a few centuries after Kull's reign. Eight millennia after this event came the Hyborian Age - the period of Howard's most famous character, Conan the Barbarian.

upporting characters

Several characters reoccur throughout the series. The best known is his trusted ally Brule the Spear-slayer, a Pre-cataclysmic Pict. First Councillor Tu is a trusted administrator, but also a constant reminder of the tradition bound laws and customs of Valusia. Ka-Nu, the Pictish Ambassador to Valusia and wise man, is responsible for the friendship between Kull and Brule depite the ancient enmity between Atlanteans and Picts. Kull's mortal enemy is the sorcerer Thulsa Doom.


Only two Kull stories were published before Howard committed suicide in 1936: [ [http://www.howardworks.com/subject.htm#kull Howard Works: Kull publication history] ]

*"The Shadow Kingdom" (First published in "Weird Tales", August 1929)
*"The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune" (First published in "Weird Tales", September 1929)

Howard also wrote nine other Kull stories, which were not published until much later:

*"The Altar and the Scorpion" (First published in "King Kull", 1967)
*"The Black City" (First published in "King Kull", 1967) Also known as "The Black Abyss".
*"By This Axe, I Rule" (First published in "King Kull", 1967) Re-written by Howard into the Conan story The Phoenix on the Sword.
*"The Curse of the Golden Skull" (First published in "The Howard Collector #9", Spring 1967)
*"Delcardes' Cat" (First published in "King Kull", 1967) Also known as "The Cat and the Skull".
*"Exile of Atlantis" (First published in "King Kull", 1967) Originally untitled, title created by Glenn Lord.
*"The Skull of Silence" (First published in "King Kull", 1967). Also known as "The Screaming Skull of Silence".
*"The Striking of the Gong" (First published in the "Second Book of Robert E. Howard", 1976 although a version edited by Lin Carter was first published in "King Kull", 1967)
*"Swords of the Purple Kingdom" (First published in "King Kull", 1967)

Finally, Howard also wrote one Kull poem:
*"The King and the Oak"


Kull is Conan the Barbarian's direct literary forerunner. Conan's first story (both as a written piece and a published one), "The Phoenix on the Sword", is a rewriting of an earlier Kull story "By This Axe, I Rule". The Conan version has a completely new backstory, less philosophy, more action and more supernatural elements to make it more saleable. Many passages of both stories still match word for word.



Kull has been adapted to comics by Marvel Comics with three series between 1971 and 1985. He also appeared several times in the "The Savage Sword of Conan" series. Another graphic novel, "Kull: The Vale of Shadow", was published in 1995. In 200, Dark Horse Comics bought the rights to use Kull for a new ongoing series. The first issue will be based on The Shadow Kingdom.


In 1997 a Kull film called "Kull the Conqueror" was released with Kevin Sorbo in the title role. The film was originally intended to be a Conan film and some elements of this remain. The Story's basis and several names can be directly traced to the Conan story The Hour of the Dragon. This is ironic as the first Conan story was a rewritten Kull story and even the first Conan film, "Conan the Barbarian", contained elements from the Kull stories.

Kull and He-Man

There are persistent rumors that the cartoon/toy He-Man franchise was originally supposed to portray Conan but, for legal reasons like the adult content of the movie and comics, a new character was created instead. Designer Roger Sweet denies this, stating that the first Conan movie came out two years after work on the He-Man line began. He-Man was, however, influenced by the paintings of Frank Frazetta, who produced many paintings based on Conan and the works of Robert E. Howard. [Interview with Roger Sweet in ToyFare magazine, September 2005, via [http://www.internationalhero.co.uk/c/conan.htm International Hero]

Though the links are indirect, there are still many similarities between the two intellectual properties. Just as Kull was said to predate Conan, a similar character to Kull was placed in the He-Man universe, a predecessor of He-Man known as "He-Ro", or "Lord Grayskull". He-Ro fought against snakemen just as Kull did. Castle Grayskull was named in his honor.

Namesakes in other works of fiction

Kull may have been the source of the name of King Kull, a Fawcett Comics supervillain and foe of Captain Marvel, later acquired by DC Comics. This King Kull combines barbarian elements with the bizarre science-fiction elements common in Captain Marvel stories of the Golden Age of comic books.

Translation notes

In the Finnish translations of the short stories Kull was renamed "Kall" since the original name is in many common grammatical cases (including genitive) the same as a slang name for a penis. In the Finnish subtitles of the movie, however, he is called Kull.

Note on the chronology of the Kull and Conan stories

According to some sourcesFact|date=September 2007, Robert E. Howard himself stated on various occasions that the Kull stories were set ca. 100,000 BC (see "Kings of the Night") while the Conan stories were set ca. 15-12,000 BC.

However later interpretationsFact|date=September 2007 of the character estimate the period of activity to c. 20,000. This accounts for Kull and his contemporary human characters being Homo sapiens rather than an earlier sub-species of man, and to the fact that according to some sources, only about 5.000-8.000 years passed between the sinking of Atlantis and the Hyborian age. However, it is now known that Homo sapiens did exist 100,000 years ago and so it is not necessary for the time of Atlantis to have been more recent than that.

Copyright and trademark

The name Kull and the names of Robert E. Howard's other principal characters are trademarked by Paradox Entertainment of Stockholm, Sweden, through its US subsidiary Paradox Entertainment Inc. Paradox also holds copyrights on the stories written by other authors under license from Kull Productions Inc. Since Robert E. Howard published his Kull stories at a time when the date of publication was the marker, the owners had to use the copyright symbol, and they had to renew after a certain time to maintain copyright, the exact status of all of Howard's Kull works are in question. [ [http://www.copyright.cornell.edu/training/Hirtle_Public_Domain.htm Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States at Cornell University] ]

The Australian site of Project Gutenberg has many Robert E. Howard stories, including several Kull stories. [ [http://gutenberg.net.au/plusfifty-a-m.html#letterH A - M, Project Gutenberg Australia free ebooks ebook etext etexts ] ] This indicates that, in their opinion, the stories are free from copyright and may be used by anyone, at least under Australian law.

Subsequent stories written by other authors are subject to the copyright laws of the relevant time.


External links

* [http://www.dodgenet.com/~moonblossom/kull.htm A closer examination of Kull and his age]
* [http://www.angelfire.com/tx3/robertehoward/kull1.html For the proper chronology of the Kull stories]
* [http://www.tebeosfera.com/Libris/REH/comic/Kull/biografia.htm Kull in comics (Spanish)]

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