“The Shadow Kingdom”, the first of his Kull stories, is set in his fictional Thurian Age. It was first published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales in August 1929. Howard got $100 for the story.

Howard completed this in the summer of 1927 and laid it aside. In the late summer, he rewrote it and laid it aside again.

The first we learn of the story from the letters is when he wrote Tevis Clyde Smith, circa mid- to late-September 1927 (letter #054):

P. S. Since writing you that other letter I’ve sold another mss. I got a hundred dollars for it; that is, I am to get it on publication. I don’t know when it will be published or whether you’ll like it or not. I enjoyed writing it more than any piece of prose I ever wrote. The subject of psychology is the one I am mainly interested in these days. The story I sold before this3 was purely a study in psychology of dreams and this ms. deals largely in primitive psychology. I don’t know whether they’ll publish it as a serial or as a “complete novel.”

The first story mentioned is “The Shadow Kingdom”, the second is “The Dream Snake”.

Howard mentions the story in a letter (#086) to Harold Preece, dated October 20th, 1928:

All my views on the matter I included in a long letter to the editor to whom I sold a tale entitled “The Shadow Kingdom,” which I expect will be published as a foreword to that story — if ever. This tale I wove about a mythical antediluvian empire, a contemporary of Atlantis.

Howard mentions the story in a letter (#107) to Tevis Clyde Smith, circa April 1929.

Farnsworth said he intended publishing a sonnet in the next issue after that and then “The Shadow Kingdom” which is a $100 story, and after that a shorter story.

He mentioned it again in a letter (#123) from circa March 1930:

I received a letter from Farnsworth today accepting my “Kings of the Night” — $120, on publication of course. I rather expected him to take it for the new magazine, as it’s full of action but has no really weird touches. However he accepted it for Weird Tales; possibly because the central figure is Kull of Atlantis, featured in “The Shadow Kingdom” and “The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune.” It was rather a new line for me, as I described a pitched battle.

and again to Harold Preece in a letter (#144) in October or early November 1930:

But to return to the Mediterraneans of the Isles, where these tribes remained a race apart longer than anywhere else. These aborigines are popularly known as Picts, and by this name I have designated them in all my stories — and I have written a number in which I mentioned or referred to them — “The Lost Race,” “The Shadow Kingdom,” “The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune,” “The Dark Man,” “Kings of the Night,” to say nothing of several which I have not marketed.

On February 20th, 1933 Howard wrote (letter #235) to Mr. August Lenninger regarding ‘The Shadow Kingdom’:

Dear Mr. Lenniger:

Here are the copies of “The Shadow Kingdom.” I assume that you have arranged with Weird Tales for the reprint rights. That magazine owns all rights to the story. Please let me know by return mail what arrangements you have made with the magazine company. I enclose a stamped envelope for your convenience.

E. Hoffmann Price wrote Howard telling him that he and Mashburn were attempting to promote a sort of anthology of weird tales (see letter #173).

Howard later informs Mr. Lanninger that he has permission to allow the story to be published in the proposed anthology (letter #239):

This is to inform you that I have the permission of Weird Tales to allow “The Shadow Kingdom” to be published in the proposed anthology.

Lovecraft commented on Howard’s Kull stories (this letter does no longer exist) and in a letter (#294) Howard says:

Thanks for the kind things you said about the Kull stories, but I doubt if I’ll ever be able to write another. The three stories I wrote about that character seemed almost to write themselves, without any planning on my part; there was no conscious effort on my part to work them up. They simply grew up, unsummoned, full grown in my mind and flowed out on paper from my fingertips. To sit down and consciously try to write another story on that order would be to produce something the artificiality of which would be apparent.

 Howard is acknowledging only the three stories published in Weird Tales: “The Shadow Kingdom,” August 1927; “The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune,” September 1927; and “Kings of the Night,” November 1930.

This story is also referred to after Howard’s death, in Fantasy Magazine, September 1936 in their ‘In Memoriam’:

Always a keen student of Celtic antiquities and other phases of remote history, Mr. Howard began in 1929—with “The Shadow Kingdom,” in the August Weird Tales—that succession of tales of the prehistoric world for which he soon grew so famous.

And E. Hoffmann Price brings the story up in his ‘Diablerie’ from May 1944 about Robert E. Howard:

Howard lived in a realm of wonder and fantasy. After hearing my reasons for considering certain early yarns, such as “Kings of the Night,” “Mirrors of Tuzun Thune,” “Shadow Kingdom,” and the “Brule the Spear Slayer” epoch, far superior to the Conan series, he agreed and said, “I dreamed them, so they’re naturally more realistic than those I deliberately wrote.”

He does the same for The Ghost, published in May 1945 by W. Paul Cook.

This can’t be the man who wrote “The Shadow Kingdom,” or “Kings of the Night,” this can’t be the man who composed the tremendous lines at the climax of “Sowers of the Thunder”: poetry in the form of prose, and with all the ring of Elizabethan drama.

Story intro

The story introduces Kull himself, the setting of Valusia, Brule the Spear-Slayer (a supporting character), and the Serpent Men (who don’t appear in any other work by Howard but were adopted by later authors for derivative works and inclusion in the Cthulhu Mythos).

Kull – also known as King Kull, Kull of Atlantis, Kull the Conqueror is a fictional character created by Robert E. Howard. His first published appearance was The Shadow Kingdom, in Weird Tales (August 1929).

Voted best story by the fans in original Weird Tales appearance, with one of the 50 highest totals ever.


A King Comes Riding

The story begins with a grand procession in Valusia. King Kull, the Atlantean warrior who has claimed the throne, leads his formidable army through the streets, receiving both cheers and murmurs of disapproval from the populace. Despite the mixed reactions, Kull remains undeterred, embodying the strength and resolve of a true warrior king.

Kull, reflecting on his rise to power, is approached by an emissary from the Pictish embassy who delivers a message from Ka-nu, the chief of the Councilors. Ka-nu invites Kull to a secret meeting, hinting at matters of great importance that cannot be discussed in the open. Suspicious but intrigued, Kull agrees to the meeting, setting the stage for the unfolding conspiracy.

Thus Spake the Silent Halls of Valusia

Kull arrives at Ka-nu’s banquet, where the atmosphere is relaxed and informal, a stark contrast to the stiff formalities of the Valusian court. Ka-nu, an ancient and shrewd statesman, reveals that the kingdom is under threat from an insidious plot by the serpent-men, shape-shifting creatures who can assume human form. He warns Kull that these snake-people are embedded deep within Valusia’s power structures and have already replaced key figures, including some of Kull’s own councilors.

Ka-nu urges Kull to trust Brule, the Spearslayer, a Pictish warrior who will guide him through the coming dangers. The old statesman also shows Kull a stolen gem from the Temple of the Serpent, symbolizing the depth of the threat they face. Kull is left to ponder the gravity of the situation and the ancient enmities and alliances that shape his rule.

They That Walk the Night

As night falls, Kull finds himself unable to sleep, haunted by the revelations of Ka-nu. Brule sneaks into the palace through a secret passage, revealing more about the serpent-men’s plot. He leads Kull through hidden corridors, showing him the slain bodies of his guards, replaced by serpent-men who now guard his chambers. Kull is horrified but determined to confront the threat head-on.

The two warriors discover Tu, the chief councilor, attempting to assassinate Kull. In a swift and deadly encounter, Kull slays Tu, only to see his face transform into that of a serpent. This confirms the extent of the infiltration and the supernatural nature of their enemies.


The next day, Kull presides over the court, his mind heavy with the knowledge of the hidden threats. The serpent-men’s deception is palpable, and he sees the faces of his councilors as potential masks for the serpentine invaders. Brule remains by his side, a steadfast ally in the face of the unknown.

During a council meeting, Kull and Brule confront the serpent-men who have disguised themselves as councilors. A fierce battle ensues, with Kull and Brule fighting side by side against the monstrous foes. Despite their ferocity, the serpent-men are eventually defeated, revealing their true forms in death.

Kull and Brule then face a final deception. They find themselves in a room with an impostor Kull addressing the council. The real Kull acts swiftly, killing the impostor and revealing the serpent’s true form to the stunned councilors. Exhausted and wounded, Kull makes a vow to hunt down every serpent-man and ensure the safety and prosperity of Valusia.


  • Kull: King of Valusia, an Atlantean warrior who has seized the throne. A formidable leader, grappling with the insidious threat of the serpent-men.
  • Brule the Spearslayer: A Pictish warrior, loyal ally to Kull, and key figure in uncovering the serpent-men’s conspiracy.
  • Ka-nu: Chief of the Councilors, a wise and shrewd Pictish statesman who warns Kull about the serpent-men and advises him to trust Brule.
  • Tu: Chief councilor of Valusia, revealed to be a serpent-man in disguise, who attempts to assassinate Kull.
  • The Serpent-Men: Shape-shifting creatures who can assume human form, infiltrating the highest levels of Valusia’s power structures in a plot to overthrow Kull.

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