Rand, Elric, Conan, Kull, and My Favorite Silly Headcanon

Viktara Fen

Jan 5, 2022
  1. She - Her
So this is, as the title implies, my favorite silly headcanon about the seven ages of the Wheel of Time and what all they entail, in the context of how they might relate to some rather unexpected figures. To be clear, I'm not suggesting that this is official canon; rather, it's something I find amusing and thought others might also enjoy.

Half-drained bottle of oosquai in hand, I propose that Conan the Barbarian was at minimum ta'veren and maybe a Hero of the Horn, and that if Elric of Melnibone isn't the Dragon himself in one iteration or another, then the Dragon is at least an aspect of the Eternal Champion.

Now before you start throwing those t'mat, hear me out and share a chuckle if you like.

First, as we know, the Wheel of Time comprises seven distinct Ages of uncertain duration. When the Seventh Age ends, the First begins again, and although the exact events might not be repeated, the general pattern of the Ages remains largely the same.

As we also know, Jordan not only wrote the Wheel of Time, but also some historical fiction and a few Conan pastiches, including the novelization of the film Conan the Destroyer. Of the many Conan pastiches I've read, I like Jordan's best. They're not the same as Howard himself, of course, but RJ clearly had a good solid grip on that whole concept and its spirit.

But, as is my wont, I digress.

The creator of Conan, Robert E. Howard, subscribed to a cataclysmist view of history in which civilizations are periodically wiped away by disasters and calamities. In their wake, the survivors sink into barbarism, knowledge of the past is lost, and humankind begins again from nearly nothing. He also wrote a number of stories in which characters discovered that they had lived previous lives, and some of his surviving poetry and correspondence seems to hint at a personal belief in the possibility of reincarnation.

Conan's world as envisioned by Howard, the Hyborian Age, is ostensibly the era predating recorded history as we know it. The stories occur in about 10,000 BC, if memory serves, in the Age that takes place between the sinking of Atlantis and the rise of the first known recorded civilizations.

There was, however, an Age before that one called the Thurian Age, in which Howard's Kull stories take place. This Age is separated from the Hyborian Age by the sinking of Atlantis, an event speculated to have occurred around 35,000-40,000 BC.

Some of the Kull short stories refer to an even older prehuman civilization called the Old Race that ruled the world during the Elder Days, which suggests yet another Age that has risen and passed away by Kull's time. What disaster might have separated one Age from another isn't clear, as Howard only wrote a few Kull stories, and many of the surviving unpublished drafts are unfinished or fragmentary.

So if we look at the various ages postulated by Howard, we have four of them:
1. The Elder Days
2. The Thurian Age
3. The Hyborian Age
4. Known recorded history

Because the world of the Wheel of Time is our world, and because the world of Robert E. Howard's fiction is our world, and because Jordan wrote Conan pastiches, we might, for the sake of amusement, consider the possibility that we can slot Howard's Ages into RJ's Ages of the Wheel, something like this:

1. The First Age (Known recorded history; end uncertain)
2. The Second Age (The Age of Legends; beginning uncertain, ended with the Breaking)
3. The Third Age (The 3,000 years between the Breaking and the end of AMoL)
4. The Fourth Age (Starts with the end of AMoL; end uncertain)
5. The Fifth Age (REH's Elder Days; start uncertain, end uncertain)
6. The Sixth Age (REH's Thurian Age; start uncertain, ended with the sinking of Atlanis)
7. The Seventh Age (REH's Hyborian Age; begins with the sinking of Atlantis, ends with the beginning of recorded history)

I was initially inclined to split modern and ancient recorded history into two Ages and overlap the Elder Days with the Fourth Age, but the Elder Days are very specifically dominated by nonhuman races that eventually fall cataclysmically, effectively handing over the world to the young nations of humanity.

And what does that remind me of?

The Age ending in Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone series, naturally.

The Melniboneans are a race that is nearly human, but not quite. Elfin and strange, steeped in magic, and beyond degenerate and decadent by the time the story opens up, they have long been in service to the lords of Chaos, but their grip on the world is slipping, and the kingdoms of humanity are ascendant. By the end of the series, their Age has passed, and a new one has begun. There is even the tooting of a magic horn to herald certain things, and a big ol' magic sword features strongly.

Given that Moorcock created Elric originally as an "anti-Conan," and given that at least one form of Elric has shown up via magical means in the Marvel Conan comics (very early in the run in the early 1970s), I feel relatively safe duct-taping Elric onto the side of this mess and saying that the Elder Days of Howard's world are the age in which Melnibone served the Chaos Lords and ruled the world.

The conflict between Law and Chaos which inspired D&D's alignment system, is central to most conflicts in Moorcock's multiverse. Mortal and immortal agents of Law and Chaos struggle for dominion, but in the end, the Balance ultimately corrects extremes, much as the Pattern does. One cannot get rid of either half of the Balance at all, though their influence ebbs and flows.

To achieve the rebalancing of the world, down throughout history, certain people are reincarnated, particularly one called the Eternal Champion. The EC can be any gender, and they may begin serving Law or Chaos, but always they play their role by serving the Balance in the end, and they are always reborn later to play it again. Most don't remember their previous incarnations from like to life, but at least one does. In Moorcock's multiverse, we also have a sort of nexus of all times and realities, Tanelorn. In some ways it is similar to Tel'aran'rhiod, in that it touches and is accessible to all worlds and times but is of none of them.

Following my madness still? So here's where I have fun with it:

If all of this is connected as I posit, we could easily argue that Conan and Kull are ta'veren at least, and possibly Heroes of the Horn. One might even be the reincarnation of another, and both or either might find later reincarnation still as REH's other heroes, such as Cormac Mac Art, Bran Mak Morn, and the like. I am personally amused as hell by the idea that Conan and Red Sonja (who isn't properly REH canon in her Hyborian Age form, as she is a shoehorned in composite of two of his other characters designed for the Marvel comics, but humor me) might be Gaidal Cain and Birgitte Silverbow. If not Sonja, then perhaps golden-haired Valeria from "Red Nails" is a good candidate.

I'm not of a mind that Conan is the Dragon, as he is notoriously uneasy around magic of any kind, but he does remake the world around him through sheer force of will, it seems sometimes, so I think "very powerful ta'veren on par with Artur Hawkwing" is a safe bet.

Now, as for Elric? Well, we know Elric is the Eternal Champion. He's also very steeped in magic and is an accomplished sorcerer, and his connection to the Black Sword in its form of Stormbringer both sustains and corrupts him. In the end, he heralds the end of an age and is largely responsible for the destruction of the old world, including the empire he once ruled--yet in doing so, he also saves the world. In the wake of the destruction, humanity's Young Kingdoms pick up the pieces.

Might Elric be the Dragon in one of his various incarnations, then? I like to think maybe he is, or that--more properly--the soul known as both Lews Therin Telamon and Rand al'Thor is an aspect of the Eternal Champion.

Again, do I take this serious and treat it like serious canon? Of course not. But it does entertain me to think about it, and I hope it has entertained you.