Howard’s Pictish King Bran Mak Morn is the crowning achievement of his long running Celtophilia and Worms Of The Earth is without doubt one of the finiest stories Howard committed to paper. Here is everything the reader demands from Howard – a fast pace, a just cause, a hero who will stick at nothing to seek his vengeance. Bran is an Iron Age Hamlet, brooding on this and other worlds, obsessed by the decline of his race, wearing his barbaric crown heavily.
Originally published in Weird Tales in November 1932 the plot see Bran Mak Morn vow revenge on the Roman governor of Britain, Titus Sulla after witnessing the crucifixion of a fellow Pict, having penetrate colonial Eboracum in disguise. To conquer the might of Rome Bran seeks help from the Worms of the Earth, a race of creatures who the aboriginal inhabitants of Britain had driven underground. In doing this Bran must seek the aid of a fey witch woman, swim in a lake guarded by a shadowy gaurdian and descend to the underworld to summon the Worms of the Earth.
Twice in Worms of the Earth Howard mentions the "black gods" of R’lyeh, a working of the now over-familiar Cthulhu Mythos into this very British landscape of burial mounds and wight-haunted mountains. That Bran finally slays his enemy in mercy rather than vengeance adds a sophistication to this savage, supersticious barbarian that some critics of Howard fail to credit. I have spent too long reading for improvement rather than pleasure and it is a joy and a delight to return to Worms Of The Earth.