Manly Wade Wellman’s Kardios of Atlantis

swords against darkness“Straggler From Atlantis”
Swords Against Darkness
Andrew J. Offutt, ed.
mmpb, Zebra Books, 1977, $1.95

In the late 1970s, Manly Wade Wellman began a series of novelettes about the last survivor of Atlantis, a warrior bard named Kardios. Or at least he began publishing them in the late 1970s. In his introduction to “Straggler from Atlantis”, Adrew Offutt says that Wellman tried to publish them in the 1930s, but some other chap was writing about an Atlantean named Kull at the time and no editor was buying.

Be that at it may, the Kardios stories were published, although to the best of my knowledge, they’ve never been collected in book form. The ISFDB shows a total of five, with the first four appearing in the first four volumes of Swords Against Darkness and the final one in an anthology from DAW books with the generic title of Heroic Fantasy.

I’ll be taking a look at each one of these stories over the next few months.   I’ll probably post a review when I’m in the middle of a lengthy novel or am otherwise busy and need to put some fresh material up.  My approach is to summarize the setup to the story but, in the event that someone wants to track down a copy and read it, not give away any major plot points.

Kardios is cut from a very different cloth than Robert E. Howard’s Kull.  I don’t know if Wellman rewrote the stories from the originals or if they are pretty much untouched.  Maybe someone else does.

Anyway, the story opens with Kardios washing up on a beach after Atlantis has submerged.  It turns out he’s the cause of Atlantis sinking.  We eventually learn why.  I’ll not go into detail other than to say I found that to be the weakest part of the story.

Kardios is found by a group of giants, who take him back to their cave.  They ask his help in defeating a monster.  Some time ago what they referred to as a chariot in the sky crashed and a creature they call Fith, after the sound its breathing makes, crawled out of the wreckage and into a hole.  Fith is something like the Blob.  It has no shape, it hates daylight, it’s hungry, and it feeds on any mammal it can catch, including the giants, who are slow and awkward.  The giants want Kardios to go down into the hole where it hides during the day and kill it.

Giants from EternityThe concept of something crashing from space and terrorizing the countryside is one Wellman used in his 1939 novel, Giants from Eternity, which was published in book form in 1959.  I thought this was an interesting thing to put in a fantasy adventure story.  Overall I like Wellman’s doing something different and his mixing genres a little here.

The writing didn’t seem to me to be up to the level of some of Wellman’s other work, but if this story was actually written somewhere around 1930, then that’s not too surprising.  It’s still worth reading.  I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, as I’m curious as to the direction Wellman took things.


6 thoughts on “Manly Wade Wellman’s Kardios of Atlantis

  1. Paul McNamee

    I should admit that I had a bit of a disconnect with the character of Kardios. I kept thinking that if he’d seen his entire world destroyed and he was the cause, he shouldn’t have had such a happy-go-lucky attitude.

    His being the cause of the sinking put the tale more into a “myth” style of storytelling for me.

    Looking back, it might be akin to how Ronald Moore discussed his updated Battlestar Galactica. He said a similar thing about the original Starbuck. Starbuck was rather happy-go-lucky with cigars and women and gambling considering his entire civilization had just been destroyed.

    (I still like the original Battlestar Galactica and all its 1970s space opera trappings, but I can understand Moore’s point.)

    Was it in the SAD intro where Wellman is quoted as saying every fantasy writer should have an Atlantis tale, or did I read that elsewhere? I wonder if David Drake had that in mind when he started out his Isles as Atlantis which he then changed on TOR’s advice.

    1. Keith West Post author

      Yeah,that bothered me about Kardois,too. But she did tell him to kiss her. Maybe he was blaming her.

      I don’t recall that. My copy is elsewhere, but I think I would have remembered that. That reminds me. I need to get back to work om my Atlantis stuff. I’m thinking of making my hero responsible for Atlantis sinking.

      1. Paul McNamee

        I think I’m misconstruing what I read. Wellman kept Kardios in his back pocket a long time. And then Drake revealed Isles was basically Not Atlantis. I was thinking everyone had/should-have an Atlantean in their back pocket. I guess I said it 🙂

        1. Keith West Post author

          I don’t disagree with that. There’s so much you can do with Atlantis because there are so few hard facts, like almost none. That leaves the imagination wide open to develop all kinds of stories.


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