Save the Adventure (14)

By: Joshua Glenn
October 24, 2013

If the modern, rationalized social order leaves you dissatisfied, perhaps it’s because you are the reincarnation, or genetic heir of ancient warriors. The past, in stories like the ones listed below, is a source of energy and strength. Folk legends, ballads, myths, and epics are reinhabited, if only temporarily; I call this type of adventure story the Atavistic Epic (it’s also known as the “Sagaman”-type adventure, though that term is specific to Nordic or Germanic atavism) — though of course they are not actually epics. They flirt, in a retrogressive and romantic way, with the epic form.


Thanks! To the nearly 400 adventure fans who kickstarted the SAVE THE ADVENTURE e-book club.


20 ADVENTURE THEMES AND MEMES: Index to All Adventure Lists | Introduction to Adventure Themes & Memes Series | Index to Entire Series | The Robinsonade (theme: DIY) | The Robinsonade (theme: Un-Alienated Work) | The Robinsonade (theme: Cozy Catastrophe) | The Argonautica (theme: All for One, One for All) | The Argonautica (theme: Crackerjacks) | The Argonautica (theme: Argonaut Folly) | The Argonautica (theme: Beautiful Losers) | The Treasure Hunt | The Frontier Epic | The Picaresque | The Avenger Drama (theme: Secret Identity) | The Avenger Drama (theme: Self-Liberation) | The Avenger Drama (theme: Reluctant Bad-Ass) | The Atavistic Epic | The Hide-And-Go-Seek Game (theme: Artful Dodger) | The Hide-And-Go-Seek Game (theme: Conspiracy Theory) | The Hide-And-Go-Seek Game (theme: Apophenia) | The Survival Epic | The Ruritanian Fantasy | The Escapade


The invisible prison here is not some aspect of modern civilization, but CIVILIZATION itself. Whereas most other Adventure sub-genres find a way to celebrate imagination, intuition, feelings, instincts while at the same time celebrating reason and intellect, this one prioritizes the former to the exclusion of the latter. The Atavistic Epic is an emotional endorsement of the virile powers of the past in defiance of the present. It’s a reverse bildungsroman. Civilization stunts one’s actions and emotions. The atavistic epic allow readers to imagine themselves not as genteel Christians but creatures of force, splendor, and savagery; it offers sublime emotions like fear, horror, awe, enthusiasm, inspiration. And it celebrates the physical sensations denied modern man: hand to hand combat, sleeping rough, eating raw meat. etc.

I’ve included Viking adventures on this list; also a few caveman and modern-caveman adventures; also man-ape and ape-man adventures.


* Martin Green points out that the Sagaman-type adventure is frank about violence. Not only the villain but the hero is violent, even vicious. Single combat — or a berserker frenzy — is a commonplace.

* Green also notes that the Sagaman story is often tragic; if a story ends with the death of a hero and the hopes invested in him, you are probably reading a Sagaman adventure.


* Ivanhoe is often credited for increasing interest in romance and medievalism; John Henry Newman claimed Scott “had first turned men’s minds in the direction of the middle ages,” while Carlyle and Ruskin made similar assertions of Scott’s overwhelming influence over the revival based primarily on the publication of this novel.

* Sir Walter Scott’s immediate imitators: Manzoni, Tolstoy, Sienkewicz, Merezhovski, Feuchtwanger, Ebers, Hausrath, Freytag.

* Martin Green notes that Walter Scott doesn’t actually use the word “adventure” frequently or prominently, unlike — say — Defoe and later John Buchan. He instead uses “chivalry” and “romance” — terms that point us backward in time and in the direction of pathos or irony. His books are not about purposefulness, power, effectiveness, according to Green; instead, Scott stresses common sense and compromise. Even if his characters might yearn for irresponsible boldness, extralegality, unconditioned commitment. In sum, Scott promoted or propagated the idea of adventure, but in a mistily romantic form and countered by these contrary ideas.

* Scott was attracted by Scotland as a setting because it offered a contrast between the Highlands (pre-modern cultural development: noble simplicities of traditional culture, the passionate loyalties of clan life, the romantic aspiration to unconditioned values) and England (modern, secular, rationalized).

* Mark Twain’s use of “adventure” in titles like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is sardonic. Twain disapproved of the romantic-aristocratic idea developed by Walter Scott (on which he blamed the romantic-aristocratic ideals of the Southern planters).

* There is a proto-fascist element in all adventure, probably — but particularly in the sagaman-type adventure. Green notes that many such adventures (from the late 19th and early 20th centuries) express an ideology for which some nationalities are a saga people, adventurous and heroic, while others (Jews) are a rootless and overcivilized people of ideas, of overdeveloped consciousness.

* Note that conservative avenger stories — like the 1974 vigilante movie Death Wish — are actually atavistic adventure stories. They’re about a Nietzschean revaluation of values.

ALSO SEE: The Deliberate Values Dissonance and Proud Warrior Race Guy “TV Tropes.”



* The Lady of the Lake is a narrative poem by Sir Walter Scott, first published in 1810.


* Waverley is an 1814 historical novel by Sir Walter Scott. Published anonymously in 1814 as Scott’s first venture into prose fiction, it is often regarded as the first historical novel. The novel sends a young Englishman adventuring in the savage highlands of Scotland. Romantic values associated with the aristo-military caste clash with the Englishman’s more modern value system.

* Melincourt, or Sir Oran Haut-ton (1817) by Thomas Love Peacock, in which an orangoutan saves a young maiden from rape, enters Parliament, and gazes wisely upon the human spectacle. Sardonic inversion.

rob roy

* Rob Roy (1817) is a historical novel by Walter Scott. It is narrated by Frank Osbaldistone, the son of an English merchant who travels first to the North of England, and subsequently to the Scottish Highlands, to collect a debt stolen from his father. On the way he encounters the larger-than-life title character, Rob Roy MacGregor.

* The Heart of Midlothian is the seventh of Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley Novels. It was originally published in 1818.

* The Bride of Lammermoor is an 1819 historical novel by Sir Walter Scott, set in Lammermuir Hills Scotland in the reign of Queen Anne.

* Ivanhoe is a historical novel by Sir Walter Scott published in 1820, and set in 12th-century England. Wildly popular. Has been criticized as propaganda for a warrior caste.

* Edward Bulwer Lytton’s early-humanity story “The Fallen Star, or the History of a False Religion” (in The Pilgrims of the Rhine, coll. 1834)

* The Monikins (1835), by James Fenimore Cooper, features several captured specimens of an articulate monkey civilization who come from an Antarctic Lost World. Sardonic inversion?

* After the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859), the apes-as-human topos became a lightning rod for the expression of and discharge of deep anxieties about the nature and destiny of the human race.


* Hereward the Wake: Last of the English is an 1866 novel by Charles Kingsley. It tells the story of Hereward, the last Anglo-Saxon holdout against the Normans. It was instrumental in elevating Hereward into an English folk-hero. The novel concerns the Anglo-Saxon resistance to the Norman Conquest, and this reflects Kingsley’s own admiration of Germanic (or “Teutonic”) vigour. Kingsley admired Norman discipline and chivalry, but makes it clear that primitive energies and virtues must never be entirely forsaken.

* Robert M Ballantyne’s 1869 Viking novel Erling the Bold.

* Andrew Lang’s “The Romance of the First Radical” (September 1880 Fraser’s Magazine as “The Romance of the First Radical: A Prehistoric Apologue”), whose protagonist Why-Why is uncomfortably in advance of his time.

* The Prince and the Pauper is an 1881 novel by Mark Twain, his first attempt at historical fiction. Set in 1547, it tells the story of two young boys who are identical in appearance: Tom Canty, a pauper who lives with his abusive father in Offal Court off Pudding Lane in London, and Prince Edward, son of King Henry VIII.


* King Solomon’s Mines (1885) is a popular novel by H. Rider Haggard. (There is an atavistic fight scene at one point, in which mild Sir Henry turns into a berserker.) The theory in almost all of Haggard’s books is that denizens of England have been so sheltered that they have forgotten nature and their own deeper nature. It seems likely that Rudyard Kipling, John Buchan, Edgar Rice Burroughs and other adventure writers picked up this theme from Haggard.

* The 1886 novel The Fall of Asgard by Julian Corbett.

* In Nietzsche’s 1887 treatise On the Genealogy of Morality, he has the following to say about the “noble races”:

[T]hese men are not much better than beasts of prey turned loose. There they enjoy freedom from all social constraints. In the wilderness they make up for the tension which a long fenced-in confinement within the peace of the community brings about. They go back to the innocent consciousness of a wild beast of prey, as joyful monsters, who perhaps walk away from a dreadful sequence of murder, arson, rape, and torture with an exhilaration and spiritual equilibrium, as if they had merely pulled off a student prank, convinced that the poets now once again have something to sing about and praise for a long time to come. At the bottom of all these noble races we cannot fail to recognize the beast of prey, the blond beast splendidly roaming around in its lust for loot and victory. This hidden basis from time to time needs to be discharged: the animal must come out again, must go back into the wilderness, — Roman, Arab, German, Japanese nobility, Homeric heroes, Scandinavian Vikings — in this need they are all alike. It is the noble races which left behind the concept of the “barbarian” in all their tracks, wherever they went.

* H. Rider Haggard’s 1887 novel Allan Quatermaine is a repudiation of 19th century liberal England. Haggard suggests that England will fall back into barbarism — as Egypt, Greece, and Rome did. The character Quatermain is an English-born professional big game hunter and occasional trader, who supports colonial efforts to spread civilization in the Dark Continent, though he also favours native Africans having a say in their affairs. An outdoorsman who finds English cities and climate unbearable, he prefers to spend most of his life in Africa. Haggard’s Zulu warrior character Umslopogaas, who appears in this book, was hugely influential.

* H. Rider Haggard’s 1887 novel She has atavistic elements. The novel tells the tale of the hero Umslopogaas, the illegitimate son of the great Zulu king and general Chaka, and his love for “the most beautiful of Zulu women”, Nada the Lily. (Chaka was a real king of the Zulus.)


* The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses is an 1888 novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. It is both an historical adventure novel and a romance novel.

* A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is an 1889 novel by American humorist and writer Mark Twain. Sardonic inversion of this sub-genre.

* The Master of Ballantrae: A Winter’s Tale is an 1889 novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, focusing upon the conflict between two brothers, Scottish noblemen whose family is torn apart by the Jacobite rising of 1745.

haggard eric

* The Saga of Eric Brighteyes is the title of an epic viking novel by H. Rider Haggard, and concerns the adventures of its eponymous principal character in 10th century Iceland. First published in 1890, the novel was an early example (and Haggard’s introduction implies it was the first) of modern efforts in English at pastiching Viking saga literature. It shows the influence of the pioneering saga translations by William Morris and Eirikr Magnusson in the late 1860s.

* H. Rider Haggard’s 1892 novel Nada the Lily has atavistic elements.

* Catriona (also known as David Balfour) is a novel written in 1893 by Robert Louis Stevenson as a sequel to his earlier novel Kidnapped.

* The Jungle Book (1894) is a collection of stories by Rudyard Kipling. Here the law of the jungle is shown to be the origin of human law; and the different species of animals seem to represent different tribes or nations in hierarchical order. Followed by The Second Jungle Book (1895).

* The late 19th-century growth of interest in primal humanity and its forebears led to a broad category of imaginative fiction that is sometimes termed Prehistoric Romance — colorful tales of primitives. H.G. Wells annexed prehistoric romance to science fiction with “A Story of the Stone Age” (May-November 1897 issue of Idler).


* Frank Norris’s 1898 novel Moran of the Lady Letty, which features a reversion to Viking savagery.

* Jack London’s The Call of the Wild was published in 1903. He was influenced by The Jungle Book. Along with his contemporaries Frank Norris and Theodore Dreiser, London was influenced by the naturalism of European novelists such as Emile Zola, in which themes such as heredity versus environment were explored. For London, when life is bestial, the strong, the shrewd, and the cunning will prevail. The veneer of civilization is thin and fragile; humans revert to a state of primitivism with ease. PS: Note that London’s story White Fang is a reversal of this trajectory.

* Jack London’s Sea Wolf (1903).


* Allen French’s 1904 novel The Story of Rolf and the Viking’s Bow sees Christian and pagan values in conflict.

* H. Rider Haggard’s 1905 novel Ayesha: The Return of She.

* The Ballad of the White Horse is a poem by G. K. Chesterton about the exploits of the Saxon King Alfred the Great, published in 1911. Written in ballad form, the work is usually considered one of the last great traditional epic poems ever written in the English language. In addition to being a narration of Alfred’s military and political accomplishments, it is also considered a Catholic allegory.

* The Scarlet Plague is a 1912 post-apocalyptic fiction novel written by Jack London.

* Gaston Leroux’s Balaoo (1912; trans 1913).


* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan of the Apes (1912).

* H. Rider Haggard’s Zulu/Quatermain trilogy, in which Quatermain becomes ensnared in the vengeance of Zikali, the dwarf wizard known as “The-thing-that-should-never-have-been-born,” begins with Marie (1912). The other books: Child of Storm (1913) and Finished (1917). These novels are prequels to the foundation pair, King Solomon’s Mines (1885) and Allan Quatermain (1887).

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Return of Tarzan (1913)

* Thomas Bulfinch’s 1913 edition of his Bulfinch’s Mythology called The Outline of Mythology would inspire fantasy/adventure novelists like Robert E. Howard.

THE TEENS (1914–1923)

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Beasts of Tarzan (1914)

dreiser titan

* The Titan is a novel written by Theodore Dreiser in 1914. It features a reversion to Viking savagery.

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Son of Tarzan (1914)

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar (1916)

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Jungle Tales of Tarzan (1916, 1917)

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan the Untamed (1919, 1921)

* With She and Allan (1920), H. Rider Haggard engineered a crossover between his two most popular franchises, uniting Quatermain with Ayesha, the central character of his hugely successful She novels, and bringing in several other key characters from each series — including Umslopogaas the Zulu.

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan the Terrible (1921)

* John Buchan’s The Path of the King (1921) — I think.

* Another notable prehistoric work by H.G. Wells, part essay and part narrative, is “The Grisly Folk” (April 1921 issue of The Storyteller).


* Despite the bleakness of their original “grisly” portrayal by Wells, Neanderthals were cast as heroes by several other writers, an early example being Irving Crump’s anachronistic Og sequence opening with Og – Son of Fire (1922).

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan and the Golden Lion (1922, 1923)

THE TWENTIES (1924–1933)

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan and the Ant Men (1924)

* “Big Two-Hearted River” is a two-part short story written by Ernest Hemingway, published in the 1925 edition of In Our Time.


* The 1926 saga novel Styrbiorn the Strong by ER Eddison.

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle (1927, 1928)

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan and the Lost Empire (1928)

* Robert E. Howard’s Red Shadows (August 1928 Weird Tales)

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan at the Earth’s Core (1929)

* Robert E Howard’s Kull of Atlantis or Kull the Conqueror stories, the first of which appeared in 1929.


* John Collier’s brilliant His Monkey Wife (1930). Called “the last among light early-twentieth-century fantasies that include G. K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday (1908), Max Beerbohm’s Zuleika Dobson (1911), and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (1928).”

* Hugh Walpole’s popular historical adventure Rogue Herries (1930), set in mid-18th c. Cumberland. First in the Herries series.

* The Iron Star (1930) by John Taine, in which rays from a meteor devolve humans.

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan the Invincible (1930–1931)

* Robert E. Howard’s Turlogh Dubh O’Brien and Cormac Fitzgeoffrey stories — first appeared in 1931.

* Hugh Walpole’s 1931 historical adventure Judith Paris. Second in the Herries series.

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan Triumphant (1931)


* Should mention the long-running newspaper comic strip Alley Oop, about a caveman. Launched in 1932.

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan and the City of Gold (1932)

* Hugh Walpole’s 1932 historical adventure The Fortress. Third in the Herries series.

* Robert E. Howard’s Conan character first appeared to the public in Weird Tales in December 1932.

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan and the Lion Man (1933, 1934)

* Hugh Walpole’s 1933 historical adventure Vanessa. Fourth in the Herries series.

THE THIRTIES (1934–1943)

* The various races of Mongo encountered by Flash Gordon in the newspaper comic strip of that title, which launched in 1934.

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan and the Leopard Men (1935)


* “Beyond the Black River” is one of the original short stories about Conan the Cimmerian, written by Robert E. Howard and first published in Weird Tales magazine circa 1935. In it, Howard writes: “Barbarism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.”

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan’s Quest (1935, 1936)

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan the Magnificent (1936, 1937)


* John Buchan’s Man from the Norlands (1936) shows how sagaman adventures can share some themes with fascist ideology without being fascist.

* “The Resurrection of Jimber-Jaw” is a 1937 short story by Edgar Rice Burroughs about an unfrozen 50,000-year-old caveman and his politically incorrect views.

* Thew newspaper comic strip Prince Valiant in the Days of King Arthur was created by Hal Foster in 1937. Valiant is a Viking prince.

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan and the Forbidden City (1938)

* Thor Swan’s Furfooze (1939).

* Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are sword-and-sorcery heroes appearing in stories written by Fritz Leiber; they first appeared in 1939. One of Leiber’s motives in writing them was to have a couple of fantasy heroes closer to true human nature than the likes of Howard’s Conan the Barbarian or Burroughs’s Tarzan. Ironic homage?


* Nevil Shute’s An Old Captivity (1940) concerns a young Scottish pilot with bush-flying experience in Canada, Donald Ross, who is hired by an Oxford don, Cyril Lockwood, to pilot an air survey mission of Greenland. Lockwood’s interest is in the early Viking seafarers and their exploits. At one point Ross enters a coma in which he dreams that he was once a Scottish slave aboard Leif Ericson’s vessel on its voyage of discovery to Greenland.

* Sick Heart River (1941) is a novel by John Buchan. The book was published in the United States under the title Mountain Meadow. It makes a mystic cult of the Arctic Circle.

* The comic book character Wonder Woman, created by the psychologist William Moulton Marston. She first appeared in All Star Comics #8 (December–January 1941).

* Hercules first appears in All Star Comics (December 1941) as part of a Wonder Woman story, and was created by William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter. Later versions appeared in Superman (May 1944), created by Jerry Siegel and Ira Yarbrough, Wonder Woman (April 1959) and Hercules Unbound (October 1975) created by Gerry Conway and José Luis García-López.

long ships

* The Long Ships or Red Orm (original Swedish: Röde Orm) is a 1941/1945 adventure novel by Frans G. Bengtsson. The narrative is set in the late 10th century and follows the adventures of Orm (“serpent”), called “Red” for his hair and his temper, a native of Scania. It is one of the most widely read books in Sweden. The first part was translated to English by Barrows Mussey as Red Orm in 1943, but later editions and newer translations by Michael Meyer use the title The Long Ships. Considered the definitive Viking novel.

THE FORTIES (1944–1953)

* Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan and the Foreign Legion (1947)


* Stephen Gilbert’s Monkeyface (1948).

* King Kull (sometimes called the Beastman or the Beast Man) is a comic book supervillain originally published by Fawcett Comics and now owned by DC Comics and appearing as a foe of Captain Marvel. Created by writer Otto Binder and artist C. C. Beck, Kull’s first appearance was in Captain Marvel Adventures #125 (Oct. 1951).

* In The Wet is a novel by Nevil Shute that was first published in 1953. Atavistic aspects.


* Tor is a fictional character, a prehistoric-human protagonist who originated in comic books from the U.S. company St. John Publications. He was created by writer and artist Joe Kubert in 1,000,000 Years Ago! (Sept. 1953).

THE FIFTIES (1954–1963)

broken sword

* The Broken Sword is a (terrific) 1954 imitation-epic fantasy novel by Poul Anderson. The novel is set during the Viking Age and the story contains many references to the Norse mythology. It was influenced by Haggard’s 1891 novel The Saga of Eric Brighteyes; Anderson frequently presented prehistoric worlds as superior to the dull, over-civilized present. PS: Michael Moorcock has written that The Broken Sword greatly influenced his Elric stories. And he declared The Broken Sword superior to Tolkien, calling it “a fast-paced doom-drenched tragedy in which human heroism, love and ambition, manipulated by amoral gods, elves and trolls, led inevitably to tragic consequences.”

* Theodore Sturgeon’s 1954 story “The Golden Helix,” in which the dwindled descendants of humans and other sapients are used to seed new worlds.

* Seems like a good place to mention Rosemary Sutcliff’s excellent Eagle of the Ninth series of YA/adult novels, the first of which is The Eagle of the Ninth (1954). Other installments include The Shield Ring (1956), The Silver Branch (1957), The Lantern Bearers (1959), Dawn Wind (1961), and Sword at Sunset (1963).

* The Inheritors is the 1955 second novel by William Golding. It was his personal favourite of his novels and concerns the extinction of one of the last remaining tribes of Neanderthals at the hands of the more sophisticated (and malevolent) Homo sapiens.The gulf between old and new caveman cultures is developed with hallucinatory force from the Neanderthal viewpoint.


* The Viking Trilogy is a trilogy of juvenile historical novels by Henry Treece. They are Viking’s Dawn (1955), The Road to Miklagard (1957), and Viking’s Sunset (1960). The three novels describe the adventures of Harald Sigurdson, a Norwegian viking. He goes on three voyages, which between them are representative of the various voyages which were made by the Vikings, and which take place at different stages in his life.

* The Last of the Wine (1956) is Mary Renault’s first novel set in Ancient Greece.

* Poul Anderson’s 1957 time-travel story “The Long Remembering.”

* Johnny Hart’s newspaper comic strip B.C. — about cavemen — launched in 1958. Sardonic inversion — the cavemen represent contemporary types.

* Warrior Scarlet (1958) is a historical YA novel by Rosemary Sutcliff. Set in Britain during the Bronze Age.

* The King Must Die is a 1958 bildungsroman and historical novel by Mary Renault that traces the early life and adventures of Theseus, a hero in Greek mythology.

* The 1958 Kirk Douglas movie The Vikings.

* “The Ugly Little Boy” is a 1958 science fiction short story — about a caveman — by Isaac Asimov.

* Roger Price’s J.G., the Upright Ape (1960).

* The Weirdstone of Brisingamen: A Tale of Alderley (1960) is a children’s fantasy novel written by the English author Alan Garner.

* Three Hearts and Three Lions is a 1961 fantasy novel by Poul Anderson, expanded from a 1953 novella. Holger Carlsen is an Allied covert operative who assists the Danish Resistance to the Nazis. He winds up in a parallel universe, which proves to have the Matter of France as its historical past. There he finds that the evil of Faerie is encroaching on humanity. (The Empire and Faerie are engaged in a kind of Cold War.) His quest finally leads him to discover that he is Ogier the Dane, sent to this universe by Morgan le Fay, and to fight the battle that drives back the evil. PS: The original alignment system of Dungeons & Dragons was influenced by Three Hearts and Three Lions.

ballard Drowned_World

* JG Ballard’s 1962 story The Drowned World has a hero ever more ready to slough off such human qualities as ambition or even self-preservation as he listens to the insistent call of his bloodstream, whose saltiness recalls a time before life had left the oceans. These inner changes are mirrored in the Earth itself, which has catastrophically reverted to the luxuriance of a new Carboniferous era.

* The Bull from the Sea (1962) is the sequel to Mary Renault’s The King Must Die. It continues the story of the mythological hero Theseus after his return from Crete.

* The 1962 movie Eegah — which is listed in Michael Medved’s book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time.


* Thor is a superhero who first appeared in Journey into Mystery #83 (Aug. 1962); based on Norse mythology, the character was created by editor-plotter Stan Lee, scripter Larry Lieber, and penciller Jack Kirby.

* Stig of the Dump is a children’s novel — about a modern caveman — by Clive King published in 1963.

* Glory Road is a fantasy novel by Robert A. Heinlein, originally serialized in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (1963) and published in hardcover the same year.

* “No Truce With Kings” is a 1963 science fiction short story by Poul Anderson. The title is taken from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Old Issue” (1899), in which kings represent tyranny.

* La planète des singes (1963; trans as Planet of the Apes 1963) by Pierre Boulle, filmed as Planet of the Apes (1968). In which the evolution of apes is paralleled by the devolution of humans.

THE SIXTIES (1964–1973)

* Hercules first appeared in Marvel comics in Journey into Mystery Annual #1 (1965), which established him as being a rival of Thor. He became a regular guest star in Thor and The Avengers.

* In 1966, L. Sprague de de Camp made a deal with Lancer Books to republish Robert E. Howard’s Conan series, which led to the “First Howard Boom” of the 1970s; their popularity was enhanced by the cover artwork of Frank Frazetta on most of the volumes.

* Asterix and the Normans — serialized in 1966 — is the ninth book in the Asterix comic book series, written by René Goscinny and drawn by Albert Uderzo. Sardonic inversion.


* The Technicolor Time Machine is a 1967 science fiction novel by Harry Harrison. It is a comedy, a time-travel story, and a satire on Hollywood. A sardonic inversion of this sub-genre.

* Henry Treece’s 1967 novel Vinland the Good is a fairly faithful adaptation of the Greenland saga.

* The High Deeds of Finn Mac Cool is a 1967 children’s novel by Rosemary Sutcliff. It is a retelling of the stories of Fionn mac Cumhaill and the Fenian Cycle.


* Anthro is a fictional character published by DC Comics, presented as the “first boy”, a Cro-Magnon born to Neanderthal parents. Anthro was created by cartoonist Howard Post; he first appeared in Showcase #74 in May 1968.

* Peter Dickinson’s 1968 YA novel The Weathermonger — first in his excellent Changes trilogy, in which England reverts to the Bronze Age.

* Fire from Heaven is a 1969 historical novel by Mary Renault about the childhood and youth of Alexander the Great.


* Martin Green argues that Mario Puzo’s The Godfather (1969) is a sagaman story.

* Peter Dickinson’s 1969 YA novel Heartsease — second in his excellent Changes trilogy, in which England reverts to the Bronze Age.

* The 1970 movie Trog.

* “Immigrant Song” is a song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin. It was released as a single from their third studio album, Led Zeppelin III, in 1970.

* “Spam” is a popular Monty Python sketch, first televised in 1970. Sardonic inversion of Vikings.

* Peter Dickinson’s 1970 YA novel The Devil’s Children — third in his excellent Changes trilogy, in which England reverts to the Bronze Age.

* Grendel: The Beowulf story is retold from Grendel’s point of view in this 1971 novel by John Gardner. Sardonic inversion?


* Gnarrk is a fictional character in DC Comics. He first appeared in a 1971 issue of Teen Titans.

* Jack Kirby’s comic New Gods appeared in 1971. The New Gods are natives of the twin planets of New Genesis (Big Barda, Highfather, Infinity-Man, Metron, Mister Miracle, Oriion, etc.) and Apokolips (Darkseid, Doctor Bedlam, Granny Goodness, Kalibak, Steppenwolf, etc.).

* Brian Garfield’s 1972 thriller Death Wish — on which the 1974 Charles Bronson movie is based (not to mention its four sequels in 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1994) — is an interesting example of this theme. The character is a liberal who is radicalized by a violent crime; cf. Irving Kristol’s 1983 quote, “[A neoconservative is] a liberal who has been mugged by reality.”

* Peter Dickinson’s 1972 YA novel The Dancing Bear.

* James Ivory’s Savages (1972), in which primitive Mud People become human guests at a sophisticated country-house party only to revert again. Sardonic inversion?

hrolf kraki

* Hrolf Kraki’s Saga is a 1973 fantasy novel by Poul Anderson, retelling the story of the legendary 6th century Danish king Hrolf Kraki, pulling together and reconciling narrative strands from such diverse traditional sources as the Danish historical chronicle Chronicon Lethrense, Saxo Grammaticus’s Gesta Danorum, Icelandic sagas Hrólfs saga kraka, the Skjöldunga saga and the Ynglinga saga, Norse mythological poems Skáldskaparmál and Gróttasöngr, and Anglo-Saxon poems Beowulf and Widsith.

* The wrestler character Fezzik, in William Goldman’s 1973 fantasy novel The Princess Bride. Ironic homage.

* Schlock, a 1973 parody of the 1970 movie Trog. Sardonic inversion.

* The newspaper comic strip Hägar the Horrible by cartoonist Dik Browne first appeared in 1973. Sardonic inversion.

THE SEVENTIES (1974–1983)

* Richard Adams’s novel Shardik concerns a lonely hunter, Kelderek, who pursues Shardik, a giant bear he believes to embody the Power of God; both of them become unwillingly drawn into the politics of an imaginary region called the Beklan Empire.


* The comic book Ironjaw — first issue (of four total) was published in 1975.

* The DC comic book Beowulf: Dragon Slayer first appeared in 1975. Lasted six issues.

* Blood Feud is a historical novel for children written by Rosemary Sutcliff and published in 1976. It begins in 10th Century England, and tells the tale of an orphaned child of a Celtic father and Saxon mother, who is caught up with the Vikings and ultimately journeys all the way to Constantinople via the Dnieper trading route. The plot is driven by the acceptance of a blood feud commitment, and the struggles of a child born between many cultures to reconcile his beliefs with this commitment.

* Peter Dickinson’s 1976 YA novel The Blue Hawk.

* Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels is an animated series produced by Hanna-Barbera from September 10, 1977 to June 21, 1980 on ABC. Sardonic inversion.

* Leslie Nielsen’s character reverts to an animal-like state in the 1977 horror film thriller Day of the Animals. Sardonic inversion?

* Paddy Chayefsky’s Altered States (1978) proposes that altered states of consciousness (as in a sensory-deprivation tank) may lead to instant alteration of the way our genetic heritage is manifest, our oldest DNA finding bodily expression to produce, in this case, first an apeman and later a blob. Sardonic inversion?

viking commando

* The comic book character The Viking Commando first appeared in 1979.

* The Teen Titans comic book character Koriand’r — aka Starfire — who debuted in a preview story inserted within DC Comics Presents #26 (October 1980).

* Jean Auel’s 1980 novel Clan of the Cave Bear rates a mention here.

* The 1980 devolution thriller movie Altered States. Sardonic inversion?

* The 1981 Ringo Starr vehicle Caveman is a sardonic inversion of this theme.

* Arak is a fictional comic book character published by DC Comics. He first appeared in a special insert in Warlord #48 (August 1981). A Conan ripoff — he was a Native American raised by Vikings!


* Thrud the Barbarian is a comics character created by Carl Critchlow in 1981. During the 1980s, a Thrud comic strip was a regular and popular feature in the roleplay and wargame magazine White Dwarf. Sardonic inversion.

* The Sergio Aragones comic book character Groo the Wanderer (first appearance in 1982) is a sardonic inversion.

* The Saga of Erik the Viking is a children’s novel written by the Welsh comedian Terry Jones, illustrated by Michael Foreman, and published in 1983. Sardonic inversion?

THE EIGHTIES (1984–1993)

* The 1984 movie Iceman.

* Cohen the Barbarian in The Light Fantastic, a 1986 comic fantasy novel by Terry Pratchett, the second of the Discworld series. Sardonic inversion, or possibly ironic homage?

* The 1987 movie Harry and the Hendersons — right?

* The Afghan Mujahideen, and Afghans generally, from Rambo III.

* Tom the Dancing Bug, which began in 1990, is a weekly satirical comic strip by Ruben Bolling. It sometimes features an australopithecine in modern times. A sardonic inversion of this sub-genre.

* The character Marv in Frank Miller’s Sin City comics — the first story appeared in Dark Horse Presents Fifth Anniversary Special (April, 1991) — is a modern-day barbarian. Ironic homage to the sub-genre?

* The 1992 movie Encino Man — despite being a comedy.

harrison viking

* The Hammer and the Cross is the first part in a trilogy written by Harry Harrison and John Holm, a pseudonym for the Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey. The series is set in the 9th century England where Viking raids are common and presents an alternate history to the one we know. Followed by One King’s Way (1994) and King and Emperor (1996).

THE NINETIES (1994–2003)

* Kolymsky Heights is a 1994 thriller by Lionel Davidson. Atavistic elements.

* The armored polar bears in His Dark Materials, the trilogy of fantasy novels by Philip Pullman. The first is Northern Lights (1995, published as The Golden Compass in North America); followed by The Subtle Knife (1997) and The Amber Spyglass (2000).



* The 2008 Vikings vs. alien monster movie Outlander.

* The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún is a narrative poem composed by J. R. R. Tolkien. Written by Tolkien during the 1920s and the 1930s, inspired by the legend of Sigurd and the fall of the Niflungs from Norse mythology, the book was published in 2009.


20 ADVENTURE THEMES AND MEMES: Index to All Adventure Lists | Introduction to Adventure Themes & Memes Series | Index to Entire Series | The Robinsonade (theme: DIY) | The Robinsonade (theme: Un-Alienated Work) | The Robinsonade (theme: Cozy Catastrophe) | The Argonautica (theme: All for One, One for All) | The Argonautica (theme: Crackerjacks) | The Argonautica (theme: Argonaut Folly) | The Argonautica (theme: Beautiful Losers) | The Treasure Hunt | The Frontier Epic | The Picaresque | The Avenger Drama (theme: Secret Identity) | The Avenger Drama (theme: Self-Liberation) | The Avenger Drama (theme: Reluctant Bad-Ass) | The Atavistic Epic | The Hide-And-Go-Seek Game (theme: Artful Dodger) | The Hide-And-Go-Seek Game (theme: Conspiracy Theory) | The Hide-And-Go-Seek Game (theme: Apophenia) | The Survival Epic | The Ruritanian Fantasy | The Escapade


MORE FURSHLUGGINER THEORIES BY JOSH GLENN: TAKING THE MICKEY (series) | KLAATU YOU (series intro) | We Are Iron Man! | And We Lived Beneath the Waves | Is It A Chamber Pot? | I’d Like to Force the World to Sing | The Argonaut Folly | The Perfect Flâneur | The Twentieth Day of January | The Dark Side of Scrabble | The YHWH Virus | Boston (Stalker) Rock | The Sweetest Hangover | The Vibe of Dr. Strange | CONVOY YOUR ENTHUSIASM (series intro) | Tyger! Tyger! | Star Wars Semiotics | The Original Stooge | Fake Authenticity | Camp, Kitsch & Cheese | Stallone vs. Eros | The UNCLE Hypothesis | Icon Game | Meet the Semionauts | The Abductive Method | Semionauts at Work | Origin of the Pogo | The Black Iron Prison | Blue Krishma! | Big Mal Lives! | Schmoozitsu | You Down with VCP? | Calvin Peeing Meme | Daniel Clowes: Against Groovy | The Zine Revolution (series) | Best Adventure Novels (series) | Debating in a Vacuum (notes on the Kirk-Spock-McCoy triad) | Pluperfect PDA (series) | Double Exposure (series) | Fitting Shoes (series) | Cthulhuwatch (series) | Shocking Blocking (series) | Quatschwatch (series) | Save the Adventure (series)