The Thurian Age is a fictional period within the artificial mythology created by Robert E. Howard, in which the sword and sorcery tales of Kull of Atlantis are set. It is within the same shared universe as the Hyborian Age of Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories, but at an earlier period. The boundary between the two ages is marked by the "Great Cataclysm," which took place ca. 35,000-40,000 B.C. The Thurian Age a specific epoch in the fictional timeline used by Robert E. Howard in his Kull stories.
It predates the Hyborian Age of the Conan the Barbarian series and is known to them as the Pre-Cataclysmic Age.
The main continent is called Thuria, although smaller continents such as Atlantis and an unnamed Eastern continent exist, as do several island chains. Most of the planet is unexplored wilderness inhabited by "scattered clans and tribes of primitive savages."
A great cataclysm ends the Thurian Age some time after the Kull stories. Several countries sink into the sea, others rise from it, and the rest is devastated by earthquakes and volcanoes. Civilization is destroyed and the survivors attempt to build a new culture but warfare and a Lesser Cataclysm strike, creating the Hyborian Vilayet Sea and destroying any last remnants of Thurian society.
Seven Empires dominate the main continent of Thuria. At least six of them share a common language and possibly a common origin. East of these kingdoms is a vast desert. The seventh member is never named.
Following the Cataclysm, one of the kingdoms (not Valusia), become the Zhemri people who eventually form the land of Zamora (the people of which in turn eventually become the Romani people).
They are described as having wars with Valusia but it does not appear in the Kull stories.
The kingdom furthest to the east of the Thurian continent, bordering the eastern desert. Its people are less cultured than those of the other kingdoms.
In an untitled draft in Kull- Exile of Atlantis, Grondar is 1) described as being east of Zarfhaana and having a wasteland, 2) occasionally sending out raiders into the grass savannah that separates it from its western neighbors, 3) Thurania is a named target of these raids, 4) the ancestors of the Grondarans came from somewhere unknown and defeated an older people who inhabited the land now known as Grondar (the remains of the original inhabitants' cities lie in the grass savanah between Grondar and the western kingdoms), and 5) hinted that Grondar didn't have cities similar to those of the west.
The name Thule comes from Classical mythology (or pseudo-geography). First described by Greek explorer Pytheas, it is a mysterious land to the north. It has been associated with Scandinavia and Iceland.
The kingdom furthest to the west of the Thurian continent. It was created and initially ruled by Serpent Men until they were overthrown by their human slaves. They attempted to control new human kingdom of Valusia from behind the scenes, using illusionary magic, when mankind's memories of the past wars faded but they were again defeated in a secret war. Finally they created a religion, the Snake Cult, to do the same thing again and almost succeeded. Their power was, however, eventually destroyed by Kull, an Atlantean barbarian who had gained the crown of Valusia by force.
Kull notes, in The Shadow Kingdom that the Valusia of his time is a "fading, degenerate" country, "living mostly in dreams of bygone glory, but still a mighty land and the greatest of the Seven Empires". The kingdom is already ancient by his standards: "The hills of Atlantis and Mu were isles of the sea when Valusia was young."
There were three main barbarian societies in the Thurian Age. These usually supplied the generals, statesmen and kings of other barbarian tribes, and often served the civilized Thurians as mercenaries.
A small continent to the west of Thuria and east of the Pictish Islands. They have colonies on Thuria itself.
Atlantis is an old enemy of the "Seven Empires" (see Dominant Kingdoms) of Thuria, and has an even more ingrained enmity for the Picts.
Following the cataclysm that ends the Thurian Age, Atlantis sinks beneath the sea but many escape the destruction on ships, and join their continental colonies. The survivors on the Atlantian continent are forced back into the stone age by lack of resources but become skilled in this medium and develop an artistic culture. They soon enter a war with the surviving Picts and lose to their superior numbers and stone-age military technology. The survivors of the war devolve back into apes. They eventually re-evolve into humans to become the Cimmerians. In turn the Cimmerians interbreed with the Nords and become the Celts, Gaels and Scythians of modern, real world, history.
Lemuria is a chain of large islands east of Thuria.
Following the cataclysm that ended the Thurian age, these islands sank into the sea. The surviving Lemurians escaped to the east coast of the Thurian continent but were enslaved by an unnamed non-Thurian race. After enduring more than a thousand years of brutal slavery, the Lemurians were reduced to a state of savagery. They eventually rose up and destroyed their masters, the survivors of whom escaped to the south of Thuria to form the nation of Stygia).
The Lemurians eventually became the Hyrkanians of the Hyborian Age and formed the country of Turan on the edge of the Vilayet Sea. The Hyrkanians played a part in destroying the Hyborian civilisations some unspecified time after the Conan stories. The stories assert that they eventually became the Tatars, Huns, Mongols and Turks of the modern age.
A chain islands far to the west of Thuria and Atlantis. Due to raiding expeditions, they have colonies on Thuria itself. There were Pictish settlements among the mountains south of Valusia, guarding the kingdom against invaders.
They have an ancient feud with the Atlanteans.
After the cataclysm, the Pictish Islands rose to form the mountains of what would be the Americas, although the inhabitants were destroyed. The Picts of the islands would become the Native Americans. The Picts of Thuria fell further into barbarism but remained stable, neither evolving nor devolving as other societies had. At first their society held, despite reverting to the stone age, but a war with the surviving Atlanteans halted any advances they would have made. They would become the savage Picts of the Pictish Wilderness on the west coast of the Hyborian realms in the Conan the Barbarian stories and the more degenerate Picts of Britain in the Bran Mak Morn stories and real history.
Another mysterious kingdom lies on the east coast of the Thurian continent. They have some contact with Lemuria but come from another continent entirely to the east of the Lemurian islands.
The Kull story The Shadow Kingdom refers in passing to two other countries, Mu and Kaa-u. Mu sinks during Cataclysm and its mountains become the islands of the South Seas.
An untitled draft in the "Kull of Atlantis" stories mentions 3 other nations: Farsun (enemy of Thurania, described as west of Valusia), Zarfhaana (east of Valusia, the Camoonian Desert separates the two, and there is a sea to the north of Zarfhaana), and Thurania (south of Zarfhaana, enemy of Farsun).
There are other "equally civilized" but non-human kingdoms. The citizens were of one or more older, pre-human races. One such mysterious pre-human civilization exists at the south of Thuria, this country is, at first, untouched by the Cataclysm. When the oppressors of the Lemurians are overthrown, however, the survivors escape to this region and destroy it in turn, creating the new country of Stygia.
Mu is only mentioned in two stories in the Kull saga: "The Shadow Kingdom" and "Riders Beyond the Sunrise". Both times, no real information other than its name and the fact that it sends mercenaries to Valusia is imparted to us. Fortunately, there are two other Howard stories that tell of Mu. One is a Solomon Kane story, "The Moon of Skulls", and the other is a story fragment called "The Isle of the Eons". In "The Moon of Skulls" we learn that Mu's capital city has crimson walls, and that it was swallowed by the waves at the same time as Atlantis. "The Isle of the Eons" tells us much, much more. Mu was a continent-sized landmass lying in what is now called the "South Seas", the area of the Pacific Ocean south and east of the Lemurian Islands. There are twenty cities and millions of people on the continent. The capital of Mu is called Karath, the Shining City. The people of Mu are connected to Lemuria as they share the same alphabet and presumably the same language. The story tells the history of a religious war, where the nation's god, Poseidon, is flung down and the worship of the First God, Xultha, is reinstated. High up in the mountains of Valla, a new capital is built, called Na-hor, the City of the Cresent Moon. From this city, priests of Xultha were sent to the Seven Empires, Atlantis, and a place called "The Islands of the Sea". After a time, the god Poseidon returns and submerges the continent, so that only the tops of the mountains of Valla remain above the sea. The city of Na-hor flourished for several ages, at last falling into ruin near the end of the Hyborian Age.
The second mystery appears in the Kull fragment that Lin Carter turned into the story "Wizard and Warrior". A mysterious people called Celts are mentioned twice in the story. Brule's eyes are blue like those of Celts, and the Celts are a seafaring race that raids the Isles of Sunset. Now since this is a fragment it is possible Howard might have changed this if he decided to finish the story. Lin Carter kept the Celts in his version of the story, so I can only speculate that the Celts are a tribe of Atlantis or one of the islands nearby.
The final mystery dealing with the people and places of the Pre-cataclysmic Age concerns the mysterious civilization, dwelling on the eastern Thurian continent, that originally came from a shadowy and nameless continent lying to the east of Lemuria. My belief is that they came from the continent of Mu, the continent lying to the east of Lemuria. After Lemuria sank during the Great Cataclysm, its refugees headed to the one place they thought they might be welcomed. Lemuria and Mu did share the same language after all. Now it may be possible that another continent lay to the east of Mu, about where South America now lies. It is also possible that most of South America was under the sea during the Thurian Age and that only the peaks of the Andes mountains were above sea level. These peaks might very easily be the "Isles of the Sea" mentioned earlier.
Did any civilizations exist before the Thurian Age? Several stories talk about a prehuman race called "the Old Race", that ruled the world before the age of man, during an era called the "Elder Days". Mention of this race is made in "Delcardes' Cat", "Riders Beyond the Sunrise", and "The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune".
So where are the Isles and Continents of the Thurian Age located? Using Atlantis as the centerpoint:
- The Thurian continent lies to its immediate east.
- The Isles of the Sunset (Pictish Isles) lies to its immediate west.
- Lemuria lies southwest of the Pictish Isles off the eastern Thurian coast.
- Mu lies south of the Pictish Isles and southwest of Atlantis.
- Kaa-u lies southeast of Atlantis and south of western Thuria.
- The Isles of the Sea possibly lie south and slightly west of Atlantis.
- The Hyborian Age by Robert E. Howard (1936)
- Kull of Atlantis by Robert E. Howard (2006)
- The Shadow Kingdom by Robert E. Howard (1929)
- Kings of the Night by Robert E. Howard
- The Isle of the Eons by Robert E. Howard (unfinished fragment)