The Shadow Kingdom is the origin of both the sword and sorcery genre and the reptilian conspiracy theory

Tuesday, October 18th, 2022

Will Oliver ran across a list of early Cthulhu Mythos stories and took up the challenge of tracking down and reading all of the stories in order, which got him wondering what a list of Golden Age of Sword & Sorcery stories would look like:

Finding none online, I decided to create one.

Starting with the well accepted premise that the genre, or sub-genre, known as Sword-and-Sorcery started with Robert E. Howard’s “The Shadow Kingdom,” I knew I had a starting point, August 1929. As a generation is approximately 20 years, that would take the end point of the list to August of 1949, or simply the end of 1949. This makes sense in that the date falls right before Gnome Press began reprinting the Conan stories in hardcover and well before the 1960s resurgence.

Kull by Robert E. HowardI was a bit embarrassed that I couldn’t have rattled off “The Shadow Kingdom” as the name of the first sword & sorcery story:

Robert E. Howard’s short story “The Shadow Kingdom” from Weird Tales magazine is the origin of both the sword and sorcery subgenre of fantasy fiction and the conspiracy theory concerning a hidden species of advanced reptilian beings disguised among us while covertly controlling the levers of power, which has been a recurring theme in fiction and conspiracy since the story’s publication.

Apparently the idea of reptilians was popularised by David Icke, a conspiracy theorist, in 1999:

Michael Barkun, professor of political science at Syracuse University, posits that the idea of a reptilian conspiracy originated in the fiction of Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard, in his story “The Shadow Kingdom”, published in Weird Tales in August 1929. This story drew on theosophical ideas of the “lost worlds” of Atlantis and Lemuria, particularly Helena Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine written in 1888, with its reference to “‘dragon-men’ who once had a mighty civilization on a Lemurian continent”.

Howard’s “serpent men” were described as humanoids (with human bodies and snake heads) who were able to imitate humans at will, and who lived in underground passages and used their shapechanging and mind-control abilities to infiltrate humanity. Clark Ashton Smith used Howard’s “serpent men” in his stories, as well as themes from H. P. Lovecraft, and he, Howard and Lovecraft together laid the basis for the Cthulhu Mythos.

In the 1940s, Maurice Doreal (also known as Claude Doggins) wrote a pamphlet entitled “Mysteries of the Gobi” that described a “serpent race” with “bodies like man but…heads…like a great snake” and an ability to take human form. These creatures also appeared in Doreal’s poem “The Emerald Tablets”, in which he referred to Emerald Tablets written by “Thoth, an Atlantean Priest king”. Barkun asserts that “in all likelihood”, Doreal’s ideas came from “The Shadow Kingdom”, and that in turn, “The Emerald Tablets” formed the basis for David Icke’s book, Children of the Matrix.

Historian Edward Guimont has argued that the reptilian conspiracy theory, particularly as expounded by Icke, drew from earlier pseudohistorical legends developed during the colonisation of Africa, particularly surrounding Great Zimbabwe and the mokele-mbembe.

Fans of old-school swords & sorcery fiction can’t help but notice Theosophy’s many mentions of Hyperborea, Lemuria, Atlantis, and reincarnated men evolving through various races from age to age.

(Hat tip to Ben Espen.)


  1. Mike-SMO says:

    Is there a piece about the reptilians taking over Washington, D.C. or is that all “Fan Fic” and politics?

  2. Dog says:

    David Icke has told people face to face at conventions and stuff that the whole reptilian thing was just a goof to make people think he was crazy because the “real truth” that he knows is enough to get the gov’t to assassinate him. So the whole reptilian thing is just some kind of protection for him or something.

    Not saying I believe him but apparently that is his new shtick regarding reptilians. It was all just an exaggerated metaphor for the dark forces in our society or something.

  3. Jim says:

    With late advances in technologies of genetic modification, it becomes less and less inherently implausible that some ancient race of serpent-man chimera-hybrid could have existed at some time, or still. If such a race had imbued itself or been imbued by its creator with the talents and disposition to succeed in today’s most powerful domains, namely finance and law, its members would easily establish and maintain an enduring dominance over their rivals.

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