The Valley So Low

It’s the rhythm, ain’t it? The song is familiar, but the rhythm is unique. It goes its own way, reaching down deep into those places where only a born few can navigate. That’s what a Manly Wade Wellman story is like. Familiar lyrics, but a rhythm all its own.

I’ve spoken before about my love for Wellman’s writing. It was–and is–a constant source of inspiration for me. The voice of the mountains ain’t quite my voice, but it’s near enough to be of comfort. That comfort brings me back to Wellman’s work again and again, even though by now I can recite some of those stories from memory.

While the stories of John and his silver-stringed guitar are the ones I seek out for comfort, it’s the stories of the other John–John Thunstone–and the hulking Judge Pursuivant that I come back to for regular entertainment. They’re the sort of characters that stick with you, if you’re of a certain turn of mind.

They’re less elemental than John and his guitar, and fiercer. Active, rather than reactive, with a mandate to face evil in all its forms, wherever it dares wander. They’re the familiar lyrics in Wellman’s song, the ones you’ve heard before, but never *quite* like he sings them. The old trappings are there–the dusty tomes, the hard-won knowledge–but serve mostly to contrast with the older, truer wisdoms. A bit of silver and faith goes a longer way in a Wellman story than a spell from an eldritch grimoire. The tools of Hell should be left there, and if you can but lay hands on the Devil, his fury shrinks.

If you’re interested, I contributed pieces on both Thunstone and Pursuivant to Black Gate Magazine, back when I had the time for such things. Today’s a good a day as any to share them. Happy birthday, Mr. Wellman. Wherever you are, I hope it’s a good one.

“The Nightmare Men: The Judge”

“Don’t you think a man always recognizes a woman he has loved?”

-Judge Pursuivant, “Chastel”

“The Nightmare Men: The Enemy of Evil”

Sic pereant inimici tui, Domine.”

-John Thunstone, “Rouse Him Not”