Tigers of the Sea

Last updated
Tigers of the Sea
Tigers of the sea.jpg
Cover of the first edition
Author Robert E. Howard
Illustrator Tim Kirk
Cover artistTim Kirk
CountryUnited States
SeriesCormac Mac Art
Genre Fantasy
Publisher Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc.
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback)
Pages212 pp
OCLC 1372467

Tigers of the Sea is a collection of fantasy short stories by Robert E. Howard about the pirate Cormac Mac Art, a Gael who joins a band of Danish Vikings during the reign of King Arthur. (Historically, Cormac Mac Art is the name of a famous High King of Ireland, but among the many legends told of him there is no reference to him having been a pirate.)


Tigers of the Sea was first published in 1974 by Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc. in an edition of 3,400 copies. The stories feature Howard's character Cormac Mac Art; the volume was edited by Richard L. Tierney.

Except for one, the stories are pure historical fiction, dealing with struggles between various groups of human beings waged by mundane human weapons. The exception is "The Temple of Abomination", in which Cormac Mac Art and his Viking fellows defeat the last of the monstrous Serpent Men, whom King Kull fought in the much earlier Howardian cycle.


Robert E. Howard Library Vol. I: Cormac Mac Art.

The stories of Cormac Mac Art were also printed by Baen Books in 1995. This edition included the same stories from Tigers of the Sea with an additional new story, "The Land Towards Sunset", published by author David Drake

Cormac Mac Art and Wulfhere the Skull-Splitter

Originally, Cormac Mac Art (nicknamed an Cluiun - "The Wolf") was a member of the Irish Reivers - bold pirates who range far among the ruins of the Roman Empire, reaching Spain and on occasion even Egypt, though their ships are less sound than those of the Scandinavian Vikings. Usually, Reivers and Vikings are on bad terms with each other - being competitors for the same loot.

However, at one point, Cormac Mac Art (for unspecified reasons) became an outlaw and had to leave Ireland in a hurry. Soon, he found refuge and a new home among the Danish Vikings led by Wulfhere the Skull-Splitter. He became Wulfhere's right hand man, the two of them complementing each other and working harmoniously together.

The giant Wulfhere is a bellicose and formidable fighter, quite deserving of his nickname. He is impetuous, easily roused, and on bad terms with most of the other Viking leaders - though not overtly cruel and capable at times of surprising compassion. Cormac Mac Art, though a formidable swordsman in his own right when in need, is a more subtle man: well-informed on the affairs of the numerous kingdoms, tribes, and factions inhabiting the turbulent British Islands and beyond. He's also a fluent speaker of many languages, a competent spy able to infiltrate enemy strongholds, and the originator of complicated or intricate plots. Cormac has many enemies, Irish as well as Scandinavian, who would dearly love to put an end to his career - but he manages to elude them, again and again.

Wulfhere appreciates Cormac's advice and mostly follows it, while Cormac accepts Wulfhere's leadership of the band and has no intention of challenging it. Together, they go through many dangerous adventures and emerge from various near-fatal traps.

Like most Irish people of his time, Cormac is a Pagan, a staunch believer of the Druidic religion, and his opinion towards Christianity is far from positive - though in "The Temple of Abomination" he (like his Danish fellows) comes to respect the courage and dedication of a Christian priest whom they save from the monstrous snake-man.

Andrew Offutt novels

Andrew Offutt continued Cormac Mac Art's adventures beyond where Howard left off, writing no less than six such novels (some of them in collaboration with Keith Taylor).

Arthurian background

In The Temple of Abomination Cormac tells his Danish companions about King Arthur - a view significantly different from that seen in the Arthurian legends.

"... most of the chiefs are gathering about Arthur Pendragon for a great concerted drive. Pendragon — ha! He's no more Uther Pendragon's son than you [Wulfhere] are. Uther was a black-bearded madman — more Roman than Briton and more Gaul than Roman. Arthur is as fair as Eric here. And he's pure Celt — a waif from one of the wild western tribes that never bowed to Rome. It was Lancelot who put it into his head to make himself king — else he had still been no more than a wild chief raiding the borders."

"Has he become smooth and polished like the Romans were?"

"Arthur? Ha! One of your Danes might seem a gentlewoman beside him. He's a shock-headed savage with a love for battle." Cormac grinned ferociously and touched his scars. "By the blood of the gods, he has a hungry sword! It's little gain we reivers from Erin have gotten on his coasts!"

"Would I could cross steel with him," grunted Wulfhere, thumbing the flaring edge of his great axe. "What of Lancelot?"

"A renegade Gallo-Roman who has made an art of throat-cutting. He varies reading Petronius with plotting and intriguing. Gawaine is a pure-blooded Briton like Arthur, but he has Romanish leanings. You'd laugh to see him aping Lancelot — but he fights like a blood-hungry devil. Without those two, Arthur would have been no more than a bandit chief. He can neither read nor write."

"What of that?" rumbled the Dane. "Neither can I. ..."

Though Cormac obviously had some direct contact with Arthur and Lancelot before his exile from Ireland, they never appear onstage in the stories about him - most of which take place much further to the north, in the islands around Scotland. As depicted in the stories, in his own time Arthur and his court were not as much in the center of attention as the later myth would imply, since there was very much else going on in the British Islands. There were the Saxons, Angles, and Jutes pushing westwards against the Britons; further north, the Gaels pushing eastwards against the Picts; and pirates and rovers, Irish and Scandinavian, constantly raiding everybody. Each of these groups could at any moment come into conflict with any of the others, or burst into internecine conflict between different factions; especially, among the Scandinavian Vikings, there is a deep hatred and enmity between Danes and Norwegians. Alliances of convenience might also be formed from time to time - for example, Vikings are seen as occasionally forming alliances with Britons against the Saxons. Obviously, the Arthurian tales passed on to later generation would reflect only a small fraction of all these complicated conflicts occurring during Arthur's time.

Such an "outsider" view of King Arthur is very rare in the extensive Arthurian Literature, Medieval or Modern. Virtually the only other example of such an approach is Alfred Duggan's Conscience of the King , which tries to reconstruct how Arthur was seen by his Saxon foes.

Related Research Articles

Excalibur Legendary sword of King Arthur

Excalibur is the legendary sword of King Arthur, sometimes also attributed with magical powers or associated with the rightful sovereignty of Britain. It was associated with the Arthurian legend very early on. Excalibur and the Sword in the Stone are in some versions said to be different, though in other incarnations they are either the same or at least share their name. In Welsh, it is called Caledfwlch; in Cornish, Calesvol ; in Breton, Kaledvoulc'h; and in Latin, Caliburnus. Several similar swords and other weapons also appear in this and other legends.

King Arthur Legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries

King Arthur was a legendary British leader who, according to medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the late 5th and early 6th centuries. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of Welsh and English folklore and literary invention, and modern historians generally agree that he is unhistorical. The sparse historical background of Arthur is gleaned from various sources, including the Annales Cambriae, the Historia Brittonum, and the writings of Gildas. Arthur's name also occurs in early poetic sources such as Y Gododdin.

Guinevere Arthurian legend character

Guinevere, also often written in Modern English as Guenevere or Guenever, was, according to Arthurian legend, an early-medieval queen of Great Britain and the wife of King Arthur. Her first mention in popular literature came in early 12th century, nearly 700 years after the purported times of Arthur. Guinevere has since been portrayed as everything from a villainous and opportunistic traitor to a fatally flawed but noble and virtuous lady. A notably recurring aspect of many records of the legend are the also variably told stories of her abduction.

Lancelot Arthurian legend character

Lancelot du Lac, also written as Launcelot and other variants, is a character in some versions of Arthurian legend, where he is typically depicted as King Arthur's close companion and one of the greatest Knights of the Round Table. In the French-inspired Arthurian chivalric romance tradition, Lancelot is the orphaned son of King Ban of the lost kingdom of Benwick, raised in the fairy realm by the Lady of the Lake. A hero of many battles, quests and tournaments, and famed as a nearly unrivalled swordsman and jouster, Lancelot becomes the lord of the castle Joyous Gard and personal champion of Arthur's wife Queen Guinevere. But when his adulterous affair with Guinevere is discovered, it causes a civil war that is exploited by Mordred to end Arthur's kingdom.

Matter of Britain Body of Medieval literature associated with Great Britain

The Matter of Britain is the body of medieval literature and legendary material associated with Great Britain and Brittany, and the legendary kings and heroes associated with it, particularly King Arthur. It was one of the three great Western story cycles recalled repeatedly in medieval literature, together with the Matter of France, which concerned the legends of Charlemagne, and the Matter of Rome, which included material derived from or inspired by classical mythology.

<i>King Arthur</i> (2004 film) 2004 American film directed by Antoine Fuqua

King Arthur is a 2004 historical adventure film directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by David Franzoni. It features an ensemble cast with Clive Owen as the title character, Ioan Gruffudd as Lancelot and Keira Knightley as Guinevere, along with Mads Mikkelsen, Joel Edgerton, Hugh Dancy, Ray Winstone, Ray Stevenson, Stephen Dillane, Stellan Skarsgård and Til Schweiger.

The Warlord Chronicles or The Warlord Trilogy is a series of three novels about Arthurian Britain written by Bernard Cornwell. The story is written as a mixture of historical fiction and Arthurian legend. The books were originally published between 1995 and 1997 by Penguin and Michael Joseph in the United Kingdom and by St. Martin's Press in the United States, in hardcover and paperback editions, each with different ISBNs. It is currently being adapted for television as The Winter King.

<i>Guenevere, Queen of the Summer Country</i>

Guenevere, Queen of the Summer Country is a novel by Rosalind Miles, based on Arthurian legend. It chronicles the life of Queen Guenevere from her perspective, from childhood to the blossoming of her relationship with Lancelot.

This is a bibliography of works about King Arthur, his family, his friends or his enemies. This bibliography includes works that are notable or are by notable authors.

Norse–Gaels Extinct people of mixed Gaelic and Norse heritage

The Norse–Gaels also known as Hiberno-Scandinavian were a people of mixed Gaelic and Norse ancestry and culture. They emerged in the Viking Age, when Vikings who settled in Ireland and in Scotland adopted Gaelic culture and intermarried with Gaels. The Norse–Gaels dominated much of the Irish Sea and Scottish Sea regions from the 9th to 12th centuries. They founded the Kingdom of the Isles which included the coveted Isle of Man, the Hebrides, the Kingdom of Dublin, the Lordship of Galloway, and a Norse-Gaelic family briefly ruled the Kingdom of York. The most powerful Norse–Gaelic dynasty were the Uí Ímair or House of Ivar.

<i>King Arthur</i> (TV series) Japanese anime TV series

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is a Japanese anime series based on Arthurian legend. Produced by Toei Animation, the series consists of 30 half-hour episodes released between 9 September 1979 and 3 March 1980. The series achieved great popularity in its non-English translations.

Keith John Taylor is an Australian science fiction and fantasy writer.

<i>The Dragon Lord</i> 1979/1982 historical fantasy/sword and sorcery novel by David Drake

The Dragon Lord is a historical fantasy or sword and sorcery novel by American writer David Drake. First published in 1979 and revised in 1982, the novel is set in sixth century Arthurian Britain.

<i>The Saxon Shore</i>

The Saxon Shore is a 1995 novel by Canadian writer Jack Whyte chronicling Caius Merlyn Britannicus's effort to return the baby Arthur to the colony of Camulod and the political events surrounding this. The book is a portrayal of the Arthurian Legend set against the backdrop of Post-Roman Britain's invasion by Germanic peoples. It is part of the A Dream of Eagles series, which attempts to explain the origins of the Arthurian legends against the backdrop of a historical setting. This is a deviation from other modern depictions of King Arthur such as Once and Future King and the Avalon series which rely much more on mystical and magical elements and less on the historical.

Pendragon's Banner is an historical fantasy trilogy by the British author Helen Hollick, published by William Heinemann in 1994, and later by Sourcebooks Inc in 2009 and by SilverWood Books in 2011. The three books are a re-telling of the King Arthur legend. They look to show Arthur Pendragon as he might have really been - no magic, fantasy or medieval legend. This is the basic, post-Roman view of Arthur as a battle-hardened warlord.

<i>King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table</i>

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table is a retelling of the Arthurian legends, principally Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, by Roger Lancelyn Green. It was intended for a child audience. It was first published by Puffin Books in 1953 and has since been reprinted many times. In 2008, it was reissued in the Puffin Classics series with an introduction by David Almond, and the original illustrations by Lotte Reiniger.

<i>Merlin</i> (poem) French epic poem

Merlin is a partly lost French epic poem written by Robert de Boron in Old French and dating from either end of the 12th or beginning of the 13th century. The author reworked Geoffrey of Monmouth's material on the legendary Merlin, emphasising Merlin's power to prophesy and linking him to the Holy Grail. The poem tells of his origin and early life as a redeemed Antichrist, his role in the birth of Arthur, and how Arthur became King of Britain. Merlin's story relates to Robert's two other reputed Grail poems, Joseph and Perceval. It introduced motifs that became popular in medieval and later Arthuriana, ensuring him a lasting place in the legend of King Arthur.

<i>King Arthur: Legend of the Sword</i> 2017 British-American epic adventure film directed by Guy Ritchie

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a 2017 epic fantasy action-adventure film directed by Guy Ritchie who co-wrote the film with Joby Harold and Lionel Wigram from a story by Harold and David Dobkin, inspired by Arthurian legends. The film stars Charlie Hunnam as the title character and Jude Law as the tyrannical king Vortigern who is attempting to kill him, with Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, and Eric Bana in supporting roles.

<i>Savage Heroes</i> Anthology of fantasy short stories edited by Michel Parry

Savage Heroes is an anthology of sword and sorcery stories edited by Michel Parry under the pseudonym of Eric Pendragon. It was first published in paperback by Star Books in February 1977. The first U.S. edition was issued in hardcover and trade paperback by Taplinger in March 1980. The editor's pseudonym was dropped for the Taplinger edition.