Fantastic History #32: The Coming of the Black Hound by Cesar Alcazar

annrach, ànrach
wanderer, stranger; either from *ann-reth-ach, root reth, run, or from *an-rath-ach, “unfortunate”, root rath, luck, q.v.

distress, Irish anrath; an-rath; See rath, luck.

MacBain’s Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language

It all began in the mid 90’s when I became obsessed with the music of an Irish blues-rocker called Rory Gallagher. Back then, discovering a rock musician out of the USA/England circle was something different for me. Being a history buff and an avid researcher, I tried to find out everything I could about Gallagher’s background and fell in love with Ireland and its culture in the process.

Gallagher’s music planted the seeds of many of my future personal interests in art. It even affected my taste in literature, introducing me to crime writer Dashiell Hammett, but that’s another story. A few years later, the history and mythology of Ireland would occupy a central spot in my life.

Anrath, the 11th Century Irish mercenary known as The Black Hound of Clontarf, was created in 2009 when I read the stories from Robert E. Howard’s “Celtic phase” (like The Grey God Passes and The Dark Man, among others). Howard was already a favorite of mine, having been responsible for my desire to write fantasy. During his short lifetime, Howard produced a huge amount of work, but it was those few Celtic tales that had the biggest impact on me. Around the same time, I also read the short story The Mirror and the Mask by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. Both Howard and Borges wrote about The Battle of Clontarf, a notorious combat between Gales and Norsemen that took place in April, 1014 near Dublin. The fact that these two authors who were so unlike could fall in love with the same themes fascinated me.

That’s how the idea of creating my own warrior anti-hero from medieval Erin was born. Anrath, The Black Hound, is a haunted man. Born a Gael, he was taken by Viking raiders and grew up among them. When the Battle of Clontarf came, he fought by the losing side of his Viking comrades against the victorious Irishmen led by legendary High King Brian Boru. After the battle, fate made him an outcast condemned to wander between two cultures without belonging to either.

Wandering Ireland as a mercenary, Anrath is constantly tormented by his past. His struggles against Vikings, fellow Irishmen and horrors beyond time and space originated a series of short stories, novelettes and one novella that came to be known in Brazil as The Tales of the Black Hound.

The Tales of the Black Hound are much in the vein of Robert E. Howard’s fantasy-filled historical and Sword and Sorcery adventures. But more than that, the stories focus on the conflicts of a man who is trapped in a life of violence from which he cannot escape. The protagonist, Anrath, has some of Akira Kurosawa’s samurai: lonely and melancholic, he is not always on the side of the winners. He is a more vulnerable hero than the usual in Fantasy.

The first Black Hound novelette to be published was Lágrimas do Anjo da Morte (Death Angel’s Tears). It appeared in the anthology Sagas Vol. 1 – Espada e Magia (Argonautas, 2010). Other stories followed and two of them ended being published in English by Heroic Fantasy Quarterly (A Lonely Grave on the Hill) and Swords and Sorcery Magazine (Wolves). Finally, the novella A Fúria do Cão Negro (Fury of the Black Hound) came out in 2014 (released by Arte & Letra).

Although all these stories were published by small venues, they attracted considerable attention. Soon it became clear that the Black Hound was destined to venture farther. In 2015 a mutual friend introduced me to artist Fred Rubim. A publicity illustrator and 2D animator, Rubim was eager to draw comics, especially one with Vikings in it. We started working on the adaptation of my novelette O Coração do Cão Negro (Black Hound Heart) shortly afterwards. Slaine, created by Pat Mills (wich is a great introduction to Irish Mythology) and Thorgal, by Van Hamme and Rosi?ski, were a big influence in the development of the comic book version of Anrath’s stories. Published at first as a serialized webcomic, Black Hound Heart caught the attention of AVEC Editora, a publishing house devoted to comics and speculative fiction.

AVEC released the complete comic as an album in 2016 to a great reception. It even inspired a song by Bando Celta, a Brazilian musical group specialized in medieval folk. The second album, A Canção do Cão Negro (Song of the Black Hound) came out in the following year. Rubim and I are currently working on the third installment of the series.

2019 marks the 10th anniversary of the Black Hound, but I feel that his story has just begun.

The Black Hound of Clontarf Bibliography in English:
A Lonely Grave on the Hill – Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #18, 2013.
Wolves – Swords and Sorcery Magazine #27, 2014.

The song:
Bando Celta – O Coração do Cão Negro

Cesar Alcazar is a Sword & Sorcery and Adventure writer from Brazil. He is the author of “Bazar Pulp – Historias de Fantasia, Aventura e Horror” and many anthologized short stories. He also edited the anthology “Cronicas de Espada e Magia”, and translated to Portuguese stories from authors Karl Edward Wagner, Robert E. Howard and George R. R. Martin. His first English language short story, “A Lonely Grave on the Hill”, was published by Heroic Fantasy Quarterly in November, 2013.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.