ERLIK

Real Name: Erlik

Identity/Class: Pre-Cataclysmic/Hyborian Era deity

Occupation: God of Evil and Death

Group Membership: Hyborian Gods

Affiliations: Vonndhar (former servant), Mitra
worshiped by the Turanians and Hyrkanians of the Hyborian Era, and later the Khirgiz tribesmen of Mount Erlik, Afghanistan, and the Altaic Tatars of Siberia;

Enemies: Conan the Barbarian, Vonndhar (former emissary turned against him), possibly Varnae (see comments)

Known Relatives: Ulgan (father); Vaat (mother; possibly Gaea); Raktavashi (son), Nafertari/Zambibi (granddaughter)

Aliases: the Yellow God of Death, the God of the Yellow Hand of Death, Lord of the Seventh Hell

Base of Operations: unnamed extradimensional netherworld, possible connection to Mount Erlik and the forbidden city of Yolgan in Afghanistan (yet to be seen in the Marvel Universe).

First Appearance: Conan the Barbarian#120 (March, 1981)

Powers/Abilities: Erlik likely possesses similar abilities to other Hyborian, Heliopolitan, Olympian, and Asgardian death gods: enhanced strength in the 50 - 70 ton level, immunity to conventional disease and aging, undefined energy projection/absorption abilities, mastery of Black Magic, as well as the power to procure souls for his netherworld and to resurrect the dead. However, Erlik has only thus far demonstrated the ability to transport others across interdimensional barriers, resurrect the dead, and to bestow immortality, vast regenerative abilities, and a "death-touch" type power upon his chosen agents. IF Erlik has some sort of connection to Erlik Khan and the Khats (and is not actually Erlik Khan himself), it would imply Erlik has command of various lesser divine and/or demonic beings.

History:
(myth) - The Hyrkanian god Erlik is a figure shrouded in mystery and legend. Even though he is the supreme deity of the Hyrkanians and their younger kin, the Turanians, very little is known about Erlik.
Myth also has it that Erlik was created by Ulgan out of the mud of the Earth to be his traveling companion. When Ulgan created the first people, Erlik made them mortal and, hence, capable of dying. Ulgan never forgave him for tampering with his creation and exiled him to the underworld.
In another version, according to Hyrkanian myth, Erlik was the first man on earth, but he was not given a soul by the Creator. When Erlik tried to create life by himself, he was banished into the depths of the earth, where he claims the dead ("those that lack breath") for his own.

(Conan the Barbarian#120 (fb) ) - Before the time of the barbarous King Kull, usurper of the Topaz Throne, the son of a Valusian nobleman was born and named Vonndhar. Raised as a scholar in the best schools, the impetuous youth despised his sedentary life and longed for great adventures. Pursuing the path of a warrior, Vonndhar joined the Valusian army. Soon the young nobleman rose to become leader of the legendary Black Legion, and his feats were sung of by Valusia's minstrels.

Vonndhar died at hands of the Commorians, his body pierced by dozens of arrows. As he lay in the grip of his death agonies, Vonndhar contemplated the vast dark clouds that surrounded him, unseen by the other soldiers who fought all about him. From out of the darkness, the sinister hand of Erlik the Elder God of Death appeared. The voice of the deity resounded in Vonndhar's ears. Erlik offered the dying warrior eternal life, great adventures, and a place of honor in his dark world if only Vonndhar would serve him. The young nobleman accepted and was transported to the otherworldly kingdom of Erlik, where he served his dark master for thousands of years.

(Official Handbook of the Conan Universe#1) - Aside from the Zamboulan worshippers of the obscene ape- god Hanuman, Turan (in the eastern portion of the Hyborian world) held Erlik and the Living Tarim as the holiest of gods. Erlik, the Yellow God of Death, and the Tarim were also attended by shaven-headed priests and worshipped by both tribesmen and city dwellers throughout Hyrkania as well.

Erlik would have been a minor god were it not for the prophet known as Living Tarim. Tarim brought Erlik worship from a remote region known as Pathenia to a group of Hyrkanian tribes who, with the strength of their religious fervor, swept down and founded the Turanian empire.

Erlik was a harsh god, who believed in the tempering of the soul through trials and deprivation. His tenets, as revealed by Tarim, forbid fornication, the consumption of alcohol and usury. However, even most of his priests ignore these precepts.

(Savage Sword of Conan#29/4 (fb) - BTS) - From Elysium then, Mitra peered, with mournful eye, into the primordial mist.
He spoke: 'Forge me an instrument of retribution. I wish to prophesy thru the rage of the naked sword.'
A solitary voice answered. It was the throaty retort of Erlik, the Dark God, the Fallen One. He said, "Twill be done!'
From below, purple flames etched the form of a woman, a singular woman, doomed to aloneness, cursed with beauty enough to drive legions of men to madness.

Thus did Erlik, via the hand of the living Tarim, manipulate events to forge the woman warrior known as Red Sonja.

(Conan the Barbarian#120) - After the advent of the Hyborian Age, Vonndhar was sent by Erlik to the world of the mortals, shortly after Jenna of Shadizar, who should have died the victim of a strange mystical plague, was saved by Conan the Cimmerian. The God of Death wished to restore the balance, broken by the salvation of Jenna. Obeying his master, Vonndhar appeared before Conan and Jenna on a dusty Shemite highway, sitting in a tree and playing a flute. In order to prove that he was in fact the emissary of Death, Vonndhar allowed Conan to impale him with his sword, dying and reviving a few brief moments later.

(Conan the Barbarian#120) - After revealing his mission was to judge her, Jenna tried to flee from Vonndhar, using all the wiles at her disposal, but her tricks were useless. Because of her flight, Conan and Vonndhar were involved in a battle with bandits that usually sacked caravans coming from Pelishta. That night, after listening to Vonndhar tell of his adventures in the Pre-Cataclysmic age and beyond, Jenna seduced the Emissary of Erlik in order to gain his favor. Thinking Vonndhar asleep after making love to him, wily Jenna tries to escape only to be caught by her new paramour. By this time Vonndhar had possibly fallen in love with Jenna.

(Conan The Barbarian#120) - In another assault upon the caravans, Jenna tries to escape in the heat of battle only for the dark god Erlik to cause her death by causing one of the caravan's wagons fall on her. Vonndhar, infuriated because the decision of Jenna's life or death was to be his, rebelled against his sinister master. Erlik appearing to him in the middle of a black cloud, says that the cosmic balance had to be recovered, thus, if he wished for Jenna to live, Vonndhar had to pay the ultimate price. The warrior accepted, his life snatched away from him by Erlik. Jenna was resurrected by Vonndhar's selflessness, but callous as she was Jenna was unable to appreciate her lover's sacrifice.

BTS - In more recent centuries, Erlik was worshipped as the spirit of evil in Siberia, as well as the lord of the underworld in Lapp mythos, and in other parts of Central Asia.

Comments: Adapted by J. M. DeMatteis and John Buscema

Erlik is the subject of numerous expletives and oaths during the Hyborian Era, especially by the Hyrkanians or those who have had close contact with the nomads of the Hyrkanian Steppes. Often mentioned in the same breath as Tarim, the Turanian and Hyrkanian's savior/messiah, Erlik is likely their counterpart to the principle of evil embodied in other myth cycles by Ahriman, Satan, Nergal, and similar underworld deities.

Bearing in mind my limited knowledge of the Hyborian era and mythology, my guess would be that the Erlik Khan mentioned in a Robert E. Howard story entitled "The Daughter of Erlik Khan" ( 1974, Glenn Lord), refers actually to the Siberian God, who would appear to be the same as the Hyborian God (The Hyrkanians were the ancestors of many nations similar to the Siberians). However, the demon Erlik Khan, an agent of Shuma-Gorath, has little else in common other than the name. Either Erlik underwent some sort of demonic degeneration--which is a common thing, actually--or, more likely, it was just another demon trying to capitalize on the name--which was also quite common.
    Then again, it's possible that the Siberian God Erlik is different from the Hyborian Erlik, and was also trying to capitalize on his predecessor's name...just like the Egyptian Seth did with the Elder God Set.
    --Snood

The name Erlik Khan appeared in a series of stories centered around the hero El Borak aka Francis Xavier Gordon, an Irish-American adventurer/soldier of fortune wandering Afghanistan and other parts of Central Asia. The Khirgiz, a vicious and xenophobic race dwelling near Mount Erlik in Afghanistan, were of Mongolian extraction and practiced a violent and degenerate form of devil worship, including the leaving of offerings at the feet of an effigy of Erlik Khan hidden behind a silken curtain.

    Erlik's avatar in the Hyborian age was the Living Tarim. The avatar appears as a human form whose face and features are cloaked by a hooded robe. It is said that he sits on a throne in the inner sanctum of Erlik's domed temple in Aghrapur. Idols of Tarim depict him as a one-armed male.
  The "Talons of Erlik" were invoked in Conan the Barbarian I#43. 

Clerics of Erlik (and Living Tarim) who follow the strict codes of the Revelations of Tarim are able to master terrible necromancy. Among their powers is the ability to sink into the earth and command undead. Priests of Erlik must always be male.

Varnae, Lord of the Vampires, has stated elsewhere that he is immune to the priests and totems of gods that arose after his creation. As Erlik has been shown to predate the fall of Atlantis, Varnae is most likely vulnerable to symbols, priests, and spells invoking Erlik.

Vonndhar, Erlik's agent on the mortal plane, bears a striking resemblance to Mephisto. This is not entirely surprising as John Buscema designed both characters.
mmm...can't say a see much a likeness myself, beyond the Buscema art--Snood.

Erlik's creation story is also tenaciously familiar to similar tales from Mongolian-Chinese tales of the of the first men being created out of mud but being stripped of immortality by an earlier mud-creation. It may have links to Chinese myth and could have been taken, or borrowed, from them. (Is Erlik a trickster-like god? I ask because the stripping of immortality from Humanity is like certain Native American myths involving the Coyote trickster--Kyle).

A tip of the hat to Roman Mario Trabucco V from whose website most of this info was gotten, as well as Babelfish Translator which gave me a somewhat choppy translation from which I pieced together many of the elements of this bio.
I also compiled some info from a variety of internet pages--Snood.

It should be noted Erlik, often referred to as an Elder God, is one of the Elder Gods of the Pre-Cataclysmic and Hyborian Eras, but most likely not related to the Elder Gods (Chthon, Set, and Gaea)

Info from Turk Classics http://www.ozturkler.com/data_english/0001/0001_18_04.htm

The Cosmogony of the Turks - The Myth of Creation            

 
       When there was no earth, sky and anything else, the world consisted of water lying endlessly. The God Ulgen flied throughout this endless world continually. A voice from the skies told god Ulgen to hold the stone to come out of the sea. Having found somewhere to sit on by the order of the skies, god Ulgen thought it was time to create and said:
I want a world which I would create with a race. How should this world be and with what clan should I create it? What is the means for it and with what way should I create it?
 
        The White Mother living under water appeared on the surface of the water and said to God Ulgen: If you want to create Ulgen, learn the holy word as a creator. Always say "I did and it became"; do not say anything else. Especially while creating, do not say "I did and it did not became". The White Mother told these and disappeared.  God Ulgen never forgot this order. And he never got bored of conveying this order to the man:"Listen you people, do not cal existent as non-existent. Do not become non-existent by calling the being as non-being."
 
         God Ulgen looked down to the earth saying: "Let the earth be created!" Looking at the sky saying: "Let the sky be created!" When these orders were given, the earth and the sky were created. God Ulgen created three great fish and the world was placed on these fish. So, the world became fixed instead of moving. God Ulgen made Mandishire supervise the fish so that the world would not move. After god Ulgen created the world, he sat on the top of the great Golden Mountain, whose top reached the moon and the sun and whose skirts did not touch the earth.
 
         The world was created in six days and on the seventh day god Ulgen fell asleep. When he woke up, he looked at what he had created: In addition to the moon and the sun, he had created nine worlds, one hell for each and an earth. One day, god Ulgen saw a piece of clay on a piece of soil floating on the sea. He said "let this be the man and let there be a father for man", and the clay on the soil suddenly became a man. God Ulgen called this man "Erlik" and took him as his brother. However, Erlik's soul was full of jealousy and ambition. He was very angry as he was not as strong as and a creator like god Ulgen. God Ulgen created seven men whose bones were of reeds and whose flesh were of soil.
 
        Having created a hero called Mandishire to protect man as he thought Erlik would harm the world, he gave soul to the seven men blowing in from their ears and gave them minds by blowing in from their noses. God Ulgen created May-Tere to manage people and made him the Khan of the people. The creation myths collected from Yakut (Saka) have the quality of similar variants of the Altay creation myths.
     

From the Altai Republic website (http://www.altai-republic.com/culture/tales_eng2.htm)

The legend of Ak-Taichy is of special interest for the people. It says that the sub-terranean god Erlik wanted to drag away a newborn kid of the old bogatyr Ak-Byokyo from "the sunny Altai" to the underground world. But the Master of Taiga - the White Wolf - took the child to a cave and fed him with milk of wild deer. The boy grew and became a strong young bogatyr called Ak-Taichy. The White Wolf, testing his power and wisdom, makes him annihilate the evil ghosts of Erlik.
 

From Shambala (http://www.mystae.com/restricted/streams/scripts/shambhala.html)

In a typical Altaic descent to the nether world, the shaman goes down thought seven levels to encounter Erlik Khan, lord of the dead, who has seven sons and seven daughters. (It is much the same infernal scene as in Inanna's ordeal.)

Profile by: Greg O'Driscoll

CLARIFICATIONS:

Erlik the Dark God may or may not have any connection with:

Elder Gods


Appearances:
Conan the Barbarian#120 (March, 1981) - J.M. DeMatteis (writer), John Buscema (pencils), Bob McLeod (inks), Louise Jones (editor)
Savage Sword of Conan#29 (May, 1978)
Official Handbook of the Conan Universe#1 (June, 1985)


Last updated: 04/22/03

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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