These are relevant references from the Books where Kurii are mentioned.
I make no pronouncements on these matters, but report them as I find them.
Arrive at your own conclusions.
I wish you well,
It is not my intention here to provide every single reference to the Kurii.
Instead it is simply my intent to provide a description so as to gain an understanding of them.
It was an incredibly hideous, large-eyed, furred thing. It had wide, pointed ears. It stood perhaps eight or nine feet high. It may have weighed seven or eight hundred pounds. It had a wide, two-nostriled, leathery snout. Its mouth was huge, large enough to take a man's head into it, and it was rimmed with two rows of stout fangs. There were four larger fangs, long and curved, for grasping, in the position of the canines. The upper two fangs protruded at the side of the jaws when its mouth was closed. It had a long, dark tongue. Its forelegs were larger than its hind legs. I had seen it move, shambling on its hind legs, and on the knuckles of its forelegs, but now I saw that what I had taken as forelegs were not unlike arms and hands. Indeed, they had six digits, several jointed, almost like tentacles, which terminated in clawlike growths, which had been blunted and filed. It also had claws on its hind legs, or feet, which were retractable, as the mountebank demonstrated, issuing sharp voice commands to the beast. The hind legs, or feet, like the forelegs, or hands, if one may so speak, were also six-digited and multiply jointed. They were large and spreading. The claws, as I saw when they were exposed, upon the order of the mountebank, were better than four inches long, curved and sharp. I could not even determine in my mind whether to think of it as a four-footed animal, with unusual prehensile forelegs, or as something manlike, with two legs and two arms, with hands. It was tailless.
Perhaps most horrifying were the eyes. They were large and black-pupiled. For an instant I thought they rested upon me, and saw me, but not as an animal sees, but as something might see that is not an animal. Then, again, they were simple and vacant, those of a mountebank's performing beast.
The beast looked at me, and yawned. I saw the two rows of white fangs. Then, sleepily, it began to nibble at the fur of its right paw, grooming it.
It seemed incredibly huge, even more so in the small hut than earlier outside of Targo's compound. It was like a glistening, somnolent boulder of fur, alive, hundreds of pounds in weight. The eyes were large, black, round, the snout wide, two-nostriled and leathery. I shuddered at its mouth, and fangs, the upper two protruding downwards at the sides of its jaws. Its lips were wet from the saliva from its long, dark tongue, which, with its teeth, it was using to groom the fur on its right paw. The strike of those jaws could, with one wrenching twist, have torn away the shoulder of a man.
Suddenly the beast made a noise. It was a rumble, a growl. I stiffened, and turned.
It had lifted its head. Its wide, pointed ears lifted. It was listening.
The man, and I, watched the beast, I, frightened, he, alert, cautious.
His eyes seemed to meet those of the beast, and the beast seemed to look at him. Then it had lifted its lips away from its teeth, and looked away, its ears still lifted. It growled again.
"It is a sleen outside," said the man.
"When I was brought here," I said, "twice the band caught the scent of a sleen."
The man looked at me. "It was stalking you," he said, "you, and the others."
"Perhaps there were different sleen," I whispered.
"Perhaps," he said.
The beast now crouched on the straw, its nostrils wide in the leathery snout, its eyes bright and black, the ears lifted.
Then to my horror I observed the beast. It lifted its large paws to its throat. The paws were six-digited, several jointed, almost like furred tentacles, surmounted by clawlike growths, blunted, filed. It unfastened the buckled collar at its throat and cast it aside.
Then, with a cry of rage, it leapt toward the sleen. The two animals locked in combat. The sleen came through the window, scrambling through, biting and tearing. The beast seized it about the throat, its great jaws biting at the throat and vertebrae. The two animals rolled in the small hut, twisting, squealing, hissing, scattering the benches and table. Then, with a horrifying snap of bone and tearing of flesh and fur the jaws of the beast bit through the back of the sleen's neck. It stood there then, holding the body of the sleen in its claws, its mouth dropping fur and blood. The body of the sleen twisted compulsively. The beast turned to regard us.
"Do the beasts often bother you?" I asked.
"No," said Ivar. "They seldom hunt this far to the south."
"They are rational," I told him. "They have a language."
"That is known to me," said Ivar.
I did not tell Ivar that those he knew as Kurii, or the beasts, were actually specimens of an alien race, that they, or those in their ships, were locked in war with Priest-Kings for the domination of two worlds, Gor and the Earth. In these battles, unknown to most men, even of Gor, from time to time, ships of the Kurii had been shattered and fallen to the surface. It was the practice of Priest-Kings to destroy the wrecks of such ships but, usually, at least, they did not attempt to hunt and exterminate survivors. If the marooned Kurii abided by the weapon and technology laws of Priest-Kings, they, like men, another life form, were permitted to survive. The Kurii I knew were beasts of fierce, terrible instincts, who regarded humans, and other beasts, as food. Blood, as to the shark, was an agitant to their systems. They were extremely powerful, and highly intelligent, though their intellectual capacities, like those of humans, were far below those of Priest-Kings. Fond of killing, and technologically advanced, they were, in their way, worthy adversaries of Priest-Kings. Most lived in ships, the steel wolves of space, their instincts bridled, to some extent, by Ship Loyalty, Ship Law. It was thought that their own world had been destroyed. This seemed plausible, when one considered their ferocity and greed, and what might be its implementation in virtue of an advanced technology. Their own world destroyed, the Kurii now wished another.
The Kurii, of course, with which the men of Torvaldsland might have had dealings, might have been removed by as much as generations from the Kurii of the ships. It was regarded as one of the great dangers of the war, however, that the Kurii of the ships might make contact with, and utilize, the Kurii of Gor in their schemes.
Men and the Kurii, where they met, which was usually only in the north, regarded one another as mortal enemies. The Kurii not unoften fed on men, and men, of course, in consequence, attempted to hunt and slay, when they could, the beasts. Usually, however, because of the power and ferocity of the beasts, men would hunt them only to the borders of their own districts, particularly if only the loss of a bosk or thrall was involved. It was usually regarded as quite sufficient, even by the men of Torvaldsland, to drive one of the beasts out of their own district. They were especially pleased when they had managed to harry one into the district of an enemy.
We looked down at the remains of a bosk, torn apart eaten through. Even large bones had been broken, snapped apparently in mighty jaws, the marrow sucked from them. The brains, too, had been scooped, with a piece of wood, from the skull.
"Did you not know," asked Ivar Forkbeard, "of what animal this is the work?"
"No," I said.
"This has been killed by one of the Kurii," he said.
For four days we hunted the animal, but we did not find it. Though the kill was recent, we found no trace of the predator.
"We must find it," had said the Forkbeard. "It must learn it cannot with impunity hunt on the lands of Forkbeard."
But we did not find it. We did not have a feast, as we had intended, on the night on which the bosk had been found eaten, nor on the next nights. In vain we hunted. The men grew angry, sullen, apprehensive. Even the bond-maids no longer laughed and sported. There might, for all we knew, be somewhere in the lands of Ivar Forkbeard one of the Kurii.
"It must have left the district," said Ottar, on the fourth night.
"There have been no further kills," pointed out Gautrek, the smith, who had hunted with us.
"Do you think it is the one who killed the verr last month " I asked Ottar, "and similarly disappeared?"
"I do not know," said Ottar. "It could be, for those of the Kurii are quite rare this far to the south."
"It may have been driven far its own kind," said the Forkbeard, "one too vicious even to be tolerated in its own caves."
"It might, too," said Ottar, "be insane or ignorant."
"Perhaps," suggested Gorm, "it is diseased or injured, and can no longer hunt the swift deer of the north?"
In these cases, too, I supposed one of the Kurii might be driven, by teeth and claws, from its own caves. Kurii, I suspected, those of Gor as well as those of the ships, did not tolerate weakness.
It was not more than ten feet from me. It lifted its face from the half-eaten body of a man. Its eyes, large, round, blazed in the light of the torch. I heard the screaming of bond-maids, the movements of their chains. Their ankles were held by their fetters. "Weapons!" cried the Forkbeard. "Kur! Kur!" I heard men cry. The beast stood there, blinking, bent over the body. It was unwilling to surrender it. Its fur was sable, mottled with white. Its ears, large, pointed and wide, were laid back flat against its head. It was perhaps seven feet tall and weighed four or five hundred pounds. Its snout was wide, leathery. There were two nostrils, slitlike. Its tongue was dark. It had two rows of fangs, four of which were particularly prominent, those in the first row of fangs, above and below, in the position of canines; of these, the upper two were particularly long, and curved. Its arms were longer and larger than its legs; it held the body it was devouring in clawed, pawlike hands, yet six-digited, extrajointed, almost like tentacles. It hissed, and howled and, eyes blazing, fangs bared, threatened us.
"This is a small Kur," said the Forkbeard. "They are generally larger. Note the mottling of white. Those are disease marks."
"I hope," I said, "that it was not because of me that it came to the hall."
"No," said the Forkbeard. "In the dark they have excellent vision. If it had been you it sought, it would have been you it killed."
"Why did it enter the hall?" I asked.
"Kurii," said Ivar Forkbeard, "are fond of human flesh."
Humans, like other animals, I knew, are regarded by those of the Kurii as a form of food.
The thing, its head lifted, surveyed the assembly of free men. The pupils of its eyes, in the sunlight, were extremely small and black. They were like points in the yellowish green cornea. I knew that, in darkness, they could swell, like dark moons, to fill almost the entire optic orifice, some three or four inches in width. Evolution, on some distant, perhaps vanished world, had adapted this life form for both diurnal and nocturnal hunting. Doubtless, like the cat, it hunted when hungry, and its efficient visual capacities, like those of the cats, meant that there was no time of the day or night when it might not be feared. Its head was approximately the width of the chest of a large man. It had a flat snout, with wide nostrils. Its ears were large, and pointed. They lifted from the side of its head, listening, and then lay back against the furred sides of the head. Kurii, I had been told, usually, in meeting men, laid the ears back against the sides of their heads, to increase their resemblance to humans. The ears are often laid back, also, incidentally, in hostility or anger, and, always, in its attacks. It is apparently physiologically impossible for a Kur to attack without its shoulders hunching, its claws emerging, and its ears lying back against the head. The nostrils of the beast drank in what information it wished, as they, like its eyes, surveyed the throng. The trailing capacities of the Kurii are not as superb as those of the sleen, but they were reputed to be the equal of those of larls. The hearing, similarly, is acute. Again it is equated with that of the larl, and not the sharply-sensed sleen. There was little doubt that the day vision of the Kurii was equivalent to that of men, if not superior, and the night vision, of course, was infinitely superior; their sense of smell, too, of course, was incomparably superior to that of men, and their sense of hearing as well. Moreover, they, like men, were rational. Like men, they were a single-brained organism, limited by a spinal column. Their intelligence, by Priest-Kings, though the brain was much larger, was rated as equivalent to that of men, and showed similar random distributions throughout gene pools. What made them such dreaded foes was not so much their intelligence or, on the steel worlds, their technological capacities, as their aggressiveness, their persistence their emotional commitments, their need to populate and expand, their innate savagery. The beast was approximately nine feet in height; I conjectured its weight in the neighborhood of eight or nine hundred pounds. Interestingly, Priest-Kings, who are not visually oriented organisms, find little difference between Kurii and men. To me this seems preposterous, for ones so wise as Priest-Kings, but, in spite of its obvious falsity, Priest-Kings regard the Kurii and men as rather similar, almost equivalent species. One difference they do remark between the human and the Kur, and that is that the human, commonly, has an inhibition against killing. This inhibition the Kur lacks.
The Kur has two rows of fangs. Its mouth is large enough to take into it the head of a full-grown man. Its canines, in the front row of fangs, top and bottom, are long. When it closes its mouth the upper two canines project over the lower lip and jaw. Its tongue is long and dark, the interior of its mouth reddish.
Behind the Kur, to one side, stood two other Kurii. They, like the first, were fearsome creatures. Each carried a wide, round shield, of iron, some four feet in diameter. Each, too, carried a great, double-bladed iron ax, which, from blade tip to blade tip, was some two feet in width. The handle of the ax was of carved, green needle wood, round, some four inches in diameter. The axes were some seven or eight feet in height. The speaker was not armed, save by the natural ferocity of his species. As he spoke, his claws were retracted. About his left arm, which was some seven feet in length, was a spiral golden armlet. It was his only adornment. The two Kurii behind him, each, had a golden pendant hanging from the bottom of each ear. The prehensile paws, or hands, of the Kurii are six-digited and multiple jointed. The legs are thick and short. In spite of the shortness of the legs the Kur can, when it wishes, by utilizing its upper appendages, in the manner of a prairie simian, like the baboon, move with great rapidity. It becomes, in running, what is, in effect, a four-footed animal. It has the erect posture, permitting brain development and facilitating acute binocular vision, of a biped. This posture, too, of course, greatly increases the scanning range of the visual sensors. But, too, its anatomy permits it to function, in flight and attack, much as a four-legged beast. For short distances it can outrun a full-grown tarsk. It is also said to possess great stamina, but of this I am much less certain. Few animals, which have not been trained, have, or need, stamina. An exception would be pack hunters, like the wolves or hunting dogs of Earth.
I knew that Kurii did not, for the most part, inhabit areas frequented by men. On the other hand, the Kurii on the platform, and other Kurii I had encountered, had been dark-furred, either brownish, or brownish red or black. I wondered if it were only the darker furred Kurii that roamed southward. But if these Kurii on the platform were snow-adapted, their fur did not suggest this. I wondered if they might be from the steel ships, either recently, or within too few generations for a snow-adaptation pattern to have been developed. If the Kurii were sufficiently successful, of course, there would be no particular likelihood of evolution selecting for snow adaptation. Too, it could be that, in summer, the Kurii shed white fur and developed, in effect, a summer coat. Still I regarded it unlikely that these Kurii were from as far north as his words might suggest.
The assembly broke into laughter. It filled the field. The Kur did not seem angry at the laughter. I wondered if it understood laughter. To the Kur it might be only a human noise, as meaningless to him as the cries of whales to us.
"You are amused," it said.
The Kurii, then, had some understanding of laugher. Its own lips then drew back, revealing the fangs. I then understood this clearly as a smile.
That the Kurii possessed a sense of humor did not much reassure me as to their nature. I wondered rather at what sort of situations it would take as its object. The cat, if rational, might find amusement in the twitching and trembling of the mouse which it is destroying, particle by particle. That a species laughs bespeaks its intelligence, its capacity to reason, not its goodness, not its harmlessness. Like a knife; reason is innocent; like a knife, its application is a function of the hand that grasps it, the energies and will which drive it.
The Kur stepped back with the other Kurii. They spoke together in one of the languages of the Kurii, for there are, I understood, in the steel worlds, nations and races of such beasts. I could hear little of what they said. I could detect, however, that it more resembled the snarls and growling of larls than the converse of rational creatures.
"I have here," called Svein Blue Tooth, "a bucket of Sa-Tarna grain. This, in token of hospitality, I offer to our guest."
The Kur looked into the bucket, at the yellow grain. I saw the claws on the right paw briefly expose themselves, then, swiftly, draw within the softness of the furred, multiple digited appendage.
"I thank the great Jarl," said the beast, "and fine grain it is. It will be our hope to have such good fortune with our own crops in the south. But I must decline to taste your gift for we, like men, and unlike bosk, do not feed on raw grain."
The Jarl, then, took, from the hands of Ivar Forkbeard's man, the leather-wrapped object.
It was a round, flat, six-sectioned loaf of Sa-Tarna bread.
The Kur looked at it. I could not read his expression.
"Feed," invited Svein Blue Tooth.
The Kur reached out and took the loaf. "I shall take this to my camp," it said, "as a token of the good will of the men of Torvaldsland."
"Feed," invited Svein Blue Tooth.
The two Kurii behind the speaker growled, soft, like irritated larls.
It made the hair on my neck rise to hear them, for I knew they had spoken to one another.
The Kur looked upon the loaf, as we might have looked on grass, or wood, or the shell of a turtle.
Then, slowly, he put it in his mouth. Scarcely had he swallowed it than he howled with nausea, and cast it up.
I knew then that this Kur, if not all, was carnivorous.
It threw back its head and opened its jaws, eyes blazing, and uttered the blood roar of the aroused Kur; then it bent over, regarding us, shoulders hunched, its claws leaping from its soft, furred sheaths; it then laid its ears back flat against the sides of its great head.
No one could move.
Then, other Kurii behind it, crowding about it, past it, it shrieked, lips drawn back, with a hideous sound, which, somehow, from its lips and mien, and mostly from its eyes, I took to be a sign of pleasure, of anticipation; I would learn later that this sound is instinctively uttered by Kurii when they are preparing to take blood. This cry, like a stimulus, acted upon the others, as well; almost instantly, with the velocity that the stranger signal can course through a pack of urts, this shriek was picked up by those with it; then, the hall filled with their horrid howling, eyes blazing, led by the Kur with the golden band, frenzied by the blood shriek, they leaped forward, great axes flailing.
I saw a man-at-arms lifted, back broken, in the black, furred, tentacled hand of one of the marauders. The thing roared, head back. The white fangs seemed scarlet in the light of the fires from the roof. Then it threw the man more than a hundred feet against the back of the hall. I saw another man-at-arms hanging from the jaws of a Kur. He was still alive. His eyes betrayed shock, staring blindly outward. I do not think he saw. I suspect he was in pain. He was alive, but I did not think he any longer felt. He doubtless understood what was occurring but, to him, somehow, it did not seem of concern. It was as though it were happening to someone else. Then the Kur's jaws closed. For the least instant there was a terrifying recognition in the eyes. Then he was bitten through.
Men came before them and threw themselves to their knees, that they might be spared, even were it but for the Ahn, but these, like others, no differences drawn between them, were cut down, destroyed by strokes of the swift axes. Kurii take prisoners only when it pleases them.
The blood of Kurii, like that of men, is red, and of similar chemical composition. It is another similarity adduced by Priest-Kings when they wish to argue the equivalence of the warring species. The major difference between the blood content of the Kur and of men is that the plasma of the Kur contains a greater percentage of salt, this acting in water primarily as a protein solvent. The Kur can eat and digest quantities of meat which would kill a man.
He then brushed past the Kur. I felt its fur as I moved by it. It was smooth, not unpleasant to the touch, some two inches or so in depth. Its body, beneath the fur, was hot, large.
Kurii are excellent climbers, well fitted for this activity with their multiple jointed hands and feet, their long fingers, their suddenly extendable claws, but they followed us, nonetheless, with difficulty.
Below us, in the valley, we could see the coals of thousands of fires in the camp of the Kurii. They slept, curled, several in each shelter. The field shelters of the Kurii are made of skins and furs, arched over bent saplings. Each is little more than four or five feet high, with a comparable width, but is fifty or sixty feet in length, some being as long as a hundred feet in length. These shelters, too, are often curved and irregular in outline; sometimes they adjoin one another, with entrances giving mutual access. They resemble caves, sometimes networks of caves, constructed in the open. Kurii drop to all fours to enter and leave them. No Kur enjoys sleeping exposed. If in a field they will sometimes even burrow into the ground, almost like a sleen, and cover the opening with grass and sticks from the bottom. It always sleeps with its head toward the opening.
A typical Kurii foraging squad consists of six animals, called a "hand," with its "eye," or leader. Two such "hands" with their "eyes," constitutes a "Kur," or "Beast." The military Kur, in this sense a unit, is commanded by a "Blood" This seems peculiar perhaps but is explained by ancient Kurii belief, that thought is a function of the blood. One "thinks" thus with one's entire body, not just the brain. Contemporary Kurii understand, naturally, that cognitive processes brain-centered, or largely brain-centered, but the ancient terminology, in their songs, poetry, and even military lexicon, remains. Analogously, humans continue to speak of affairs of the heart, a man of good heart, that someone has a big heart, etc., which terminology perhaps lingers from the when the heart was regarded not as a chemo-mechanical pump but as the throne and home of the emotions. The commander of a military Kur, thus, might better be thought of as the "brain" or "mind," but continues, in their languages, to be spoken of as the "blood." A "blood" thus commands the two eyes and the two hands. Twelve "Kurs," the sense of military units, constitutes one "Band." This one hundred and eight animals, including subalterns leaders, and is itself commanded by a "Blood," whose rank is indicated by two rings on the left arm. Twelve of these Bands constitutes a March. A March thus consists of 2,160 animals, or, counting the commanders of each Band, 2,172 animals. A March is commanded by a Blood, whose rank is indicated by one ring on the left arm. The rings of rank are quite plain, being of some reddish alloy, and are distinguished from decorative rings, of which many Kurii are fond. Kurii, generally, like men, seem vain beasts, there appears to be an inverse correlation between height of rank and intricacy and variety of ornamentation. The higher the rank the simpler is likely to be the ornamentation. The commander, or Blood, of a March wears only a single, simple reddish ring. Whether or not this simplicity is honored off duty, so to speak, or in their privacy, I do not know. I further do not know the full significance of the rings. I do not understand how they are earned, or what is involved in moving from the "second ring" to the "first ring." I do know that rings are welded on the wrists of the beasts. The iron files of the Goreans, incidentally, will not cut the alloy. They may be obtained, of course, by the severing of the arm. Why the conjunction of bands is spoken of as a "March" is also unclear. This may refer to a military march, of course, but, I suspect, the term being apparently ancient, that it may also refer to migrations in the remote history of the Kurii, on their own world, putatively no longer existent or viable. There is some indirect evidence that this may be the case, because twelve "Marches" are referred to not as a Division or Army, or some such unit, but rather as a "People". A People would be commanded by a "Blood" of the People. Such a commander is said to stand "outside the rings." I do not fully understand the meaning of this expression. The Kurii, as I may have mentioned, consist of several "Peoples." Not all of these "Peoples" speak the same language, and, I gather, there are differences among, and within, each People. For example, differences in marking, in texture of fur, in temperament, in tooth arrangement, in ear shape, and so on. These differences, negligible from the point of view of humans, are apparently of considerable importance among the Kurii themselves. The human, pursued by such an animal, is not likely to be concerned about the width of its ears or the mottling of its fur. Kurii, in their past, at least, were apparently torn by internecine strife, disrupted by "racial" and "civil" wars among themselves. It is not impossible that the defertilization or destruction of their former home was a consequence of such altercations. No Kur, however, I am told, of whatever race or type, will eat the meat of another. This is interesting, considering the ferocity of their carnivorous dispositions. They hold the human, unfortunately, in no such regard. It will be noted that the military arrangements of the Kurii are based on the number twelve or divisors and multiples of twelve. Kurii use, I understand, a base-twelve mathematics. The prehensible, appendage of the normal Kur is six digited.
Sometimes the foraging squads of the Kurii had been accompanied by trained sleen, often four of them. Twice, in my reconnoitering, I had had to kill such beasts. The sleen have various uses; some are merely used as watch animals or guard animals; others are used as points in the advance of squads, some trained to attack putative enemies, others to return to the squad, thus alerting it to the presence of a possible enemy; others are even more highly trained, and are used to hunt humans; of the human-hunting sleen, some are trained merely to kill, and others to hurry the quarry to a Kurii holding area; one type of sleen is trained to destroy males and herd females, distinguishing between the sexes by scent. A sleen may bring a girl in, stumbling and weeping, from pasangs away, driving her, as Kurii take little notice, through their very camp, until she is entered into a herd. Four days ago I had seen a girl drive, in which several sleen, fanning out over a large area of te