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Robert Ervin Howard
Professional photograph of Robert E. Howard wearing a hat and suit.
Born January 22, 1906(1906-01-22)
Peaster, Texas, United States
Died June 11, 1936 (aged 30)
Cross Plains, Texas, United States
Pen name Patrick Mac Conaire, Steve Costigan, Patrick Ervin, Patrick Howard, Sam Walser[nb 1][1][2]
Occupation short story writer, poet, novelist, epistolean
Ethnicity Irish American
Genres Sword and sorcery, Westerns, Boxing stories, Historical, Horror
Literary movement Weird fiction, Sword and sorcery
Notable work(s) Conan the Cimmerian (series), The Hour of the Dragon, "Worms of the Earth", "Pigeons from Hell"
Signature Robert E. Howard's signature
Literature portal

Robert Ervin Howard (January 22, 1906 – June 11, 1936) was an American author who wrote pulp fiction in a diverse range of genres. He is regarded as the father of the Sword and Sorcery genre and he created, amongst other characters, Conan the Cimmerian.

Howard was born and raised in the state of Texas. He spent most of his life in the town of Cross Plains with some time spent in the nearby Brownwood. A bookish and intellectual child, he was also a fan of boxing and spent some time in his late teens bodybuilding, eventually taking up amateur boxing himself. From the age of nine he dreamed of becoming a writer of adventure fiction but did not have real success until he was twenty-three. He was published in a wide selection of magazines, journals and newspapers but his main outlet was the pulp magazine Weird Tales.

He was successful in several genres and was on the verge of publishing his first novel when he committed suicide at the age of thirty. His mother was terminally ill with tuberculosis before she had even met his father and so was slowly dying throughout Howard's entire life. When he learned that his mother had entered a coma from which she was not expected to wake he, for reasons that are not clear, walked out to his car and shot himself in the head. His suicide and the circumstances surrounding it have led to varied speculation about his mental health; from an Oedipus complex, to clinical depression, to no mental disorders of any kind.

Howard created Conan the Barbarian, in the pages of the Depression-era pulp magazine Weird Tales, a character whose pop-culture imprint has been compared to such icons as Tarzan, Count Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, and James Bond. With Conan and his other heroes, Howard created the genre now known as Sword and sorcery, spawning a wide swath of imitators and giving him an influence in the fantasy field rivaled only by J. R. R. Tolkien and Tolkien's similarly inspired creation of High Fantasy. Howard remains a highly read author, with his best work endlessly reprinted. He has been compared to other American masters of the weird, gloomy and spectral, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Jack London.




Early years

Robert E. Howard at five years old, dressed as a cowboy.
Robert E. Howard at about five years old (circa 1911).

Howard was born January 22, 1906 in Peaster, Texas, the only son of a traveling country physician, Dr. Isaac Mordecai Howard, and his terminally ill wife, Hester Jane Ervin Howard.[3][4][nb 2][nb 3][nb 4] Both sides of the family had roots throughout the American South, with various ancestors owning plantations and fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil War.[5]

The author's early life was spent wandering through a variety of Texas cowtowns and boomtowns: Dark Valley (1906), Seminole (1908), Bronte (1909), Poteet (1910), Oran (1912), Wichita Falls (1913), Bagwell (1913), Cross Cut (1915), and Burkett (1917).[6][7][8] Talking to aging Civil War veterans and Texas Rangers, listening to grisly ghost stories told by his grandmother and ex-slaves, and visiting old forts and historical sites all had a strong influence on his personality.[9][10] By the time he reached his teens, Howard had soaked in the dying of the Frontier, the bloody history and legends of the American Southwest, and the art of the tall tale.[11][12]

During Howard's youth his parents' relationship began to break down. The Howard family had problems with money which may have been exacerbated by Isaac Howard investing in get-rich-quick schemes. Hester Howard, meanwhile, came to believe that she had married below herself. Soon the pair were actively fighting. Hester did not want Isaac to have anything to do with their son.[13]

During Howard's youth his mother Hester had a particularly strong influence on his intellectual growth.[14][15] Known throughout her family as a kind and giving woman — she had selflessly spent her early years helping a variety of sick relatives, contracting tuberculosis in the process. It was she who instilled in her son a deep love of poetry and literature, recited verse daily and supported him unceasingly in his efforts to write.[16] Howard never forgot her many kindnesses both to himself and his extended family, and her growing sickness and invalidity did much to cement his view of existence as heartless, unfair, and ultimately futile.[citation needed]

Other themes began to appear at this time which would later seep into his prose. Although he loved reading and learning, he found school to be confining and began to hate having anyone in authority over him.[17][18] Experiences watching and confronting bullies revealed the omnipresence of evil and enemies in the world, and taught him the value of physical strength and violence.[19] Being the son of the local doctor gave Howard frequent exposure to the effects of injury and violence, due to accidents on farms and oil fields combined with the massive increase in crime that came with the oil boom.[20] Firsthand tales of gunfights, lynchings, feuds, and Indian raids developed his distinctly Texan, hardboiled outlook on the world.[21]

Sports, especially boxing, became a passionate preoccupation.[22] At the time, boxing was the most popular sport in the country, with a cultural influence far in excess of what it is today. James J. Jeffries, Jack Johnson, Bob Fitzsimmons, and later Jack Dempsey were the names that inspired during those years, and he grew up a lover of all contests of violent, masculine struggle. Specifically, he focused in on a type of boxer called Iron Men at the time,[citation needed] tough battlers who had little skill but made up for it in the sheer ability to take punishment that would kill a lesser man. Inspired by these heroes, Howard lifted weights, practiced boxing and wrestling with friends[citation needed], and read everything he could find on the subject — most notably in magazines such as The Ring and Police Gazette.

First writings

White painted house with garden
The Howard house in Cross Plains, Texas. Now the Robert E. Howard Museum.

Voracious reading, along with a natural talent for prose writing and the encouragement of teachers, created in Howard an interest in becoming a professional writer.[23][24] From the age of nine he began writing stories, mostly tales of historical fiction centering on Vikings, Arabs, battles, and bloodshed.[25][26] One by one he discovered the authors that would influence his later work: Jack London and his stories of reincarnation and past lives, most notably The Star Rover (1915); Rudyard Kipling's tales of subcontinent adventure and his chanting, shamanic verse; the classic mythological tales collected by Thomas Bulfinch. Howard was considered by friends to be eidetic, and astounded them with his ability to memorize lengthy reams of poetry with ease after one or two readings.[27][28] Howard's neighbor, and the postmistress of Burkett, Elsie Burns, recalled an encounter with Howard and his dog Patch in 1915. As she recalled the event, he told her, "I'm Robert Howard, I'm sorry if we frightened you. Patches and I are out for a morning stroll. We like to come here where there are big rocks and caves so we can play make-believe. Some day I am going to be an author and write stories about pirates and maybe cannibals. Would you like to read them?"[29][30]

In 1919, when Howard was thirteen, Dr. Howard moved his family to the Central Texas hamlet of Cross Plains, and there the family would stay for the rest of Howard's life.[31][32][33] Howard's father bought a house in the town with a cash down payment and made extensive renovations. He added modern conveniences such as indoor plumbing, electricity, and gas, as well as building extensions onto the house itself. This may have been intended as a gift to Howard's mother as the expensive work made it one of the better homes by local standards.[34] That same year, sitting in a library in New Orleans while his father took medical courses at a nearby college, Howard discovered a book concerned with the scant fact and abundant legends surrounding a group of barbaric tribesmen in ancient Scotland called the Picts.[35][36] Named for the tattoos they decorated themselves with and bitter enemies of encroaching Roman legions, the Picts fired Howard's imagination and crystallized in him a love for barbarians and outsiders from civilization who lived lives of great hardship and struggle but also great freedom and verve. From then on, the Picts became a muse of sorts, appearing in various guises throughout all the many genres Howard wrote in, and helping to thematically tie his work together.[37]

"I'll say one thing about a oil boom; it will teach a kid that Life's a pretty rotten thing as quick as anything I can think of."

— Robert E. Howard in a letter to Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright, Summer 1931.[38]

In 1920, on February 17, the Vestal Well within the limits of Cross Plains came in a gusher and Cross Plains became a oil boomtown. Thousands of people arrived in the town looking for oil wealth. New businesses sprang up from scratch and the crime rate increased to match. Howard hated the boom and despised the people who came with it.[39] He was already poorly disposed towards oil booms as they were the cause of the constant traveling in his early years but this was aggravated by what he perceived to be the effect oil booms had on towns. In a letter to H. P. Lovecraft in October 1930, Howard wrote, "I've seen whole towns debauched by an oil boom and boys and girls go to the devil whole-sale. I've seen promising youths turn from respectable citizens to dope-fiends, drunkards, gamblers and gangsters in a matter of months."[40] Cross Plains' population quickly grew from 1,500 to 10,000, it suffered overcrowding and the amount of traffic ruined its unpaved roads. Crime increased with regular fights breaking out, theft, gambling and even highwaymen. The added wealth meant an increased disposable income and an increase in vice crime. However, the town also used its new wealth on civic improvements, which included a new school, an ice manufacturing plant, and new hotels.[41]

At fifteen Howard first sampled pulp magazines, especially Adventure and its star authors Talbot Mundy and Harold Lamb.[42][43] The next few years saw him creating a variety of series characters: El Borak (a Texan cross between John Rambo and T. E. Lawrence), a cowboy hero named The Sonora Kid, the puritan avenger Solomon Kane, and the last king of the Picts, Bran Mak Morn.[44][45] Soon the fifteen-year-old was submitting stories to pulps such as Adventure and Argosy.[46][47] Rejections piled up, and with no mentors or instructions of any kind to aid him, Howard became a writing autodidact, methodically studying the markets and tailoring his stories and style to each.[citation needed]

In the fall of 1922, when Howard was sixteen, he temporarily moved to a boarding house in the nearby city of Brownwood to complete his senior year of high school, accompanied by his mother (with his father visiting at weekends).[48][49][50] It was in Brownwood that he first met friends his own age who shared his interest not only for sports and history but also writing and poetry. The two most important of these, Tevis Clyde Smith and Truett Vinson, shared his Bohemian and literary outlook on life, and together they wrote amateur papers and magazines, exchanged long letters filled with poetry and existential thoughts on Life and Philosophy, and encouraged each other's writing endeavors. Through Vinson, Howard was introduced to The Tattler, the newspaper of the Brownwood High School. It was in this publication that Howard's stories were first printed. The December 1922 issue featured two stories, "'Golden Hope' Christmas" and "West is West," which won gold and silver prizes respectively.[51][52][53]

Howard graduated from high school in May 1923 and moved back to Cross Plains. He maintained contact with his friends by mail.[54] On his return to his home town, he engaged in a self-created regimen of exercise, including cutting down oak trees and chopping them into firewood every day, lifting weights, punching a bag and springing exercises; eventually building himself from a skinny teenager into a muscled, burly specimen.[55]

Professional writer

Professional portrait photograph of Robert E. Howard as a tenenager.
Robert E. Howard in his Senior Year at Brownwood High School, 1923.

Howard spent his late teens working hated odd jobs around Cross Plains: picking cotton, branding yearlings, hauling garbage, working in grocery stores, office work, serving at a soda counter, public stenography, packing rods for a surveyor, and writing oil-field news. In 1924, Howard returned to Brownwood to take a stenography course at Howard Payne College, this time boarding with his friend Lindsey Tyson instead of his mother. Howard would have preferred a literary course but was not allowed to take one for some reason. Biographer Mark Finn suggests that his father refused to pay for such a non-vocational education.[56][57] In the week of Thanksgiving that year, and after years of rejection slips and near acceptances, he finally sold a short caveman tale titled "Spear and Fang", which netted him the sum of $16 and introduced him to the readers of a struggling pulp called Weird Tales.[58][59][60] Nicknamed "The Unique Magazine" due to its strange and macabre content, it was destined to become one of the classic, best-remembered pulps, largely due to the influence of Howard and his two contemporaries, H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith.[citation needed]

Now that his career in fiction had begun, Howard dropped out of Howard Payne College at the end of semester and returned to Cross Plains. Shortly afterwards, he received notice that another story, "The Hyena," had been accepted by Weird Tales.[61] During the same period, Howard made his first attempt to write a novel, a loosely autobiographical book modeled on Jack London's Martin Eden and titled Post Oaks & Sand Roughs. The book was otherwise of middling quality and was never published in the author's lifetime but it is of interest to Howard scholars for the personal information it contains. Howard's alter ego in this novel is Steve Costigan, a name he would use more than once in the future. The novel was finished in 1928 but not published until long after his death.[62]

Howard briefly attempted to start a musical career at this time but faced a succession of unreliable tutors before giving up. His first tutor was a wandering fiddler who taught the violin before skipping the county. He continued his lessons with a Scottish tutor, who died suddenly. His final violin tutor was a German swindler who was forced to leave town quickly while wanted by the police.[63]

Weird Tales paid on publication, meaning that Howard had no money of his own at this time. To remedy this, he took a job writing oil news for the local newspaper Cross Plains Review at $5 per column. It was not until July 1925 that Howard received payment for his first printed story.[64][65] Howard lost his job at the newspaper in the same year and spent one month working in a post office before quitting over the low wages. His next job, at the Cross Plains Natural Gas Company, did not last long due to his refusal to being subservient to his boss. He did manual labor for a surveyor for a time before beginning a job as a stenographer for an oil company.[66][67]

In conjunction with his friend Tevis Clyde Smith he dabbled heavily in verse, writing hundreds of poems and getting dozens published in Weird Tales and assorted poetry journals (including the Daniel Baker Collegian, of which Smith was the editor). The best of these efforts remain classics, conjuring up the same blood-splattered, dark, mythic visions of war and rapine that his best stories do. Efforts to get a book of poems accepted by a mainstream publisher failed, however, with several editors recoiling at the brutal imagery and macabre subject matter.[68] Ultimately Howard judged poetry writing a luxury he could not afford, and after 1930 he wrote little verse, instead dedicating his time to short stories and higher-paying markets.[69] Nevertheless, as a result of this apprenticeship, his stories increasingly took on the aura of "prose-poems" filled with hypnotic, dreamy imagery and a power lacking in most other pulp efforts of the time.[70]

Further story sales to Weird Tales were sporadic but encouraging, and soon Howard was a regular in the magazine. His first cover story was for "Wolfshead," a werewolf yarn published when he was only twenty. This story almost did not see print when the magazine appeared to lose the only copy. Without a duplicate, Howard worked through the night re-typing the story from memory. Almost the entire original was found, however, although the second version was used for the first page and Howard earned an extra $10 for his effort.[71][72][73]

On reading "Wolfshead" in Weird Tales Howard became dismayed with his writing. He quit his stenographer's job to work at Robertson's Drug Store, where he rose to become Head Soda Jerk on $80 per week. However, he resented job itself and worked such long hours every day of the week that he became ill. He relaxed by visiting the Neeb Ice House, to which he was introduced by an oil-field worker befriended at the drug store, to drink and began to take part in boxing matches. These matches became an important part of his life; the combination of boxing and writing provided an outlet for his frustrations and anger.[74][75][76][77]

The birth of Sword and Sorcery

Red bordered magazie cover; the central illustration shows a man holding a supine woman
Weird Tales (August 1928) featuring "Red Shadows," the first Solomon Kane story

In August 1926, Howard quit his exhausting job at the drug store and, in September, returned to Brownwood to complete his bookkeeping course.[78] It was during this August that he began working on the story that would become "The Shadow Kingdom" which is one of the most important works of his career. While at college, Howard wrote for their newspaper, The Yellow Jacket. One of the short stories printed in this newspaper was a comedy called "Cupid vs. Pollux." This story is Howard's earliest surviving boxing story known to exist; it is told in the first person, uses elements of a traditional tall-tale and is a fictionalized account of Howard (as "Steve") and his friend Lindsey Tyson (as "Spike") training for a fight. This story and the elements it uses would also be important in Howard's literary future.[79]

In May 1927, after having to return home due to contracting measles and then being forced to retake the course, Howard passed his exams. While waiting for the official graduation in August, he returned to writing, including a re-write of "The Shadow Kingdom." He rewrote it again in August and submitted it to Weird Tales in September.[80] This story was an experiment with the entire concept of the "weird tale" horror fiction as defined by practitioners such as Edgar Allan Poe, A. Merritt, and H. P. Lovecraft; mixing elements of fantasy, horror and mythology with historical romance, action and swordplay into thematic vehicles never before seen, a new style of tale which ultimately became known as "sword and sorcery."[nb 5][nb 6][81][82] Featuring Kull, a barbarian precursor to later Howard heroes such as Conan, the tale hit Weird Tales in August 1929 and received fanfare from readers. Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright bought the story for $100, the most Howard had earned for a story at this time, and several more Kull stories followed. However, all but two were rejected, convincing Howard not to continue the series.[83][84]

In March 1928, Howard salvaged and re-submitted to Weird Tales a gloomy, action-packed story rejected by the more popular pulp Argosy, and the result was "Red Shadows," the first of many stories featuring the vengeful Puritan swashbuckler Solomon Kane.[85][86] Appearing in the August 1928 issue of Weird Tales, the character was a big hit with readers and this was the first of Howard's characters to sustain a series in print beyond just two stories (seven Kane stories were printed in the 1928-32 period).[87] As the magazine published the Solomon Kane tale before Kull, this can be considered the first published example of Sword and Sorcery.[88]

1929 was the year Howard broke out into other pulp markets, rather than just Weird Tales. The first story he sold to another magazine was "The Apparition in the Prize Ring," a boxing-related ghost story published in the magazine Ghost Stories.[89] In July of the same year, Argosy finally published one of Howard's stories, "Crowd-Horror", which was also a boxing story.[90] Neither developed into ongoing series, however.

After several minor successes and false starts, he struck gold again with a new series based on one of his favorite passions: boxing. July 1929 saw the debut of Sailor Steve Costigan in the pages of Fight Stories.[91][92] A tough-as-nails, two-fisted mariner with a head of rocks and occasionally a heart of gold, Costigan began boxing his way through a variety of exotic seaports and adventure locales, becoming so popular in Fight Stories that the same editors began using additional Costigan episodes in their sister magazine Action Stories.[93] The series saw a return to Howard's use of humor and (unreliable) first-person narration, with the combination of a traditional tall tale and slapstick comedy.[94] Stories sold to Fight Stories provided Howard with a market just as stable as Weird Tales.[95]

Due to his success in Fight Stories, Howard was contacted by the publisher Street & Smith in February 1931 with a request to move the Steve Costigan stories to their own pulp Sport Story Magazine. Howard refused but created a new, similar series just for them based on a boxer called Kid Allison. Howard wrote ten stories for this series but Sport Story only published three of them.[96][97]

With solid markets now all buying up his stories regularly, Howard quit taking college classes, and indeed would never again work a regular job. At twenty-three years of age, from the middle of nowhere in Texas, he had become a full-time writer; he was making good money and his father began bragging about his success, not to mention buying multiple copies of his work in the pulps.[98][99]

Magazine cover showing a stylized Bronze Age soldier
Oriental Stories (Feb-Mar 1931) featuring "Red Blade of Black Cathay" by Howard and his best friend Tevis Clyde Smith.

Howard's "Celtic phase" began in 1930, during which he became fascinated by Celtic themes and his own Irish ancestry. He shared this enthusiasm with Harold Preece, a friend made in the Austin in the summer of 1927; Howard's letters to both Preece and Clyde Smith contain much Irish-related material and discussion. Howard taught himself a little Gaelic, examined the Irish parts of his family history and began writing about Irish characters. Turlogh Dubh O'Brien and Cormac Mac Art were created at this time, although he was not able to sell the latter's stories.[100]

When Farnsworth Wright started a new pulp in 1930 called Oriental Stories, Howard was overjoyed — here was a venue where he could run riot through favorite themes of history and battle and exotic mysticism. During the four years of the magazine's existence, he crafted some of his very best tales, gloomy vignettes of war and rapine in the Middle and Far East during the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance, tales that rival even his best Conan stories for their historical sweep and splendor. In addition to series characters such as Turlogh Dubh O'Brien and Cormac Fitzgeoffrey, Howard sold a variety of tales depicting various times and periods from the fall of Rome to the fifteenth century. The magazine eventually ceased publication in 1934 due to the Depression, leaving several of Howard's stories aimed at this market unsold.[101][102][103]

The Lovecraft Circle

In August 1930 Howard wrote a letter to Weird Tales praising a recent reprint of H. P. Lovecraft's "The Rats in the Walls" and discussing some of the obscure Gaelic references used within. Editor Farnsworth Wright forwarded the letter to Lovecraft, who responded warmly to Howard, and soon the two Weird Tales veterans were engaged in a vigorous correspondence that would last for the rest of Howard's life.[104][105] By virtue of this, Howard quickly became a member of "The Lovecraft Circle," a group of writers and friends all linked via the immense correspondence of H.P. Lovecraft, who made it a point to introduce his many like-minded friends to each other and encourage them to share stories, utilize each other's invented fictional trappings, and help each other succeed in the pulp field.[106] In time this circle of correspondents has developed a legendary patina about it rivaling similar literary conclaves such as The Inklings, the Bloomsbury Group, and the Beats.[nb 7]

Howard was given the affectionate nickname "Two-Gun Bob" by virtue of his long explications to Lovecraft about the history of his beloved Southwest, and during the ensuing years he contributed several notable elements to Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos of horror stories (beginning with "The Black Stone," his Mythos stories also included "The Cairn on the Headland", "The Black Stone," "The Children of the Night" and "The Fire of Asshurbanipal"). He also corresponded with other "Weird Tale" writers such as Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, and E. Hoffmann Price.[107][108]

The correspondence between the Howard and Lovecraft contained a lengthy discussion on a frequent element in Howard's fiction, barbarism vs. civilization. Howard, probably based on his experience of the oil boom in Texas, held that civilization was inherently corrupt and fragile. This attitude is summed up in his famous line from "Beyond the Black River": "Barbarism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph." Lovecraft held the opposite viewpoint, that civilization as the peak of human achievement and the only way forward.[109] Howard initially deferred to Lovecraft but gradually asserted his own views, even coming to deride Lovecraft's opinions (such as his support for fascism).[110]

In 1930, with his interest in Solomon Kane dwindling and his Kull stories not catching on, Howard applied his new Sword-and-Sorcery and Horror experience to one of his first loves: the Picts. His story "Kings of the Night" depicted King Kull conjured into pre-Christian Britain to aid the Picts in their struggle against the invading Romans, and introduced readers to Howard's king of the Picts, Bran Mak Morn. Howard followed up this tale with the now-classic revenge nightmare "Worms of the Earth" and several other tales, creating horrific adventures tinged with a Cthulhu-esque gloss and notable for their memorable use of metaphor and symbolism.[111][112][113]

With the onset of the Great Depression, many pulp markets reduced their schedules or went out of business entirely. Howard saw market after market falter and vanish. Weird Tales became a bimonthly publication and pulps such as Fight Stories, Action Stories and Strange Tales all folded.[114][115][116] Howard was further hit when his savings were wiped out in 1931 when the Farmer's National Bank failed and, after transferring to another, the second bank failed as well.[117]


Magazine cover showing a man and a woman under attack from a winged man
Weird Tales (May 1934) featuring "Queen of the Black Coast." This was the first of only three covers featuring Conan, although nine Conan stories featured on the cover in total.[118]

Early 1932 saw Howard taking one of his frequent trips around Texas. He traveled through the southern part of the state with his main occupation being, in his own words, "the wholesale consumption of tortillas, enchiladas and cheap Spanish wine." In Fredericksburg, while overlooking sullen hills through a misty rain, he conceived of the fantasy land of Cimmeria, a bitter hard northern region home to fearsome barbarians. In February, while in Mission, he wrote the poem Poem.[119][120]

It was also during this trip that Howard first conceived of the character of Conan. Later, in 1935, Howard claimed in a letter to Clark Ashton Smith that Conan "simply grew up in my mind a few years ago when I was stopping in a little border town on the lower Rio Grande." However, the character actually took nine months to develop.[121][122][123]

Howard had originally used the name "Conan" for a Gael reaver in a past life story themed he completed in October 1931, which was published in the magazine Strange Tales in June 1932. Although the character swears by the god "Crom" that is his only link to the more famous successor character.[124]

Going back home he developed the idea, fleshing out a new invented world — his Hyborian Age — and populating it with all manner of countries, peoples, monsters, and magic. Howard loved history and enjoyed writing historical stories. However, the research necessary for a purely historical setting was too time consuming for his to engage in on a regular basis and still earn a living. The Hyborian Age, with its varied settings similar to real places and eras of history, allowed him to write pseudo-historical fiction without such problems. He may have been inspired in the creation of his setting by Thomas Bulfinch's 1913 work The Outline of Mythology, which contained stories from history and legend, including many which were direct influences on Howard's work.[125] Another potential inspiration is G. K. Chesterton's The Ballad of the White Horse and Chesterton's concept that "it is the chief value of legend to mix up the centuries while preserving the sentiment."[126]

By March, Howard had recycled an unpublished Kull story called "By This Axe I Rule!" into his first Conan story. The central plot remains that of a barbarian having become king of a civilized country and a conspiracy to assassinate him. However, he removed an entire subplot concerning a couple's romance and created a new one with a supernatural element; the story was re-titled "The Phoenix on the Sword," an element from this new subplot. Howard immediately went on to write two more Conan stories. The first of these was "The Frost-Giant's Daughter," an inversion of the Greek myth surrounding Apollo and Daphne, set much earlier in Conan's life. The last of the initial trio was "The God in the Bowl," which went through three drafts and has a slower pace than most Conan stories. This one is a murder mystery filled with corrupt officials and serves as Conan's introduction into civilization, while showing that he is a more decent person than the civilized characters. Before the end of the month, he sent the first two stories to Weird Tales in the same package with the third following a few days later.[127][128][129]

With these three completed he created an essay called "The Hyborian Age" in order to set out his setting in more detail. There were four drafts of this essay, starting with a two page outline and finishing as an 8,000-word essay. Howard supplemented this with two sketched maps and an additional short piece entitled "Notes on Various Peoples of the Hyborian Age."[130][131]

Magazine cover showing a hooded man menacing a terrified woman
Weird Tales (September 1934) featuring "The People of the Black Circle," the first of the late period Conan stories.[132]

In a letter dated March 10, 1932, Farnsworth Wright rejected "The Frost-Giant's Daughter" but noted that "The Phoenix on the Sword" had "points of real excellence" and suggested changes. "The God in the Bowl" would also be rejected and so a potential fourth Conan story concerning Conan as a thief was abandoned at the synopsis stage.[133] Instead of abandoning the entire Conan concept, as had happened with previous failed characters, Howard rewrote "The Phoenix on the Sword" based on Wright's feedback and including material from his essay. Both this revision and the next Conan story, "The Tower of the Elephant," sold with no problems. Howard had written nine Conan stories before the first saw print.[134]

Conan first appeared to the public in Weird Tales in December 1932 and was such a hit that Howard was eventually able to place seventeen Conan stories in the magazine between 1933 and 1936. Howard then took a short break from Conan after his initial burst of stories, returning to the character in mid-1933. These stories, his "middle period," are routine and considered the weakest of the series.[135][136][137] These stories, such as "Iron Shadows in the Moon," were often simply Conan rescuing a damsel in distress from a monster in some ruins. While earlier Conan stories had three or four drafts, some in this period had only two including the final version. "Rogues in the House" is the only Conan story to be completed in a single draft. These stories sold easily and they include the first and second Conan stories to feature on the cover of Weird Tales, "Black Colossus" and "Xuthal of the Dusk."[138][139] Howard's motivation for quick and easy sales at this time was partly motivated by the collapse of some other markets, such as Fight Stories, in the Depression.[140]

Also in this period, Howard wrote the first of the James Allison stories, "Marchers of Valhalla." Allison is a disabled Texan who begins to recall his past lives, the first of which is in the later part of Howard's new Hyborian age. In a letter to Clark Ashton Smith in October 1933, he wrote that it's sequel "The Garden of Fear" was "dealing with one of my various conceptions of the Hyborian and post-Hyborian world."[141]

In May 1933, a British publisher, Denis Archer, contacted Howard about publishing a potential book in the United Kingdom. Howard submitted a batch of his best available stories, including "The Tower of the Elephant" and "The Scarlet Citadel," on June 15. In January 1934 the publisher rejected the collection but suggested a novel instead.[142][143] Though the publisher was "exceedingly interested" in the stories, the rejection letter explained that there was a "prejudice that is very strong over here just now against collections of short stories." The suggested novel, however, could be published by Pawling and Ness Ltd in a first edition of 5,000 copies for lending libraries.[144]

In late 1933 Howard returned to Conan, starting again slightly awkwardly with "The Devil in Iron."[145] However, this was followed with the beginning of the latter group of Conan stories which "carry the most intellectual punch," starting with "The People of the Black Circle."[146]

Magazine cover showing a woman approaching a man in a cell
Weird Tales (December 1935) featuring the first installment of the novel The Hour of the Dragon.

Howard probably began to work on the novel in February 1934, starting to write Almuric (a non-Conan, sword and planet science fiction novel) but abandoned it half way.[147] This was followed by another abortive attempt at a novel, this time a Conan novel which later became Drums of Tombulku.[148] The third attempt at writing the novel was more successful, resulting in Howard's only Conan novel The Hour of the Dragon, which was probably started on or around March 17, 1934.[149] This novel combines elements of two previous Conan stories, "Black Colossus" and "The Scarlet Citadel," with Arthurian myth and provides an overview of Conan and the Hyborian age for the new British audience.[150] Howard sent his final draft to Denis Archer on May 20, 1934. He had worked exclusively of the novel for two months, writing approximately 5,000 words per day, seven days a week. Although he told acquaintances that he had little hope for this novel, he had put a lot of effort into it.[151] However, the publisher went into receivership in late 1934, before it could print the novel. The story was briefly held as part of the company's assets before being returned to Howard. It was later printed in Weird Tales as a serial over five months, beginning with the December 1935 issue.[152]

Howard may have begun losing interest in Conan in late 1934, with a growing desire to write westerns.[153] He began to write, although never finished, a Conan story called "Wolves Beyond the Border." This was the first Conan tale to have an explicit (Robert W. Chambers-influenced) American setting, although American themes had appeared earlier, and the only one in which Conan himself does not appear.[154] His next story was based on his unfinished material and became "Beyond the Black River" which not only used the different American-frontier setting but was also, in Howard's own words, a "Conan yarn without sex interest." In another novel twist, Conan and the other protagonists have, at best, a pyrrhic victory; this was rare for pulp magazines.[155] This was followed by another experimental Conan story, "The Black Stranger," with a similar setting. The story was, however, rejected by Weird Tales, which was rare for later Conan stories. Howard's next piece, "The Man-Eaters of Zamboula," was more formulaic and was accepted by the magazine with no problems.[156] Howard only wrote one more Conan story, "Red Nails," which was influenced both by his personal experiences at the time and an extrapolation of his views on civilization.[157]

The character of Conan had a wide and enduring influence among other Weird Tales writers, including C. L. Moore and Fritz Leiber, and over the ensuing decades the genre of Sword and Sorcery grew up around Howard's masterwork, with dozens of practitioners evoking Howard's creation to one degree or another.[citation needed]

New markets

In spring 1933, Howard started to place work with Otis Albert Kline, a former pulp writer, as his agent. Kline encouraged him to try writing in other genres in order to expand into different markets. Kline's agency was successful in finding outlets for more of Howard's stories and even placed works that had been rejected when Howard was marketing himself alone. Howard continued to sell directly to Weird Tales, however.[158][159][160][161]

Howard wrote one of the first "Weird Western" stories ever created, "The Horror from the Mound," which was published in the May 1932 issue of Weird Tales. This genre acted as a bridge between his early "weird" stories (a contemporary term for horror and fantasy) and his later straight western tales.[162][163]

He tried writing detective fiction but hated reading mystery stories and disliked writing them; he was not successful in this genre.[164][165] More successfully, in late 1933 Howard took a character conceived in his youth, El Borak, and began using him in mature, professional tales of WWI-era Middle Eastern adventure that landed in Top Notch, Complete Stories, and Thrilling Adventures. The 1920s version was a treasure-hunting adventurer but the 1930s version, first seen in "The Daughter of Erlik Khan" in December 1934 issue of Top-Notch, was a grim gun-fighter keeping the peace after having gone native in Afghanistan. The stories have a lot in common with those of Talbot Mundy, Harry Lamb and T. E. Lawrence, with Western themes and Howard's hardboiled style of writing. As with his other series, he created another character in the same vein, Kirby O'Donnell, but this character lacked the grim, western elements and was not as successful.[166][167]

In the years since Conan had been created, Howard found himself increasingly fascinated with the history and lore of Texas and the American Southwest. Many of his letters to H. P. Lovecraft ran for a dozen pages or more, filled with stories he had picked up from elderly Civil War veterans, Texas Rangers, and pioneers. His Conan stories began featuring western elements, most notably in "Beyond the Black River," "The Black Stranger," and the unfinished "Wolves Beyond the Border." By 1934 some of the markets killed off by the Depression had come back, and Weird Tales was over $1500 behind on payments to Howard. The author therefore stopped writing weird fiction and turned his attentions to this steadily growing passion.[168]

The first of Howard's most commercially successful series (within his own lifetime) was started in July 1933. "Mountain Man" was the first of the Breckenridge Elkins stories, humorous westerns in a similar style to his earlier Sailor Steve Costigan stories and again featuring an exaggerated, cartoonish version of Howard himself as the main character. Written as tall tales in the vein of Texas "Tall Lying" stories, the story first appeared in the March-April 1934 issue of Action Stories and was so successful that other magazines asked Howard for similar characters. Howard created Pike Bearfield for Argosy and Buckner J. Grimes for Cowboy Stories. Action Stories published a new Elkins story every month without fail until well after Howard's death. At Kline's suggestion, he also created A Gent from Bear Creek, a Breckenridge Elkins novel comprised from existing short stories and new material.[169][170][171]

Conan remained the only character that Howard ever spoke of with his friends in Texas and the only one in whom they seemed interested. It is possible that Breckenridge Elkins and the other characters in his stories were too close to home for Howard to be entirely comfortable discussing them.[172]

In the spring of 1936, Howard sold a series of "spicy" stories to Spicy-Adventure Stories. The "spicy" series of pulp magazines dealt in stories that were considered borderline softcore pornography at the time but are now similar to romance novels. These stories, which Howard referred to as "bubby-twisters", featured the character Wild Bill Clanton and were published under the pseudonym Sam Walser.[173][174]

Novalyne Price

Weird Tales (July 1936) featuring "Red Nails" inspired by a trip to New Mexico with Truett Vinson.[175]

Howard had only one known girlfriend in his life, Novalyne Price. Novalyne was an ex-girlfriend of Tevis Clyde Smith, one of Howard's best friends, whom she had known since high school and they had remained friends after their relationship ended. She first met Howard in spring 1933 when Howard was visiting Smith after driving his mother to a Brownwood clinic. Howard and Smith drove to the Price farm and Smith introduced his friends to each other. Novalyne was an aspiring writer, had heard of Howard from Smith in the past and was enthusiastic to meet him in person. However, he was not what she expected. She wrote in her diary about this first meeting: "This man was a writer! Him? It was unbelievable. He was not dressed as I thought a writer should dress." They parted after a drive and would not see each other again for over a year.[176][177]

In late 1934 Novalyne got a job as a schoolteacher Cross Plains High School through her cousin, the Head of the English department. When Howard came up in conversation with her new colleagues she defended him from accusations of being a "freak" and "crazy," then phoned his house and left a message. This call was not returned so she tried a few more times. Novalyne visited the Howard house in person after having her telephone calls blocked by a passive aggressive Hester Howard. After drive through town they arranged their first date.[178][179]

Through much of the next two years they dated on and off, spending much time discussing writing, philosophy, history, religion, reincarnation and much else. Both considered marriage but never at the same time.[180][181] Novalyne became ill from overwork in mid-1935. Her doctor, a friend of Howard's father, advised her to end the relationship and get a job in a different state. Despite agreeing to this, she met with Howard soon after being discharged. Howard, however, was too preoccupied with the state of his mother's health to give her the attention she wanted. Their relationship did not last much longer.[182]

Not considering herself to be in an exclusive relationship, Novalyne began dating one of Howard's best friends, Truett Vinson. Ironically, Howard also began to pay more attention to her at this time. Howard discovered his friends' relationship while he and Truett were on a week's trip together to New Mexico (the same trip which inspired a lot of the final Conan story "Red Nails").[183][184] The relationship between the couple was irrevocably scarred, but they continued visiting with each other as friends until May 1936, when Novalyne left Cross Plains for Louisiana State University to get a graduate degree. The two never spoke or wrote to each other again.[185]

In an effort to improve her memory and writing, Novalyne began recording all her daily conversations into a journal, in the process preserving an intimate record of her time with Howard. This was useful years later she wrote of their relationship in a book called "One Who Walked Alone", which was the basis for the 1996 film The Whole Wide World starring Vincent D'Onofrio as Howard.[186]


"All fled, all done, so lift me on the pyre;
The feast is over and the lamps expire."

— Howard's suicide note, found in his wallet after the event. The lines were taken from the poem "The House Of Cæsar" by Viola Garvin.[187][188]

By 1936 almost all of his fiction writing was being devoted to westerns, the novel A Gent from Bear Creek was due to be published by Herbert Jenkins in England, and by all accounts it looked as if Howard was finally breaking out of the pulps and into the more prestigious book market. However, life was becoming especially difficult for Howard. All of his close friends had married and were immersed in their careers, Novalyne Price had left Cross Plains for graduate school, and his most reliable market, Weird Tales, had grown far behind on payments. Most importantly, his home life was falling apart — after decades of struggle, his mother was finally nearing death, and the constant interruptions of care workers at home combined with frequent trips to various sanatoriums for her care made it nearly impossible to write.[189][190][191][192]

In hindsight there were hints about Howard's plans. Several times in 1935–36, whenever his mother's health precipitously threatened to give out, he made veiled allusions to his father about planning suicide, which his father did not understand at the time.[citation needed] He had made references when speaking to Novalyne Price to being in his "sear and yellow leaf." The words sounded familiar to her but it was only in early June 1936 that she found the source in Macbeth:[193]

I have liv'd long enough: my way of life
Is fall'n into the sear, the yellow leaf;
And that which should accompany old age,
As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,
I must not look to have; but, in their stead,
Curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honour, breath,
Which the poor heart would fain deny, and dare not.
Macbeth, Act V, Scene III
Howard family gravestone with the names of Robert E. (Author and Poet; 1906-1936), Hester Ervin (Wife and Mother; 1870-1936) and Isaac M. (Physician; 1871-1944)
Howard family gravestone in Brownwood, Texas.

In the weeks before his suicide, Howard wrote to Kline giving his agent instructions of what to do in case of his death; he wrote his last will and testament; and he borrowed a .380 Colt Automatic from his friend Lindsey Tyson. On June 10, he drove to Brownwood and bought a burial plot for the whole family.[194] On the night before his suicide, when his father confirmed that his mother was finally dying, he asked where his father would go afterwards. Isaac Howard replied that he would go wherever his son went, thinking he meant to travel away from Cross Plains. It is possible that Howard thought his father would join him in ending their lives together as a family.[195][196]

In June 1936, as Hester Howard slipped into her final coma, her son maintained a death vigil with his father and friends of the family, getting little sleep, drinking huge amounts of coffee, and growing more despondent. On the morning of June 11, 1936, told by a nurse that his mother would never again regain consciousness, he walked out to his car in the driveway, took the automatic from the glove box, and shot himself in the head.[197][198][199] His father and another doctor rushed out, but the wound was too grievous for anything to be done. Howard lived for another eight hours, dying at 4pm; his mother died the following day. The story occupied the entire of that week's edition of the Cross Plains Review along with publication Howard's "A Man-Eating Jeopard." On June 14, 1936 in a double funeral, the sermon was held at Cross Plains First Baptist Church and they were both buried in Greenleaf Cemetery in Brownwood, Texas.[200][201][202]


Physically, Howard had a weak heart, which was treated by taking digitalis.[203] Diagnosis stated that his heart had a mild tendency to race under stress and a heavy blow to his chest could be fatal.[204][205] This almost happened in a traffic accident on December 29, 1933. However he escaped with just bruised ribs.[206][207]

In the years since his suicide, there has been a lot of speculation about Howard's mental health. Even during his life, others in Cross Plains thought of him as crazy. Some have suggested that he had an Oedipus complex, others have found evidence for clinical depression, and others still have diagnosed him as completely normal. His act of suicide is often the basis of these opinions.[208] Almost all speculation is in the form of amateur-psychoanalysis from people with no qualifications in the field.[209]

L. Sprague de Camp wrote in The Science Fiction Handbook (1953) that "the neurotic Howard suffered from an Oedipean devotion to his mother and... from delusions of persecution." Faced with refutations from Glenn Lord, de Camp eventually stopped making claims about an Oedipus Complex but maintained that Howard was insane, especially due to Howard's suicide.[210]

Biographer Mark Finn suggests that Howard picked up on his mother's depression. She was dying of tuberculosis and may have suffered a miscarriage in October 1907.[211] Finn writes that "Robert was clinically depressed by any definition applicable, and had been for many years. Whether the cause of the depression was a chemical imbalance, an untenable situation at home, or a combination of the two is not important."[212] His suicide, once his duty to his mother was done, may have been an act of finally asserting control over his own life.[213]

Dr. Charles Gramlich, a professor of psychology and fantasy author, finds that Howard had no mental disorders and that amateur psychoanalysis has only come to such a conclusion through cherry-picking of evidence from Howard's life.[214] Regarding Howard's suicide, Gramlich believes it was nothing to do with any long-term mental abnormality; it was a common reaction to the strain he was under at the time. While Howard did talk of suicide during his life, statistics show that one out of three teenagers contemplate suicide and the details of Howard's are normal (white, single, from the south of the United States, with a gun).[215] At the moment of Howard's death, he was mentally and physically exhausted with little available support: he was caring for his dying mother as her condition got worse; he was not being paid the money owed to him by Weird Tales, at time when he needed it for his mother's healthcare bills; he was working increasingly harder to make the money through other markets; his relationship with Novalyne Price had recently broken down; Tevis Clyde Smith had recently married and moved away; he did not have a strong relationship with his father.[216] Gramlich ends by saying "He wasn't crazy; he was just a very good writer."[217][218]

David Hayles wrote in the Times: "Maybe, at the end of it all, Howard felt that he had done what he needed to do. The prolific writer, whose 160-plus published stories were full of men facing death on their own terms, wanted to do the same. In a letter to the fantasy writer August Derleth he stated: 'I don’t want to live to be old. I want to die when my time comes, quickly and suddenly, in the full tide of my strength and health.' Youthful bravado perhaps, but he was true to his word. He wrote about men who didn’t age — his heroes were immortal. In bowing out in his prime, so was Robert E. Howard."[219]

Character sketch

Physically, Howard was tall and heavily built. He had a gentle, round face with a soft, deep voice.[220] E. Hoffmann Price wrote that when he first met Howard in 1934 he "was busy trying to combine two images, that of the actual man, and that of the man who loomed up in those stirring yarns. The synthesis was never effected. He was packed with the whimsy and poetry which rang out in his letters, and blazed up in much of his published fiction, but, as is usually the case with writers, his appearance belied him. His face was boyish, not yet having squared off into angles; his blue eyes slightly prominent, had a wide-openness which did not suggest anything of the man's keen wit and agile fancy. That first picture persists—a powerful, solid, round-faced fellow, kindly and somewhat stolid seeming."[221]

Howard could be very emotionally sensitive. A commonly repeated story about Howard is one told to E. Hoffman Price by Howard's father after his death: In 1928, his dog Patch was dying. When he realized Patch was about to die, he packed a bag, told his mother "Mama, I am going" and left for Brownwood. Each morning he phoned to ask about Patch until the dog died a few days later. Patch was buried in the back garden and any trace of the grave was destroyed to prevent upsetting Howard any further. He never mentioned the death again except to once briefly enquire about the grave. The death of Patch hit Howard very hard. He became bitter and angry towards his friends; boxing became an outlet for these feelings.[222]

As a child, Howard was often seen as "'bookish' and a 'sissy boy'" due to his fondness for reading.[223] He was bullied as a child but the extent and nature of this is not known, although he did tell his father that this was the reason for the body building regimen he began after graduating from high school. L. Sprague de Camp theorized that this bullying was the inspiration for his later tales of fighting and death.[224] The students at Brownwood High School, in 1922, saw Howard as a quiet and reserved person.[225][226] His friends described him as easy to get along with and generally well liked.[227] Howard, however, described hating the school and its regulation of his thoughts and actions.[228] Throughout his life, Howard was incapable of taking orders and was resentful of the people who gave them.[229]

Howard had made a promise to his mother never to drink alcohol. However, while she was away from Cross Plains in June 1925, an oilman he met through his job at the Cross Plains Review offered him a bottle. Howard liked it so much he was soon brewing his own beer, during Prohibition, and remained a beer drinker for the rest of his life.[230]


In his attitude towards race and racism, Howard has been described as "a product of his time" and he was certainly racist by modern standards. However, the extents of his racist beliefs are debated.[231][232] During Howard's life the concepts of eugenics and an ideal Aryan race were mainstream, if beginning to be discredited. Howard touched on this in two stories, "Skull-Face" and "The Moon of Skulls" in which he describes a version of ancient Atlantis in which the advanced Atlanteans were brown-skinned and the inferior race were white-skinned.[233]

Howard used race as shorthand for physical characteristics and motivation. He would also make up some racial traits, possibly for the sake of brevity, such as Sailor Steve Costigan's statement that a "Chinee can't take a punch." This is not and was not an existing stereotype of Chinese people.[234]

"Black Canaan" is one of the most significant of Howard's works when discussing his attitude towards race.[235] It tells the story of an uprising of "swamp niggers" led by a magician named Saul Stark, who are defeated by the white Kirby Buckner. Saul Stark's back story is tied to Africa, emphasizing the racial conflict. Another character, The Bride of Damballah, is described in stereotypical manner as a black woman.[236] Howard also wrote "The Last White Man" set in the year 2000 when the black population has overthrown the complacent white race. The hero is a white man, although a Viking-like throwback rather than the rest of the weak white men of the era, who unsuccessfully opposes the black race. This story, however, has less to do with race and more to do with Howard's common subject of the rise and fall of civilized empires in the face of rising barbarism.[237] Howard wrote mostly about the clash of cultures rather than racial groups. He was also of the belief that, no matter who won the subsequent conflicts, it would only ever be a temporary victory.[238]

Although Howard's mother hated Native Americans, their appearances in Howard's works are varied. They appear as the Picts in several Conan stories, most notably "Beyond the Black River," as antagonists. However, in another, unfinished, story called "The Thunder-Rider" the protagonist experiences his past life as a Comanche fighting an Aztec sorcerer; he states a preference for the Comanche way of life over modern civilization.[239] Mexicans are conspicuously absent in the majority of Howard's stories; the few times they do appear are in stereotypical "lecherous bandit" or "lazy peasant" roles and referenced as "greaser" or "Mex." The only exception is the sympathetic portrayal of a Mexican sharecropper in "The Horror From the Mound."[240]

Howard became less racist as he grew older, due to several influences: Admiration of the boxer Jack Johnson, listening to black story-tellers, sympathy with the underdog in any situation, and greater travel throughout Texas. Later works include more sympathetic black characters, as well as other minority groups such as Jews.[241] Howard's viewpoint was also affected and softened by his correspondence with H. P. Lovecraft — whose own beliefs about race were a lot stronger and included vocal support of Hitler and Mussolini — and his relationship with Novalyne Price — who was more liberal and challenged him on his racial beliefs.[242] Despite any racial animosity he may have felt at any time during his life, it is worth noting that, while there are several non-white characters in his works, the majority of Howard's villains are white Europeans.[243]

Howard was proud of his Irish ancestry at a time when the Irish were considered an undesirable minority group themselves.[244] He was consciously defining himself as part of a minority group and most of his characters are also of Irish origin in some way (including the prehistoric Kull and Conan, who both belong to racial groups that later become the Celts).[245]


Howard had an egalitarian attitude towards women. The Junto was an amateur journal circulated within a small social circle and initially editing by Howard's friend Harold Preece. After Preece wrote an article for this journal called "Women: A Diatribe" with the conclusion that there was no such thing as an intellectual woman, Howard responded in the next issue with his own article lauding intellectual women from Sappho to the early Gnostics.[246][247] "Sword Woman," a story written somewhere between 1932 and 1934, is described by Mark Finn as protofeminist. Told in the first person, the story follows a 16th century French woman "Dark Agnes" de Chastillon who may be based on Novalyne Price. She rejects her place in society, escapes an attempt at forced marriage and becomes a mercenary. There is no record of Howard ever submitting it for publication but he sent copies to correspondents such as Catherine L. Moore. Although Howard often included weaker female characters in his stories, they contain many stronger women as well. These include the several pirates: Helen Tavrel ("The Isle of Pirates' Doom", 1928), Bêlit ("Queen of the Black Coast", 1934), Valeria of the Red Brotherhood ("Red Nails", 1936) as well as the Ukrainian mercenary Red Sonya of Rogatino ("The Shadow of the Vulture", 1934).[248][249] Female fantasy writers such as Moore, Leigh Brackett, Jessica Salmonson and Nancy Collins have all expressed admiration for the Dark Agnes character.[250]


Howard seems to have been horrified by the idea of becoming old and infirm. Even at the age of 24, he wrote to Harold Preece, "I am haunted by the realization that my best days, mental and physical, lie behind me." Three years later, he again wrote about old age, regarding boxers, saying: "It makes me feel like an old man to watch fighters I knew in their prime, get slapped around by kids. 'A fighter's life is short at best, no time to waste, no time to rest; the spot-light shifts, the clock ticks fast, all youth becomes old age at last.' Same way with writers, too, some of them." A letter to August Derleth, another three years later, contains the declaration that Howard wished to die while still young and strong.[251][252]

Characters as contemporary viewpoints

A theory put forward by Patrice Louinet is that each of Howard's characters represents his viewpoint at the time they were written. The differences between the characters resulted from the evolution and change in his personal philosophies and attitudes.[253][254] Howard's writing can be split into slightly-overlapping periods: His boxing period (concluding with the Steve Costigan series), his heroic fantasy period (Conan), his oriental adventure period (El Borak) and his western period. It was during the latter period that Howard died.[255] Howard's output during the final year of his life was entirely western orientated. However, he wrote shortly before his suicide that he was considering another fantasy piece and two unfinished drafts were found amongst his papers.[256] After the creation and success of Sailor Steve Costigan, Howard never stopped writing comedies. These stories begin at a time when Howard had physically become a match for the "oil field bully" type that he despised and when he had begun to achieve intellectual success as a writer.[257]

Leisure activities

Howard enjoyed listening to other people's stories. He listened to tales told by family members growing up and, as an adult, collected stories from any older people willing to tell them.[258] Howard's parents were both natural storytellers of different kinds and he grew up in early twentieth century Texas, an environment in which the telling of tall tales was a standard form of entertainment.[259] Howard himself was a natural storyteller and later a professional storyteller. Combined, this often led to Howard embellishing facts in his communication, not with an intention to deceive but just to make a better story. This can be a problem for biographers reading his works and letters with an aim to understand Howard himself.[260]

Howard had an almost photographic memory and could memorize long poems after only a few readings.[261] Howard was also enjoyed listening to music and drama on the radio. However his main interests were sports and politics; listening to match reports and election results as they came in.[262]

After Howard bought a car in 1932, he and his friends took regular excursions across Texas and nearby states. His letters to Lovecraft also contain information about the history and geography he encountered on his journeys.[263]


Series and genre

Although he had his faults as a writer, Howard was a natural storyteller, whose narratives are unmatched for vivid, gripping, headlong action. His heroes ... are larger than life: men of mighty thews, hot passions, and indomitable will, who easily dominate the stories through which they stride. In fiction, the difference between a writer who is a natural storyteller and one who is not is like the difference between a boat that will float and one that will not. If the writer has this quality, we can forgive many other faults; if not, no other virtue can make up for the lack, any more than gleaming paint and sparkling brass on a boat make up for the fact that it will not float.

Howard's first real success was the Sailor Steve Costigan series of humorous short stories.[264] Howard wrote stories in many genres, but his most famous were Sword and Sorcery, a genre of fantasy based on history, action and the supernatural. Indeed, many consider him the father of the genre in the same way that J. R. R. Tolkien is considered the father of epic fantasy.[citation needed] Howard created one of the most popular of all fantasy characters in the barbarian warrior Conan[citation needed], whom he based on a Celtic warrior, drawing inspiration from his own Scottish Gaelic descent.[citation needed] Conan first appeared in December 1932.[citation needed] To add realism and depth to his new character, Howard developed the fictional Hyborian Age.[citation needed] His other characters include the Atlantean King Kull, the Puritan adventurer Solomon Kane, the Pict Bran Mak Morn, drawn from the pre-Gaelic people that inhabited Scotland till the early medieval period, and the female warriors Dark Agnes de la Fere and Red Sonya of Rogatino, the latter the prototype for the better known Red Sonja of Marvel Comics fame. Another barbarian hero, an Irishman named Cormac Mac Art, was descended from Kull and lived in the time of King Arthur (shown as a Romano-British warlord); he had a Dane friend called Wulfhere the Skull-Splitter.[citation needed]

Howard envisioned almost all of his sword-and-sorcery stories as taking place within the same literary universe, starting in the Thurian Age of Kull, which was an epoch set in the time of Atlantis and Lemuria (from where Kathulos / Skull Face comes, as did the remnants of Atlantean civilization Solomon Kane encounters in central Africa); in the prehistoric adventures of James Allison's reincarnation/"racial memory" stories; evolving onward into the Hyborian Age of Conan the Cimmerian and then to known history. The James Allison stories can also be viewed as taking place within the context of the latter half of Howard's famous essay, "The Hyborian Age", when, as he recounts, a cataclysm destroyed the age of Conan, and the proto-Nordic tribes roamed the world in vast migrations. A voracious reader, Howard was familiar with the works of H.P. Blavatsky (from whose writings he learned of the concept of Lemuria as a defunct continent of antiquity) and contemporary racial migration theories, so his "proto-Aryans," descendants of the Hyborian Age's AEsir and Vanir, roamed the world looking for new lands to conquer (this is made most clear in his excellent tale, "The Valley of the Worm", in which the AEsir have but recently left the northlands and have encroached upon the land of the Picts, who during the Hyborian Age lived directly south of "Nordheim"). This took place between the end of Howard's hypothetical Hyborian Age (circa 10,000 B.C.) and the beginning of recorded history.

Howard also wrote in other genres:

Influence and influences

The oil boom in Texas was "one of the most powerful influences on [Howard's] life and art", albeit one that he hated. Howard grew to despise the oil industry along with everyone and everything associated with it. The oil boom heavily influenced Howard's view of civilization as a constant cycle of boom and bust in the same manner as the oil industry in contemporary Texas. A town such as Cross Plains was built by pioneers. The boom brought civilization in the form of people and investment but also social breakdown. The oil people contributed little or nothing to the town in the long term and eventually left for the next oil field. This led Howard to see civilization as corrupting and society as a whole in decay.[265][266]

Howard first bought a pulp magazine, a copy of Adventure, when he was fifteen. The stories and writers featured in this magazine were a strong influence on Howard. In the same year, he sent his first story, "Bill Smalley and the Power of the Human Eye", to the magazine, although it was rejected. Despite repeated attempts during his life, Howard never sold a story to Adventure.[267][268]

Howard was both influenced by and an influence on his friend H. P Lovecraft. Many ideas that he discussed in his letters to Lovecraft were repeated in his fiction and the discussion with a fellow professional writer was useful to him. For his part, Lovecraft began to include Howardian action sequences in his own work, for example in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth."[269] Much of 1931 was spent by Howard attempting to mimic Lovecraft's style. After that year, he had absorbed the parts of it that worked best for him and made them his own.[270]

Howard's influenced and inspired later writers including David Gemmell, Matthew Woodring Stover, Charles R. Saunders, Karl Edward Wagner, Paul Kearney, Steven Erikson, Joe R. Lansdale, and William King.[nb 8] He also has an influence on the field of fantasy fiction rivaled only by J. R. R. Tolkien and Tolkien's similarly inspired creation of the modern genre of High Fantasy.[nb 9]


Howard's stories have a sense of authenticity and a natural deft use of language due to his investment in the narrative. The trait is considered the mark of a master in oral storytelling.[271] Howard's tall tale background is the source of the rhythm, drive and authenticity of his work.[272]

Howard used an economy of words to sketch out scenes in his stories; his ability to do so has been attributed to his skill with, and experience of, both tall tales and poetry.[273]

The tone of Howard's works, especially in the Conan stories, is hardboiled, dark and realistic. This is contrasted with the fantastic elements contained within the stories.[274]

Howard's prose is straightforward, colorful, and exciting more than subtle and literary, and it attempts to entertain rather than instruct, but it is not without sophistication.[citation needed] Howard tells of worlds where violence is usually the best solution to problems,[citation needed] and where gold, jewels, and beautiful women are often the hero's reward[citation needed]; yet, distancing himself from his imitators, Howard's works have a shade of macabre, even malignant humor in contrasting his square-jawed heroes' efforts with their ultimate futility in the greater picture of things.[citation needed] And yet, as true Nietzschean heroes, they accept their toil of suffering, bloodshed, passion, and pain without even lamenting or complaining about it, thus achieving ultimate freedom from it.[citation needed]


Multiple themes appear in Howard's works. Direct experience of the oil booms in early twentieth century Texas tainted Howard's view of civilization. The benefits of progress came with lawlessness and corruption.[275] One of the most common themes in Howard's writing is based on his view of history, a repeating patter of civilizations reaching their peak, becoming decadent, decaying and are then being conquered by another people. Many of his works are set in the period of decay or among the ruins the dead civilization leaves behind.[276] The Kull stories contain a constant theme of the confining nature of laws and customs.[277] "Howard wrote about rebellion and throwing out the rules of society to make an ideal life for oneself."[278] Howard's heroes are usually Irish and Howard himself was proud of his Irish heritage.[279] Even Howard's non-Western stories nevertheless draw heavily on the traditions and style of Western fiction.[280] One of his favorite themes was that of past lives and reincarnation.[281] Howard's later fiction often includes a damsel in distress to add sex appeal to the story. This addition was likely an effort of earn the stories the honor of being illustrated on the publishing magazine's cover. A story with a cover illustration would normally earn an extra payment on top of the initial sale.[282]


The following table shows Howard's earnings from writing throughout his career, with appropriate milestones and events noted by each year.[283] During the Depression, Howard earned more than anyone else in Cross Plains.[284] Note that when Howard died, Weird Tales still owed him between $800 and $1,300.[285]

Year Earnings Notes
1926 $50.00
1927 $37.50
1928 $186.00 1st Solomon Kane published
1929 $772.50 1st Kull, 1st Steve Costigan
1930 $1,303.50 Oriental Stories launched, 1st Bran Mak Morn
1931 $1,500.26
1932 $1,067.50 Fight Stories suspended, engaged Kline as agent, 1st Conan
1933 $962.25 Oriental Stories becomes Magic Carpet
1934 $1,853.05 Magic Carpet cancelled, Action Stories re-launched, 1st professional El Borak, 1st Kirby O'Donnell, 1st Breckenridge Elkins
1935 $2,000+ Records incomplete
1936 "By the spring of 1936, he was enjoying an all-time high in sales."


A man and a woman sitting on chairs
L. Sprague de Camp and Catherine Crook de Camp at Nolacon II in New Orleans (1988)

Conan the Cimmerian, a.k.a. Conan the Barbarian, a character whose pop-culture imprint might be compared to such icons as Tarzan of the Apes, Count Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, and James Bond.[nb 10][286] Howard remains a highly read author,[nb 11] with his best work endlessly reprinted.[nb 12] He has been compared to other American masters of the weird, gloomy, and spectral, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne,[nb 13] Herman Melville,[nb 14] and Jack London.[nb 15][287]

In the decades following Howard's death, he often suffered at the hands of genre critics disdainful of Sword-and-Sorcery, such as Damon Knight,[288] but nevertheless his fame has grown exponentially, fuelled largely by the character of Conan. Arkham House, a revered fantasy publisher started by Weird Tales regulars August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, started the trend by publishing Skull-Face and Others (1946), one of only four deluxe omnibus volumes in the company's history.[289]



Profile photograph of Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in two Howard based films, another Howard-inspired film and would have starred in a fourth if he had not become Governor of California.

Four films have been based on Howard's works: Conan the Barbarian (1982),[290] Conan the Destroyer (1984)[291], both starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; Kull the Conqueror (1997), starring Kevin Sorbo; and Solomon Kane (2010). Another film, Red Sonja (1985), was based on a character created by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith who had in turn based the character on a conflation of various Howard characters. A script for a third Conan film, called King Conan: Crown of Iron, was written in 2002 by John Milius. This film was to have again starred Arnold Schwarzenegger as an older Conan, now king of Aquilonia, alongside his adult son. The Wachowski brothers were reported as interested in producing the script but these plans were cancelled when Schwarzenegger became Governor of California in 2003.[292] Howard himself was played by Vincent D'Onofrio in the 1996 biographical film The Whole Wide World, based on the books One Who Walked Alone and Day of the Stranger by Novalyne Price Ellis.[293]

Several further movies are in development. Conan: Red Nails, a direct-to-DVD animated version of "Red Nails" was announced in 2005. Ron Perlman was cast as Conan with Cree Summer as Valeria.[294] A new Conan film directed by Marcus Nispel is expected to be released in 2011.[295] Peter Berg was signed up in 2008 as the director of a film based on and titled Bran Mak Morn.[296] Vultures, based on the novella "The Vultures of Wahpeton" was announced in 2006 and expected to be released in 2011.[citation needed]

In 2003, a short film adaptation of Howard's short story "Casonetto's Last Song", directed by Brenda Dau and Derek M. Koch, was featured as an official selection of the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival.[citation needed] Howard's story "Pigeons from Hell", along with some imagery of Ambrose Bierce, seems to have inspired the horror film Dead Birds, starring Henry Thomas.[citation needed]


The first Howard adaption was not Conan related, although all subsequent examples were. Howard's short horror story "Pigeons from Hell" was adapted for television as an episode of the anthology series Thriller airing in 1961.[297]

In the 1990s, Conan was adapted into two animated series. The first, Conan the Adventurer debuted in 1992 as a syndicated series created by Jetlag Productions, Graz Entertainment and Sunbow Productions.[298] The second animated series, Conan and the Young Warriors, was produced by Sunbow for CBS television picked up from plot threads in the first series and was released in 1993. The second series was not a success and only lasted for 13 episodes.[299]

A live action series, also called Conan the Adventurer was released in 1997. The series starred Ralf Moeller as Conan with plot elements from the Schwarzenegger films, albeit toned down for a television audience. It was neither popular nor successful and only one 22-episode season was produced.[300]

Audio drama

An Austin, Texas, based radio drama recreation troupe, the Violet Crown Radio Players, have released numerous radio-play adaptations of Howard's "Sailor Steve Costigan" stories. These were adapted by Howard biographer Mark Finn, who also played the part of Steve Costigan.[301][302]

LibriVox hosts several audiobooks of public domain Howard stories, iuncluding the some Breckinridge Elkins and Solomon Kane stories in addition to Conan.[nb 16]

New Zealand based non-profit audio drama group Broken Sea Audio Productions have recorded several Howard-related productions., including dramatic reading of Queen of the Black Coast and Red Nails as well as a full-cast audio drama version of Hour of the Dragon. However, in February 2009, Paradox Entertainment used New Zealand copyright laws to prevent further BrokenSea productions.[303][304]

Official audiobooks of the Del Rey Books are being released by Tantor Media. These include Kull: Exile Of Atlantis read by Todd McLaren, The Savage Tales Of Solomon Kane (2010) read by Paul Boehmer and The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard read by Robertson Dean.[305][306]


The first Conan computer game was Conan: Hall of Volta (1984), released by Datasoft for the Apple II and Commodore 64.[307] This was followed by Conan: The Mysteries of Time (1991). This game was released by Mindscape, Inc. for the Nintendo Entertainment System, a Commodore 64 port by System 3.[308] Another Conan game was released in the same year; Conan: The Cimmerian (1991) was developed by Synergistic Software and released by Virgin Interactive for Amiga and DOS computers. It was a roleplaying-style game based more on the Schwarzenegger films rather than the original Howard material.[309]

Two Conan-based third-person action games were released in the early 21st century. The first, Conan (2004), by TDK Mediactive for Windows and consoles, was only released in Europe.[310] The second, also called Conan (2007), by THQ and Nihilistic for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, had a wider release.[311]

The Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures was developed by Norwegian company Funcom and released in 2008 by Eidos Interactive on PC.[312] The game received "generally favorable reviews" according to Metacritic, with a metascore of 80.[313] Seth Schiesel, writing for The New York Times, felt that the development of the game would have benefited from a few extra months of production. However, he went on to state that the game had "at least the potential to become the best new massively multiplayer game since World of Warcraft."[314]

In tabletop role-playing games, the first Howard adaptation was again a Conan property. In 1984, TSR, Inc. released two movie tie-in modules for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Conan Unchained! (by David Cook) and Conan Against Darkness! (by Ken Rolston).[315] These were so successful that TSR released a separate game, Conan Role-Playing Game in 1985, followed by three modules: Conan the Buccaneer (by Kim Eastland), Conan the Mercenary (Kim Eastland) and Conan Triumphant (by William Carlson).[316] The same company also released thre Endless Quest books: Conan the Undaunted (by James M. Ward), Conan and the Prophecy (by Roger E. Moore) and Conan the Outlaw (Moore).[317]

In 1986, Steve Jackson Games released GURPS Conan for their GURPS role-playing system, written by Curtis M. Scott. As with the TSR game, this was popular enough to have four further supplements released to support it: Conan: Beyond Thunder River (by W. G. Armintrout, 1988), Conan: Moon of Blood (Armintrout, 1989), Conan: The Wyrmslayer (Armintrout, 1989) and Conan and the Queen of the Black Coast (Robert G. Traynor, 1989).[318]

Conan The Roleplaying Game was written by Ian Sturrock and released by Mongoose Publishing in 2004, followed by an updated "Atlantean Edition" a few months later. The game used the d20 System under the Open Game License. Multiple supplements have been released for this game.[319]

Pinnacle Entertainment Group released Savage World of Solomon Kane in 2007, written by Paul Wade-Williams and Shane Lacy Hensley. This game was based on the company's Savage Worlds game system.

In other gaming, Comic Images released the Conan Collectible Card Game (2006) designed by Jason Robinette. Fantasy Flight Games released the Age of Conan (2009) strategy board game, depicting warfare between the Hyborian nations.

Comic books

The first comic book adaptation of a Howard story was in the Mexican title Cuentos de Abuelito - La Reina de la Costa Negra #17 (Vol. 1, November 17, 1952) published by Corporacion Editorial Mexicana, SA. The title translates into English as Stories of my Grandfather - Queen of the Black Coast. The first English-language comic book adaptation of a Howard story was in Star Studded Comics #14 (December 1968) which adapted "Gods of the North" (aka the Conan story "The Frost Giant's Daughter").[320]

Both Howard and H.P. Lovecraft were tremendous influences for Mike Mignola and his Hellboy series.[321]


Distant photograph of a band on stage
Italian metal band "Domine" at the Heineken Jammin' Festival 2007. The band is one of several to have released Howard-inspired tracks.

Howard is an ongoing inspiration for and influence on heavy metal.[322] Cauldron Born's partial concept album ...And Rome Shall Fall (2002) has several Howard related tracks: "Finder of the Black Stone," "By This Axe I Rule," "Clontarf," "People of the Dark Circle" and the title track itself.[323] Domine's album Emperor of the Black Runes (2003) includes the Conan-inspired "Aquilonia Suite."[324] Italian metal band Rosae Crucis released the concept album Worms of the Earth (2003) which is entirely based on Howard's Bran Mak Morn story of the same name.[325] Ironsword's album Return of the Warrior (2004) includes "Nemedian Chronicles" and "Way of the Barbarian."[326] Greek metal band Battleroar's Age of Chaos (2005) includes two Conan inspired tracks, "Tower of the Elephant" and "The Sword of Crom."[327] Manilla Road have recorded several Howard-related tracks across multiple albums, including "Queen of the Black Coast" (Metal, 1982); "Road of Kings" and "Hour of the Dragon" (Open the Gates, 1985); "The Books of Skelos" (The Courts of Chaos, 2001); and a trilogy based on "The Frost Giant's Daughter" - "Riddle of Steel," "Behind the Veil" and "When Giants Fall" (Gates of Fire, 2005).[328] French band Mad Minstrel have similarly released multiple tracks over different albums, all based on Howard's poetry, including "The Gates of Nineveh" and "The Riders of Babylon" (Fallen Cities, 2001); "Black Chant Imperial," "To a Woman" and "Which Will Scarcely be Understood" (Prelude To Hate, 2003).[329]

The British metal band Bal-Sagoth is named after Howard's story "The Gods of Bal-Sagoth."[330] Bal-Sagoth have no individual tracks based on Howard's work but instead incorporate Howardian themes into their music. Vocalist and writer Byron Roberts has said "Howard and Lovecraft were powerful inspirations for me when I was coming up with the concept and thematic basis for this band. I wanted to create songs, which were infused with the dark essence of the 1930s pulp fantasy, which I love so much, creating my own baroque fantasy world within which all the band's songs would take place. And in tribute to those classic works of literature and that enduring, oft-maligned genre, I decided to call the band Bal-Sagoth."[331]


See also



  1. ^ Patrick Mac Conaire was used once as the pen name for the story "Ghost in the Doorway." Steve Costigan was the name Howard used for himself in his semi-autobiography Post Oaks & Sand Roughs. Patrick Ervin was an occasional pen name, especially for the Dennis Dorgan stories. Patrick Howard was a pen name used for some of Howard's poetry. Sam Walser was a pen name used for the Wild Bill Clanton stories. Due to some pulp magazines using house names, especially when re-printing older works, Howard was also credited as: Mark Adam, William Decatur, R. T. Maynard and Max Nielson. Ghost Stories used John Taverel as the author's name for "The Apparition in the Prize Ring" to make it seem to be a true story.
  2. ^ Grin (2006, pp. 13-18): Contains facsimile reproductions of Howard's birth certificate and death record.
  3. ^ Finn (2006, p. 26) notes that the birth record incorrectly shows Howard's birthdate as January 24, in addition to altering his mother's age.
  4. ^ Burke (3rd paragraph): notes that Howard celebrated his birthday on the 22nd rather than the 24th, as recorded in Parker County records. His father also gave his birthday as January 22.
  5. ^ Herron, Joshi & Dziemianowicz (2005, p. 1095): "Critical consensus, however, unfailingly places the birth of sword-and-sorcery with the publication of 'The Shadow Kingdom' (August 1929), in which Howard introduced the brooding figure of King Kull, ruling over the fading land of Valusia in a Pre-Cataclysmic Age when Atlantis is but newly risen from the waves."
  6. ^ Gramlich & Westfahl (2005, p. 780): "The term 'sword and sorcery' was coined by Fritz Leiber but the genre was pioneered by Robert E. Howard, a Texas pulp writer who combined fantasy, history, horror, and the Gothic to create the Hyborian Age and such characters as Conan the Conqueror and Kull."
  7. ^ Herron (2004, pp. 161-162): "Suddenly one Golden Age in literature had drawn to a close...For just over a decade these three [REH, CAS, and HPL] had created a phenomenal array of new imaginative fiction and poetry...In these same years another Golden Age played out in the detective pulp The Black Mask...In England, C. S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and others called their group centered in Oxford University The Inklings...the Bloomsbury Group, which flourished from 1904 until World War II, form yet another. So do the American poets and novelists who became known as The Beats..."
  8. ^ Tompkins (2005, p. 38): "True, the era during which drugstore racks were a Muscle Beach of Kandars, Kothars, Thongors, Wandors, Odans, and Orons is long gone, but is S&S in trouble?" Tompkins then presents a series of quotes from modern fantasy writers who claim a strong Howardian influence.
  9. ^ Clute & Grant (1999, pp. 39 & 483): "The combined success of Howard's Conan books and J.R.R. Tolkien's LotR in paperback had resulted in unprecedented interest in heroic and high fantasy."; "[Howard] remains of central interest in the field of fantasy for his sword and sorcery; the templates he established for that mode have remained influential for most of the 20th century."
  10. ^ Herron (1984, p. 149): "Robert E. Howard of Cross Plains, Texas, created one of the great mythic figures in modern popular culture, the Dark Barbarian... [which] put Howard in the select ranks of the literary legend-makers: Ned Buntline, Alexandre Dumas, père, Mary Shelley, Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Dashiell Hammett, H. P. Lovecraft, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ian Fleming."
  11. ^ Clareson (1990, p. 14): "Between 1932 and 1936 Weird Tales also provided Robert E. Howard an outlet where he could create the Hyborian world of Conan the Barbarian, thereby begetting the "Sword-and-Sorcery" motif which not only dominates much of contemporary heroic fantasy but has remained a principal ingredient of science fiction itself."
  12. ^ Herman (2006, entire work): A comprehensive listing of past and present Howard volumes.
  13. ^ Tompkins (2002, cover flap): essay discusses the influence of The Scarlet Letter on Howard's "The Black Stranger" and touches on many similarities of style, characters, and tone.
  14. ^ Knight (2004, p. 129): "In his portrayal of the natural world Robert E. Howard follows in the illustrious footsteps of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Mark Twain. He designed a thematically resonant geography over the course of his career, worlds worthy of scarlet letters and white whales and great dark rivers — mythic talismans glittering under a velvet night sky. At his best, Howard transforms nature into a brilliant illuminating dreamscape deserving of a place among the great mise en scenes of classic American literature."
  15. ^ Blosser (1997, p. 16): "'The Children of the Night' and 'People of the Dark' also display the influence of another author whose robust, adventurous personality forms a striking contrast to the introverted, reclusive personae of Lovecraft and Machen. This progenitor was Jack London." The article goes on to describe how REH "skillfully blended the very elements of primitive action and supernatural horror" in which London also specialized.
  16. ^ All LibriVox recordings can be found at and should be available on Wikimedia Commons. All LibriVox recordings are in the public domain.


  1. ^ Lord (1976, pp. 107, 131-169)
  2. ^ Finn (2006, p. 96)
  3. ^ Lord (1976, p. 71)
  4. ^ Finn (2006, p. 26)
  5. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 21-26)
  6. ^ Lord (1976, p. 71)
  7. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 30-41)
  8. ^ Burke (5th paragraph)
  9. ^ Lord (1976, p. 73)
  10. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 33, 59-60)
  11. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 57-58, 65-71)
  12. ^ Burke (8th paragraph)
  13. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 39-40)
  14. ^ Finn (2006, p. 42)
  15. ^ Burke (7th paragraph)
  16. ^ Finn (2006, p. 34)
  17. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 41-42)
  18. ^ Burke (11th paragraph)
  19. ^ Finn (2006, p. 12, 49-50)
  20. ^ Finn (2006, p. 35)
  21. ^ Burke (8th paragraph)
  22. ^ Lord (1976, pp. 75-76)
  23. ^ Finn (2006, p. 50)
  24. ^ Burke (7th paragraph)
  25. ^ Lord (1976, p. 72)
  26. ^ Burke (9th paragraph)
  27. ^ Finn (2006, p. 41)
  28. ^ Burke (7th paragraph)
  29. ^ Finn (2006, p. 42)
  30. ^ Burke (9th paragraph)
  31. ^ Lord (1976, p. 71)
  32. ^ Finn (2006, p. 43)
  33. ^ Burke (5th paragraph)
  34. ^ Finn (2006, p. 46)
  35. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 87, 92)
  36. ^ Burke (19th paragraph)
  37. ^ Burke (19th paragraph)
  38. ^ Finn (2006, p. 12)
  39. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 16-17)
  40. ^ Finn (2006, p. 17)
  41. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 47-49)
  42. ^ Finn (2006, p. 50-51)
  43. ^ Louinet (2003, pp. 347-348)
  44. ^ Lord (1976, p. 72)
  45. ^ Burke (18-20th paragraph)
  46. ^ Finn (2006, p. 51)
  47. ^ Burke (9th paragraph)
  48. ^ Lord (1976, pp. 71-72)
  49. ^ Finn (2006, p. 73)
  50. ^ Burke (10th paragraph)
  51. ^ Lord (1976, p. 72)
  52. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 75-76)
  53. ^ Burke (10th paragraph)
  54. ^ Lord (1976, pp. 71-72, 77-78)
  55. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 128-129)
  56. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 219)
  57. ^ Burke (11th paragraph)
  58. ^ Lord (1976, p. 72)
  59. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 87-88)
  60. ^ Burke (9th paragraph)
  61. ^ Finn (2006, p. 91)
  62. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 91-101, 117-119)
  63. ^ Lord (1976, p. 72)
  64. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 93-94)
  65. ^ Burke (13th paragraph)
  66. ^ Lord (1976, p. 74)
  67. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 96-98)
  68. ^ Finn (2006, p. 98)
  69. ^ Lord (1976, p. 75)
  70. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 104-105)
  71. ^ Lord (1976, p. 75)
  72. ^ Finn (2006, p. 98)
  73. ^ Burke (13th paragraph)
  74. ^ Lord (1976, p. 75)
  75. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 99-101)
  76. ^ Burke (13th paragraph)
  77. ^ Burke (27th paragraph)
  78. ^ Lord (1976, p. 75)
  79. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 103-104)
  80. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 105-108)
  81. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 113-115)
  82. ^ Burke (22nd paragraph)
  83. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 113)
  84. ^ Burke (24th paragraph)
  85. ^ Finn (2006, p. 114)
  86. ^ Burke (15th & 20th paragraph)
  87. ^ Burke (21st paragraph)
  88. ^ Finn (2006, p. 113)
  89. ^ Burke (25th paragraph)
  90. ^ Burke (25th paragraph)
  91. ^ Lord (1976, p. 75)
  92. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 132-135)
  93. ^ Finn (2006, p. 138-139)
  94. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 135-136)
  95. ^ Burke (27th paragraph)
  96. ^ Lord (1976, p. 76)
  97. ^ Finn (2006, p. 139)
  98. ^ Finn (2006, p. 120)
  99. ^ Burke (15th paragraph)
  100. ^ Burke (28-30th paragraphs)
  101. ^ Lord (1976, p. 76)
  102. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 145-148)
  103. ^ Burke (31st paragraph)
  104. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 148-149)
  105. ^ Burke (32nd paragraph)
  106. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 150-151)
  107. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 150-151, 156-157)
  108. ^ Burke (35th paragraph)
  109. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 151-152)
  110. ^ Burke (32nd paragraph)
  111. ^ Lord (1976, p. 76)
  112. ^ Finn (2006, p. 159)
  113. ^ Burke (19th paragraph)
  114. ^ Lord (1976, pp. 76-77)
  115. ^ Finn (2006, p. 160)
  116. ^ Louinet (2003, p. 347)
  117. ^ Finn (2006, p. 159)
  118. ^ Louinet (2005, p. 379)
  119. ^ Louinet (2002, p. 430)
  120. ^ Burke (38th paragraph)
  121. ^ Finn (2006, p. 166)
  122. ^ Louinet (2002, p. 430)
  123. ^ Burke (37-38th paragraph)
  124. ^ Louinet (2002, pp. 429-430)
  125. ^ Louinet (2002, pp. 434-435)
  126. ^ Burke (28th paragraph)
  127. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 166-170)
  128. ^ Louinet (2002, pp. 436-441)
  129. ^ Burke (39th paragraph)
  130. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 167-168)
  131. ^ Louinet (2002, pp. 439-440)
  132. ^ Finn (2006, p. 170)
  133. ^ Louinet (2002, pp. 440-441)
  134. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 169-170)
  135. ^ Lord (1976, p. 76)
  136. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 170-173)
  137. ^ Louinet (2002, p. 451)
  138. ^ Finn (2006, p. 170)
  139. ^ Louinet (2002, pp. 448-449)
  140. ^ Louinet (2003, p. 347)
  141. ^ Louinet (2002, pp. 443)
  142. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 170-173)
  143. ^ Louinet (2002, p. 451)
  144. ^ Louinet (2003, p. 350)
  145. ^ Louinet (2002, pp. 452)
  146. ^ Finn (2006, p. 170)
  147. ^ Louinet (2003, p. 351)
  148. ^ Louinet (2003, p. 351)
  149. ^ Louinet (2003, p. 357)
  150. ^ Louinet (2003, pp. 352-356)
  151. ^ Louinet (2003, pp. 350-351, 357)
  152. ^ Louinet (2005, p. 376)
  153. ^ Louinet (2005, p. 371)
  154. ^ Louinet (2005, pp. 371-372)
  155. ^ Louinet (2005, pp. 374-376)
  156. ^ Louinet (2005, p. 378)
  157. ^ Louinet (2005, pp. 380-385)
  158. ^ Lord (1976, p. 77)
  159. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 161-162, 207)
  160. ^ Burke (39th paragraph)
  161. ^ Louinet (2003, p. 347)
  162. ^ Finn (2006, p. 192)
  163. ^ Burke (41st paragraph)
  164. ^ Lord (1976, p. 77)
  165. ^ Finn (2006, p. 192)
  166. ^ Finn (2006, p. 201-203)
  167. ^ Burke (18th paragraph)
  168. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 171-175, 197-201)
  169. ^ Lord (1976, p. 79)
  170. ^ Finn (2006, p. 204-208)
  171. ^ Burke (41st paragraph)
  172. ^ Finn (2006, p. 208)
  173. ^ Lord (1976, p. 76)
  174. ^ Finn (2006, p. 210)
  175. ^ Louinet (2005, p. 381)
  176. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 181-183)
  177. ^ Burke (42nd paragraph)
  178. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 183-185)
  179. ^ Burke (42nd paragraph)
  180. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 188)
  181. ^ Burke (42nd paragraph)
  182. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 188-191)
  183. ^ Finn (2006, p. 191)
  184. ^ Louinet (2005, p. 381)
  185. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 192-194)
  186. ^ Finn (2006, p. 183)
  187. ^ Finn (2006, p. 214)
  188. ^ Burke (54th paragraph)
  189. ^ Lord (1976, p. 78)
  190. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 207-210)
  191. ^ Burke (45th paragraph)
  192. ^ Louinet (2005, p. 385)
  193. ^ Finn (2006, p. 213)
  194. ^ Finn (2006, p. 215)
  195. ^ Finn (2006, p. 217)
  196. ^ Burke (46-52nd paragraph)
  197. ^ Lord (1976, p. 79)
  198. ^ Finn (2006, p. 214)
  199. ^ Burke (53-54th paragraph)
  200. ^ Lord (1976, p. 79)
  201. ^ Finn (2006, p. 215)
  202. ^ Burke (54th paragraph)
  203. ^ Lord (1976, p. 77)
  204. ^ Lord (1976, p. 77)
  205. ^ Burke (13th paragraph)
  206. ^ Lord (1976, p. 76)
  207. ^ Burke (40th paragraph)
  208. ^ Burke (55-56th paragraph)
  209. ^ Burke (56th paragraph)
  210. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 239-240)
  211. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 218-220)
  212. ^ Finn (2006, p. 221)
  213. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 215-216)
  214. ^ Gramlich (2006, p. 99, 106)
  215. ^ Gramlich (2006, pp. 104-105)
  216. ^ Gramlich (2006, p. 104)
  217. ^ Gramlich (2006, p. 106)
  218. ^ Burke (56th paragraph)
  219. ^ Hayles (2009, Saturday Review)
  220. ^ Finn (2006, p. 179)
  221. ^ Price (1945, p. 40)
  222. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 130-131)
  223. ^ Finn (2006, p. 38)
  224. ^ Finn (2006, p. 129)
  225. ^ Finn (2006, p. 75)
  226. ^ Burke (7th paragraph)
  227. ^ Finn (2006, p. 130)
  228. ^ Finn (2006, p. 75)
  229. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 110, 130)
  230. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 93-94)
  231. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 80-85)
  232. ^ Romeo
  233. ^ Finn (2006, p. 80)
  234. ^ Finn (2006, p. 84)
  235. ^ Romeo
  236. ^ Finn (2006, p. 83)
  237. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 84-85)
  238. ^ Finn (2006, p. 81-82)
  239. ^ Finn (2006, p. 81)
  240. ^ Finn (2006, p. 82)
  241. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 80-81)
  242. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 152, 188)
  243. ^ Finn (2006, p. 81)
  244. ^ Finn (2006, p. 80)
  245. ^ Finn (2006, p. 80)
  246. ^ Finn (2006, p. 141)
  247. ^ Burke (44th paragraph)
  248. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 186-187)
  249. ^ Burke (43-44th paragraph)
  250. ^ Burke (44th paragraph)
  251. ^ Burke (49-50th paragraph)
  252. ^ Finn (2006, p. 225)
  253. ^ Finn (2006, p. 114)
  254. ^ Burke (17th paragraph)
  255. ^ Burke (26th paragraph)
  256. ^ Louinet (2005, p. 385)
  257. ^ Finn (2006, p. 137)
  258. ^ Finn (2006, p. 57)
  259. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 57-58)
  260. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 63 & 71)
  261. ^ Finn (2006, p. 41)
  262. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 44-45)
  263. ^ Burke (34th paragraph)
  264. ^ Finn (2006, p. 66)
  265. ^ Finn (2006, p. 12, 49-50, 181)
  266. ^ Burke (6th paragraph)
  267. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 51-52)
  268. ^ Louinet (2003, pp. 347-348)
  269. ^ Finn (2006, p. 156)
  270. ^ Louinet (2002, p. 436)
  271. ^ Finn (2006, p. 59)
  272. ^ Finn (2006, p. 65)
  273. ^ Finn (2006, p. 69)
  274. ^ Finn (2006, p. 173)
  275. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 49-50)
  276. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 78-79)
  277. ^ Burke (22nd paragraph)
  278. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 187)
  279. ^ Finn (2006, p. 80)
  280. ^ Finn (2006, p. 115, 173, 203)
  281. ^ Finn (2006, p. 161)
  282. ^ Finn (2006, p. 173)
  283. ^ Lord (1976, pp. 75-79)
  284. ^ Gramlich (2006, p. 99)
  285. ^ Finn (2006, p. 229)
  286. ^ Finn (2006, p. 150)
  287. ^ Grin (2004, pp. 144-146)
  288. ^ Finn (2006, pp. 240-241)
  289. ^ Finn (2006, p. 232)
  290. ^ Sammon (2007, pp. 97-108)
  291. ^ Sammon (2007, pp. 108-117)
  292. ^ Sammon (2007, p. 122)
  293. ^ Sammon (2007, p. 120)
  294. ^ Swordplay Entertainment
  295. ^ Fleming (2009)
  296. ^ McKenzie (2008)
  297. ^ Finn (2006, p. 158)
  298. ^ Sammon (2007, pp. 117, 121)
  299. ^ Sammon (2007, pp. 121-122)
  300. ^ Sammon (2007, p. 120)
  301. ^ Finn (2006, back cover)
  302. ^ Herron (Audio)
  303. ^ Willis (2009)
  304. ^ Herron (Audio)
  305. ^ Tantor Media
  306. ^ Herron (Audio)
  307. ^ Sammon (2007, p. 163)
  308. ^ Sammon (2007, p. 166)
  309. ^ Sammon (2007, pp. 163, 166)
  310. ^ Sammon (2007, p. 166)
  311. ^ Sammon (2007, pp. 166-167)
  312. ^ Sammon (2007, pp. 166-167)
  313. ^ Metacritic
  314. ^ Schiesel (2008)
  315. ^ Sammon (2007, p. 117)
  316. ^ Sammon (2007, p. 117)
  317. ^ Sammon (2007, p. 117)
  318. ^ Sammon (2007, pp. 162-163)
  319. ^ Sammon (2007, p. 163)
  320. ^ Herman (2006, pp. 502-506)
  321. ^ Weiner et al. (2006)
  322. ^ Hall (2007, pp. 4-5)
  323. ^ Hall (2007, p. 5)
  324. ^ Hall (2007, p. 5)
  325. ^ Hall (2007, p. 5)
  326. ^ Hall (2007, p. 6)
  327. ^ Hall (2007, p. 5)
  328. ^ Hall (2007, p. 6)
  329. ^ Hall (2007, p. 6)
  330. ^ Hall (2007, pp. 8-9)
  331. ^ Hall (2007, p. 9)


Further reading

  • de Camp, L. Sprague (1975), The Miscast Barbarian . Chapbook. Later expanded into Dark Valley Destiny.
  • de Camp, L. Sprague; Catherine Crook de Camp and Jane Whittington Griffin (1983), Dark Valley Destiny, ISBN 089366247X 
  • de Camp, L. Sprague, ed. (1979), The Blade of Conan, Penguin Putnam, ISBN 9780441116706 
  • de Camp, L. Sprague, ed. (1980), The Spell of Conan, Ace Books, ISBN 9780441116690 
  • Cerasini, Marc; Hoffman, Charles (1987), Robert E. Howard: Starmont Reader's Guide 35, ISBN 9780930261283 
  • Coffman, Frank, Robert-E-Howard: Electronic Amateur Press Association (REHEAPA), Mind's Eye HyperPublishing, ISSN 1537-0704, 
  • Nielsen, Leon (2006), Robert E. Howard : A Collector's Descriptive Bibliography, McFarland & co, ISBN 9780786426461 
  • Price Ellis, Novalyne (September 1986), One Who Walked Alone, Donald M Grant, ISBN 093798678X  (Basis for the movie The Whole Wide World)
  • Price Ellis, Novalyne; Burke, Rusty (July 1989), Day of the Stranger, Necronomicon Press 
  • van Hise, James, ed. (1997), The Fantastic Worlds of Robert E. Howard 
  • Rippke, Dale (2004), The Hyborian Heresies, Wild Cat Books, ISBN 9781411616080 
  • Weinberg, Robert (1976), The Annotated Guide to Robert E. Howard's Sword and Sorcery, Starmont House, ISBN 9780916732004 

External links

  • Official Conan website (contains information about other Howard properties)
  • Internet Archive - Free and legal downloads of Howard's texts in the Public Domain including Conan, Solomon Kane, Kull and Red Sonja.


Scholarly sources


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.

Robert E. Howard (22 January 190611 June 1936) was an American writer of fantasy and historical adventure pulp stories, published primarily in Weird Tales magazine in the 1930s.

See also: Conan the Barbarian



I have never yet done a man to death by torture, but by God, sir, you tempt me!
They claimed that the old man had a knuckle-duster on his right, which is ridiculous and a dirty lie. He had it on his left.

"Red Shadows" (1928)

  • Slowly he rose, mechanically wiping his hands upon his cloak. A dark scowl had settled on his somber brow. Yet he made no wild, reckless vow, swore no oath by saints or devils.
    "Men shall die for this," he said coldly.
  • "I have never yet done a man to death by torture, but by God, sir, you tempt me!"
  • The gorilla-slayer moved out into the glade. Massive, terrible, he was the personification of the primitive, the Stone Age. His mouth yawned in a red cavern of a grin; he bore himself with the haughty arrogance of savage might.

"The Shadow Kingdom" (1929)

  • The blare of the trumpets grew louder, like a deep golden tide surge, like the soft booming of the evening tides against the silver beaches of Valusia. The throng shouted, women flung roses from the roofs as the rhythmic chiming of silver hoofs came clearer and the first of the mighty array swung into view in the broad white street that curved round the golden-spired Tower of Splendor.

"The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune" (1929)

  • Like the surface of the sea was the mirror of Tuzun Thune; hard as the sea in the sun's slanting beams, in the darkness of the stars, where no eye can pierce her deeps; vast and mystic as the sea when the sun smites her in such way that the watcher's breath is caught at the glimpse of tremendous abysses. So was the mirror in which Kull gazed.
  • Kull was still mazed. "But being a wizard, having knowledge of all the ages and despising gold, glory, and position, what could Kaanuub offer Tuzun Thune that would make of him a foul traitor?"
    "Gold, power, and position," grunted Brule. "The sooner you learn that men are men whether wizard, king, or thrall, the better you will rule, Kull."

"Rattle of Bones" (1929)

  • "Fool that I was to trust a Frenchman!"
  • "My sorcerer is rattling his bones," whispered the host, then laughed wildly. "Dying, he swore his very bones would weave a net of death for me. I shackled his corpse to the floor, and now, deep in the night, I hear his bare skeleton clash and rattle as he seeks to be free, and I laugh, I laugh! Ho! ho! How he yearns to rise and stalk like old King Death along these dark corridors when I sleep, to slay me in my bed!"

"The Pit of the Serpent" (1929)

  • The men on the Dauntless have disliked the Sea Girl's crew ever since our skipper took their captain to a cleaning on the wharfs of Zanzibar--them being narrow-minded that way. They claimed that the old man had a knuckle-duster on his right, which is ridiculous and a dirty lie. He had it on his left.

"Kings of the Night" (1930)

  • "This warrior says you must fight him for the leadership," said Bran, and Kull, eyes glittering with growing battle-joy, nodded: "I guessed as much. Give us space."
    "A shield and a helmet!" shouted Bran, but Kull shook his head.
    "I need none," he growled. "Back and give us room to swing our steel!"

"The Moon of Skulls" (1930)

  • "Eons ago when your ancestors were defending their caves against the tiger and the mammoth, with crude spears of flint, the gold spires of my people split the stars! They are gone and forgotten, and the world is a waste of barbarians, white and black. Let me, too, pass as a dream that is forgotten in the mists of the ages..."

"The Hills of the Dead" (1930)

Mayhap I shall find curious adventure—mayhap my doom awaits me. But better death than the ceaseless and everlasting urge, the fire that has burned my veins with bitter longing
  • Kane gazed, awed. This was truly a hell on earth. As in a nightmare he looked into the roaring red cauldron where black insects fought against their doom and perished. The flames leaped a hundred feet in the air, and suddenly above their roar sounded one bestial, inhuman scream like a shriek from across nameless gulfs of cosmic space, as one vampire, dying, broke the chains of silence which had held him for untold centuries. High and haunting it rose, the death cry of a vanishing race.
  • "Yonder in the unknown vastness"—his long finger stabbed at the black silent jungle which brooded beyond the firelight—"yonder lies mystery and adventure and nameless terror. Once I dared the jungle—once she nearly claimed my bones. Something entered into my blood, something stole into my soul like a whisper of unnamed sin. The jungle! Dark and brooding—over leagues of the blue salt sea she has drawn me and with the dawn I go to seek the heart of her. Mayhap I shall find curious adventure—mayhap my doom awaits me. But better death than the ceaseless and everlasting urge, the fire that has burned my veins with bitter longing."

"The Dark Man" (1931)

  • And about the table where stood the Dark Man, immovable as a mountain, washed the red waves of slaughter.

"The Footfalls Within" (1931)

  • He wondered at the presence of these raiders, for this country lay far to the south of the districts usually frequented by the Moslems. But avarice can drive men far, as the Englishmen knew. He had dealt with these gentry of old. Even as he watched, old scars burned in his back--scars made by Moslem whips in a Turkish galley. And deeper still burned Kane's unquenchable hate.

"The Phoenix on the Sword" (1932)

What do I know of cultured ways, the gilt, the craft and the lie?
I, who was born in a naked land and bred in the open sky.
The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
Rush in and die, dogs—I was a man before I was a king.
  • What do I know of cultured ways, the gilt, the craft and the lie?
    I, who was born in a naked land and bred in the open sky.
    The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
    Rush in and die, dogs—I was a man before I was a king.
  • When I was a fighting-man, the kettle-drums they beat,
    The people scattered gold-dust before my horses feet;
    But now I am a great king, the people hound my track
    With poison in my wine-cup, and daggers at my back.
  • Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars - Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyberborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west.
  • Hither came Conan the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.
  • "They have no hope here or hereafter," answered Conan. "Their gods are Crom and his dark race, who rule over a sunless place of everlasting mist, which is the world of the dead. Mitra! The ways of the Aesir were more to my liking."
  • "Wits and swords are as straws against the wisdom of the Darkness..."
  • Conan sensed their uncertainty and grinned mirthlessly and ferociously. "Who dies first?"

"Wings in the Night" (1932)

  • The lions had come into the plateau in great quantities and the herds of little pigs dwindled fast. Those the lions spared, Kane slew, and tossed to the jackals. This racked Kane's heart, for he was a kindly man and this wholesale slaughter, even of pigs who would fall prey to hunting beasts anyhow, grieved him. But it was part of his plan of vengeance and he steeled his heart.
  • With a choked cry the Englishman woke from his trance of horror, drew and fired at a darting flame-eyed shadow which fell at his feet with a shattered skull. And Kane gave tongue to one deep, fierce roar and bounded into the melee, all the berserk fury of his heathen Saxon ancestors bursting into terrible being.
  • The ancient empires fall, the dark-skinned peoples fade and even the demons of antiquity gasp their last, but over all stands the Aryan barbarian, white-skinned, cold-eyed, dominant, the supreme fighting man of the earth.
  • If this myth of the harpies were a reality, what of the other legends—the Hydra, the centaurs, the chimera, Medusa, Pan and the satyrs? All those myths of antiquity--behind them did there lie and lurk nightmare realities with slavering fangs and talons steeped in shuddersome evil? Africa, the Dark Continent, land of shadows and horror, of bewitchment and sorcery, into which all evil things had been banished before the growing light of the western world!

"The Scarlet Citadel" (1933)

Gleaming shell of an outworn lie; fable of Right divine—
You gained your crowns by heritage, but Blood was the price of mine.
The throne that I won by blood and sweat , by Crom, I will not sell
For promise of valleys filled with gold, or threat of the Halls of Hell!
  • Gleaming shell of an outworn lie; fable of Right divine—
    You gained your crowns by heritage, but Blood was the price of mine.
    The throne that I won by blood and sweat , by Crom, I will not sell
    For promise of valleys filled with gold, or threat of the Halls of Hell!
  • The Lion strode through the Halls of Hell;
    Across his path grim shadows fell
    Of many a mowing, nameless shape
    Monsters with dripping jaws agape.
    The darkness shuddered with scream and yell
    When the Lion stalked through the Halls of Hell.
  • Like gay-hued leaves after an autumn storm, the fallen littered the plain; the sinking sun shimmered on burnished helmets, gilt-worked mail, silver breastplates, broken swords and the heavy regal folds of silken standards, overthrown in pools of curdling crimson. In silent heaps lay war-horses and their steel-clad riders, flowing manes and blowing plumes stained alike in the red tide. About them and among them, like the drift of a storm, were strewn slashed and trampled bodies in steel caps and leather jerkins...
  • "...Free my hands and I'll varnish this floor with your brains!"
  • "Crom!" his mighty shoulders twitched. "A murrain of these wizardly feuds! Pelias has dealt well with me, but I care not if I see him no more. Give me a clean sword and a clean foe to flesh it in. Damnation! What would I not give for a flagon of wine!"
  • Aye, you white dog, you are like all your race; but to a black man gold can never pay for blood.
    • A former chief of Abombi to Conan
  • A long bow and a strong bow, and let the sky grow dark!
    The cord to the nock, the shaft to the ear, and the king of Koth for a mark!
    • Song of the Bossonian Archers

"The Tower of the Elephant" (1933)

  • Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.

"Black Colossus" (1933)

  • Not for naught had he gained access into darksome cults, had harkened to the grisly whispers of the votaries of Skelos under midnight trees, and read the forbidden iron-bound books of Vathelos the Blind.
  • Reeling up, blood streaming down his face from under his dented helmet, Conan glared dizzily at the profusion of destruction which spread before him. From crest to crest the dead lay strewn, a red carpet that choked the valley. It was like a red sea, with each wave a straggling line of corpses.
  • "This day you become knights!" he laughed fiercely, pointing with his dripping sword towards the hillmen horses, herded nearby. "Mount and follow me to hell!"

"Xuthal of the Dusk" (1933)

  • "By Crom, I do not like this place, where dead men rise, and sleeping men vanish into the bellies of shadows!"
  • Conan's hand fell heavily on her naked shoulder.
    "Stand aside, girl," he mumbled. "Now is the feasting of swords."

"The Pool of the Black One" (1933)

  • She who had been the spoiled and petted daughter of the Duke of Kordava, learned what is was to be a buccaneer's plaything, and because she was supple enough to bend without breaking, she lived where other women had died, and because she was young and vibrant with life, she came to find pleasure in the existence.
  • The dullest was struck by the contrast between the harsh, taciturn, gloomy commander, and the pirate whose laugh was gusty and ready, who roared ribald songs in a dozen languages, guzzled ale like a toper, and--apparently--had no thought for the morrow.

"Rogues in the House" (1934)

  • "When I cannot stand alone, it will be time to die," he mumbled, through mashed lips. "But I'd like a flagon of wine."
  • "If that's true, then answer this priest, why are we in these pits, hiding from some animal?" Conan asked "Someday, when all your civilization and science are likewise swept away, your kind will pray for a man with a sword."

"Shadows in the Moonlight" (1934)

  • Conan wheeled toward the gaping corsairs.
    "Well, you dogs!" he roared, "I've sent your chief to hell--what says the law of the Red Brotherhood?"

"Queen of the Black Coast" (1934)

He dwells on a great mountain. What use to call on him? Little he cares if men live or die. Better to be silent than to call his attention to you; he will send you dooms, not fortune!
  • He shrugged his shoulders. "I have known many gods. He who denies them is as blind as he who trusts them too deeply. I seek not beyond death. It may be the blackness averred by the Nemedian skeptics, or Crom's realm of ice and cloud, or the snowy plains and vaulted halls of the Nordheimer's Valhalla. I know not, nor do I care. Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content."
  • [The] chief [of the gods of Cimmeria] is Crom. He dwells on a great mountain. What use to call on him? Little he cares if men live or die. Better to be silent than to call his attention to you; he will send you dooms, not fortune! He is grim and loveless, but at birth he breathes power to strive and slay into a man's soul. What else shall men ask of the gods? ... There is no hope here or hereafter in the cult of my people. In this world men struggle and suffer vainly, finding pleasure only in the bright madness of battle; dying, their souls enter a gray misty realm of clouds and icy winds, to wander cheerlessly throughout eternity.
  • "There is life beyond death, I know, and I know this, too, Conan of Cimmeria"--she rose lithely to her knees and caught him in a pantherish embrace--"my love is stronger than any death! I have lain in your arms, panting with the violence of our love; you have held and crushed and conquered me, drawing my soul to your lips with the fierceness of your bruising kisses. My heart is welded to your heart, my soul is part of your soul! Were I still in death and you fighting for life, I would come back to the abyss to aid you--aye, whether my spirit floated with the purple sails on the crystal sea of paradise, or writhed in the molten flames of hell! I am yours, and all the gods and all their eternities shall not sever us!"

"The Devil in Iron" (1934)

  • Conan stood paralyzed in the disruption of the faculties which demoralizes anyone who is confronted by an impossible negation of sanity.

"A Witch Shall Be Born" (1934)

  • I never saw a man fight as Conan fought. He put his back to the courtyard wall, and before they overpowered him the dead men were strewn in heaps thigh-deep about him. But at last they dragged him down, a hundred against one.
    • Valerius recounting the tale of how Conan was caught

"Jewels of Gwahlur" (1935)

  • Conan did not hesitate, nor did he even glance toward the chest that held the wealth of an epoch. With a quickness that would have shamed the spring of a hungry jaguar, he swooped, grasped the girl's arm just as her fingers slipped from the smooth stone, and snatched her up on the span with one explosive heave.

"Beyond the Black River" (1935)

Barbarism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.
  • Barbarism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.
  • "There's nothing in the universe cold steel won't cut," answered Conan. "I threw my ax at the demon, and he took no hurt, but I might have missed in the dusk, or a branch deflected its flight. I'm not going out of my way looking for devils; but I wouldn't step out of my path to let one go by."
  • "Civilized men laugh," said Conan. "But not one can tell me how Zogar Sag can call pythons and tigers and leopards out of the wilderness and make them do his bidding. They would say it is a lie, if they dared. That's the way with civilized men. When they can't explain something by their half-baked science, they refuse to believe it."
  • He was concerned only with the naked fundamentals of life. The warm intimacies of small, kindly things, the sentiments and delicious trivialities that make up so much of civilized men's lives were meaningless to him. A wolf was no less a wolf because a whim of chance caused him to run with the watch-dogs. Bloodshed and violence and savagery were the natural elements of the life Conan knew; he could not, and would never, understand the little things that are so dear to civilized men and women.
  • "... you speak of Venarium familiarly. Perhaps you were there?"
    "I was," grunted [Conan]. "I was one of the horde that swarmed over the hills. I hadn't yet seen fifteen snows, but already my name was repeated about the council fires."
  • A wolf was no less a wolf because a whim of chance caused him to run with the watch-dogs.

"Shadows in Zamboula" (1935)

  • Did you deem yourself strong, because you were able to twist the heads off civilized folk, poor weaklings with muscles like rotten string? Hell! Break the neck of a wild Cimmerian bull before you call yourself strong. I did that, before I was a full-grown man - like this!

The Hour of the Dragon (1935-1936)

  • He grunted with satisfaction. The feel of the hilt cheered him and gave him a glow of confidence. Whatever webs of conspiracy were drawn about him, whatever trickery and treachery ensnared him, this knife was real. The great muscles of his right arm swelled in anticipation of murderous blows.

The Tempter (1937)

  • "Who are you?" I asked the phantom,
    "I am rest from Hate and Pride.
    "I am friend to king and beggar,
    "I am Alpha and Omega,
    "I was councilor to Hagar
    "But men call me suicide."
    I was weary of tide breasting,
    Weary of the world's behesting,
    And I lusted for the resting
    As a lover for his bride.

"Black Vulmea's Vengeance" (1938)

  • "Poor devils, they'll wake up in hell without knowing how they got there."

"The God in the Bowl" (1952)

It is not pleasant to come upon Death in a lonely place at midnight
  • Arus saw a tall powerfully built youth, naked but for a loin-cloth, and sandals strapped high about his ankles. His skin was burned brown as by the suns of the wastelands and Arus glanced nervously at his broad shoulders, massive chest and heavy arms, A single look at the moody, broad-browed features told the watchman the man was no Nemedian. From under a mop of unruly black hair smoldered a pair of dangerous blue eyes. A long sword hung in a leather scabbard at his girdle.
  • Arus the watchman grasped his crossbow with shaky hands, and he felt beads of clammy perspiration on his skin as he stared at the unlovely corpse sprawling on the polished floor before him. It is not pleasant to come upon Death in a lonely place at midnight.

"The Frost-Giant's Daughter" (1953)

"Not in Vanaheim," growled the black-haired warrior, "but in Valhalla will you tell your brothers that you met Conan of Cimmeria."
  • "Man," said he, "tell me your name, so that my brothers in Vanaheim may know who was the last of Wulfhere's band to fall before the sword of Heimdul."
    "Not in Vanaheim," growled the black-haired warrior, "but in Valhalla will you tell your brothers that you met Conan of Cimmeria."
  • "You cannot escape me!" he roared. "Lead me into a trap and I'll pile the heads of your kinsmen at your feet! Hide from me and I'll tear apart the mountains to find you! I'll follow you to hell!"
  • The clangor of the swords had died away, the shouting of the slaughter was hushed; silence lay on the red-stained snow. The bleak pale sun that glittered so blindingly from the ice-fields and the snow-covered plains struck sheens of silver from rent corselet and broken blade, where the dead lay as they had fallen. The nerveless hand yet gripped the broken hilt; helmeted heads back-drawn in the death-throes, tilted red beards and golden beards grimly upward, as if in last invocation to Ymir the frost-giant, god of a warrior-race...

"The Black Stranger" (1953)

  • "Seek for a shadow that drifts before a cloud that hides the moon; grope in the dark for a cobra; follow a mist that steals out of the swamp at midnight."

"Delcardes' Cat" (1967)

  • The lake-beings about him drew daggers and moved upon Kull. Then the king laughed and set his back against a column, gripping his sword hilt until the muscles stood out on his right arm in great ridges.
    "This is a game I understand, ghosts," he laughed.

"Riders Beyond the Sunrise" (1967)

  • Kull walked apart, beyond the glow of the campfires to gaze out among the mystic vistas of crag and valley. The slopes were softened by verdue and foliage, the vales deepening into shadowy realms of magic, the hills standing out bold and clear in the silver of the moon. The hills of Zalgara has always held a fascination for Kull. They brought to his mind the mountains of Atlantis whose snowy heights he had scaled as a youth, ere he fared forth into the great world to write his name across the stars and make an ancient throne his seat.

"By This Axe I Rule!" (1967)

"By This Axe I Rule!"
I am too lost for shame
That it moves me unto mirth,
But I can vision a Hell of flame
For I have lived on earth.
  • "A great poet is greater than any king."
  • "The King is only a slave like yourself, locked with heavier chains."
  • "By This Axe I Rule!"
  • Slowly the pale-faced noblemen and frightened women knelt, bowing in fear and reverence to the bloodstained giant who towered above them with his eyes ablaze.
    "I am king!"

"The Blue Flame of Vengeance" (1968)

  • Silence lay like a white shroud over all. Kane wrenched his dirk clear and a trickle of seeping blood followed sluggishly, then ceased. The Puritan mechanically swished the blade through the air to shake off the red drops which clung to the steel, and as it flashed in the lanthorn light, it seemed to Jack Hollinster to glitter like a blue flame--a flame which had been quenched in scarlet.
  • Pirates! No true honest seamen, these, with their strange contrast of finery and ruffianism. Tarry breeks and seamen's shirts, yet silken sashes lapped their waists; no stockings to their legs, yet many had on silver-buckled shoes and heavy gold rings to their fingers. Great gems dangled from many a heavy gold hoop serving as an ear ring. Not an honest sailorman's knife among them, but costly Spanish and Italian daggers. Their gauds, their ferocious faces, their wild and blasphemous bearing stamped them with the mark of their red trade.

"The Castle of the Devil" (1968)

  • It has fallen upon me, now and again in my sojourns through the world, to ease various evil men of thier lives...

"Visions" (1972)

  • I cannot believe in a paradise
    Glorious, undefiled,
    For gates all scrolled and streets of gold
    Are tales for a dreaming child.

    I am too lost for shame
    That it moves me unto mirth,
    But I can vision a Hell of flame
    For I have lived on earth.

"The Lost Valley of Iskander" (1974)

  • "To the mistress of all true adventurers!" he whispered, choking on his own blood. "To the Lady Death!"

"The Road of Azrael" (1976)

  • Verily, the star of Azrael hovers over the birth of a beautiful woman, the King of the Dead laughs aloud, and ravens whet their black beaks.
  • "The sea-road is good for wanderers and landless men. There is quenching of thirst on the grey paths of the winds, and the flying clouds to still the sting of lost dreams."


My feet are set on the outward trails
And the call of the roistering sea.
My wings are spread on the outbound gales
And the paths that are long and free.
Money and muscle, that’s what I want; to be able to do any damned thing I want and get away with it. Money won’t do that altogether, because if a man is a weakling, all the money in the world won’t enable him to soak an enemy himself; on the other hand, unless he has money he may not be able to get away with it.
I'll say one thing about an oil boom; it will teach a kid that Life's a pretty rotten thing as quick as anything I can think of.
But whatever my failure, I have this thing to remember — that I was a pioneer in my profession, just as my grandfathers were in theirs, in that I was the first man in this section to earn his living as a writer.
Civilized nations never, never have selfish motives for butchering, raping and looting; only horrid barbarians have those.
One objection I have heard voiced to works of this kind—dealing with Texas—is the amount of gore spilled across the pages. It can not be otherwise.
  • When a nation forgets her skill in war, when her religion becomes a mockery, when the whole nation becomes a nation of money-grabbers, then the wild tribes, the barbarians drive in... Who will our invaders be? From whence will they come?
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (July 1923)
  • If men are to meet steel with steel, they should be adequately armed. Long spears and short swords to meet a charge of long swords. If you dont believe that, read the chronicles of Rome and Macedonia.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (August 24, 1923)
  • I walk from five to fifteen miles a day, no exaggeration, soliciting clothes and delivering them and when I’m not doing that I wash and clean clothes. Not an overly pleasant occupation but I like it all right. I work on commision and ought to make about $40 per month, some months more.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (September 9, 1923)
  • I see in the papers where Roy Guthrie committed suicide. Why, I wonder?
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (October 5, 1923)
  • Also, there was a rape over in the Cisco country. Man about forty and a girl about five. They didnt hang him. A guy can get away with nearly anything in this part of the country.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (April 21, 1924)
  • Coming, as I do, from mountain folk on one side and sea followers on the other, there are few old songs of the hills or the sea with which I am not familiar.
    • From a letter to Robert W. Gordon (February 4, 1925)
  • I heard from Truett that you fellows are forbidden the company of the girl you were going with. Thats a dirty shame. How come? I suppose its because you tried to act like gentlemen.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (July 7, 1925)
  • I have no fear of the Hereafter. An orthodox hell could hardly be more torture than my life has been.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (July 1925)
  • My body seems a mere encumbrance to me; an imbecillic wagon, hitched to the horse of desire, which is the soul.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (August 28, 1925)
  • Mingle my dust with the burning brand,
    Scatter it free to the sky
    Fling it wide on the ocean’s sand,
    From peaks where the vultures fly.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (August 28, 1925)
  • By the way, I sold another story, same company. “Wolfshead” twentyfive pages $ 40.00. After reading it, I’m not altogether sure I wasnt off my noodler when I wrote it.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (October 9, 1925)
  • Rome got some peachy pastings when she tried to lick the Irish.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (January 14, 1926)
  • Come, my friend, let us cuss things in general.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (January 14, 1926)
  • In the hill country, civilization steals in last, and the people retain much of the crude but vigorous mode of expression of the colonial days and earlier.
    • From a letter to Robert W. Gordon (February 15, 1926)
  • I have a faculty of memorizing any song or poem as I hear it, many, especially the old Scotch and Irish ballads I heard my grandmother sing when I was but a child.
    • From a letter to Robert W. Gordon (February 15, 1926)
  • My feet are set on the outward trails
    And the call of the roistering sea.
    My wings are spread on the outbound gales
    And the paths that are long and free.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (June 23, 1926)
  • Now I gazed upon him, no longer in a passionate frenzy, but in a cold contempt. I visualized long days and nights of vengeance, of fiendish ingenuity and complete consumation. My enemy was at my mercy; he lived; all the plans of hate and torture I had concieved through the long years of wrong and insult I would wreak upon him. My plans were carefully laid; I knew exactly what tortures I would use, how long I could inflict them without causing death, until my enemy at last went forth, a man ruined of soul and body. I was at peace, and content.
    • From “Revenge” in a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (c. late Aug/early September 1927)
  • College dont amount to much anyhow. A lot of narrow minded, musty old ideas despensed by uninterested teachers to pupils who have come to college for athletics, because they considered it the stylish thing or to keep from going to work.
    • From a letter to Edna Mann (October 30, 1926)
  • Don’t you think that as a people, Americans have less poetry, real poetry, in their souls than any other nations?
    • From a letter to Robert W. Gordon (January 2, 1926)
  • I reckon if I ever marry, she will have to be a strong woman in a circus or something.
    • From a letter to Harold Preece (c. January or February 1928)
  • I mean my characters are more like men than these real men are, see. They’re rough and rude, they got hands and they got bellies. They hate and they lust; break the skin of civilization and you find the ape, roaring and red-handed.
    • From a letter to Harold Preece (c. January or February 1928)
  • We’re making tin gods out of those poor buffoons in Hollywood; I dote on movies and appreciate the scanty art therein but I consider the profession about the most debased and debasing I know.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (week of February 20, 1928)
  • Hell, the world isn’t worth reforming or even aiding as I can see. Men are swine and most women are fools. Befriend a man and he’ll betray you. Fondle a woman and she’ll double-cross you – whip her and she’ll cringe to you.
    • From a letter to Harold Preece (c. early 1928)
  • What shall a man say when a friend has vanished behind the doors of Death? A mere tangle of barren words, only words.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (c. May 1928)
  • Money and muscle, that’s what I want; to be able to do any damned thing I want and get away with it. Money won’t do that altogether, because if a man is a weakling, all the money in the world won’t enable him to soak an enemy himself; on the other hand, unless he has money he may not be able to get away with it.
    • From a letter to Harold Preece (c. June 1928)
  • I'm not going to vote. I won't vote for a Catholic and I won't vote for a damned Republican. Maybe I've said that before. My ancestors were all Catholic and not very far back. And I have reason to hate the church.
  • The poem you sent me was as fiery and virile as anything you’ve ever written – or anybody else, for that matter. Especially the second part went to my brain like the flaming liquor of insanity. No one else besides Jack London has the power to move me just that way.
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (c. November 1928)
  • But who is this who rides in silver white
    Attire that shames the stars across the night?
    Helmet and shield and corselet all a-gleam,
    Like some crusader from a drifting dream
    Upon a prancing jackass shod with flame—
    Rise, heralds of the past, bray forth his name
    • From a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith (c. November-December 1928)
  • I'm not worrying about my Irish past. What has my Celtic blood ever done for me but give me a restless and unstable mind that gives me no rest in anything I do? Damn the Shan Van Vocht, and the ancestors that went to Sassenach gallows for her, and damn the Irish and damn the black Milesian blood in my veins that makes me like drift-wood fighting the waves and gives me no peace or rest waking or sleeping or riding or dreaming or traveling or wooing, drunken or sober, with hunger or slumber on me.
    • From a letter to Harold Preece (1929)
  • I believe, like you, that civilization is a natural and inevitable consequence, whether good or evil I am not prepared to state.
  • If I was wealthy I'd never do anything but poke around in ruined cities all over the world - and probably get snake-bit.
    • From a letter to H. P. Lovecraft (1931)
  • I'll say one thing about an oil boom; it will teach a kid that Life's a pretty rotten thing as quick as anything I can think of.
    • From a letter to Farnsworth Wright (c. Summer 1931)
  • Youngsters of this generation seem not quite so hazardous except in the way of mechanical speed, bad liquor and venereal diseases.
    • From a letter to H. P. Lovecraft (c. April 1932)
  • I don't believe I ever saw an Oklahoman who wouldn't fight at the drop of a hat — and frequently drop the hat himself.
    • From a letter to H. P. Lovecraft (July 13, 1932)
  • I am unable to rouse much interest in any highly civilized race, country or epoch, including this one.
    • From a letter to H. P. Lovecraft (August 9, 1932)
  • Magazines were even more scarce than books. It was after I moved into "town" (speaking comparatively) that I began to buy magazines. I well remember the first I ever bought. I was fifteen years old; I bought it one summer night when a wild restlessness in me would not let me keep still, and I had exhausted all the reading material on the place. I'll never forget the thrill it gave me. Somehow it never had occurred to me before that I could buy a magazine. It was an Adventure. I still have the copy. After that I bought Adventure for many years, though at times it cramped my resources to pay the price. It came out three times a month, then... I skimped and saved from one magazine to the next; I'd buy one copy and have it charged, and when the next issue was out, I'd pay for the one which I owed, and have the other one charged, and so on. So I generally owed for one, but only one.
    • From a letter to H. P. Lovecraft (1933)
  • One objection I have heard voiced to works of this kind—dealing with Texas—is the amount of gore spilled across the pages. It can not be otherwise. In order to write a realistic and true history of any part of the Southwest, one must narrate such things, even at the risk of monotony.
    • From a letter to August Derleth (March 1933)
  • When I look down the vista of the years, with all the "improvements," "inventions" and "progress" that they hold, I am infinitely thankful that I am no younger. I could wish to be older, much older. Every man wants to live out his life's span. But I hardly think life in this age is worth the effort of living. I'd like to round out my youth; and perhaps the natural vitality and animal exuberance of youth will carry me to middle age. But good God, to think of living the full three score years and ten!
    • From a letter to H. P. Lovecraft (March 6, 1933)
  • I wrote my first story when I was fifteen, and sent it—to Adventure, I believe. Three years later I managed to break into Weird Tales. Three years of writing without selling a blasted line. (I never have been able to sell to Adventure; guess my first attempt cooked me with them for ever!)
    • From a letter to H. P. Lovecraft (c. July 1933)
  • It seems to me that many writers, by virtue of environments of culture, art and education, slip into writing because of their environments. I became a writer in spite of my environments. Understand, I am not criticizing those environments. They were good, solid and worthy. The fact that they were not inducive to literature and art is nothing in their disfavor. Never the less, it is no light thing to enter into a profession absolutely foreign and alien to the people among which one's lot is cast; a profession which seems as dim and faraway and unreal as the shores of Europe. The people among which I lived — and yet live, mainly — made their living from cotton, wheat, cattle, oil, with the usual percentage of business men and professional men. That is most certainly not in their disfavor. But the idea of a man making his living by writing seemed, in that hardy environment, so fantastic that even today I am sometimes myself assailed by a feeling of unreality. Never the less, at the age of fifteen, having never seen a writer, a poet, a publisher or a magazine editor, and having only the vaguest ideas of procedure, I began working on the profession I had chosen. I have accomplished little enough, but such as it is, it is the result of my own efforts. I had neither expert aid nor advice. I studied no courses in writing; until a year or so ago, I never read a book by anybody advising writers how to write. Ordinarily I had no access to public libraries, and when I did, it was to no such libraries as exist in the cities. Until recently — a few weeks ago in fact — I employed no agent. I have not been a success, and probably never will be. But whatever my failure, I have this thing to remember — that I was a pioneer in my profession, just as my grandfathers were in theirs, in that I was the first man in this section to earn his living as a writer.
    • From a letter to H. P. Lovecraft (c. July 1933)
  • It may sound fantastic to link the term "realism" with Conan; but as a matter of fact - his supernatural adventures aside - he is the most realistic character I ever evolved. He is simply a combination of a number of men I have known, and I think that's why he seemed to step full-grown into my consciousness when I wrote the first yarn of the series. Some mechanism in my sub-consciousness took the dominant characteristics of various prize-fighters, gunmen, bootleggers, oil field bullies, gamblers, and honest workmen I had come in contact with, and combining them all, produced the amalgamation I call Conan the Cimmerian.
    • From a letter to Clark Ashton Smith (23 July 1935)
  • You express amazement at my statement that 'civilized' men try to justify their looting, butchering and plundering by claiming that these things are done in the interests of art, progress and culture. That this simple statement of fact should cause surprize, amazes me in return. People claiming to possess superior civilization have always veneered their rapaciousness by such claims...
    Your friend Mussolini is a striking modern-day example. In that speech of his I heard translated he spoke feelingly of the expansion of civilization. From time to time he has announced; 'The sword and civilization go hand in hand!' 'Wherever the Italian flag waves it will be as a symbol of civilization!' 'Africa must be brought into civilization!' It is not, of course, because of any selfish motive that he has invaded a helpless country, bombing, burning and gassing both combatants and non-combatants by the thousands. Oh, no, according to his own assertions it is all in the interests of art, culture and progress, just as the German war-lords were determined to confer the advantages of Teutonic Kultur on a benighted world, by fire and lead and steel. Civilized nations never, never have selfish motives for butchering, raping and looting; only horrid barbarians have those.
    • From a letter to H. P. Lovecraft (5 December 1935)


  • If someone asks you where you get your characters... and they're sure to do that... you always say, "He's a combination of a lot of people I have known." That way, if your character is a damn fool, nobody will want to identify with him... To tell the truth, I don't know how a man gets a character for a story, anymore than I know how he falls in love. I don't know if his characters spring full-blown from his head, or if he sees a man walking down the street and recognises him instantly... I doubt any writer knows for sure where his characters come from.
    • Comment made to Novalyne Price. One Who Walked Alone by Novalyne Price Ellis, pp. 78-79


Howard...makes the reader feel the dark, desperate undercurrent of his character's schemes and struggles.
One cannot write about Robert E. Howard without writing about Texas.
  • "No wonder a few people in Cross Plains don’t like him. They don’t understand him. His preoccupation with history and with writing instead of the price of corn and cotton is something they could not understand Could I? I liked to talk about books. . . History. . . Writing. Well, this was an opportunity to listen to a very interesting storyteller!" ~ Novalyne Price Ellis, One Who Walked Alone, p. 64, ISBN 093798678X
  • "It is hard to describe precisely what made Mr. Howard's stories stand out so sharply; but the real secret is that he himself is in every one of them, whether they were ostensibly commercial or not. He was greater than any profit-making policy he could adopt — for even when he outwardly made concessions to Mammon-guided editors and commercial critics, he had an internal force and sincerity which broke through the surface and put the imprint of his personality on everything he wrote." ~ H. P. Lovecraft, "Robert Ervin Howard: A Memorium", Fantasy Magazine, 1936 (Reprinted in The Last Celt, Glenn Lord ed., p. 69, 1976, ISBN 0425036308)
  • ..."all these criticisms fade like morning mist before Howard’s headlong rush of action, his rainbow-tinted prose, the intensity with which he wrote his own feelings into his stories, and, above all, his Hyborian world – that splendid creation – which ranks with Burroughs' Barsoom and Tolkien's Middle Earth as a major fictional achievement." ~ L. Sprague de Camp, Dark Valley Destiny, p. 295, 1983, ISBN 0312940742
  • "Howard takes great care to develop mood and atmosphere in his best stories, and in so doing makes the reader feel the dark, desperate undercurrent of his character's schemes and struggles. It is in this that I feel closest to Howard, and it is something that his conscious imitators have never captured. The disparity of writing styles aside, the mood immediately sets pastiche-Howard apart from the real article. Pseudo-Conan is out having just the best time, 'cause he's the biggest, toughest, mightiest-thewed barbarian on the block, and he's gonna have a swell time of brawling and chopping monsters and rescuing princesses and offing wizards and drinking and brawling and ... and... etc... etc.... But in Howard's fiction the underlying black mood of pessimism is always there, and even Conan, who enjoys a binge or a good fight, is not having a good time of it at all. This is particularly true of Solomon Kane and King Kull-driven men whom not even a desperate battle can exorcise their black mood, while Conan at times can find brief surcease in excesses of pleasure or violence. I think Solomon Kane and King Kull were closer to Howard's true mood, while Conan represented the ability to escape briefly from black reality that Howard wished he could emulate. He failed. Of all Howard's characters I most prefer King Kull, and it is Kull who is closest to my own Kane..." ~ Karl Edward Wagner, Midnight Sun, "The Once and Future Kane", 2007, ISBN 978-1892389510 (First published in REH: Lone Star Fictioneer #1, Spring 1975)
  • "Because, in the end, The Conan Chronicles does give us the raw truth: that Robert E. Howard--a terribly unhappy, racist, mother-obsessed, fattish bodybuilder who wore silly hats and waddled down small-town Texas streets as though he were the reincarnation of Teddy Roosevelt though what he was the reincarnation of was in fact Tweedledum, and whose sexuality seems ambiguous now because he never had time in his short life to come out anywhere but in his writing--managed to generate out of the rag-and-bone shop of his brief span a superhero so supernaturally manifest that we cannot shake him loose. Conan is a kind of elemental; in the Land of Fable Eurasia whose scattered satrapies and dominions he ransacks, alone or at the head of warriors, he is described as a barbarian. What he is, in fact, as we read him in 2001, is pure. He is the acts of the dream he commits." ~ John Clute, 2001, Excessive Candour: We Cannot Shake Him Loose (a review of The Conan Chronicles from Gollancz)
  • "One cannot write about Robert E. Howard without writing about Texas. This is inevitable, and particularly so when discussing any aspect of Howard's biography. To ignore the presence of the Lone Star State in Robert E. Howard's life and writing invites , at the very least, a few wrongheaded conclusions, and at worst, abject character assassination. This doesn't keep people from plunging right in and getting it wrong every time." ~ Mark Finn, 2006, p. 249, Blood and Thunder, ISBN 978-1-932265-21-7
  • "[Behind Howard's stories] lurks a dark poetry and the timeless truth of dreams." ~ Robert Bloch
  • "I adore these books. Howard has a gritty, vibrant style--broadsword writing that cuts its way to the heart, with heroes who are truly larger than life. I heartily recommend them to anyone who loves fantasy." ~ David Gemmell
  • "Forget Schwarzenegger and the movies. This is pure pulp fiction from the 1930s, before political corrections and focus groups dictated the direction of our art. Swords spin, entrails spill, and woman swoon." ~ Men's Health magazine

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