Creator: Robert E. Howard
"Money and muscle, thatís what I want; to be able to do any damned thing I want and get away with it. Money wonít do that altogether, because if a man is a weakling, all the money in the world wonít 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."Robert E. Howard
(January 22, 1906 - June 11, 1936) was a writer and poet from Texas, USA. He wrote short stories and poems spanning several genres, including Heroic Fantasy
, Cosmic Horror
and historical fiction. He was the Trope Maker
for the genres Low Fantasy
, Dark Fantasy
and Sword and Sorcery
— which, in fact, received its name from a discussion of what the genre that a Howard story was should be called. Along with J. R. R. Tolkien
, he is one of the most influential writers in modern fantasy. His life was the subject of the 1996 film The Whole Wide World
Howard was a friend and correspondent of HP Lovecraft
and one of the contributors to the original Cthulhu Mythos
His most well-known creation is Conan the Barbarian
, a character that has greatly overshadowed his creator.
Howard committed suicide with a gun at the age of 30, after his ailing mother fell into an irrecoverable coma.
Notable characters created by Howard include (sorted by approximate internal chronology):
- Kull, exile of Atlantis and king of Valusia.
- Conan, a barbarian from Cimmeria who would become king of Aquilonia. Many other works have been written about him, but the complete, canonical stories are:
- Bran Mak Morn, king of the Picts.
- Cormac Mac Art: An Irish pirate during the time of King Arthur.
- Turlogh Dubh O'Brien, a Gaelic outlaw.
- Red Sonja was not actually created by Howard, but she inhabits the Hyborian Verse together with Conan and is inspired by a "Red Sonya" who hailed from Russia in Howard's story The Shadow of the Vulture.
- Solomon Kane, a British Puritan explorer in Africa.
- Esau Cairn, an Earthman who became a hero on the distant planet of Almuric.
- Black Terrence Vulmea, an Irish pirate.
- Breckenridge Elkins: A 19th century Mountain Man, Played for Laughs and, although not well known now, at the time of his death, Howard's most popular character.
- The Sonora Kid, a Western gunslinger
Many of Howard's works (including some juvenalia) are available here
Artists that were influenced by Robert Howard's works include
Tropes common to many of Robert Howard's stories (that do not fit nicely into any articles about specific characters or stories that might already exist)
- Action Girl: Dark Agnes, Red Sonya of Rogatino
- Anti-Hero: Pretty much every main character in anything he wrote.
- Author Existence Failure: Many of Howard's incomplete drafts were picked up by other writers such as L. Sprague de Camp and turned into complete stories.
- Barbarian Hero: Essentially created the modern version of this trope.
- Black and Gray Morality
- Born in the Wrong Century: Esau Cairn of Almuric is a Conan-like figure who is described by Howard as being born out of his epoch, a man of great strength and intelligence who was nevertheless ill-fitted to life in a "machine-made civilization."
- The Butcher: Skol the Butcher from "The Blood of Belshazzar".
- Canon Welding: Howard did this a lot with his historical, horror and fantasy stories. Just to name a few examples: Kull was explicitly tied with Conan the Barbarian in the essay "The Hyborian Age". Both was tied with the historical-fantasy character Bran Mak Morn through the Kull-Bran crossover "Kings of the Night". The ring of Thoth-Amon, from the Conan stories, and worshipers of Bran are featured in Howard's modern horror stories, while both Bran and Kull are mentioned in one of his Turlogh Dubh O'Brien stories set in 1200's. It wouldn't be unreasonable to consider all of Howard's speculative fiction to be part of the same verse, even if Howard never lived to point it out himself. And of course Howard and H.P. Lovecraft making references to each-others in their works was the foundation of the Cthulhu Mythos.
- Cross Over: The story Kings of the Night stars Kull crossing over into the world of Brak Mak Morn.
- Despair Event Horizon: Pushed over this by his mother's illness although he suffered all his life from what he called "black moods" that were probably what is now called clinical depression.
- Driven to Suicide
- Duel to the Death
- Feminist Fantasy: Dark Agnes de Chastillon's stories in particular can be seen as early examples of this trope, but a lot of Howard's other heroines may also qualify.
- Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: Happens to Breckenridge Elkins, leading to a situation where he gets mistaken for a prizefighter.
- Good Old Fisticuffs: He wrote a lot of non-supernatural stories about boxers and other fist-fighters, usually with titles like "Circus Fists" and "Waterfront Fists."
- In Harm's Way
- Loin Cloth
- Loners Are Freaks: Solomon Kane, poster child for this trope, has a few interactions on rare occasions with the Witch Doctor N'Longa, but that's about it. Most of the other characters in the Kane stories are just there to die violently (often at the hands of Kane himself).
- Lovecraft Lite: Even a mortal man might triumph over an Eldritch Abomination in Howard's horror stories, either by using Good Old Fisticuffs or getting in touch with his inner barbarian and grabbing a longsword off the wall. It can go either way when Conan runs into them — sometimes he cuts down the tentacled horror and sometimes he knows when to run like hell.
- Mighty Whitey
- Mountain Man: Breckenridge Elkins
- Outlaw Town: Bab-el-Shaitan ("the Gate of the Devil") in the story "The Blood of Belshazzar".
- Our Zombies Are Different: "Pigeons From Hell" featured a "zuvembie", which name was later used by Marvel Comics for its voodoo-based zombie-like creatures (who couldn't be called such due to The Comics Code.)
- Planetary Romance: Almuric. An Edgar Rice Burroughs-style adventure, but with a Howard hero.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Conan and several others. Howard himself seemed to believe that humanity had lost this mindset over time, and longed for a return to "hands-on" problem-solving.
- Rated M for Manly: Howard's distinctive writing style practically drips testosterone.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Many stories feature snakes as monsters. Howard even wrote a short essay hailing snakes for their deadliness. (Can be read at Wikisource.)
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Comes down heavily on the cynical side of things.
- The Trope Kid: The Sonora Kid
- The Verse: Conan and Kull both exist in the same history. Also, in "Kings of Night" Kull is brought forward to help Bran Mac Morn who is implied to be the reincarnation of Kull's friend Brule. And many of Howard's stories touch upon their place in the Cthulhu Mythos.
- Walking the Earth: Solomon Kane. Constantly.
- You Imagined It: The supernatural is not believed in by many of the people of Howard's tales, so Howard's heroes usually get this a lot. Usually, though, they have some physical evidence on hand that proves them right.