Robert Ervin Howard (January 22, 1906 - June 11, 1936) was a writer and poet from Texas.
He wrote short stories and poems spanning several genres, including Heroic Fantasy, Western, 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 H. P. Lovecraft and one of the contributors to the original Cthulhu Mythos. It was an Odd Friendship: The erudite New Englander and backwoods Texan boy, with diametrically opposed philosophies about. . . well, everything. While Lovecraft felt that human concerns and powers were utterly irrelevant to the universe at large (the foundational cornerstone of Cosmic Horror), Howard felt that humanity could overcome anything (especially themselves) so long as they held barbarism in their heart. (An Eldritch Abomination appears in a Lovecraft story, anyone present will die or go insane, and the person who lived to tell the story probably wasn't even there. An Eldritch Abomination appears in a Howard story, Conan will probably sword it to death.) Lovecraft liked technology and civilization, Howard most emphatically did not. But the two actually bonded over their differences, challenging each others' worldviews and forcing honest evaluation which only strengthened them.
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 and he was told she would never wake again. She died shortly after.
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:
- The Phoenix on the Sword
- "The Frost-Giant's Daughter"
- "The God in the Bowl"
- "The Scarlet Citadel"
- "The Tower of the Elephant".
- "Black Colossus"
- "Xuthal of the Dusk"
- "The Pool of the Black One"
- "The Vale of Lost Women"
- "Rogues in the House"
- "Iron Shadows in the Moon"
- "Queen of the Black Coast".
- "The Devil in Iron"
- "The People of the Black Circle"
- "A Witch Shall Be Born"
- "The Black Stranger"
- "The Servants of Bit Yakin"
- "Beyond the Black River"
- "Man-Eaters of Zamboula"
- "The Hour of the Dragon"
- "Red Nails"
- 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.
- The Shadow of the Vulture — Red Sonja was not actually created by Howard, she was inspired by a "Red Sonya" who hailed from Ukraine in that short story Howard wrote.
- 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.
- Dark Agnes de Chastillion, a swashbuckling noblewoman from 16th century France.
- The Sonora Kid, a Western gunslinger
- Sailor Steve Costigan, amateur boxer, champion of the Sea Girl (the fightin'est ship afloat) and scourge of waterfronts across the Asiatics. One of Howard's more humorous protagonists.
Many of Howard's works (including some juvenalia) are available here
Artists that were influenced by Robert Howard's works include:
- Bal-Sagoth, whose name is derived from the Howard short story The Gods of Bal-Sagoth.
- Fritz Leiber in the description of lush, sensuous oriental civilizations which he employed to great effect in his Lankhmar stories.
- Karl Edward Wagner
- Terry Pratchett who created the famous Cohen the Barbarian for Discworld
- Michael Moorcock, a big fan of his work who designed the titular character in The Elric Saga to be a Spiritual Antithesis to Conan.
Robert Howard's stories (that do not have their own articles on this wiki) include examples of:
- Action Girl: Howard created quite a few badass female protagonists most notably Valeria, Dark Agnes and Red Sonya of Rogatino.
- Asshole Victim: Murderous sailor John Kulrec in "The Sea Curse".
- 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 were tied to 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 Mak Morn, both 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 the 13th century. 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.
- Creator Thumbprint: Manliness, those manly men getting in touch with their inner barbarian, Irish or Irish-American manly men (even Conan is, within the Howard mythology, an ancestor of the Irish) and in modern-day stories, manly men named Steve. Repellent reptiles.
- Crossover: The story Kings of the Night stars Kull crossing over into the world of Brak Mak Morn.
- Died During Production: Many of Howard's incomplete drafts were picked up by other writers, such as L. Sprague de Camp, and turned into complete stories.
- Feminist Fantasy: Dark Agnes de Chastillon's stories in particular can be seen as early examples of this trope.
- 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."
- Loophole Abuse: Lopez from "The Horror From The Mound" swore inviolable oaths to his father never to speak of the Mound's curse to anyone but his own eldest son. But when Brill suggests he write down the secret instead of say it, Lopez has no problem with that.
- 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.
- The Trope Kid: The Sonora Kid
- The 'Verse: Conan and Kull both exist in the same history. Also, in "Kings of the Night" Kull is brought forward to help Bran Mac Morn who is implied to be the reincarnation of Kull's friend Brule. And Conan's sorcerous foe Thoth-Amon's ring from The Phoenix on the Sword appears in the John Kirowan story The Haunter of the Ring. And many of Howard's other stories likewise touch upon their place in the Cthulhu Mythos.
- Walking the Earth: de Montour, from "Wolfshead".