Saturday, January 22, 2011

Robert E. Howard in his own words

In honor of what would be his 105th birthday, I thought I’d let Robert E. Howard’s own words do the talking.

Here’s a few of my favorites culled from his Conan, Kull, and Solomon Kane stories. There’s so many to pull from but I chose these because they capture the ferocity, humor, and poetic qualities of Howard’s writing.

If you got any favorite passages to share, post ‘em here.

There comes, even to kings, the time of great weariness. Then the gold of the throne is brass, the silk of the palace becomes drab. The gems in the diadem and upon the fingers of the women sparkle drearily like the ice of the white seas; the speech of men is as the empty rattle of a jester’s bell and the feel comes of things unreal; even the sun is copper in the sky and the breath of the green ocean is no longer fresh.

–"The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune”

To read the rest of this post, visit The Black Gate website.


David J. West said...

You posted one of my (and everyone elses) favorites from 'Beyond the Black River',


"They say foul beings of Old Times still lurk
In dark forgotten corners of the world,
And Gates still gape to loose, on certain nights,
Shapes pent in Hell."


"The Lion banner sways and falls in the horror haunted gloom;
A scarlet dragon rustles by, borne on winds of doom.
In heaps the shining horsemen lie, where the thrusting lances break,
And deep in the haunted mountains, the lost, black gods awake.
Dead hands grope in the shadows, the stars turn pale with fright,
For this is the Dragon's Hour, the triumph of fear and night." -- THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON

Taranaich said...

Lovely choices, Brian: I don't think anyone would argue with a single one. Damn, I see Barbara stole my choice...

Eric D. Lehman said...

Inside the tent Conan emptied the wine-jug and smacked his lips with relish. Tossing the empty vessel into the corner, he braced his belt and strode out through the front opening, halting for a moment to let his gaze sweep over the lines of camel-hair tents stretched before him, and the white-robed figures that moved among them, singing, mending bridles, or whetting tulwars.

He lifted his voice in a thunder that carried to the farthest confines of the encampment: "Aie, you dogs, sharpen your ears and listen! Gather around here. I have a tale to tell you."

-from "A Witch Shall be Born"

Not Howard's best Conan story, but as a writer, that passage always resonates with me. We all have tales to tell, though perhaps Conan could do it better.

Wickedmurph said...

Living in the "savage north" of Canada, and having worked in Alaska and the Yukon - this is my favorite.

Damn peculiar things going on along this coast. But that’s always the way when civilized men come into the wilderness. They’re all crazy as hell. REH-The Black Stranger

Brian Murphy said...

Great quotes, guys. Thanks for sharing.

Kent said...

I didn't know where to post this Brian but having recently acquired the three del rey Conan books and The del rey Solomon Kane book I am *very* interested to hear your breakdown of the stories into say Good, ok, Poor. If you have done this before you might link to it.

With these excellent editions I am reading Howard with fresh eyes and am increasingly impressed with the elements of story telling in which he excels. I am finding the early stories interesting even though the editor is a little apologetic about the first volume. One illustration for The Tower of the Elephant is superb.

I know nothing about Solomon Kane and I would prefer to read the better stories first so that I am not put off. Any clues are appreciated, ta.

Brian Murphy said...

Hi Kent, my favorite Conan stories include the following:

"Red Nails" (the best, in my opinion)

"Beyond the Black River"

"The Tower of the Elephant"

"The People of the Black Circle"

"The Hour of the Dragon"

But really, they're all good, except for maybe "The Vale of Lost Women."

The Solomon Kane stories have some strong racist elements in them, so be prepared for that. Unlike some critics I can contextualize the stories (they were written when Howard was young, and in early 1920s Texas) so it doesn't bother me, but you should be prepared for that.

Get ready for some great reading. Howard is finally getting his due as not only a fine writer of pulp action, but of surprising depths.

Kent said...

Thanks for the list.

I have been slow to acknowledge Howard as a great but the more I read the more I see what he does well, very well.

The Solomon Kane is unusual and reads like edgy fiction for late teens. The del rey edition is littered with atmospheric illustrations, perhaps thats where Im getting the teenage book vibe. I am about to read the fifty pager Wings in the Night which I am advised is a good Kane tale.

Do you have the del rey editions of Howard's stuff? They are remarkable in quality. Im going to get the Horror edition next.

By the way I thought the movie, The Whole Wide World, was excellent.

Brian Murphy said...

Hi Kent, I have many of the Del Reys, including the three Conan volumes; Kull, Exile of Atlantis (highly recommended--a little more philosophical than Conan); Solomon Kane; and Sword Woman and other stories. I've also got all of the Lancer books, plus assorted others, including The Conan Chronicles (in the Fantasy Masterworks line), a couple Howard biographies, some of his letters, and two volumes of criticism (The Dark Barbarian and The Barbaric Triumph).

My favorite Kane tale is probably Red Shadows.

The Whole Wide World is a great film. I recently read the book on which it's based and this is also highly recommended.

Kent said...

That's an impressive collection! As I said above the image of the prisoner from the Tower of the Elephant blew me away so I appreciate the effect the art has on Howard's stuff though I am normally disinterested in illustration.

I will get the Kull then thanks.

I have a vague memory of reading a story about an Irish adventurer opposing vikings, I think, though I don't think the fella has a collection devoted to him. Do you know who I mean?