Quiz time: Conan, first thought?
Some folks might answer the late night show host or Arnie’s big break out movie or the new Conan movie. A few die hards will think of the comic books or campy books from the ’70s and ’80s. Not sure how many will think of Conan and his creator, Robert E. Howard, the father of the “sword and sorcery” genre. Most us at some point have come in contact with the whole barbarian, sword and spell slinger tall tale and for a while it was a staple in the movie going world. Howard wrote for the “pulp” magazines of his day, some of which are still around. Weird Tales published most of his stories, including the Conan tales, Krull the forerunner of Conan, and Soloman Kane. The Kane stories pit a man’s desire to save his soul and saving the innocents around him. Very strange twist of writing and may expose Howard’s own conflicted emotions. I offer no info or conclusions as I have not yet read the Soloman Kane stories.
Conan offers no such moral dilema, he does as he pleases with little regard for the consquences. He is sure in his right, however rarely do we see him engaged in bad behavior. Howard through Conan alludes to his theivery and murdering yet when we join him on his quests there is method and purpose to his madness. Always portrayed as a barbarian from Cimmeria, he is intellegant yet supersious of magic and the supernatural. His code and honor are unbreakable and he helps the ones that can not help themselves. Only after they have proven themselves to be worthy of our hero’s aid. The old adage of help yourself and help will be given.
A less kind reader would note and speak at length on the dated language and attitudes presented. In fact many an older writer has fallen into this quagmire Kipling, Hemingway and other distigushed writers. To this reader I would say in 80 or 100 years our own language could be viewed in similar terms. So if you look for bias you will find it.
So what does this have to do with writing? In one of my writing projects I revisit Conan in the modern world. I use his mythos and strength to teach my heroine that she can be the hero of her own tale. She is contracted to create an illuminated manuscript of the Howard Conan tales in time for the hundred year celebration of his publication. And then the bad things start happening, her shop is broken into, her father disappears and other misadventures.
Just some thoughts on how Conan is still a valid hero of the modern age. Cheers on the 4th of July week. james