Robert E. Howard

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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, Western, Cosmic Horror and historical fiction. He was the Trope Maker for the genre 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.

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.

Robert E. Howard is the Trope Namer for:
Works

Notable characters created by Howard include (sorted by approximate internal chronology):

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:
  • 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. See also Macekre below.
  • Barbarian Hero: Essentially created the modern version of this trope.
  • 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".
  • Crossover: 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
  • Fair for Its Day: Although, usually under pressure from his publishers, Howard had many Damsel in Distress types, he also wrote several strong, intelligent female characters including Belit and Valeria from his Conan stories, and Red Sonya of Rogatino from his historical fiction. Unfortunately the same can't be said of his racial views which were pretty typical for the time and place he grew up in.
    • Howard occasionally wrote stories that weren't screamingly racist, or at least had some non-racist plot elements. In the Solomon Kane stories set in Africa, most of them have something along these lines. In The Hills of the Dead, N'Longa the shaman can actually be read as the hero, since he does all the major work necessary to put down the vampires, while Kane just keeps the vampires off N'Longa's back during the process. N'Longa also speaks eruditely when he's using his own language...he just can't speak English well. The Bogondan villagers of Wings in the Night are presented as basically good people trapped in a horrible situation. During the The Footfalls Within, Kane attacks a band of Arabs who've been enslaving Africans, and is (temporarily) captured. A minor Arab character, who had only been traveling with the slavers' caravan for protection, is sympathetic to Kane's plight. In The Moon of Skulls, Howard makes the following point about the villainous African culture of the piece: "These savages are not like the other natives of the region. A latent insanity lurks in the brain of each and every one." (Mind you, Moon is still jaw-droppingly racist, but at least Howard managed to slightly ameliorate his attitude.)
      • Other non-racist moments show up from time to time. In Howard's historical short story The Road of Azrael (not public domain, but recently reprinted in Lord of Samarcand and Other Tales of the Old Orient), the viewpoint character is an Arab. Several of his horror/supernatural works feature sympathetic characters of color: The viewpoint character in The Thunder-Rider is Native American, while In The Spirit of Tom Molyneaux (aka Apparition in the Prize Ring) the hero (but not the viewpoint character) is an African-American, whom Howard actually describes as possessing "great nobility." In The Noseless Horror, Ganra Singh (a Sikh) saves the day at the end. Meanwhile, The Horror from the Mound features a Mexican who's got a damn sight more common sense than the story's white viewpoint character. Finally, The Dead Slaver's Tale and The Dead Remember feature black victims getting ghostly revenge on the whites who murdered them.
      • Also in his defense, he wrote some stories that showed plenty of racism existing between conflicting clans and tribes that were either purely imaginative, or all ultimately Indo-European, at least in name. Picts? Northern Britain. Atlanteans? Supposed "Aryan" progenitors. In other words, Howard's fiction contains racism, itself, as an common accepted fact.
  • 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).
    • Conan is a loner a lot of the time too.
  • Macekre: In addition to some of his stories being completed upon his death, many of his less-popular stories were rewritten, often to create Dolled-Up Installments in his more popular franchises (source), and many of his actual stories were bowdlerized in paperback printings (source, and see also). In addition L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter wrote several published fanfics which they declared canon. The fanbase refused to go along with this, however, and all these bad decisions have long since been reversed.
  • 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.
  • 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.