|Art by Harold S. De Lay|
I would take you back with me into an age beside which that of Brennus and Rome is as yesterday. I would take you back through, not merely centuries and millenniums, but epochs and dim ages unguessed by the wildest philosopher. Oh far, far and far will you fare into the nighted past before you win beyond the boundaries of my race, blue-eyed, yellow-haired, wanderers, slayers, lovers, mighty in rapine and wayfaring.
Today marks the passage of eighty years since the demise of Robert E. Howard. Rather than focus on the circumstances of his death, let us instead appreciate what he has given us.
The October, 1936, issue of Weird Tales contained the final installment of “Red Nails,” the last Conan story Howard wrote. About which he said to H. P. Lovecraft, “it well may be the last fantasy I'll ever write” and that it “was the bloodiest and most sexy weird story I ever wrote.” The illustration above is from that story.
Also contained in said issue is a poetic tribute to Howard by Robert H. Barlow (displayed below), whose other literary efforts include a handful of collaborations with Lovecraft.
In the poem, Barlow conflates Howard with Conan, Howard's most famous creation. Writers tend to put something of themselves into their characters and there must be something of Howard in Conan. In my opinion, however, Howard is more like another of his creations, James Allison, a contemporary Texan who recounts heroic past lives. While Allison is constrained by his own infirmity, Howard is constrained by his mother's infirmity. Both, of course, take us to “epochs and dim ages unguessed.”
Howard, along with various other luminaries, was written up for GURPS Who's Who 2. Such write-ups can't help but be subjective; Ernest Hemingway's write-up would easily thrash Howard's write-up in the world of GURPS. I would like to think that “Two-Gun Bob” would put up a good fight against “Papa,” but what do I know? Anyway, using a tortuous conversion process from GURPS to Hero System to (A)D&D, I have fashioned Howard in terms of “the world's most popular role-playing game.”
Robert E. Howard, a.k.a. Ervin the Mighty (2nd Level Fighter)
Add a 'Survival' non-weapon proficiency, roll hit points, and equip to taste.
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P.S. – Readers may be interested in a guest post I recently wrote for the eminently readable Schlock Value blog.