Robert E. Howard

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Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.

Robert E. Howard (22 January 190611 June 1936) was an American writer of fantasy and historical adventure pulp stories, published primarily in Weird Tales magazine in the 1930s.

See also: Conan the Barbarian

Sourced

"The Phoenix on the Sword" (1932)

  • What do I know of cultured ways, the gilt, the craft and the lie?
    I, who was born in a naked land and bred in the open sky.
    The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
    Rush in and die, dogs—I was a man before I was a king.
  • Conan sensed their uncertainty and grinned mirthlessly and ferociously. "Who dies first?"
  • "They have no hope here or hereafter," answered Conan. "Their gods are Crom and his dark race, who rule over a sunless place of everlasting mist, which is the world of the dead. Mitra! The ways of the Aesir were more to my liking."
  • Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars - Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyberborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west.
  • Hither came Conan the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.
  • When I was a fighting-man, the kettle-drums they beat,
    The people scattered gold-dust before my horses feet;
    But now I am a great king, the people hound my track
    With poison in my wine-cup, and daggers at my back.

Wings in the Night (1932)

  • The ancient empires fall, the dark-skinned peoples fade and even the demons of antiquity gasp their last, but over all stands the Aryan barbarian, white-skinned, cold-eyed, dominant, the supreme fighting man of the earth.

"The Scarlet Citadel" (1933)

  • "...Free my hands and I'll varnish this floor with your brains!"
  • "Crom!" his mighty shoulders twitched. "A murrain of these wizardly feuds! Pelias has dealt well with me, but I care not if I see him no more. Give me a clean sword and a clean foe to flesh it in. Damnation! What would I not give for a flagon of wine!"
  • Aye, you white dog, you are like all your race; but to a black man gold can never pay for blood.
    • A former chief of Abombi to Conan

"The Tower of the Elephant" (1933)

  • Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.

"Rogues in the House" (1934)

  • "When I cannot stand alone, it will be time to die," he mumbled, through mashed lips. "But I'd like a flagon of wine."
  • "If that's true, then awnser this priest, why are we in these pits, hiding from some animal?" Conan asked "Someday, when all your civilization and science are likewise swept away, your kind will pray for a man with a sword."

"Queen of the Black Coast" (1934)

  • He shrugged his shoulders. "I have known many gods. He who denies them is as blind as he who trusts them too deeply. I seek not beyond death. It may be the blackness averred by the Nemedian skeptics, or Crom's realm of ice and cloud, or the snowy plains and vaulted halls of the Nordheimer's Valhalla. I know not, nor do I care. Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content."
  • [The] chief [of the gods of Cimmeria] is Crom. He dwells on a great mountain. What use to call on him? Little he cares if men live or die. Better to be silent than to call his attention to you; he will send you dooms, not fortune! He is grim and loveless, but at birth he breathes power to strive and slay into a man's soul. What else shall men ask of the gods? ... There is no hope here or hereafter in the cult of my people. In this world men struggle and suffer vainly, finding pleasure only in the bright madness of battle; dying, their souls enter a gray misty realm of clouds and icy winds, to wander cheerlessly throughout eternity.

"The Devil in Iron" (1934)

  • Conan stood paralyzed in the disruption of the faculties which demoralizes anyone who is confronted by an impossible negation of sanity.

"A Witch Shall Be Born" (1934)

  • I never saw a man fight as Conan fought. He put his back to the courtyard wall, and before they overpowered him the dead men were strewn in heaps thigh-deep about him. But at last they dragged him down, a hundred against one.
    • Valerius recounting the tale of how Conan was caught

"Jewels of Gwahlur" (1935)

  • Conan did not hesitate, nor did he even glance toward the chest that held the wealth of an epoch. With a quickness that would have shamed the spring of a hungry jaguar, he swooped, grasped the girl's arm just as her fingers slipped from the smooth stone, and snatched her up on the span with one explosive heave.

"Beyond the Black River" (1935)

  • "Barbarism is the natural state of mankind," the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. "Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph."
  • "There's nothing in the universe cold steel won't cut," answered Conan. "I threw my ax at the demon, and he took no hurt, but I might have missed in the dusk, or a branch deflected its flight. I'm not going out of my way looking for devils; but I wouldn't step out of my path to let one go by."
  • "Civilized men laugh," said Conan. "But not one can tell me how Zogar Sag can call pythons and tigers and leopards out of the wilderness and make them do his bidding. They would say it is a lie, if they dared. That's the way with civilized men. When they can't explain something by their half-baked science, they refuse to believe it."
  • He was concerned only with the naked fundamentals of life. The warm intimacies of small, kindly things, the sentiments and delicious trivialities that make up so much of civilized men's lives were meaningless to him. A wolf was no less a wolf because a whim of chance caused him to run with the watch-dogs. Bloodshed and violence and savagery were the natural elements of the life Conan knew; he could not, and would never, understand the little things that are so dear to civilized men and women.
  • "... you speak of Venarium familiarly. Perhaps you were there?"
    "I was," grunted [Conan]. "I was one of the horde that swarmed over the hills. I hadn't yet seen fifteen snows, but already my name was repeated about the council fires."

"Shadows in Zamboula" (1935)

  • "Did you deem yourself strong, because you were able to twist the heads off civilized folk, poor weaklings with muscles like rotten string? Hell! Break the neck of a wild Cimmerian bull before you call yourself strong. I did that, before I was a full-grown man...!"

The Hour of the Dragon (1935-1936)

  • He grunted with satisfaction. The feel of the hilt cheered him and gave him a glow of confidence. Whatever webs of conspiracy were drawn about him, whatever trickery and treachery ensnared him, this knife was real. The great muscles of his right arm swelled in anticipation of murderous blows.

The Tempter (1937)

  • "Who are you?" I asked the phantom,
    "I am rest from Hate and Pride.
    "I am friend to king and beggar,
    "I am Alpha and Omega,
    "I was councilor to Hagar
    "But men call me suicide."
    I was weary of tide breasting,
    Weary of the world's behesting,
    And I lusted for the resting
    As a lover for his bride.

"The God in the Bowl" (1952)

  • Arus saw a tall powerfully built youth, naked but for a loin-cloth, and sandals strapped high about his ankles. His skin was burned brown as by the suns of the wastelands and Arus glanced nervously at his broad shoulders, massive chest and heavy arms, A single look at the moody, broad-browed features told the watchman the man was no Nemedian. From under a mop of unruly black hair smoldered a pair of dangerous blue eyes. A long sword hung in a leather scabbard at his girdle.
  • Arus the watchman grasped his crossbow with shaky hands, and he felt beads of clammy perspiration on his skin as he stared at the unlovely corpse sprawling on the polished floor before him. It is not pleasant to come upon Death in a lonely place at midnight...

"The Frost-Giant's Daughter" (1953)

  • "You cannot escape me!" he roared. "Lead me into a trap and I'll pile the heads of your kinsmen at your feet! Hide from me and I'll tear apart the mountains to find you! I'll follow you to hell!"
  • The clangor of the swords had died away, the shouting of the slaughter was hushed; silence lay on the red-stained snow. The bleak pale sun that glittered so blindingly from the ice-fields and the snow-covered plains struck sheens of silver from rent corselet and broken blade, where the dead lay as they had fallen. The nerveless hand yet gripped the broken hilt; helmeted heads back-drawn in the death-throes, tilted red beards and golden beards grimly upward, as if in last invocation to Ymir the frost-giant, god of a warrior-race...

"Visions" (no date)

  • I cannot believe in a paradise
    Glorious, undefiled,
    For gates all scrolled and streets of gold
    Are tales for a dreaming child.

    I am too lost for shame
    That it moves me unto mirth,
    But I can vision a Hell of flame
    For I have lived on earth.

Letters

  • It seems to me that many writers, by virtue of environments of culture, art and education, slip into writing because of their environments. I became a writer in spite of my environments. Understand, I am not criticizing those environments. They were good, solid and worthy. The fact that they were not inducive to literature and art is nothing in their disfavor. Never the less, it is no light thing to enter into a profession absolutely foreign and alien to the people among which one's lot is cast; a profession which seems as dim and faraway and unreal as the shores of Europe. The people among which I lived — and yet live, mainly — made their living from cotton, wheat, cattle, oil, with the usual percentage of business men and professional men. That is most certainly not in their disfavor. But the idea of a man making his living by writing seemed, in that hardy environment, so fantastic that even today I am sometimes myself assailed by a feeling of unreality. Never the less, at the age of fifteen, having never seen a writer, a poet, a publisher or a magazine editor, and having only the vaguest ideas of procedure, I began working on the profession I had chosen. I have accomplished little enough, but such as it is, it is the result of my own efforts. I had neither expert aid nor advice. I studied no courses in writing; until a year or so ago, I never read a book by anybody advising writers how to write. Ordinarily I had no access to public libraries, and when I did, it was to no such libraries as exist in the cities. Until recently — a few weeks ago in fact — I employed no agent. I have not been a success, and probably never will be. But whatever my failure, I have this thing to remember — that I was a pioneer in my profession, just as my grandfathers were in theirs, in that I was the first man in this section to earn his living as a writer.
  • It may sound fantastic to link the term "realism" with Conan; but as a matter of fact - his supernatural adventures aside - he is the most realistic character I ever evolved. he is simply a combination of a number of men I have known, and I think that's why he seemed to step full-grown into my consciousness when I wrote the first yarn of the series. Some mechanism in my sub-consciousness took the dominant characteristics of various prize-fighters, gunmen, bootleggers, oil field bullies, gamblers, and honest workmen I had come in contact with, and combining them all, produced the amalgamation I call Conan the Cimmerian.
    • From a letter to Clark Ashton Smith (23 July 1935)

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