Conan: The Exhibit!

phenom

A few months ago we told the tale of the Robert E. Howard westerns that were published in his hometown newspaper, the Cross Plains Review. But to be honest, Howard wasn’t really famous for his westerns. The world knew him for his fast-paced tales of sword and sorcery, and among those one character stood above the rest: Conan the Cimmerian. The Southwest Collection has installed “Robert E. Howard: Creator of Conan the Barbarian,” an exhibit curated by our favorite cataloger and metadata librarian, Rob King. It describes the many materials the SWC holds related to the author and his world-famous barbarian, and will be on display through the first of the year.

walked alone

Who was Robert E. Howard? A writer, of course. An avid boxer. A West Texan, too. But one young woman, Novalyne Price Ellis, kept extensive diaries about her years with the author that she later used to write One Who Walked Alone (the cover of which can be seen above.) Her insights into the man are wroth a read. Price was a school teacher who moved to Cross Plains, Texas, in 1934. She wanted to become a writer, and became interested in Howard both as an author and some-time partner. In the words of her Howard biography, she and Robert enjoyed “a unique, if often tempestuous, relationship.” Still, in between her teaching, his writing and boxing, and their quarreling, they rode horses across the countryside while discussing politics, Texas history, and the difficulties of living in West Texas during the Great Depression. They remained very close until Howard’s suicide in 1936, when he was only 30 years old.

Robert Howard Framed

Conan wasn’t the only character that Howard (seen here wearing a stylish hat) wrote to life. The young man spun yarns about Solomon Kane, a 16th century English adventurer; Bran Mak Morn, king of the Picts; and Kull of Atlantis, who we have some more to say about later. But really, Conan is what Howard’s legacy is all about, so here’s the short, short version of the barbarian’s story. Having traveled south from Cimmeria to seek his fortune in southern lands, Conan “trod the jeweled thrones of the earth under his sandaled feet” until he rose to become king of the ancient land of Aquilonia. There, as many know, he wore its crown upon his troubled brow. Our exhibit features compendiums of the Conan (and other Howard) stories, accounts of Howard’s life as both an author, amateur boxer, and lover of the American West, and analyses of the Conan phenomenon, such as…Conan the Phenomenon (the awesome cover of which can be seen at the beginning of this blog!)

Oh! Also, we have Conan comic books!

Garden of FEAR

Conan had many forerunners in Howard’s fiction. Take for example Hunwulf the wanderer and his adventures in the “Garden of Fear.” This tale’s narrator reveals that he has lived countless past lives. During one particularly Conan-esque lietime many millenia ago, he traveled as Hunwulf, a barbarous fellow who, as barbarians often do, became mired in high adventure. Assaulted by mammoths! Beset by a black-winged demon-man! Rescuing a damsel in distress! And what a lady she was: Gudrun. “Not for a millennium of millenniums have women like (her) walked the earth. Cleopatra…Helen of Troy, they were but pallid shadows of her beauty….” Yeah, Hunwulf had fallen pretty hard.

Kull

Another Conan precursor can be seen posing, axe in hand, on this cover. Kull the Conqueror (aka Kull of Atlantis) only saw 3 short stories published in Howard’s lifetime, but another 9 were published posthumously. Other Kull adventures were also rewritten into Conan tales by Howard over the course of his career. There’s a lot we could say about Kull, but “By This Axe, I Rule,” the title of one of his short stories, pretty succinctly sums him up. Fun fact: Conan wasn’t the only of Howard’s creations to make it into the movies. Kull was the titular character of a film starring Kevin Sorbo in 1997. It might be wiser to stick with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan the Barbarian (1982) for a host of reasons, though, if you’re forced to choose between the two.

So come check out this new exhibit! Also, if you’re interested, read some of Howard’s stories in our digital copies of the Cross Plains Review. And for anything else Howard related at the Southwest Collection, our Reference Department would be happy to help you find it.

Advertisements

Conan the Barbarian! (And Robert E. Howard and The Cross Plains Review)

Howard part 1

This weekend, June 13th and 14th, Cross Plains, Texas is hosting its annual Robert E. Howard Days celebration. Who was Robert E. Howard? Why, the creator of Conan the Barbarian! In honor of the legendary adventurer and his author, this week we’re sharing excerpts of Howard’s writing from 1930s editions of the Cross Plains Review, the newspaper in which many of Howard’s stories first appeared. The SWC is fortunate to have an almost complete run of the Review, almost all of which is now available digitally.  Sadly, the Howard pieces we’re about to share do not concern Conan – but rest assured, they are still entertainment of the highest quality!

The story, Drums of the Sunset, begins poetically: “Now come all you punchers and listen to my tale/When I tell you of troubles on the Chisholm Trail!” And so begins the story of Steve Harmer (and, soon enough, a host of other characters.) We’ve truncated the text here to make it more readable, and also because there is a lot of it…and of course to inspire you to read the whole first installment.

howard part 3

We’ve skipped part two and are sharing this excerpt from part 3. We hope that you’ll check out its predecessor so as to make sense of why Steve demands from Murken a new hat! Also, what mine is he talking about? And who is this woman he so gallantly offers to defend? Read on!

howard part 5Once again, we’ve left you guessing about part 4, a feeling no doubt shared by folks in 1928 who had missed the previous issue of the Review. That must have been particularly painful because our hero, Steve, had apparently just fought the Edwards! Who are they? Fortunately for you, we have the issue available online with all its many answers. (Note that we’re also not posting part 6, so to follow this tale of the old west you’ll need to follow along in our digitized issues!) In the meantime, this fifth installment contains Howard’s usual mix of action, gallantry, and the inevitable cliffhanger ending.

howard part 7

 

Drums of Sunset was published in eight parts. This is the seventh. Steve and Hard Luck, his newfound companion (or is he? The curious should check those back issues linked above!), are hot on the trail of a host of criminals ranging from ‘Navajoes’ to a ring of counterfeiters. Pieces of the mystery that have plagued Steve for six installments are starting to come together. And oh, the CLIFFHANGER! Steve and Hard Luck are locked in mortal combat with a rowdy group of Native Americans. For the thrilling details of part 8 you’ll again have to visit our digital holdings…but we regret to say that we have dire news. The story was actually published in 9 parts, the final of which we haven’t found. Organizers of the Robert E. Howard Days have similarly come up short in their search. If you should find it, you have to let us know! We’re dying to read the end of Steve’s tale!

Speaking of our staff, at least one demands – nay, commands – that you attend Robert E. Howard Days. If you can stomach his disappointment, then at the very least read through the story we’ve been linking above. It is a good one, with a pace that will be familiar to any of Howard’s fans. And as always, for an in-person view of our newspapers or any of our other collections, you can always contact our ever-diligent Reference Staff who would be happy to arrange that.