Founding Father of Heroic Fantasy Robert Howard
Robert Howard is not so popular in our country, despite his huge contribution to world fiction. He is one of those authors whose brainchild is much more famous than its creator. Everyone knows Conan the barbarian, many watched films about him, but only a few will immediately name the person who invented him. And if someone remembers Solomon Kane, you know – in front of you is a fan.
Briefly about the writer
Many of his works are generally unknown to readers, and there are many of them – Howard wrote detectives, mystical novels, historical and pseudo-historical novels, westerns and even humorous works during his career.
Unfortunately, he did not live very long. Howard could not accept the fact that his mother could not fight tuberculosis and committed suicide in his car. As often happens, fame came to him posthumously – most of his works were published after his death. As well as ideological heirs and outspoken imitators, they called Howard the father of “heroic fantasy.”
Childhood and youth
Robert Irwin Howard was born on January 22, 1906 in the family of the village doctor Isaac Mordecai Howard, who practiced in the Texas village of Pister, and Esther Jane, as a girl named Irving. Robert’s grandfather in 1849 tried to get to California, caught in the gold rush, but cholera stopped him in Texas. Robert’s mother also came from a family of American pioneers and found the last Comanche raid in Texas.
For the first 9 years of his life, the Robert family moved from place to place until it finally stopped in the village of Cross Plains. Immediately, Robert wrote his first adventure story.
The marriage of his parents, meanwhile, was rapidly collapsing. The father of the family spent large sums of money, endlessly investing in various enterprises, which is why the money was desperately lacking. The mother tried to protect her son from the influence of her father, instilling a deep love for poetry and literature, read poetry daily and constantly supported him in his attempts to become a writer.
Skirmishes with hooligans, and indeed life in Texas at the beginning of the 20th century, revealed to him the ubiquity of evil and enemies in the world and taught him the values of physical strength and violence. The original tales of skirmishes, lynchings, feuds and Indian raids developed his distinctly Texan, stern outlook on the world. Of course, in the future the leitmotif of his works will be that evil can be overcome only with a firm hand.
In the fall of 1922, when Howard was sixteen, he temporarily moved to a boarding house in the nearby town of Brownwood to complete his senior high school, accompanied by his mother. It was in Brownwood that he first met friends of his age who shared their interest not only in sports and history, but also in writing and poetry.
Howard graduated from high school in May 1923 and, returning to the village, he engaged in manual labor. He was a cotton cleaner, cattle grader, garbage carrier, grocer, office clerk, soda seller, stenographer, tool wrapper for a surveyor, and also wrote news from oil fields.
Creative activity and the path to fame
At the age of nine, he began to write short stories, mostly pseudo-historical, dedicated to the Vikings, Arabs, battles and bloodshed. Growing up, he met with the authors, who subsequently had a serious impact on his work. These are Jack London and his tales of reincarnation and past lives; Rudyard Kipling’s Adventure Stories; classic mythological stories compiled by Thomas Balfinch.
Howard had an exceptional memory and impressed friends with his ability to memorize large texts after one or two readings.
Illustration for the story “Spear and Fang”
At the age of fifteen, Robert began to send his stories to various magazines, often meeting rejection. Robert methodically studied what magazines publish, and tried to write in the same manner. His first publication was the poem “Sea”, published in one of the city newspapers in 1923, and the first published story was “Spear and Fang”, published in Weird Tales in 1925. Subsequently, he was repeatedly published in this journal.
In 1926, Robert Howard again went to Brownwood, to college – on a course accounting accountant. Here he set about writing a work that would become the founder of a new genre – that same “heroic fantasy”. This is the story “Kingdom of the Shadows”, the first of a series of works about Kull. After his release, Howard began to gain more and more popularity and his works were more readily accepted.
Mark Finn, in his book Blood & Thunder: The Life & Art of Robert E. Howard, writes that Howard followed in the footsteps of genre mixing experts such as Edgar Allan Poe and Lovecraft, “mixing elements of fantasy, horror and mythology with historical romance, action and fencing. ”Thus, he created“ a new style of storytelling, which became known as the sword and magic. ”