Tuesday, April 1, 2008

"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."
--Robert E. Howard, "The Phoenix on the Sword" (1932)

I can scarcely think of a character in all of fantasy literature who has ever been introduced in so succinct and beautiful a fashion. Conan is the perfect exemplar of pulp fantasy sensibilities.


  1. I'll grant you that. But for style, I prefer the introduction of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in Leiber's "Swords of Lahnkmar":

    "I see we're expected," the small man said, continuing to stroll toward the large open gate in the long, high, ancient wall. As if by chance, his hand brushed the hilt of his long, slim rapier.

    "At over a bowshot distance how can you-" the big man began. "I get it. Bashabeck's orange headcloth. Stands out like a whore in church. And where Bashabeck is, his bullies are. You should have kept your dues to the Thieves Guild paid up."

    "It's not so much the dues," the small man said. "It slipped my mind to split with them after the last job, when I lifted those eight diamonds from the Spider God's temple."

    The big man sucked his tongue in disapproval. "I sometimes wonder why I associate with a faithless rogue like you."

    The small man shrugged. "I was in a hurry. The Spider God was after me..."

  2. Asking me to choose between Howard and Leiber is like asking me to decide which of my children I love best.

  3. James, thanks for starting a blog! I dropped you into my RSS feed the moment I found this joint.

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Jeff. Your blog is one of several that strongly influenced my decision to start one of my own.

  5. I think both REH and Raymond Chandler were masters of conveying character in as few words as possible - but saying so much with those words. While I grew up reading the L. Sprague de Camp versions, recently getting to read the REH originals has just made me appreciate his use of language all the more.