Exploring the Worlds of Robert E. Howard: Father of the Sword and Sorcery Genre

John Tommasino, Cybernaut, Van Nuys Branch Library,
The Robert E. Howard Museum in Cross Plains, Texas
The Robert E. Howard Museum in Cross Plains, Texas

From a small town in West Central Texas came the stuff of legends—kings, warriors, evil sorcery, and monsters. Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) wrote hundreds of short stories published in the pulp magazines of his era, although he is best known for the sword and sorcery character Conan the Barbarian.

But Howard’s range was not limited to Conan; he created several other epic characters like King Kull of Atlantis and Solomon Kane, a sword-wielding Puritan who fights evil. His writing also included adventures in the horror, western, and boxing genres.

Howard was a deeply troubled writer at odds with his small town and was destined to take his own life in 1936. However, his literary legacy can be found today in everything from Hollywood movies to fantasy role-playing games to Marvel Comics. Every June, hundreds of Howard fans, (including this author), visit the Howard Home in Cross Plains, Texas, which has been preserved as a museum with artifacts of the writer and his family.

Weird Tales book cover and author Robert E. Howard in a fedora

The cover of Weird Tales Magazine issue May 1934 featuring Queen of the Black Coast, one of Robert E. Howard's original stories about Conan the Barbarian, and Robert E. Howard, [1934]. Public domain

If you’re a new Howard reader or a dedicated fan, here’s a must-read and see list of Howard Media in the library catalog:

Must-Read and See: Robert E. Howard

Conan the Barbarian
Howard, Robert E.

This collection of 17 Conan stories is a great place to start exploring the world of Robert E. Howard. Highlights include the short stories “The Tower of the Elephant”, “A Witch Shall be Born” and the novel “The Hour of the Dragon”.

The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane
Howard, Robert E.

This volume chronicles the short stories of Robert E. Howard’s unique character, the Puritan swordsman Solomon Kane. Read about Kane’s exploits in tales like “The Right Hand of Doom”, “Castle of the Devil” and “Wings in the Night”.

Conan the Barbarian (DVD)

Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as Howard’s most famous character in this 1982 epic directed by John Milius. Screenwriter Oliver Stone includes motifs from several Howard stories in this savage tale of vengeance as Conan battles the evil sorcerer Thulsa Doom, played by James Earl Jones.

Kull: Exile of Atlantis
Howard, Robert E.

Before creating Conan, Howard wrote about another barbarian king struggling to hold onto his thrown from evil schemers. Read the Conan prototype in tales including “The Cat and the Skull”, “The Shadow Kingdom” and “By This Axe I Rule!”

The Whole Wide World (DVD)

Actor Vincent D’Onofrio stars as Robert E. Howard in this bittersweet romance chronicles the writer’s romance with a young school teacher, Novalyne Price Ellis (Renee Zellweger). Based on the book One Who Walked Alone by Ellis, D’Onofrio turns out a strong performance as Howard, a talented yet disturbed writer at odds with his community and himself.

The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard
Howard, Robert E.

Venture into the wild and the weird with Robert E. Howard as your guide. This collection of short stories includes “Shadow of the Beast” “Children of the Night” and “Pigeons from Hell”.

J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard and the Birth of Modern Fantasy
Parsons, Deke

Author Deke Parsons critically explores the rise of the fantasy genre through the lens of its creative fathers in Tolkien and Howard.

El Borak and Other Desert Adventures
Howard, Robert E.

Savage Avengers, Vol. 1: City of Sickles
Duggan, Gerry

Robert E. Howard’s Conan teams up with Marvel Comics characters including Wolverine, Venom and the Punisher in this dark tale in graphic novel format.