Tag Archives: Conan

Around the Common Room 19 August 2011

Just a few bits and pieces today, links to various other articles and topics and whatnot.

First, this is too hilarious to not post first. Jess over at The Last Muggle, a site you should really check out by the way, posted this video the other day on How Harry Potter Should Have Ended. It is, as they say, priceless!

Also, I’m not kidding about checking out Jess’s site. She also has a  great series of articles discussing the various houses as we anticipate which one we all might get sorted into for Pottermore. Worth reading even though she disses Hufflepuff. So, if you’re down with the ‘Puff, you might want to go over and defend the honor of the badger. 😉 BTW, this brings up an interesting question, if J.K. Rowling puts you in a house, via Pottermore, is that the last word on the subject?

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The Tower of the Elephant

“Who are you?” he whispered.

“Conan, a Cimmerian,” answered the other. “I came seeking a way to steal Yara’s jewel, that men call the Elephant’s Heart.”

Conan sensed the man’s great belly shaking in laughter, but it was not derisive. “By Bel, god of thieves!” hissed Taurus. “I had thought only myself had courage to attempt that poaching. These Zamorians call themselves thieves — bah! Conan, I like your grit. I never shared an adventure with anyone, but by Bel, we’ll attempt this together if you’re willing.”

Occasionally, I discover stories much later than I ought to have. When, for instance, I missed Brian Jacques in secondary school and became a Redwall fanatic just as I was getting ready to get married. Or when I idly picked up a Discworld novel in the library.

Or today, when I met a silent stranger in a dodgy tavern.

He saw a tall, strongly made youth standing beside him. This person was as much out of place in that den as a gray wolf among mangy rats of the gutters. His cheap tunic could not conceal the hard, rangy lines of his powerful frame, the broad heavy shoulders, the massive chest, lean waist, and heavy arms. His skin was brown from outland suns, his eyes blue and smoldering; a shock of tousled black hair crowned his broad forehead. From his girdle hung a sword in a worn leather scabbard.

I write and study fantasy and fairy tale, so the meeting was inevitable, really. When I began to read “The Tower of the Elephant,” however, I was instantly gripped in Howard’s storytelling. Here was a fire that kindled many others, a relentless, restless energy that could not be contained in a single story. Here was the stuff of legend. Here was Conan.

Read the story with me, and let’s talk about it–one of the undisputed masterpieces of sword and sorcery. You can find it here, or here if you prefer it on a single page.

[DISCLAIMER: There are no spoilers in the following article. Really! I’ll assume you read the story, but I won’t spoil it for anybody. It’s just to exquisite to anybody ruin the first reading for you. Just go read it. I’ll wait.]

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True Howard

As a chaser to Korg’s magnificent introduction to one of the great modern fantasists, I thought I’d inject a little borrowed philosophy into the discussion.

BlackGate.com–the online presence of the eminent sword and sorcery mag–has a thing for Howard. Which is understandable, since with Conan and his little friends Howard essentially defined sword and sorcery as a genre. (Until Terry Pratchett got his hands on it in The Color of Magic, but that’s for another month.)

Unless you’re a diehard S&S geek, you may not be following the BlackGate blog. So you may not have seen this thoughtful post, part of their birthday celebration for Howard earlier this year. I quote a salient selection:

I get writing from amateurs every now and then that about lives up to Howard, even if it’s just aping his style. The stories just seem strangely lifeless for all the careful detail, cacophonous action, and pulpish word-choice. I usually tell these writers to “tell me one of your truths.”

Howard put what he knew to be true in his stories. He was an opinionated man, read Novalyne Price Ellis’s memoir One Who Walked Alone for plenty of examples. He knew the power of entropy, he’d seen it growing up in Texas as the oil men came and went. Cross Plains experienced it in the bust of the Great Depression. Howard’s stories are filled with the frailty of civilization, yet even when all that is dross falls away and the hollow gongs go silent there’s still the rough code of someone like Conan to protect a defenseless woman or Solomon Kane’s relentless resolve to avenge a murder even unto the lawless coasts of the New World. The whole world may have fallen or been left behind, but these characters will still see justice prevail.

The writer goes on to argue that it is “Howard’s truths,” and the passion they imbued into his writings, that secure his immortality in literature.

Read and discuss–it’s not a long article. What is it that makes Howard great? What concept of truth(s) lie behind his works? And what truths, ultimately, do his writings convey?

Best Movie Wizards, Good & Bad

MSN Parallel Universe has a story or rather brief snippets with pictures of their compilation of best movie wizards & witches, both good ones and bad ones.  A lot of the usual suspects are there.  The Wizard & the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz.  Growing up in an age when, for the earliest part of my life, there were only 4 TV channels, the showing of Oz every year was a big event.  And for a child, at least for me, it was usually pretty scary. From the tornado, which is still one of the best special effects ever, to the flying monkeys & the cackling evil of Margaret Hamilton’s inspired performance.  Although I have to admit that the picture they use in the article I’ve referenced makes the Wicked Witch look pretty hot.  But maybe that’s just me.

There’s also Merlin & Morgana from the 1981 Excalibur both brilliantly played by Nicol Williamson & Helen Mirren.  Of course, there is Gandalf and Saruman from the Jackson abomin…er, Lord of the Rings films.  James Earl Jones as the sinister Thulsa Doom & Mako as Akiro in Conan the Barbarian.  Warwick Davis as Willow & Jean Marsh as Bavmorda in Willow.  There are a few others I’ve left out because I really never saw the movies referenced.

Oh, there are two wizards who are near & dear to us here on the list.  Dumbledore and Voldemort.  Although I really have to take exception to one particular line in their blurb: “…kindness radiates from both actors who have portrayed him [Dumbledore], the late Richard Harris and Michael Gambon.” I really can’t believe someone who could write a sentence like that has really seen the movies.

Anyway, feel free to share your thoughts on their choices of best movie wizard and witches.  Any ones you felt were left out or should have been included?  I hesitate to mention this because of the gender wars that seem to have arisen lately on this site, but it is quite obvious in their list that the three women sorcerers they picked are all bad. Are there no good women sorcerers in the movies?  Or at least none that stood out enough for the compilers of this list to take note of them?

Feel free to check out the story and offer your comments here.  (Please note, I found their site to be rather difficult to navigate at times and kind of buggy so hopefully you will have better luck with it.)

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