Robert Howard's ‘Conan’:
Race-Conscious Aryan Barbarian
Or Multiracial Pansy?
By Martin Kerr
ONE THING THAT I have learned in life, is that no matter how bad things get, they can always get worse. A case in point is the new French cinematic version of the fictional character widely known as “Conan the Barbarian.” Long an exemplar of traditional, healthy masculine values, Conan has now been rebranded as “Conann.” In this new iteration, Conan has become a time-traveling lesbian, whose adventures are played out in “a demented world of cannibalism, kinky sex, torture and relentless bloodletting,” according to one online review. (1)
The original Conan is the protagonist in dozens of short stories and one full-length novel written by the American pulp-fiction author, Robert Ervin Howard (1906-1936). Many of these tales were published in Howard's lifetime, usually in the magazine Weird Tales, while others only appeared posthumously. The stories – Howard called them "yarns" – are set in a mythical past before the rise of historical civilization. Conan is a warrior and adventurer from the barbarian tribe known as the Cimmerians. He is huge, immensely strong, intelligent, athletic, superbly skilled as a fighter and absolutely fearless.
A typical Conan adventure finds him pitted against multiple opponents, some human and some supernatural. He overcomes them all, generally slaying them. If there is an attractive young woman in the story, she rides off with him at the conclusion.
The Conan stories authored by Howard are popular fiction and not high art. Yet they are engagingly written, with the generous use of colorful adjectives and characters that are both realistic, and at the same time archetypal.
Howard clearly touched something primal in the psyche of his readers, for the Conan character has been endlessly popular since he first appeared in print in 1932. In addition to the original fiction that Howard wrote, there have been four or five film adaptations of Conan, as well as a live-action television series, two animated television series, a number of video games and comic books too numerous to count.
Sadly, many or most of these recent adaptations have not been true to Howard's original vision of his hero. Howard was a White Texan who lived in the first half of the 20th century, and he shared the racial beliefs and attitudes that were common to White Americans of the time. Let me put it bluntly: by today's standards, Howard was a racist and a White supremacist – and so was Conan.
The illusion masters of Hollywood (Jews and non-Jews alike) are eager to profit by the enduring popularity of Howard's creation, but they are unwilling to portray him accurately. Instead, they have produced a Politically Correct version of Howard's character who is suitable to indoctrinating new generations of fans in the supposed glories of multiculturalism.
There were two films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan: Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Conan the Destroyer (1984). (2) In both, Conan is portrayed as the leader of a rag-tag multiracial band of adventurers made up variously of Orientals and Negroes, as well as Whites. The same is true of the three television series that bear Conan's name. In the live-action show, Conan: The Adventurer, he is played by the German body-builder Ralf Moeller. Here he is a friendly, good-natured sap, who leads a motley multiracial crew on a humanitarian quest. In another celluloid incarnation, Conan the Barbarian (2011), Conan is played by Jason Mamoa, an actor whose racial descent is traceable to Hawaii.
Howard infused all of his fiction with White racial themes and attitudes, but normally these are implicit in his stories, rather than explicit. However, in the last year of his life, he deliberately and explicitly injected open, self-conscious White racialism into his Conan tales.
One way he did this was by redefining the Picts as non-White. Historically, the Picts were a White folk who lived in Britain. Howard knew that the historical Picts were White. Nonetheless, for the sole purpose of sharpening the racial dialectic of his fiction, he recast them as non-White. In a remarkable sentence in "Beyond the Black River," he explains to the reader that "The Picts were a white race, though swarthy, but the border men never spoke of them as such." (p. 51) (3)
And a few pages later:
Beyond the river the primitive still reigned in shadowy forests, brush-thatched huts where hung the grinning skulls of men, and mud-walled enclosures where fires flickered and drums rumbled, and spears were whetted in the hands of dark, silent men with tangled black hair and the eyes of serpents. Those eyes often glared through the bushes at the fort across the river. Once dark-skinned men had built their huts where that fort stood; yes, and their huts had risen where now stood the fields and log-cabins of fair-haired settlers... (p. 54)
In "The Black Stranger" he further describes them as,
...darked-skinned men of short stature, with thickly-muscled chests and arms. They wore beaded buckskin loin-cloths, and an eagle's feather was thrust into each black mane. They were painted in hideous designs... (p. 104)
After defining the Picts as non-White, he then has Conan say, "A white man doesn't leave white men, even his enemies, to be butchered by Picts." (p. 159)
Later, another character reinforces the message, commenting on Conan to a third character, "These barbarians live by their own code of honor, and Conan would never desert men of his own complection [sic] to be slaughtered by people of another race." (p. 159)
The story "The Man-Eaters of Zomboula" concerns cannibalistic Negroes who are snatching people off the streets at night, to butcher and eat them. When Conan spots three huge Blacks carrying off a slender, pale-skinned female, he does what any red-blooded Aryan barbarian would do: he slaughters them with gusto.
"Black dog of hell!" Conan drove his sword between the dusky shoulders with such vengeful fury that the broad blade stood out half its length from the black breast. (p. 185)
The city of Zamboula itself is described as a racial sinkhole:
...this accursed city which the Stygians built and the Hyrkanians rule – where white, brown, and black folk mingle together to produce hybrids of unholy hues and breeds – who can tell who is man and who is a demon in disguise? (p. 178)
Nor is Conan's distaste for race-mixing merely theoretical. In the final Conan yarn, "Red Nails," he explains to the flaxen-haired female pirate Valeria why he left the mercenary company in which he had previously been employed:
The pay was poor and the wine was sour, and I don't like black women. And that's the only kind that came to the camp at Sukhmet – rings in their noses and their teeth filed – bah! (p. 214)
Although it was not published until 1967 (31 years after Howard's death), "The Vale of Lost Women" is a classic Conan story – and it, too, is explicitly racialist. At one point, Livia, the White heroine, berates Conan:
"You care naught that a man of your own color has been foully done to death by these black dogs – that a white woman is their slave!" (p. 307)
After some incidental back and forth, Conan responds:
"You said that I was a barbarian," he said harshly, "and that is true, Crom be thanked...But I am not such a dog as to leave a white woman in the clutches of a black man..." (p. 308)
Conan goes on to kill Livia's Black captor, and to then save her from a monstrous supernatural demon, which Conan terms "a devil from the Outer Dark" and whom the primitive Negroes worship as a savage god.
But it was in a story about another character, not Conan, that Howard gave his clearest and most unambiguous statement of racial belief. His hero Solomon Kane was a Puritan adventurer, many of whose blood-splashed tales are set in sub-Saharan Africa. This locale allows full play for Howard's depiction of White racial idealism. The following sentence is from a passage entitled "The White-Skinned Conqueror," from the short story "Wings in the Night" (1932):
Kane stood, an unconscious statue of triumph – the ancient empires fall, the dark-skinned peoples fade, and even the demons of antiquity gasp their last, but over it all stands the Aryan barbarian, white-skinned, cold-eyed, dominant, the supreme fighting man of the earth, whether he be clad in wolf-hide and horned helmet, or boots and doublet – whether he bear in his hand battle-axe or rapier – whether he be called Dorian, Saxon or Englishman – whether his name be Jason, Hengist or Solomon Kane. (4)
Here, at the moment of ultimate victory, the personal details and characteristics of the Howardian hero melt away, and he becomes one with all of the Aryan heroes who have preceded him (and also with those who are yet to be born). This mystical sublimation of the individual into the collective soul of the Race is what some have termed "Aryan Internity” – “internity” being the endless continuity of the racial soul through the blood, just as "eternity" is endless continuity through time and "infinity" is endless continuity through space.
In a little-known book that he published in 1881, Dawn (Morgenroethe), Friedrich Nietzsche comments that of all of their many mythological heroes, the ancients Greeks admired Odysseus the most. This is because he was able to "master all contingencies," that is, whatever man, nature or the Gods threw at him, Odysseus was always triumphant. (5)
And so it is with Howard's Conan: he is a master of all contingencies: he defeats all opponents, natural and supernatural alike. And he always gets the girl. Is there a healthy Aryan man anywhere who would not like to be Conan if he could?
I do not know what racial themes appear in the new Conann, but to be honest, I do not expect that they will be true to Howard's racial vision. For that, we will have to rely on Howard's writings themselves. (6)
(1) Screen Daily, retrieved January 11, 2023, . Direction and screenplay by Bertrand Mandico. France, Belgium, Luxembourg. 2023. 105 minutes.
(2) Schwarzenegger also played a character based on Conan in the 1985 film Red Sonja, which starred Brigitte Nielsen. In the original script, this character was named Conan, but when the film was released, he had been renamed "High Lord Kalidor." The character Red Sonja herself, it should be noted, was also based on a woman warrior from Howard's fiction.
(3) Page numbers for the Conan story excerpts quoted in this article are all taken from The Conquering Sword of Conan, Ballentine Books, NY, 2005.
(4) "Wings in the Night," pp. 257-258, in Solomon Kane, Baen Books Original, Riverdale, NY, 1995.
(5) Dawn, Section 306.
(6) An authentic artistic depiction of Conan can be found in the paintings of Frank Frazetta, who captures not just the visual details, but also the mood, of Howard's work. See especially his paintings "The Barbarian" (1966), "Man-Ape" (1967), "The Snow Giants" (1969) and "The Destroyer" (1971). Frazetta, however, typically paints Conan dressed in a loincloth or something similar, whereas in Howard's stories he is normally more fully dressed, and for battle wears armor.
About: This is an expanded and updated version of an article that first appeared on the author’s blog on Stormfront, February 4, 2013. See:
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