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The Iron Tower
James LaFond's impressions of It Is the King or His Ghost: Chapter 10 of Robert E. Howard’s The Hour of the Dragon
© 2020 James LaFond
MAY/23/20
Reading from pages 148-155 of the DelRey edition.
The illustration of Conan dressed as a one-eyed old pilgrim walking through the crowded streets of the city he so recently left with a crown on his head is faithful to the text, down to the failure of the loose robes in concealing the “hard lines” of his frame.
The rescue of Albiona from The Iron Tower reflected a standard trope of Howard’s time, an almost obligatory rescue of a damsel in distress. It also served pulp convention by keeping a feminine figure on the page in as many installments as possible. But Howard overdoes the entire chapter in brutal wise, with his butchery of traitors conducted with savage malice on the part of the reverted savage.
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Exile     May 23, 2020

James and REH fans: Howard did several lengthy stories that cover Conan's kingship including "The Scarlet Citadel" which is very much like "Hour of the Dragon" in theme/plot.

Both stories show that Conan the Barbarian is tragically trapped by civilization because he has accepted the kingship. He kills a tyrant, rules honorably, but his subjects don't give him due honor and respect, the aristocracy largely hates him and he yearns to simply leave it all behind and ride out, like he could before he chained himself to the throne. His ungrateful aristos also make an appearance in "The Phoenix on the Sword."

Ala Spengler, civilization corrupts and elite status corrupts absolutely. It's a casino - you only win if you don't play or at least know when to walk away. The Barbarian is happy until he adopts the "success" frame of civilization - "I want to be king." Conan was happier wandering and adventuring. Kingship is net-negative, a sacrifice for which his ungrateful sheeple don't properly honor him.

If you want to teach young boys about reading and writing (what's pretentiously called "English Literature"), these make great examples to both illustrate these important themes and demonstrate how the craft of writing works.

As James says, Howard was required by his publishers to keep some jiggle and gore in play throughout every installment of his stories. His critics sneer about this but it was a convention of the genre. These critics are the kinds of guys who think it's better to put stronk wahmen and mincing emo-fairies in comic books b/c "more sophisticated."

Craft wise, HotD was 75k words, the only Conan novel while Scarlet was a 15k novellete - Hour essentially used Scarlet as a frame-story with some name-changes & minor plot tweaks. Howard wrote "Hour" at the invite of a Brit publisher a couple of years after Scarlet (written early, just after Tower of the Elephant) and as it wasn't going to be published to REH's normal audience, Howard wasn't concerned with using the same story twice or with matters of "canon" (as the fanbois say nowadays).
James     May 25, 2020

thanks for the history.

I've done a few reviews of the Scarlet Citadel and often regard it as my favorite of his.
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