Viking men and women in Newfoundland with livestock
[National Geographic Society/Corbis]


1. archaic. plural of cow.

[origin: Middle English kyn, from Old English cyna, genitive pl. of cu]


Eric Ranesen, the viking, son of the sword and spear,
Swept down the coast of England at the height of his wild career,
Swooped down on many a village with his berserk, wild wolf band,
Raged along the coast like a hurricane with fire and sword in his hand,
Harried the coast of England from Severn to the Forth,
Loaded his ships with plunder, then sailed back to the North.
Lord of the North was Eric, from Salten fiord to Skye,
Lord of the wide, wild northern sea and many a land thereby.
He had vanquished Saxon and Welshman; Swede and Finn and Dane
Fled when they saw the flashing of the sword of the son of Rane.
Only one man defied him from Salten fiord to Forth,
And that was Harald of Norway, a reiver of the North.
Harald was shaped like a sword-blade, slim and somewhat tall,
And he was a gallant chieftain in battle or banquet hall.
He was a foe of Eric, whom he hated with awful hate,
He swore that for the sea-king, he would open heaven’s gate.
He swore that oath at Kirkness upon All Saints day,
And then he leaped in his serpent-ship and he sailed far away.

Sailed toward the isles of sunrise with Hasting, the North-Dane,
Avoided sheltered harbors, plowed through the open Main.
Into the Mediterranean, Harald of Norway came,
Pillaging, burning and slaying, gaining both gold and fame;
People of far off countries heard Harald of Norway’s name.

Last he turned to the Northward, leaving the warm seas behind,
Leaving behind the warm lands rich with gold and with kine.
Back, yes back to the Northland sailed Harald, the viking bold,
With his long ship red with blood and weighted with gems and gold.
To Kirkness-town he sailed and anchored his long ship there,
With his flag, the flag of the cormorant, floating free to the air.

[from “Eric of Norway”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 536; Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 389; and The Rhyme of Salem Town, p. 76]

This entry filed under Howard's Poetry, Word of the Week.

Old Western Town by B.L. McKinney

July 1933 (early draft)

These pages (CL4.32-44) of an early draft to Howard’s lengthy letter to Lovecraft (CL3.63-91, AMTF 2.591-612) were almost entirely excised from later and final drafts. The most interesting part of this draft might be in reply to Lovecraft’s suggestion that Howard try his hand about the frontier (AMTF 2.578); many of Howard’s letters to Lovecraft contain scenes of pure description and historical action as good as any of the stories he sold to the pulps, and possibly Lovecraft hoped Howard would turn into a regional writer along the lines of August Derleth and his Sac Prairie saga.

Text unique to the draft will be colored red, while text unique to the final letter will be colored blue. Formatting (paragraph breaks, etc.) have been freely distorted to more clearly show were sections of text match up most closely.

2Draft 1

2Draft 2

2Draft 3

Read Part 1

This entry filed under August Derleth, H. P. Lovecraft.



1. the fleshy part of the side between the ribs and the hip; side

[origin: before 12th century; Middle English, from Old French flanc, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German hlanca loin]


They set me on high, a marble saint,
As if to guard the virtue of the park.
My flanks are gaunt, my gaze is cold and stark,
For I must look the part the liars paint,
Who’ve cleansed my history of fleshly taint.
The elders bid the younger people mark
How virtuous I gleam against the dark;
Could I but speak I’d make the bastards faint.

Great God, how could they know the lusty zest,
The love of life that made my sinews dance?
Below me now, against my base, inert,
A lousy tramp, a sleeping house-maid rest.
I yearn for that square flask in his old pants.
My fingers burn to feel beneath her skirt.

[from “A Great Man Speaks”; this is the complete poem as it appears in The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 593 and Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 143]

This entry filed under Howard's Poetry, Word of the Week.


Robert E. Howard’s letters to H. P. Lovecraft represent the bulk of his extant letters, and differ from many of his letters to intimate friends not only in length, but in the breadth and depth of the material covered, including quotations from and citations of various reference works in support of Howard’s arguments. While some of Lovecraft and Howard’s correspondence is obviously spontaneous and brief, particularly the postcards, the longer letters are definitely planned and, in several cases Howard went through one or more drafts before arriving at the final letter. We know this because several of these draft-letters survive, and were published in the Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard – Index and Addenda (2015, Robert E. Howard Foundation Press). It may prove interesting, then, to examine where and how Robert E. Howard’s drafts to H. P. Lovecraft differ from his final letters.

There are four surviving drafts, all of which only survive in a partial state, so they will be examined side-by-side with the relevant portions of the final letters to illustrate the changes made. Text unique to the drafts will be colored red, while text unique to the final letters will be colored blue. Formatting (paragraph breaks, etc.) have been freely distorted to more clearly show were sections of text match up most closely.

1 July 1930

The first surviving letter in the Howard-Lovecraft correspondence, a partial draft for this letter survives, consisting entirely of a lengthy discussion of Howard’s theories on the Celts and their migration to the British Isles. Aside from some minor corrections, the main difference between the draft and the final letter is that Howard softened and refined many of his personal theories, adding some additional references and (as the whole work was typed) copying the Greek letters into the bank spaces by hand.

Draft 1

Draft 2

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This entry filed under H. P. Lovecraft.


(artist unknown)


1. hobo, especially one who carries his clothes or bedding in a bundle.

[origin: ca. 1897; origin unknown]


Some day I’m going out on the Road—
I’ll pound the pavements, grab the blind baggage
And ride the brake beams.
I’ll sit in the jungles and talk with ‘boes and their gay cats.
I’ll hobnob with the grifters, the panhandlers and the bundlestiffs [sic];
I’ll get their philosophy on things and then—
I’ll turn out things like Gorky, London and Tully…
Like Hell I will—they’ll haul me off a sand car
With a smashed skull and say, “The brakies are a tough gang
Along this road.”

[from “The Road to Freedom”; this is the complete poem as it appears in The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 357 and A Rhyme of Salem Town, p. 49]

This entry filed under Howard's Poetry, Word of the Week.

MLP_ Conan & Red Sonja

For nearly ten years Michael L. Peters’ fantastic artwork has graced the pages and covers of REH: Two-Gun Raconteur. From his very first appearance in 2006 through today, Michael’s work has been a fan favorite. As far as Michael’s background and experience goes, I’ll let him speak for himself with this blurb from his website:

I’ve drawn Comics for such publishers as Heavy Metal Magazine, Desperado, Caliber, Image, and CFD. I create and sell Prints mostly on mythological and fantasy themes, in pen and ink, watercolor and/or acrylics. A few years ago, I was hired by Ferris State University to create a series of pen and ink portraits of their former presidents. I’ve taught drawing and illustration through a local art gallery, though I don’t have a degree. What I’ve learned about drawing and painting, I’ve learned through my own studies and practice and from following the example of those I respect.


MLP_Solomon Kane


MLP_Kings of the Night

MLP_Red Sonya

Michael offers for sale many prints of his art through his website and he does commissioned pieces as well. You can also contact Michael directly here.

Currently Michael is hard at work on the second volume of his Crescent City Magick fantasy graphic novel series set in modern-day New Orleans. The first volume, Crescent City Magick: Welcome to New Orleans is available from Amazon. And keep a lookout for the second volume, Crescent City Magick, Vol 2: Waking the Witch.

This entry filed under Howard Illustrated.


The Evening Gun: an English three-decker with sails loosed and a galliot in the foreground (painting by Willem van de Velde, The Younger 1633-1700)


1. small swift galley formerly used in the Mediterranean; a long narrow shallow-draft Dutch merchant sailing ship

[origin: 14th century. 1. Middle English galiot, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin galeota; and Dutch galjoot, from Middle French galiot]


By the crimson cliffs where the spray is blown
By the silver sands and the rose red stone,
There bides a shadow—alone, all alone—
Waiting the day, waiting the day.
The wind comes out of the East at morn
When the sheen of the sea is green,
The wind comes up from the Matterhorn
And the great red ships careen.
The gulls carved white I the blasting blue,
Their wings are silver and snow;
They hear the great tides thunder through
To beat on the beach below—
They hear waves hammer on sands below,
The clash and the clamor, the flee and the flow,
The magic and wonder of reef riven thunder,
The sands going under the spray white as snow.
The sunset is calling,
The dawn’s on the lea;
The silence is falling
Across the white sea,
And dim through the scorn of a morn on the Horn
The galliots, galleys and galleons flee.
To the ends of the earth
And the roads of the world,
To the ocean’s broad girth
With their banners unfurled—
Will you laugh in the bend of a curse when the shout of the
Trade wind is hurled?

[from “Renunciation”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 267]

This entry filed under Howard's Poetry, Word of the Week.


Brill could speak Spanish himself, and read it, too, but like most Anglo-Saxons he preferred to speak his own language.

– Robert E. Howard, “The Horror from the Mound”

Neither H. P. Lovecraft nor Robert E. Howard were ever fluent in Spanish, though both of them were at least somewhat familiar with it. The evidence for Lovecraft’s knowledge is fairly slight: the two passages in his story “The Mound,” which had been ghostwritten for Zealia Brown Reed Bishop, both of which are largely accurate (the final portion was deliberately designed to appear somewhat crude) and speak of the aid of a dictionary and grammar.

Howard’s knowledge of Spanish was probably more utilitarian. In at least a casual way, Howard had picked up at least a small stock of Spanish and Mexican words—exclamations, terms of address, names of food and drink. Certainly when Spanish-speaking characters appear in his stories their English dialogue tends to be sprinkled with a few choice Spanish terms, although sometimes with some peculiarities of spelling; a common technique when Howard wanted to express something of the rural or uneducated nature of the speaker, though it’s hard to tell exactly sometimes if he’s doing it on purpose or not, as he seems to have relatively quickly dropped this tendency in Spanish. So for example in “Red Shadows” (1928) he writes “Senhor,” in “Winner Take All” (1930) he writes “Senyor,” but in “The Horror from the Mound” (1932) he writes “Señor.

In September 1931, back in Providence after his sojourn in Florida, Lovecraft broached a new subject in his correspondence with Howard:

We have almost no Spanish-speakers in New England, though New York has large Porto-Rican sections. In Southern Florida, Cubans are quite numerous; though they do not seem to present any unusual problems in law-enforcement. Key West is fully half Cuban, and some of the Latins there seemed very prepossessing—infinitely better than the swarms of Italians in the north. Nevertheless, the average Floridian wishes there were less. Just now there is much regret at the way they are trickling into Miami—hitherto all-Nordic. (AMTF1.212)

This prompted a response from Howard:

The main thing I dislike about Mexicans is their refusal to speak English. Most of them can speak our language—at least they can, but they wont. Of course, numbers of Mexicans will answer questions to the best of their ability, but lots of them—and especially when you get south of San Antonio where they swarm—seem to think they are subtly insulting a white man by denying all knowledge of the English language. Ask one of them something and very often he’ll look at you stolidly—”No sabe Englese.” You know he’s lying, but there’s nothing you can do about it. You restrain your impulse to strangle him, and go on. The average Texan knows as little about Spanish as the average Mexican claims to know about English. I guess its the Indian blood in them that makes them so confoundedly stolid and reticent.

I ran onto a white renegade once, though, that made me madder than any Mexican ever did. He was a white-bearded dissolute looking old scoundrel, clad in the slouch hat and boots of a cowboy, and he was apparently living in the Mexican quarter of a little South Texas town, not so very far from the Border. He refused to talk, also, or to answer a simple, civil question, and a fat Mexican woman leaned out of a window, squealing an hilarious string of Spanish, at which the brown-skinned loafers chortled and looked superior. I thought yearningly of San Jacinto, and left. It’s bad enough for a greaser to retire behind a masquerade of ignorance in order to avoid answering a civil question regarding directions, etc., but when a white man sinks so low he consorts with the limpid-eyed heathen and pulls that “no savvy” business, it rouses thoughts of massacre and sudden immolation. (AMTF1.227-228; CL2.268-269)

Lovecraft replied:

The Mexican habit of denying knowledge of English undoubtedly has its roots in an age-old peasant tradition—that of a furtive defensiveness which feigns ignorance and stupidity. It crops out in all well-marked peasant elements, and the peon psychology of the low-grade Mexican no doubt accentuates it to its highest possible degree. I can well imagine that the acme of exasperatingness in this line is reached when a white man “goes native” and adopts the “no sabe” pose himself. (AMTF1.235-236)

This passage illustrates one of the fundamental differences between Howard and Lovecraft’s approach to the same issue. Howard feels it is sufficient to lay the blame on “the Indian blood”—attributing the perceived reticence and incivility as an issue of race. Lovecraft’s response seeks to incorporate the behavior into a wider philosophy, and so blames class as much as race. In any event, something very much like this exchange occurs in Howard’s story “The Horror from the Mound”:

“Lopez,” said Brill lazily, “it ain’t none of my business, but I just wanted to ask you – how come you always go so far around that old Indian mound?”

No sabe,” grunted Lopez shortly.

“You’re a liar,” responded Brill genially. “You savvy all right; you speak English as good as me. What’s the matter – you think that mound’s ha’nted or somethin’?”

Brill could speak Spanish himself, and read it, too, but like most Anglo-Saxons he preferred to speak his own language.

Lopez shrugged his shoulders.

“It’s not a good place, no bueno?” he muttered, avoiding Brill’s eye. “Let hidden things rest.”

The phrase “he preferred to speak his own language” touches on the clash of Spanish and English languages in the Southwest; a part of the collision of cultures in the area, and language acted both as a barrier to communication and an element of shared cultural identity that set one group apart from another—because whatever ancestors an Hispanic person might have, they spoke the same language and partook, in some part, in the cultural heritage of Spain. For example, in “Pilgrims of the Pecos” (1936) there is the following exchange:

“Which camp was they goin’ for first?” I demanded.

“I dunno,” he said. “They talked mostly in Spanish I can’t understand.”

Here, the difference in languages acts as a barrier, helping to set the groups apart and heightening tension, as the plans of the Mexican bandits cannot be known for sure. Take another example, from “Black Vulmea’s Vengeance” (1936):

The presence of the black man was not inexplicable. Negro slaves, fleeing from Spanish masters, frequently took to the jungle and lived with the natives. […] “I came swiftly when I heard the drum,” he said gutturally, in the bastard-Spanish that served as a common speech for the savages of both colors.

Here, Spanish is acts as a convenient lingua franca, if not explicitly the basis for a common identity, than at least the basis for a common understanding. Again, however, there is a class distinction between Castilian and the “bastard-Spanish” spoken by the Cimarrónes, much as Lovecraft felt the need to distinguish between “Oxonian Spanish” and “the patois of the peon of New Spain” in “The Transition of Juan Romero.”

TRANSITIONOFJUANROMEROIf Lovecraft and Howard were not fluent in any Spanish dialect, they were more than conversant in the slurs regarding the Hispanic population. “Greaser” as a derogatory term for Mexicans was common enough for both Howard and Lovecraft, although ironically Howard used it more in his letters and Lovecraft used it more in his fiction, particularly “The Transition of Juan Romero” and “The Electric Executioner.” The harsher “spig” was much less common, and restricted to Howard, who used it exactly once in fiction, in “The Horror from the Mound,” in the thoughts of the casually racist Steve Brill.

Brill is perhaps the best example of the common prejudices expressed by Howard and Lovecraft, and which is given thought and voice in the white characters of their various stories. For Brill in “The Horror from the Mound,” prejudice is so easy and natural to him that it goes almost unnoticed and uncommented upon. He assumes the worst of his Mexican neighbor almost as a matter of course, suspects him immediately, and even when Lopez appears dead his immediate thought is that another Mexican committed the crime, thinking only:

Such crimes were revolting, but common enough, especially among Mexicans, who cherished unguessed feuds.

The reader never sees beyond the end of “The Horror from the Mound,” whether Brill ever comes to terms with the fact that he was wrong about Juan Lopez on all accounts, and that it was only his prejudices that had set in motion the events of the story. We will never know if he would examine his racism, and learn to fight the views that have comes so naturally to him. Perhaps not: Brill’s views were not very different than those held Howard and Lovecraft, and over the six years of their life and correspondence their basic prejudices changed little, though they certainly expanded each other’s knowledge of the Hispanic peoples and culture they had experienced during that time, and their correspondence affected their understanding of Hispanic peoples.

That in itself may be one of the great lost opportunities of their exchange of letters: for while they joked and debated, wove tales and traded facts, weighed each other’s arguments on dozens of points, on this issue neither of them seems to have reexamined their fundamental prejudices regarding Hispanics.

Works Cited

AMTF    A Means to Freedom: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard (2 vols.)
CL        Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard
(3 vols. + Index and Addenda)
SL        Selected Letters of H. P. Lovecraft (5 vols.)

Art Credits: ‘The Horror from the Mound” by Jim Ordolis, The “Transition of Juan Romero” by David Reuss

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

This entry filed under H. P. Lovecraft, Howard's Fiction.


A Roman statue of Isis holding a sistrum


1. A percussion instrument of ancient Egypt, Sumeria and Rome consisting of metal rods or loops attached to a metal frame.

[origin: Middle English, from Latin sistrum, from Greek seistron, from seiein, to shake]


Mylitta’s girdle stolen
From Punic lecterns high,
A golden fruit from Atlas
Who once upheld the sky.

Astarte’s silver sistrem [sic]
Fair Ishtar’s virgin zone,
Priapus’ phallic signet,
A gem from pharaoh’s throne

A verse from Capri’s island
Upon a shield of gold
Once decked Troy’s campaniles
By Sappho’s hand enscrolled.

[from “The Road to Babel”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 305 and Shadows of Dreams, p. 67]

This entry filed under Howard's Poetry, Word of the Week.


It’s the silver o’ starlight, the mist o’ the morning
All gossamer webs, and the deep coral caves,
The winds and the wonder o’ reef-riven thunder,
The emerald sheen o’ the snow-crested waves.

The gold that I gathered that mankind had minted,
It slipped through my fingers like sands on the beach;
But the silver o’ starlight was ever unstinted,
And the gold o’ the sunset was ever in reach.

“A Dying Pirate Speaks of Treasure,” by Robert E. Howard

Roger O’Farrel returned to Cuba in 1668, after chasing the dreaded buccaneer l’Ollonais for over a year and finally bringing him to his end at the hands of Indians in Darien. He had earned the promised reward of 25,000 Spanish dollars or “pieces of eight.” However, the Captain General of Cuba, Francisco de Avila Orejón y Gastón, double-crossed him over the reward. Claiming that he had not actually been “in at the death” of l’Ollonais, and had not brought back his head either, he tried to fob O’Farrel off with 5,000 dollars. Like Browning’s Pied Piper, O’Farrel answered, “No trifling!  I can’t wait, besides … and folks who put me in a passion, may find me pipe after another fashion.”

De Avila considered that insolence. He reminded O’Farrel that at the beginning of the chase, he had held aloof while l’Ollonais worked his will along the southern coasts of Cuba, and later allowed a galleon to fall into the Frenchman’s hands. De Avila could make indictable offences of these if he desired, and he advised O’Farrel to take care. “Accept five thousand pieces of eight while the offer is good, Captain.”

“Keep them, magnifico,” O’Farrel said shortly. “Buy yourself a cloth-of-gold shroud and a fine coffin.”

69b8d4459bec972aa1dc9e6b2498ea1dHis defiance might have suited a younger man better. O’Farrel was then forty-six, though he looked younger and his hair remained dark. He was enraged, however, having just finished a year-long hunt fraught with danger, a voyage in which some of his men had died, and his foster daughter, God help him, had stowed away and might have died herself. To be cheated now … and he had thought better of Francisco de Avila.

Perhaps his opinion had been correct, once. De Avila had held his office for five years, in a physical and social climate where men went rotten quickly, and turpitude grew rank as the jungle. He probably told his conscience that, after all, many men would not have offered O’Farrel the five thousand, and if he refused it, well, his fault, and what could he do against the Captain General of Havana?

Clearly, even after associating with him for years, de Avila did not know his man.

O’Farrel sold his fine Havana house and moved to the southern part of Cuba, which should have warned de Avila in itself. Santiago was the second greatest city in the island. It had its own Captain General, or Governor; in practice the two were often the same, the military authorities functioning as civil and political officials as well.  They were even given to assuming the Viceroy’s functions in their own regions. Spanish colonial officers, too, were notorious for touchy jealousy. The Governors of the two cities were each other’s detested rivals.

Santiago’s position was precarious. From a distance the shoreline seemed an unbroken line of verdant jungle. Closer in, it consisted of strings of islands whose beauty covered fatal rocks, reefs and confusing twisted channels. Many buccaneers knew them intimately and first hand. They made perfect hideouts, to lurk in ambush, to take refuge, to repair and careen. Just about every notorious raider of the time had used the South Cays with impunity. Christopher Myngs sacked Santiago late in 1662, with a fleet of eighteen ships. Henry Morgan was almost certainly one of the captains with him on that occasion. Roche Brasiliano spent months among the South Cays in 1663. Edward Mansfield led his pirate fleet there two years later. Henry Morgan, now with the status of a buccaneer admiral, returned there in 1668 – the very year Roger O’Farrel arrived in Santiago, fuming against Captain General de Avila.

He began by enlisting a force of hardy fighters who would stop at nothing – not difficult in that area. Many ostensibly lawful men were expert smugglers who had long dodged the Spanish crown’s taxes and trade restrictions. The cattle ranchers inland, los senores de hatos, as a matter of course engaged in illicit traffic with foreign traders. Their mestizo cowboys were outstandingly tough. The escaped African slaves who lived at large in the mountains of Cuba were, if anything, even tougher. Many had labored in the copper mines of El Cobre, where a few years before there had been a slave revolt. O’Farrel had fought beside such men in the mountains of Jamaica for a year (1657-58) with Cristóbal Ysassi. He knew them.

If he no longer had a ship of his own, that was a common predicament of pirates, and one they knew how to solve. O’Farrel had done so before. He acquired two cedar piraguas able to carry fifty men each, and manned them with smugglers, fishermen, loggers, and Cimmarones from the mountains. He hijacked a fast sloop armed with eight small cannon and sent for his former crew, who were only awaiting his word. Then he ventured among the South Cays, found a Dutch pirate careening his ship, and relieved him of it once the work was finished. The Jezebel, a brigantine, it carried twelve cannon and three swivel guns.

Working out of Santiago, O’Farrel smuggled hides, tobacco, and indigo. He waylaid merchant ships, lifting their cargoes but sparing the crews if they yielded. Although he had plundered French vessels in the past, he left them alone now, for he had Tortuga in mind as a refuge if ever Cuba should be barred to him. Remembering de Avila’s conduct, he did not trust the Governor of Santiago a finger’s length. Within two years he achieved some prosperity again.

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This entry filed under Howard's Fiction.