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#1 Taranaich

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 03:54 PM

Inspired by this post over at The Cimmerian, I wanted to discuss the word "Hyboria".

Hyboria, as a term, is used in varying capacities: to describe the world of the Hyborian Age, the world continent, or the specific Hyborian lands. It's a word Howard never used in his stories, notes or letters, but has managed to become a catch-all word used to describe the world Conan wanders.

My question is, do you think the term is useful, or does it cause problems in relation to Howard's own writings?

I must admit, "Hyboria" has its uses and problems. On the one hand, it does helpfully condense the Hyborian Age, its lands, cultures and peoples, into one handy word that's easily understood. I can see it being a loose term used to refer to the Hyborian lands by Shemites and Turanians in a similar way "Frankistan" was used by the Muslims for Christian Europe.

On the other hand, it does seem misleading when put in context with other aspects: it might give the impression that the Hyborians come from a "Hyboria", which isn't stated by Howard (not denied either, maybe there is some region up in the north called "Hyboria", but I would think Howard would have said something on the matter). It also gives the false impression of it being a true fantasy world that is separate from our earth, like Narnia or Barsoom (well, Mars), instead of a lost age of our own earth, like Arda or Zothique. It might also lead to the dreadfully annoying "Hyborea is just Hyperborea with a few letters shaved off" misconception.

I generally don't use "Hyboria", but I don't see it being too bad. Certainly not as irritating as some other misconceptions, and it even has a few uses.

What do you lads think?

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#2 Kortoso

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 05:29 PM

It's a word Howard never used in his stories, notes or letters...

Beware of that word "never". :)

REH uses the term Hyborian to describe certain peoples of his world. AFAIK he doesn't delineate a place named Hyboria.

#3 Taranaich

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 06:27 PM

Beware of that word "never". :)


Wise words :D

REH uses the term Hyborian to describe certain peoples of his world. AFAIK he doesn't delineate a place named Hyboria.


Well I'm certainly not going to argue that he doesn't use Hyborian :P It's the term "Hyboria", sans "n", I was discussing - and as you said, he doesn't mention a place called Hyboria. I can't recall it being used in a single Conan story, though I could be mistaken.

Edited by Taranaich, 14 June 2008 - 06:27 PM.

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#4 Kortoso

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 07:31 PM

We often use the shortcut of using Hyboria to describe the lands of the Hyborian peoples.
It's not "politically correct" and if there were any real Hyborians I am sure they would be greivously insulted. ;)

#5 Scott Oden

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 08:57 PM

I read and rather enjoyed Steve Tompkins' article, but I'm on the fence concerning the use of "Hyboria" to describe the lands and peoples of the Hyborian Age. REH made it rather clear that he considered the Hyborian Age an earlier epoch of our own world -- thus, in the terms he's setting forth, the Hyborian Age isn't so much a "fantasy world" as it is a lost part of our own history. Calling the world of Conan "Hyboria" is certainly easier, and I've found myself falling into that pattern in private correspondence. But, Steve has a point: we don't call the Celtic world "Celtia", do we? "Rome" describes the city and its empire, but we don't call the whole breadth of Roman history "Romia".

I guess I will start slapping myself when I see I'm using "Hyboria" to mean the Hyborian Age ;)

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#6 Croms Bones

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 09:28 PM

I read the post and thought it was very well written. He listed one of my sites as an offending 'tainting' party, which I kinda thought was comical. "Hyboria" is not technically correct, but using it far from "taints" anything. People understand "Hyboria" as a reference to a world far more than "Hyborian Age" as a reference to simply an age of our own world, and that's illustrated in large part by the overwhelming use of "Hyboria" over "Hyborian Age"... the misconception presented there of a unique world rather than an age is so miniscule I was shocked someone would sit down and write an essay about it, let alone claim it was "tainting" Howard.

It's a poor analogy, but when I read the post I couldn't help thinking of a friend I have that is fluent in Canadian french. He traveled to Paris for vacation last year where Parisians either refused to speak to him in French or were downright rude to him for his Canadian french "accent"... even though they understood each other perfectly... they didn't want him "tainting" their language.

I don't know.. I guess I just view it as really and struggling to come up with stuff to complain about when of all the things that supposedly "taint" Howard, you're worried about the term "Hyboria" over the "Hyborian Age".

Leo's comments actually most sense to me, his comments on Steve's post really address the issue adequately.
"Thus I can sympathize with your argument without abhorring the word that lured it into the sunlight. To my mind, the mere existence of a movement towards Hyboria reflects the scope and durability of Howard?s imaginative genius."

As fans of Howard, rather than just Conan, yeah, Steve is right, we probably should make every attempt to properly address the world. Does it "taint" anything if we don't, nah... not in the slightest.

Edited by Croms Bones, 14 June 2008 - 09:30 PM.

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#7 Kortoso

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 09:56 PM

I notice the pictures in the article are labeled with the offending term. ;)

#8 Axerules

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Posted 15 June 2008 - 02:10 AM

Steve Tompkins spoke of Funcom, several websites, comics and submissions. But this Hyboria "nomenclature" was already used in RPGs before.
One example: Mongoose titled a book Ruins of Hyboria. The author, Vincent N. Darlage, said he didn't like it.

Edited by Axerules, 15 June 2008 - 02:10 AM.

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#9 Spartan198

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 06:42 PM

While it's true REH never used the term, I do have to agree with Taranaich on its use as a collective term for everything regarding Conan's world.

That should be its only use, though. I ever see a place called "Hyboria" on any Continent maps (and by "Continent", I'm sure you all know the place I'm talking about), I'll have a new name to add to my sword...
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#10 Rusty Burke

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 09:08 PM

The Hyborians were the "Hy-Bori" or "Ui-Bori" -- the descendants of Bori. They were a people, not a place. We can refer to the age in which they were a dominant or significant people as "the Hyborian Age," and to lands they occupied as "Hyborian lands," but are stretching quite a lot when we use the term for the entire world in which they lived. It would be rather like calling Earth ca. the 10th century AD "Viking", or ca. 19th century "British." I agree with Steve that using the term to refer to Conan's world is incorrect, and is likely to cause some folks to lose sight of (or miss altogether) that Conan lived in the very same world we do, just in an earlier age unknown to scholarship. I am enough of a realist about the language to recognize that the need people have for a shorthand way to refer to something means "Hyboria" is likely to stick.

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#11 Kortoso

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 10:47 PM

Rusty, where is the "Ui-Bori" from? I seemed to have missed that.

#12 Rusty Burke

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 10:57 PM

Rusty, where is the "Ui-Bori" from? I seemed to have missed that.


Howard had spent quite a bit of time reading about Irish legends and teaching himself a smattering of Gaelic. He sometimes referred to the O'Neills as the Ui Niall, etc. He was quite aware that "Ui" = Hy (he wrote a poem about "Hy Brasil") = O', descendant of, clan of, people of, and that "Bori" was the god of the north (the "boreal pole") -- thus the "Hy-Bori" would be the sons of the north. They originated as snow apes at the north pole and eventually came southward to be known as "Hyborians."

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#13 Zula

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 12:05 AM

Welln't the Hyborian Age a reference to the people of that time in the West, as has been stated above? Kind of like the Pax Romana or the so called Hellenistic World.

Edited by Zula, 25 June 2008 - 12:06 AM.

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#14 Rusty Burke

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 03:00 PM

Welln't the Hyborian Age a reference to the people of that time in the West, as has been stated above? Kind of like the Pax Romana or the so called Hellenistic World.


Exactly -- but we don't refer to the entire world as "Pax Romana" or "Hellenistic World," right? Or even "Romana" or "Hellenia". It is perfectly proper of course to refer to "the Hyborian Age," as Howard himself did, and even to "the Hyborian World" if you wish, as it is similar to your example of "Hellenistic World" (or "Roman World" or any other formulation) -- this is the world at the time these cultures flourished. But "Hyboria" is not the name of the world.

Think of other "ages" of the earth: Jurassic, Cretaceous, etc. We don't refer to the planet of those eras as "Jurassica" or "Cretacea," do we? No, it's "Earth during the Jurassic Period."

Conan's world is "Earth during the Hyborian Age."

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#15 amster

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 10:37 PM

If we're talking about the continent where the Conan stories took place, wouldn't a more accurate name be "Eurasiafrica"??? :P
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#16 Strom

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 10:52 PM

If we're talking about the continent where the Conan stories took place, wouldn't a more accurate name be "Eurasiafrica"??? :P


The main continent is still called the Thurian Continent in Howard's Hyborian Age essay, even though some of it (western side) crashed into the oceans during the Cataclysm.

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#17 deuce

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 11:21 PM

If we're talking about the continent where the Conan stories took place, wouldn't a more accurate name be "Eurasiafrica"??? :P


The main continent is still called the Thurian Continent in Howard's Hyborian Age essay, even though some of it (western side) crashed into the oceans during the Cataclysm.


Hey Strom! Quite true. However, REH (apparently) refers to all the lands south of the Styx as the "Stygian continent" in the "THA" essay ("CoC", p.397). Perhaps everything east of the Vilayet was called the "Hyrkanian continent"?

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#18 Kortoso

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 11:57 PM

So would it be "Hai-Borean" or "Hee-borean"? ;)

#19 PainBrush

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Posted 26 June 2008 - 12:30 AM

" The Hyborian age , - when the sword was mightier than the pen is ,
and the penis mightier than the swordis . "

" You have a good point there,...put your helmet on & no-one will notice it ."
" Look for a long time at what pleases you... and longer still at what pains you "
So THIS is civilization ??!??!......

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#20 Strom

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Posted 26 June 2008 - 01:17 AM

If we're talking about the continent where the Conan stories took place, wouldn't a more accurate name be "Eurasiafrica"??? :P


The main continent is still called the Thurian Continent in Howard's Hyborian Age essay, even though some of it (western side) crashed into the oceans during the Cataclysm.


Hey Strom! Quite true. However, REH (apparently) refers to all the lands south of the Styx as the "Stygian continent" in the "THA" essay ("CoC", p.397). Perhaps everything east of the Vilayet was called the "Hyrkanian continent"?



Good info deuce - I just read that passage again and it appears Howard refers to that landmass as the Stygian continent because it breaks away from the Thurian Continent when the Baltic Sea is formed in the north:

. In the north the Baltic Sea was formed, cutting
Asgard into the peninsulas later known as Norway, Sweden and Denmark,
and far to the south the Stygian continent was broken away from the
rest of the world, on the line of cleavage formed by the river Nilus
in its westward trend. Over Argos, western Koth and the western lands
of Shem, washed the blue ocean men later called the Mediterranean. But
where land sank elsewhere, a vast expanse west of Stygia rose out of
the waves, forming the whole western half of the continent of Africa.


Plus, Howard doesn't capitalize 'continent' as he does with the Thurian Continent - any significance?

Great topic Taranaich - I've always wondered myself about the accuracy of calling the land Hyboria. I enjoy Leo Grin's comments on Steve Tompkins essay and lean toward his side of the debate.

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