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Was Conan An Anti-Hero?


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#21 Crom's bells

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 01:04 PM

Most writers would have felt the need to document how Conan went from mercenary to king. And they would have felt the need to document how Conan went from Cimmeria to civilization. But not REH. That's just not how he rolled. Maybe that's why no REH has ever been successfully translated to the screen, and why screenwriters are apparently dumbfounded by his work and unwilling to even try. They're simply not capable of thinking like him. They're stuck within their "safe" cliches of how a narrative is supposed to be structured.


Correct. Didn't REH write to someone (forgot whether it was Lovecraft or an editor at Weird Tales) that his Conan stories just flowed from his gray matter in no chronological order in the Hyborian timeline? He just wrote the stories as if Conan was relating them to him. Looking through some of his drafts like Red Nails too, I don't think Howard ever thought them out carefully. To me, it feels as if he just got a vague idea of what was going to happen, penned it down, then expanded on the details. It's like a reckless raging bull exploding on to the arena, goring anything in its way, before finally calming down and taking time to check the audience out

#22 Kortoso

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 05:06 PM

It's like a reckless raging bull exploding on to the arena, goring anything in its way, before finally calming down and taking time to check the audience out


:)

#23 deuce

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 06:38 PM

This thread is about Conan the Cimmerian's status (or non-) as an "antihero". Any discussions of his taking of the Aquilonian throne (and novels/synopses thereof) would best be discussed in a new thread or here:

http://www.conan.com...mp;hl=liberator

Hope that helps. :)

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#24 crossplain pilgrim

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 10:41 PM

Okay, one thing the classical hero sometimes sought was revenge. Certainly Odysseus reaped vengeance on the suitors of his wife, Penelope. Recently, I read on another site the phrase, "a typical Conan revenge story." That led me contemplate the idea of heroic revenge in the Conan stories. Offhand, I can only think of one story in which Conan was motivated primarily by revenge, "A Witch Shall Be Born." The big Cimmerian wants a little payback for a small matter of being crucified and left to die in the desert. Even in that story, Conan mentions that he would also like to free the people of Khauran from despotic rule. Our hero.

It seems to me the most common motivations in the Conan stories were the desires to better his financial situation or survive a nasty plight. Conan was a bad guy to cross, but he rarely (once?) acts out in desire to get some payback. My question at last: are there other stories besides AWSBB that are primarily about Conan seeking revenge?
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#25 ?sir

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 11:22 PM

..are there other stories besides AWSBB that are primarily about Conan seeking revenge?


Hour of the Dragon?

#26 Kortoso

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Posted 01 May 2009 - 12:26 AM

Iron Shadows on the Moon (ISotM). Ask Shah Amurath for details.

#27 amster

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Posted 01 May 2009 - 12:28 AM

The reason why Conan rarely seeks revenge is because, to seek revenge, you have to be a victim to begin with. That John Milius was full of crap.
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--Robert E. Howard to Harold Preece, ca. June 1928--

#28 ?sir

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Posted 01 May 2009 - 01:09 AM

Yes, Conan sure goes a long way to avoid risking becoming a victim, like never attaching himself to other people (it's a very sad existence in my opinion) for example.

#29 crossplain pilgrim

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Posted 01 May 2009 - 04:25 AM

Well, certainly there was some payback involved in "Dragon." But I think Conan's principal motivation was getting back his throne. As for "Iron Shadows," I haven't read it in years. That's the one on the island, right? I will take a look. However, it still doesn't add up to enough revenge tales to justify the phrase "a typical Conan revenge story." The proposed Conan script sounds a lot like the typical framed cop, sold-out CIA agent, and betrayed hit man movies. Revenge stories make it easy to set up a series of cinematic action scenes as the hero kills his way slowly up to the top guy who offed his familly members and/or girl friend. Revenge stories are relatively easy to plot. And the younger audience never seems to get tired of seeing the same story over and over again. Well, I love a couple dozen westerns that have basically the same plot as Shane, so I shouldn't be tossing rocks at the old arboretum.
A wild moon rode in the wild white clouds,
the waves their white crests showed
When Solomon Kane went forth again,
and no man knew his road.

"Solomon Kane's Homecoming"

#30 Kortoso

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Posted 01 May 2009 - 05:11 PM

Revenge is a common plot device. But it is far from the definition of anti-hero.



#31 Evil Thoth-Amon

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Posted 02 May 2009 - 10:39 AM

Of course he is not an anti-hero. He is the perfect example of "wild hero". He is strong, noble, he respect women, he fights against terrible monsters and evil warlocks...
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#32 ?sir

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Posted 02 May 2009 - 04:54 PM

Of course he is not an anti-hero. He is the perfect example of "wild hero". He is strong, noble, he respect women, he fights against terrible monsters and evil warlocks...


That doesn't exclude anti-heroes. Think about why he does all these things, and for who. Does he kill the warlock for a greater good or just because he happens to stand in the way of some riches Conan planned to get laid and drunk for?

#33 Crom's bells

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Posted 02 May 2009 - 05:23 PM

Of course he is not an anti-hero. He is the perfect example of "wild hero". He is strong, noble, he respect women, he fights against terrible monsters and evil warlocks...


Well said, a "wild hero" is how exactly I'd describe him too

Somebody should edit the Wikipedia entry on list of anti-heroes, because I don't know how to :P

#34 ?sir

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Posted 02 May 2009 - 05:39 PM

Does everyone here agree that "hero" and "main character" are not synonyms?

I get a feeling that some here don't. :huh:

#35 amster

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Posted 02 May 2009 - 05:51 PM

Does everyone here agree that "hero" and "main character" are not synonyms?

I get a feeling that some here don't. :huh:


One of (if not the) first heroes in world literature, Gilgamesh, was something of an anti-hero himself. Additionally, the Bible, and various mythologies are full of heroes who don't act particularly noble much of the time. So I don't think the word "hero" is necessarily synonymous with "good guy", and thus makes the word "anti-hero" somewhat unnecesary.
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--Robert E. Howard to Harold Preece, ca. June 1928--

#36 crossplain pilgrim

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Posted 02 May 2009 - 06:53 PM

In the ancient legends, the hero was the main protagonist in the story who faced and accomplished amazing tasks. He was, as has been pointed out by others, often a complex character who could not be characterized as a "good guy." However, I think the term hero to modern minds is synonymous with good guy. So, I think the term anti-hero is still useful in conveying to those modern minds the idea of a more worldly protagonist who is capable of heroic deeds, but often acts in his own self-interest.
A wild moon rode in the wild white clouds,
the waves their white crests showed
When Solomon Kane went forth again,
and no man knew his road.

"Solomon Kane's Homecoming"

#37 ?sir

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Posted 02 May 2009 - 10:32 PM

In the ancient legends, the hero was the main protagonist in the story who faced and accomplished amazing tasks. He was, as has been pointed out by others, often a complex character who could not be characterized as a "good guy." However, I think the term hero to modern minds is synonymous with good guy. So, I think the term anti-hero is still useful in conveying to those modern minds the idea of a more worldly protagonist who is capable of heroic deeds, but often acts in his own self-interest.


This sound like a plausible explanation. I would think there is a reason there is a word for less "good" heroes. If not this is yet another translational difference. The exact same two words exist in my language and if the english counterparts don't mean the same I'd like to know if we're gonna go with the "old", biblical definition of hero, or the modern version accompanied by the alternative "anti-hero"? It's hard enough to communicate over a written medium without language barriers. :rolleyes:

Edited by ?sir, 02 May 2009 - 10:32 PM.


#38 Crom's bells

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 04:36 AM

?sir it depends on how you define "hero". I use the term "hero" very loosely when I describe Conan, but I still believe his actions and intentions to be good in the stories. It's true he was a thief before, and he'd use his sword point just to get a loaf of bread. Even if one must use the term "anti-hero" to describe his simple, instinctive way of getting by each day, the term should still be used with caution. To me, Conan is more akin to Han Solo than anyone else. It seems most people on the list of Wikipedia's antihero list fit the bill more so than Conan, which also possibly explains why he stands out in that list

For a very interesting main character antihero, look out for Chronicles of Riddick. Now there's an antihero who saves the day.

Edited by Crom's bells, 03 May 2009 - 04:39 AM.


#39 ?sir

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 12:23 PM

I don't agree. Where are his good intentions when he steals the ring from the unconscious Jungir in Zamboula? Or when he sets off through the jungle to steal the Teeth of Gwahlur? Those are both fairly late in his career. What do you reckon he's gonna do with the ring (which powers he clearly understands)? Surely not save the world. No, he's gonna get laid.

#40 Crom's bells

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 04:11 PM

He doesn't have to save the world in order to not classify as an anti-hero. Granted, he has his selfish reasons for stealing the ring from Jungir Khan, but that doesn't make him any more evil than an opportunist. It's a good observation that Conan, before he becomes king, often resorts to using thievery to survive, but again, this is more survivalist than evil. He'd rather sacrifice the teeth of Gwahlur to save Muriela, and I don't think that at that point, he has a shortage of any girls to get laid with

I don't deny Conan is a thief, and even he admits that he is a petty thief too, using intimidation to get food, as he says to Tina and Belesa at the end of The Black Stranger, but even then, he gives them the rest of his jewels because he knows they aren't like him. The way I see it, he belongs more towards the "good" side when he sees others in trouble. Natala needed water, so he gave her what was left in his tumbler. Balthus was captured by Picts, so Conan uses his one and only spear to save him

Of course, it's sometimes hard to see the good in him by his actions. For example, he kills Zaporavo to become captain of the Wastrel. This can be seen as an anti-hero action, but it's possible that what Conan perceives as good, evil and moral grey areas differs from us. Perhaps he sees no harm in eliminating the evil pirate captain, and it can only be to his benefit. I can see where you are coming from when you point out Conan's selfishness in many parts of the stories, but I guess back then, about 100000 years ago, people have different perceptions about morals. Perhaps the best explanation for Conan's actions would be that getting rid of evil is an act of goodness unto itself