Thursday, May 17, 2018

'This Bad Mofo'

Captain John Smith
The Inspiration for Solomon Kane and Conan?

This bad mofo, Captain John Smith, who is just a footnote in history, mentioned in passing in a Peggy Lee song, could have been the real-life Mattias Tannhauser.

Robert E. Howard could have mined this guy’s biography for additional story material, but he would have had to tone it down, because nobody would believe it.


The Deeds of Captain John Smith

Thank you, Shep. I have read Smith’s own account of his adventures. There were others as active in mercenary warfare as he was at the time. However, he engaged in wider ranging adventures than most, due, it seems, to his high intelligence and willingness to risk his life at sea. Smith comes off as a definite prototype of a Conan character in terms of breadth. What is really telling is how politically alike Howard’s fantasy world of the Hyborean Age is to early 17th Century Europe, which ironically was the period in which the adventures of Solomon Kane were set.

Below we can match points in Smith’s career to Howard’s two most storied characters.

Mercenary:  Conan
Pirate:  Conan
Mercenary Captain:  Conan
Champion:  Conan
Crusader:  Kane
Sold into Turkish Slavery:  Kane
Escaped from Slavery:  Kane
Secret Agent:  neither
Marooned on a Savage Shore:  Kane & Conan
Explorer:  Kane & Conan
Wilderness Fighter:  Conan
Savior of a Fort between Forest and Sea:  Conan
Captured by Savages:  Kane
Abstained from Sex in a Savage Paradise:  Kane
Saved by a Savage Princess:  Kane

Conan 8
Kane 8

Two larger than life characters could have been built from Smith’s known activities. His one activity which was unknown until recent years was his duty as secret agent, which Howard could not have known and was the only aspect not used in one or both of these larger than life heroes.

Note that Black Vulmea was essentially an updated Conan.

(c) 2018 James LaFond

1 comment:

  1. And this is the beauty of the LaFondiverse -- tying conventional history into the legacy of Robert E. Howard. (Much like analyzing the art on Greek pottery shards through the eye of a modern boxing coach.)

    Nice one, James!