Wednesday, October 16, 2019

‘In the Grip of an Earthquake’

The Haunter of the Pits, Chapter 5, Robert E. Howard’s Hour of the Dragon, reading from pages 113-119 of the DelRey edition

Greek Exam 3 - Art History 4130 with Zaho at University of Central Florida - StudyBlue

Gianni’s illustration evokes the image of the famed fallen Gaul at Pergamon in Asia Minor as the chained savage is shown chained to a massive wall ring by a  weight of chains most men could not have lifted, amongst the bones of his damned predecessor.

Conan is depicted in strained prose as everything to his near-animal type and staying instinctively silent as he did as a child hiding from beasts in the wild.  Howard continues filling in the barbarian’s backstory in ways not permitted by the brief length of his normal-length yarns.  It is told that Conan’s behavior was not the result of a reasoning process but instinctive:

“The Cimmerian did not curse, scream, weep or rave as a civilized man might have done.”

More fierce musings continue as shadows flit within shadows in the dungeon, and finally Conan meets the babe of all Howard babes, who seems to have reflected his ideal feminine type:

“I am only Zenobia…only a girl of the king’s seraglio…less than one of the dogs that gnaw the bones in his banquet all.”

The angel then goes on to profess her love for Conan, having seen him once from afar and also asserts her humanity, “I am no painted toy.”

Conan was touched by the baring of this woman’s soul to him but then went quickly about the business of survival.  She gains his admiration due to her practical selection of a heavy fighting knife and the manner of her stealing the guard’s keys.

What follows after the girl’s dainty departure is a classic dungeon adventure, essentially the aspect that roleplaying game designers borrowed from Howard’s creative works where they take their worldview from Tolkien’s fairy world.

Conan’s exit from the pit involves his third encounter with Howard’s favorite monster, the Vilayet Ape, a massive carnivorous ape that seems like a 700 pound chimpanzee, also depicted in the classic Rogues In the House and Iron Shadows in the Moon.

The closing illustration is of two hands shackled in heavy iron stressing against their bonds.

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