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Thursday, September 29, 2011
Robert E. Howard's Map
I'm far from an expert on Tolkien, but the fact that his most famous fictional setting was a place called "Middle Earth" suggests that he intended some sort of connection with historic reality.
When introduced to Robert E. Howard's fantasy, I first assumed the Conan character's home world had been built from scratch, so foreign were most of the geographic and ethnic terms to me at the time. But as I delved deeper, I discovered clues now and then (some subtle, some huge) that Conan's world was Earth...maybe just in some sort of alternate history. (A whopper of a clue happened in the John Millius film when the Cimmerians are called "Northmen".)
In time, I came to understand that Conan did, indeed, live on Earth--but during the "Hyborian Age." From then on, I couldn't read a Conan story without trying to figure out how his geography fit into the maps I was familiar with. Some of it was determinable by logical means, like the Land of Shem and the Pictish Wilderness. But much of it left me scratching my head.
That's why I was delighted to discover a reproduction of this map, sketched by Howard himself, in which you can easily discern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa underneath his Hyborian boundaries. Now I (and you) have this handy reference to help us trace the barbarian's footsteps.