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J.R.R Tolkien & Howard's Conan

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

What did J.R.R. think of Robert E. Howard's iconic barbarian, Conan?

By R. Nelson Bailey

L. Sprague de Camp’s “Literary Swordsmen & Sorcerers” (1976) is a non-fiction book that features a short history of origins of the fantasy genre and biographies of some of the more well-known authors, such as Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, E.R. Burroughs, Lord Dunsany, and J.R.R. Tolkien. One of the more interesting anecdotes he relates in the book involves his visit to Tolkien's home in 1967. De Camp had given Tolkien a copy of the “Swords and Sorcery” anthology of fantasy stories (featuring stories by Poul Anderson, Fritz Lieber, C.A. Smith, and others) that he had edited. Tolkien said he “found it interesting but did not much like the stories”. As they sat in Tolkien's garage “smoking pipes and drinking beer”, Tolkien mentioned that he “rather liked” Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories. Who knew Tolkien liked Conan?

Tolkien (left) and Conan (right).


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