Monday, March 6, 2017

Character Motivation in Sword & Sorcery Literature

Below is an excerpt from Rick Stump's blog concerning Conan the Barbarian and Sword & Sorcery stories. His blog post is here:

"But in Howard's tales, why did Conan leave home? What drove him to be a mercenary in the frozen North, a thief in the desert metropolis, a pirate, a nomadic horseman, a soldier, a general, and a king? What great event forced him to leave his home village and put him on the path of the hero? Was it murder? Death? A lost love?
  According to Howard, Conan walked the world because... he was bored at home. Conan wandered the land and sea, fought monsters and wizards, and became a mighty king all because he was restless and easily bored."

This is the comment I left:

This, and the emphasis on materialism in modern fantasy, are great observations. The character who is motivated by a simple need to survive or out of curiosity for the unknown is at the heart of Sword & Sorcery. Conan, Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser, and Jack Vance's characters in the Dying Earth series are all examples of those kinds of characters. Judging by comments I have seen by magazine editors, it is not only Hollywood that is guilty of needing some huge, contrived, soap-operaesque motivation to believe characters would ever leave their house.

Thanks for the great blog. BTW, the next Literary Wonder & Adventure Show (by Dream Tower Media) is Robert E. Howard, Master of Sword & Sorcery: A Conversation with Howard Andrew Jones. It will appear later this month on

Robert Zoltan

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