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‘Preferable to Those Wolves’
The Black Stallion: Chapter V, The People of the Black Circle by Robert E. Howard
“The squatting girl laughed up at him, with some spicy jest, and he grinned wolfishly, and hooking a toe under her haunches, tumbled her sprawling to the floor…”
Having been stolen away from her gleaming kingdom and taken into the savage mountains by Conan, the Devi Yasmina enjoys a respite among a clan of Hillman and is fascinated by the life of the women, who seem to be bolder and less conniving than civilized women, even as she is repelled by the aspect of the men. Next to the bristle-bearded clan of bandits, Conan almost seems an acceptable escort as Fate closes in on her.
Even as Yasmina is treated to a glimpse of a holistic society far beneath her previous horizon of perception, her very presence and the evil forces that bear upon her station in life rips this balanced microcosm of humanity apart and precipitates yet another harrowing encounter. As she begins to appreciate herself as a woman rather than as a privileged member of the now distant hierarchy she was born into, she begins to see her captive as a paragon of his barbarous kind. Yasmina’s view of Conan is the view that Howard seemed fondest of, a conceptual etching of his hero striving in his rude meritocracy from the vantage of a person born to refined aristocracy.
One aspect of Howard’s writing that shines most brightly in his Conan stories, is his development of multiple thrilling scenes within the single narrative heartbeat of a story that is his version of a clearly defined chapter. It is this touch that evokes in a Howard yarn the epic hero cycles of our distant past, vehicles as they were for the compression of many deeds into a single verse. The last three scenes of this short chapter hurl the Devi back into the world of high adventure where her infamously able captor thrives.
He: Gilgamesh: Into the Face of Time
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