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‘You Dogs’
On to Yimsha: Chapter VII, The People of the Black Circle by Robert E. Howard
In this taut transitory chapter the hero, Conan, makes an alliance with a sorcerer in his extremity en-route to the Mountain of the Black Seers. As the threads of intrigue begin to weave together in the author’s hands the use of totemic imagery to describe the antagonists as wolves, jackals and dogs serves well to impart the desperate character of such men—revealed according to their animal natures as opposed to puppets clothed in archetypical guises.
A fascinating aspect of On To Yimsha is the masculine dynamics sketched in an alliance between Conan and a band of sworn enemies, which is an aspect that our recent storytelling tradition [TV and movies] rarely deals with, yet is part and parcel of everyday life among men in the work place and the criminal underworld. Howard demonstrates no vested interest in maintaining some false Good versus Bad construct, but instead sketches the way of men for what it is, a power flow matrix that recognizes honor as the ultimate value—beyond any belief in goodness—rather than a clearly aligned moral battlefield.
Howard writes of this band of heroes bound for the sinister mountain:
“They were doomed and they knew it…”
And the story teller goes on to carve a tale out of fatalists striving grimly toward their cruel goal—in what would be one of the most inspirational adventures to inspire the role playing conventions that have since come to dominate video games.
A Well of Heroes
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