John Bullard on the Texas Frontier and REH’s Beyond The Black River at Adventures Fantastic

I commented when I first read Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories two and a half years ago (has it been so long?) that Beyond the Black River was one of my favorite of his stories.  I also commented that it “could have been set on the Texas frontier.”  I even went so far as to title my post covering the third volume from Del Rey collecting REH’s Conan stories Robert E. Howard Was the Texan Tolkien.

Many Howard fans, though, point to the American Colonial frontier in describing Beyond the Black River.  I am gratified that Keith West at Adventures Fantastic hosted a three-part series by John Bullard (responsible for finalizing The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard) that definitely shows that Howard’s mind was on the Texas frontier and the Comanche rather than the Colonial frontier.  Links to all three posts are below the jump.

Gregory Manchess’ artwork from the Del Rey collection


“Beyond the Black River”: Is it Really “Beyond the Brazos River”? Part 1

“Beyond the Black River”: Is it Really “Beyond the Brazos River”? Part 2

“Beyond the Black River”: Is it Really “Beyond the Brazos River”? Part 3


I have written extensively on both Robert E. Howard and Conan here at Every Day Should Be Tuesday.

About H.P.

Blogs on books at Every Day Should Be Tuesday (speculative fiction) and Hillbilly Highways (country noir and nonfiction).
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4 Responses to John Bullard on the Texas Frontier and REH’s Beyond The Black River at Adventures Fantastic

  1. Bullard did an outstanding job.

    There’s plenty of evidence that Texas history predominated in the crafting of Beyond the Black River, but I think REH probably also had earlier frontiers in mind, too. Howard clearly used Iroquoian names in Beyond the Black River, cribbed from Robert W. Chambers and maybe also from Joseph Altsheler’s novels. His letters show that he knew the tales of Ohio Valley frontiersmen like Simon Kenton and Lewis Wetzel, who had their Conanesque qualities.

    For me, Beyond the Black River shows how effective recasting historical phenomenon into a fantasy setting can be — because it doesn’t have to be all one time and place.

    Guy Gavriel Kay, who’s made a career out of doing this, said this, which I love:

    “First of all the genre allows the universalizing of a story. It takes incidents out of a very specific time and place and opens up possibilities for the writer – and the reader – to consider the themes, the elements of a story, as applying to a wide range of times and places. It detaches the tale from a narrow context, permits a stripping away, or at least an eroding of prejudices and assumptions. And, paradoxically, because the story is done as a fantasy it might actually be seen to apply more to a reader’s own life and world, not less. It cannot be read as being only about something that happened, say, seven hundred years ago in Spain.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. adventuresfantastic says:

    Thanks for the shout-out. Jim is right. John did an outstanding job. He worked on that essay for months, and you can see the result. Great work.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. John Boyle says:

    Mr. Bullard did a great job. He presents some immensely interesting background information not just on one of Howard’s best stories but on REH himself. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: December 2020 Month-in-Review and 2020 Year-in-Review | Every Day Should Be Tuesday

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