Thursday, March 2, 2023

Imagining the Hyborian Age

 The map of Conan's world by Katrin Dirim I shared the other day was interesting not just because her her artistic style (though that's great), but because of the way she chose to depict the Hyborian Age costume and material culture. The prevailing style, since the Frazetta covers have been a vague "barbaric fantasy," which each artist working their own variation on the theme.

Howard's stories, by contrast, tend to be much more "historical" in their depiction of these things--though they aren't really consistent in their historical era. Different locales in Conan's world seem to come from different points in history: there are High Medieval tales ("Hour of the Dragon", "A Witch Shall Be Born"), Golden Age of Piracy stories ("Black Stranger"), stories that seem to be set in the ancient world ("God in the Bowl"), and even stories that like ahistorical periods of a Medieval version of the 18th Century ("Beyond the Black River").

I think Dirm's idea to narrow this range a bit to make it make more sense is a good one. On Reddit, she says she capped the level of armor at roughly the early middle ages, and mixed in elements from as far back as the Bronze Age to keep the atmosphere.

I think this fits well with the more "ancient world" interpretation Mark Schultz does in volume 1 of the Wandering Star/Del Rey collection:

Some of the slight re-shifts of the names would be fairly simple. Iranistan becomes the Persian Empire (take you pick which one), and Turan instead of being a stand-in for the Ottoman Turks, are maybe the Parthians? Aquilonia and Nemedian could be recast as somewhat Carolingian Frank:

Though I have seen portrayals (and there is some support for it) that Aquilonia could be Roman!

The Age of Sail stuff in Zingara and the Barachan Isles would require the most change, but there have been pirates as long as there have been boats, so it's possible.

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