Author Case Study – Robert E. Howard – 8w9

Robert E. Howard is best known as the creator of the fictional character Conan [Conan the barbarian]. While particularly introverted for an eight, the basic eight drives, belief structures and setup show up in his work. Apparently outwardly an introvert, he is probably an Sp 8w9 [“satisfactory survival”].

Function-wise, Howard is probably an ESFP [extraverted sensation with introverted feeling secondary], although note that we need to realize that introverted feeling means just a connection to his own personal feelings – what he feels – rather than their being a particularly intense morality [the same really applies across most of the types – Ones are Fi-inferior by forgetting their real feelings to believe they want what they judge is ‘right’, Fours are Fi-dominant by virtue of deeper focus on how they feel; a matter of definitions that tends to distort test results]. [possibly Ni is a function more involved in moralizing – ’emotional realization of truth’ – by looking at various perspectives].

In his characters, Conan pretty much exemplifies Eight-ish qualities, being focussed on drinking, wenching and (long term) the acquisition of power. Conan quite happily exterminates those who insult him or displease him, heedless of any long-term consequences – something Howard could not do in his day-to-day life – also engaging in piracy and theft. Reflecting the FI auxiliary [if you prefer, 4 in the tritype], he is frequently moody or grim, although this is forgotten through excess in the form of drinking or womanizing.
Conan himself is functionally sensation-based not only via the drinking or womanizing, but also has keen senses or instincts that let him note danger – good ‘situational awareness’ – and a fairly good appreciation of the general reality of the situation. There is high action and generally predictable use of obvious resources. The ‘direct approach’ tends to be employed and is expected to be useful unless it really obviously isn’t. Some anger is generated directly by sensation [frustration of desires].

Complex planning or novel problem-solving approaches [intuition] occur relatively rarely. In some cases, a situation is set up in such a way as to be readily solveable, such as in “The Devil in Iron” where the indestructible demon has a prearranged achilles heel, the meteoric knife that can kill it.
The secondary feeling function is sometimes embodied in a secondary character, which usually is a softer female character who is caught up in the action. This occurs through a number of stories e.g. Belit, Valeria, Olivia.  Feeling here does not always look particularly praiseworthy, e.g. when Belit suspects a trap she replaces Conan with an expendable black crew member, rather than leaving it alone, because of her love for him [probably a ‘defininely not a six’ moment].
A sort of paranoia running through Howard’s work that’s also eight-ish; he is frequently betrayed and generally trusts little. Themes related to this include vengeance (avenging betrayal). Conan notes that bargains in the black kingdoms are meant to be broken – an attitude reflecting Eight lack of innocence. Note that in fiction, the basic distrust here is externalized in that the universe simply reflects it (i.e. any paranoia can’t be detected because everyone is out to get you). Making eight heroes look like the good guys while also doing whatever they want requires villains with a particular intensity of blackness.

Howard’s attitude to authority is more or less represented in Conan as well; as a barbarian character he has both a particular strength and also a disregard for the laws and customs of civilization. Howard generally takes an attitude that laws are made for the benefit of whoever made the laws, and that civilization is a state of weakness. (In his own life Howard was polite and seems to have been reasonably law-abiding, however). A particular joy in battle or conflict is evident, showing up in the military focus of books (another good case of this is in Robert Adams’ Horseclans books). Generally the world he designed is savage and lawless but unlike say a One, there’s little desire to improve it unless that ties into need for greater authority ; the state of anarchy is the desired end state.

Howard’s other characters of note besides Conan include the Puritan Solomon Kane, and King Kull. Both of these are interestingly different, though less successful. Kane has a particular religious bent that’s defining. King Kull is interesting in that he starts out with power drive being largely satisfied (he’s the ruler of Atlantis) – his adventures deal more with maintaining his power – and also seems to be largely asexual. Neither character is especially Eightish in nature, but they do seem to be constructed as ‘pivoted’ along themes that are interesting to eights. Kull could be argued to relate more to the nine-wing, perhaps.

Similar authors – other Eights. Robert Adams and Poul Anderson both seem to be Eights, though wing is hard to determine. Robert Heinlein would be definitely an 8w7 [strong introverted-thinking seconday; he also shows some Seven traits like more anxiety, idealism e.g. attempts to discuss moral themes in works like Stranger in a Strange Land or Farnham’s Freehold, instability].
Harry Harrison as noted in Robert Silverberg’s description appears to be another 8w9 – more social perhaps or having a stronger 9 wing, he likewise seems to like female secondary characters [e.g. Angelica in his Stainless Steel Rat stories].

Note that Conan himself is widely imitated, forming a basic trope [barbarian hero] that in itself makes it  slightly harder to identify the type of other sword-and-sorcery authors.


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