The Shrine of
Sword & Sorcery!
Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!
Sword & Sorcery! Just the name conjures up images of larger-than-life heroes, scheming magicians, beasts from beyond and drawn blades thirsting for the red wine of battle. Brawny barbarians, wicked warlocks, thick-thewed thieves, able-bodied amazons, consummate cavaliers, and all the mad kings, imperiled maidens, sinister priests, and fat merchants they could hope to meet on their travels. Epic adventure in a bygone world, in more ways than one.
Sword & sorcery is a genre of fantasy fiction which emerged in the pages of Weird Tales in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Arising from a melange of influences and authorial correspondences, the genre as it is most commonly understood today was codified by Texan writer Robert E. Howard (1906-1936). Howard created a number of the genre's most notable, most enduring, and most revered characters, including Kull of Valusia, Bran Mak Morn, Solomon Kane, and of course, the iconic Conan of Cimmeria, known almost exclusively in popular culture as Conan the Barbarian. At the same time, other Weird Tales contributors were experimenting with their own styles. Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961) delved deeper into the genre's roots into cosmic horror in his stoies set on the prehistoric continents of Poseidonis and Hyperborea, the fantastical medieval French province of Averoigne, and the far-flung post-apocalypse of Zothique. In "Black God's Kiss" and its sequels, C.L. Moore (1911-1987) created the genre's first leading heroine in the iron-willed Jirel of Joiry. Clifford Ball (1908-1947) more directly aped Howard's style in his three tales, with enjoyable results. Nictzin Dyalhis (1873-1942) wrote of men inhabiting the bodies of their previous incarnations in fantastical lost pasts. Fritz Leiber (1910-1992) created the picaresque duo Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, a barbarian and a thief in a dangerous city. A late entry in this golden age, Gardner Fox (1911-1986) debuted Crom the Barbarian, the first sword & sorcery hero in comic books, in 1950.
While these tales were popular with Weird Tales' readership, it wasn't until the 1960s that the genre went mainstream with the so-called Lancer Conan Saga, a reprint series of Howard's Conan stories - re-arranged, edited, altered, and even augmented by L. Sprague de Camp (1907-2000) and Lin Carter (1930-1988). While controversial among literary purists, the series was hugely successful and opened the gates for authors and imitators looking to satisfy the public's sudden appetite for sword-slinging barbarians.
For the next few decades, barbarians ran amok in the literary scene, many of them deliberately cast from Conan's mold. John Jakes (1930-), seeking to write more of the kinds of stories he enjoyed from Howard, created the well-regarded Brak the Barbarian; Gardner Fox returned with the schlocky, tongue-in-cheek Kothar and Kyrik series. Charles R. Saunders (1946-2020), reacting against the poor representation of black people in the pulp tradition, created Imaro and Dossouye, who adventured across fantastical versions of historical Africa. Poul Anderson (1926-2001) drew on his own Danish heritage in the novels The Broken Sword and The Merman's Children, which blended sword & sorcery with historical fiction and mythology. Karl Edward Wagner's (1945-1994) immortal, amoral Kane made his debut during this period. Reacting against the proliferation of meatheaded barbarians, Michael Moorcock (1939-) created Elric of Melniboné, a sickly, aristocratic albino sorcerer. Anthologies like The Mighty Barbarians, Amazons!, and Flashing Swords! proliferated. Conan the Barbarian opened in theatres in 1982, leading to a flood of copycat films that lacked its emotional core, philosophical undertones, and budget.
By the 1980s, buried beneath an ungainly heap of superficial Conan copycats, sword & sorcery was a joke, a genre without literary merit fit only to satisfy the power fantasies of immature teenage boys. With James Silke's (1931-) Death Dealer novels of the late 1980s, based on the paintings of Frank Frazetta, the genre breathed its last gasp of mainstream relevance and largely went underground.
What makes Sword & Sorcery different?
This is an interesting question, and not necessarily an easy one to answer! Genre boundaries are always fluid, especially within a larger super-genre like fantasy, and it can be hard to define exactly where a work should be categorized - and some works defy categorization altogether! Nevertheless, fans and scholars have come up with a few general criteria for what makes sword & sorcery distinct from other styles of fantasy, in terms of tone, structure, and world-building.
- Action-Packed Heroes: Most sword & sorcery protagonists are warriors, thieves, wanderers, sorcerers, or some combination thereof; what they are not, generally, are simple, innocent folk forced by necessity to leave to comfort of home to combat evil. Most are already out there, stricken with wanderlust and the love of battle to see the world and drink in its many pleasures in the short time they have. They are men and women of action, larger than life and usually larger than most of the people around them as well!
- Black Magic: The "sorcery" part of the name is not messing around! As opposed to something like Harry Potter or Dungeons & Dragons where magic is simply a tool and so commonplace as to be nearly mundane, magic in a sword & sorcery yarn is rare, dangerous, diabolical, and volatile, often obtained through dealings with dark gods and liable to corrupt or betray its wielder. Not all those who use it are evil - most heroes find themselves teaming up with spellcasters from time to time, and some even use it themselves - but it tends to have a sinister, otherworldly air often omitted in other fantasy subgenres.
- Personal Motivations: As a general rule, sword & sorcery heroes are not out to save the world. They might save a kingdom, on occasion, but usually more for personal reasons than any noble calling. Greed, vengeance, pragmatism, lust, and simple curiosity are all powerful motivators to the sword & sorcery hero. This isn't to say they lack any finer feeling, of course; it's as much about the scale of the story being told as the hero's morality.
- Horror Influence: Robert E. Howard, C.L. Moore, and Clark Ashton Smith were all hugely influenced by H.P. Lovecraft's weird pulp and cosmic horror tales, and the use of horror elements has remained prominent to this day; this often goes hand in hand with the points about magic above. Demons, extradimensional monsters, extradimensional demonic monsters, dark gods, evil sorcerers, savage atavisms, human sacrifice, moral degeneracy, and other horror staples are all common in sword & sorcery.
- Short Format: Because it originated in the pulps, most of the formative works or sword & sorcery were short stories or novellas. While novels have become more and more common over the years, anthologies and magazines have remained prominent vehicles for the genre.
- Outsider Perspective: Most sword & sorcery heroes are, in addition to men and women of action, outsiders in some way - not outcasts, necessarily, but outsiders. Guys like Conan, Kothar, and Brak are habitual wanderers whose adventures take them to strange places; Imaro, Dossouye and Fafhrd are banished from their homelands; Elak of Atlantis is a prince who rejects his responsibilities; Jirel of Joiry is an embattled noblewoman ruling in her own right; Duar and Kyrik are deposed kings haunted by weird magics; Rald and the Gray Mouser are thieves. Rare is the hero who stays in their hometown to become a pillar of the community.
- Elves Need Not Apply: Steretypical "fantasy races" like elves and dwarves are rare in sword & sorcery, and a fully integrated multi-species society of the kind often depicted in modern Dungeons & Dragons is practically unheard of. While non-human sapient beings are often present in stories, they tend to be rare and mysterious in-universe, small pockets of inhumanity dwelling in remote places and lost ruins. In keeping with the genre's origins in pulp and horror, they tend to be ape-like atavisms, reptilian remnants of past civilizations, or strange, eldritch beings from other worlds. They tend to be malevolent, though some are presented as worthy adversaries with their own sort of nobility, and a small few are benign or benevolent.
Sword & Sorcery on Film
The precursors of cinematic sword & sorcery lie in the historical epics and swashbucklers like The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Italian pepla like Hercules (1958) and Colossus and the Amazon Queen (1960), and Harryhausen mythology-fantasy like The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) and Jason and the Argonauts (1963); however, the genre really took off with the 1981 release of Clash of the Titans and especially Conan the Barbarian the following year. The next fifteen years or so saw a flood of barbarian movies, often made with low budgets in Italy. Sword & sorcery has maintained a stronger presence in film than it has in literature over the last few decades, but most modern films in the genre are low budget, direct-to-video affairs. Here are some of the most notable sword & sorcery films:
- Conan the Barbarian (1982): The most famous and influential sword & sorcery film, loosely adapted from the genre's most famous and influential hero. Arnold Swarzenegger doesn't much resemble Conan as Howard described him, in appearance or personality, but Conan the Barbarian is so good in its own right that it hardly matters. A weighty, luxurious film, it balances its epic tone and philosophical musings on fate, family, and the nature of power with two-fisted action, physical comedy, and an incredible score from Basil Poledouris. Other notable names include James Earl Jones as the evil but charismatic sorcerer Thulsa Doom, Max von Sydow as the bereaved King Osric, and Mako as the wise and eccentric Wizard of the Mound. A sequel, Conan the Destroyer, followed in 1984. Lighter and sillier, Destroyer is in some ways closer to Howard's original stories, but lacks the weight and depth of its predecessor. Schwarzenegger and Mako return, joined by Grace Jones as the fearsome Zula, Wilt Chamberlain as the suspicious Bombaata, and Pat Roach as the evil Thoth-Amon.
- The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982): A deposed prince grows up to become a barbarian mercenary and returns to reclaim his kingdom. Mostly what I remember is he has a sword with three blades and he can shoot the extra blades out of the hilt at bad guys, which is rad.
- The Beastmaster (1982): Very loosely adapted from a 1959 Andre Norton novel, The Beastmaster stars Dar, a barbarian who can talk to animals. He main companions are a tiger, a hawk, and two ferrets. Was followed by two sequels; Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time (1991) brought the action to then-modern Los Angeles, and Beastmaster III: The Eye of Braxus (1996) looks to go back to more traditional sword & sorcery fare. Was also adapted into a television series, Beastmaster (1999-2002).
- Fire and Ice (1983): An animated epic, Fire and Ice is most notable for its character designs, created by iconic fantasy artist Frank Frazetta, and its use of rotoscoping.
- Deathstalker (1983): A grimy, brutish, amoral movie, in which the titular barbarian mercenary, Deathstalker, is a killer and attempted rapist barely better than the evil sorcerer he's trying to overthrow. It was followed by several sequels; 1987's Deathstalker II inexplicably, but mercifully, reimagines Deathstalker as a swashbuckling prince of thieves with a heart of gold, and is more of a light-hearted parody of the genre. 1988's Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell and 1991's Deathstalker IV: Match of Titans return to a more straight-faced sword & sorcery style, but are still considerably lighter than the first film. Deathstalker was portrayed by Rick Hill in the first and fourth films, John Terlesky in the second, and John Allen Nelson in the third.
- The Devil's Sword (1983): Apparently based on an Indonesian comic book, Barry Prima stars as the heroic warrior Mandala, who must seek the legendary Devil's Sword to defeat the evil Crocodile Queen (Gudi Sintara) and her henchman, Banyunjaga (Advent Bangun). The Devil's Sword has great fight scenes, memorable villains in the Crcodile Queen and her self-described "Evil Warriors", and is a neat take on the sword & sorcery genre outside of a Western cultural context.
- Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985): Yes, even Star Wars got in on the act! The second of two Ewok television movies, Battle for Endor is a science fantasy take on the genre aimed at a younger audience. The villain of the piece, Terak, is a towering alien warlord whose soldiers wield axes and scimitars alongside their blasters, ride horses and blurrg-drawn wagons, and are assisted by a shapeshifting witch. In fact, most of the film's conflict is predicated on Terak not realizing what genre he's in, as he believes that random spaceship engine parts he's collected are magical artifacts that will let him escape the Forest Moon of Endor. Would probably make a solid introduction to the genre for younger audiences.
- Amazons (1986): A loose, expanded adaptation by Charles R. Saunders of his short story "Agbewe's Sword", the first of his Dossouye stories. Mostly notable for being the only adaptation to date of Saunders' work, though it was whitewashed into a generic fantasy setting rather than the Dahomey-inspired setting of the original story, with the Dossouye-equivalent renamed "Dyala". Still a fairly entertaining film in its own right, but definitely a waste of potential.
- The Barbarians (1987): Starring real-life identical twin bodybuilders Peter and David Paul, also known as the Barbarian Brothers, The Barbarians explores the immortal question, "What if Schwarzenegger's Conan got split into two guys, but had to share the one brain between them?" The result is a gloriously silly romp as two colossal meatheads try to rescue their adoptive mother from an evil king. Notable for being written by James Silke, who would go on the write the Death Dealer novels.
- Stormquest (1987): Notably written by Imaro creator Charles R. Saunders (though based on an idea by directer Alejandro Sessa), Stormquest is a very goofy movie about a kingdom where women rule and men are oppressed as either sex slaves or brainwashed worker drones. A group of women, exiled from their similarly matriarchal homeland, join forces with a group of male rebels to create a more just and egalitarian kingdom by overthrowing the evil, gross, and lecherous Storm Queen. Extremely silly and not at all politically correct (there are a lot of jokes about womens' weight, to start with), but it's a lot of fun and even has a few creative ideas, along with some beautiful Argentine scenery.
- Way Bad Stone: The Movie (1991): An ultra-low-budget, shot-on-video dark fantasy from Florida, Way Bad Stone is unusually gory and nihilistic even by sword & sorcery standards. After a band of adventurers steal a wizard's magical stone, he hires another band of adventurers to steal it back, leading to grisly ends for all and sundry.
- The Scorpion King (2002): Probably the most high-profile sword & sorcery film post-2000. The Scorpion King is a spin-off of 2001's The Mummy Returns, detailing the origins of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's monstrous Scorpion King as Mathayus, a heroic Akkadian assassin. In the first film, Mathayus teams up with the beautiful sorceress Cassandra (Kelly Hu) to defeat the tyrannical warlord Memnon (Steven Brand). It was followed by four direct-to-video sequels: 2008's The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior is an origin story in whic a young Mathayus (Michael Copon) quests for the magical Sword of Damocles to defeat the evil sorcerer-king Sargon (Randy Couture). 2012's The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption and 2015's The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power are loose sequels to the original, taking Mathayus (now played by Victor Webster) to the jungles of Thailand and the wooded mountains of northeastern Europe, respectively. Finally, 2018's The Scorpion King: Book of Souls features a semi-retired Mathayus (Zach McGowan) teaming up with the Nubian warrior Tala (Pearl Thusi) against the evil warlord Nebserek (Peter Mensah). While the quality is uneven and the budgets drop considerably after the first film, they're all a lot of fun and feature some impressive fight choreography, often featuring wrestlers and mixed martial artists in supporting roles. A reboot is reportedly in the works at Universal.
- Wolfhound (2006): Based on a 1995 Russian novel by Maria Semenova, Wolfhound borrows heavily from Conan the Barbarian; Wolfhound's village is slaughtered and he is enslaved while still a child, just like Conan. It soon goes off in own direction, though, and it's a very enjoyable film with some likable characters and great visuals.
- Conan the Barbarian (2011): Attempts to hew closer to Howard's vision of the character, and largely succeeds in that regard, but fails in most others. Conan 2011 has some great action and a more believably savage, uncivilized hero courtesy of Jason Momoa, but bland writing and a generic plot let down the potential.
- Nova Seed (2016): A borderline case, but the sword & sorcery influences are clear. Nova Seed is an animated film by Nick DiLiberto - literally, he animated the whole thing himself - that's sort of a mash-up of 80s science-fantasy cartoons like He-Man and ThunderCats with adult animation of that era like Heavy Metal and Wizards. Set on a dying sci-fi world, a renegade mutated lion-man must defeat the nefarious Dr. Mindskull, who wants to wipe out human civilization once and for all. A beautiful-looking and pretty entertaining film, and a great achievement for DiLiberto.
- Mandy (2018): Nicolas Cage stars as a lumberjack out for revenge after a drug-addled cult leader destroys the life he's built in California's Shadow Mountains. Though it's set in 1983, Mandy borrows heavily and openly from the themes, imagery, and archetypes of sword & sorcery, with Cage's axe-swinging, increasingly unhinged Red as the barbarian hero and Linus Roache's lustful, hedonistic Jeremiah Sand as the sinister, lascivious priest or sorcerer. A quote from Esquire on the DVD cover calls it a "psychosexual hallucinatory heavy-metal grindhouse revenge saga", which is as good a way to put it as any.
- The Northman (2022): Robert Eggers' viking revenge epic is, I think, a borderline case, but is likely to be of interest to readers. Based on the legend of Amleth, the inspiration for Shakespeare's Hamlet, The Norseman is a stark showcase of the inescapable cruelty and brutality of the Old Norse ethos and the viking lifestyle, a deliberate repudiation of the romanticization of the northern barbarian. We see vikings betray their kinsmen, massacre and enslave civilians, mutilate the dead, and ultimately realize the inescapable cycle of violence they've created for themselves. Pretty cool stuff!
- The Slave and the Sorcerer (2023): An upcoming Scottish film from Hex Studios, funded on Kickstarter. A deliberate throwback to 80s sword & sorcery cult classics like Deathstalker, The Sword and the Sorcerer, and The Beastmaster, it stars Chris Black as Tyrol, an imprisoned barbarian mercenary, who leads a dysfunctional team of anti-heroes to rescue Princess Meyra (Briony Monroe) from the dungeons of the evil sorcerer Akaris (Jonathan Hansler).
Sword & Sorcery on the Small Screen
Sword & sorcery has had a strong presence on television for the past forty years or so, usually lighter, gentler, and more family friendly than in other genres. This slice of the genre history can be roughly broken down into three waves: the early '80s wave, produced when sword & sorcery was still in the public eye, always animated and usually mixed with science fantasy and planetary romance; the late '90s wave of historical action-fantasy shows that sprang up in the wake of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess; and the current boom in gritty fantasy television and streaming series wrought by Game of Thrones, some of which falls into the genre. Below are some of the most interesting sword & sorcery television series; note that TV shows take a lot longer to watch than movies, so while I've seen all those movies up there (at least the ones that got their own bullet points), most of these shows I've only seen a few episodes of. I got a job, whadaya want!
- Thundarr the Barbarian (1980-1981): Possibly the first sword & sorcery TV series, Thundarr was the brainchild of Howard the Duck creator Steve Gerber and was worked on by a host of other noted comic book talents, including Alex Toth, Jack Kirby, Roy Thomas, Mark Evanier, and Martin Pasko. Set in the post-apocalyptic United States of 3994, it starred the titular Thundarr and his companions, sorceress Princess Ariel and shaggy monster Ookla the Mok, as they battled wizardly warlords, mutants, aliens, and lost technology.
- Blackstar (1981): A short-lived Filmation series, in which futuristic astronaut John Blackstar is stranded on the alien planet Sagar; naturally, he dons a loincloth and furry boots, gains a magic sword, and vows to defeat the tyrannical Overlord. I've never actually seen Blackstar but I did find an action figure of him at a yard sale once.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983-1985): The best-known and most impactful sword & sorcery show of the era, spawning a huge franchise which is still going strong today. A bizarre mash-up of S&S, planetary romance, science fiction, superhero, and toy commercial, Prince Adam would transform into the mighty barbarian hero He-Man to defend the planet Eternia, alongside his weird gimmicky friends, against the depredations of the evil Skeletor and his weird gimmicky minions. Extremely silly (and thus fun if you're in the mood for that) and popular enough to spawn a spin-off for girls, She-Ra: Princess of Power (1985-1987).
- Conan the Adventurer (1992-1993): The first adaptation of Howard's Conan tales for television, and the first of two TV adaptations with the same name. Conan the Adventurer was an animated children's series that significantly toned down the violence and sexuality of the original stories. Conan and his various companions travel the world battling the evil Serpent Men who, when struck by the heroes' weapons, are banished back to their home dimension rather than killed. A generally well made and entertaining series, despite the alterations made to fit the younger audience. Also spawned a sequel series, Conan and the Young Warriors (1994).
- Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1995-1999): The show that kicked off the 1990s-2000s boom. Starred Kevin Sorbo, later of of Kull the Conqueror and Mythica fame, as the legendary Greek demigod Hercules as he wandered a fantastical version of Greece, battling monsters and foiling the machinations of the gods. Spawned a spin-off, Young Hercules (1998) starring Ryan Gosling and, more importantly...
- Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001): A noticeably more popular spin-off of Hercules, Xena starred Lucy Lawless as the titular Greek (or maybe Thracian) Amazon who cut a swath across the world with her sidekick Gabrielle. It amassed a huge cult following - particularly among lesbians - and helped shape online fandom culture. The one episode I've seen was pretty fun!
- The New Adventures of Robin Hood (1997-1998): I've only seen a few episodes but the main thing you need to know about this one, relative to other Robin Hood adaptations, is that the very first episode features Mongols as antagonists, in 12th-century England. I didn't make it much further in than that, but I presume it can only get wilder from there. Notably features Matthew Poretta, who played Will Scarlett in Mel Brooks' Robin Hood: Men in Tights, in the title role for the first two seasons.
- Conan the Adventurer (1997-1998): More short-lived than its animated predecessor, this series featured craggy, gnarled German bodybuilder Ralf Moeller (a friend of Arnold's, in fact) in the title role, also notably featuring T.J. Storm and Seinfeld's Danny Woodburn. Also interesting in directly contradicting prior descriptions of the Cimmerians' god, Crom, as a cold and Darwinistic god to whom prayers fall on deaf ears (as Wikipedia says, "Crom is never depicted as directly intervening or otherwise explicitly causing any event in the original Conan stories by Robert E. Howard. There is little consistent evidence in his works that Crom actually exists..."). Here, not only does Crom appear in the very first episode, he guides Conan to his magic sword, appears before him as a weird CGI face, relays a message from his dead parents, and tasks him with battling evil.
- Beastmaster (1999-2002): A spin-off of the Beastmaster film series, starring Daniel Goddard as Dar, a jungle warrior who can talk to animals; arrayed against him and his allies were the forces of the evil King Zad, along with the capricious magical entity known as the Ancient One and his beautiful, conflicted apprentice, the Sorceress. Better than most of the other post-Hercules shows.
- Dark Knight (2000-2002): Based on Sir Walter Scott's influential 1819 historical novel Ivanhoe, of all things, giving it probably the strangest premise of the Hercules-alikes. Ben Pullen plays Ivanhoe, an English knight who escapes captivity in Austria to ensure that the ransom of King Richard, still imprisoned, will be paid. Of course, the evil Prince John has no such intentions, and also has an evil wizard working for him in this version! Thus Ivanhoe, the beautiful (and seemingly not Jewish) healer Rebecca, and the roguish magician Odo (Hawk the Slayer's Peter O'Farrell) take on magical threats, weird monsters, and treacherous knights to defend the innocent and free England's rightful king. It's on Tubi (because why wouldn't it be) and it's a blast.
- Wiedźmin (2002): A 13-episode Polish adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski's popular Witcher novels. A loose adaptation with a troubled production (including Sapkowski, in some cases, only licensing elements of his short stories rather than the whole thing), it seems to be fairly well-liked by Polish audiences but reception has been mixed amongst more dedicated Witcher fans. It was also edited into a two-hour television film, which aired first in 2001. Notably, the English translation of the term wiedźmin - a Sapkowski neologism - hadn't yet been set, so this version is sometimes seen under the English title The Hexer. An American adaptation would later be released on Netflix in 2019 (see below).
- Dave the Barbarian (2004-2005): Another animated entry, this time a straight-up parody of the genre, and from Walt Disney no less. When the king and queen of the barbarian kingdom of Udrogoth go abroad to battle evil, they leave their eccentric family in charge - including the titular Dave, their brawny, sword-swinging son who is also sensitive, cowardly, and effeminate. I haven't seen it in years, but I remember enjoying it a lot as a kid.
- The Outpost (2018-2021): While it's part of the post-Game of Thrones boom, The Outpost hearkens back more to the heady days of Xena and Dark Knight, and I mean that in the best possible way. Jessica Green stars as Talon, a "Blackblood" (basically an elf) who survived the apparent genocide of her people and now makes a living as a bounty hunter in one of the empire's remote frontier outposts. Then there's power struggles and political intrigues and romance and swordfights and all the good stuff. I really like The Outpost, honestly one of my favorite modern TV shows! Although I did just learn, while writing this entry, that Jessica Green is not, in fact, Nicola Posener from Mythica. I can't believe I didn't put this together sooner.
- Primal (2019-Present): Created by animation giant Genndy Tartakovsky (of Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack, Star Wars: Clone Wars, and Hotel Transylvania), Primal is an animated series about a bereaved caveman and a T. rex that team up to survive in a deadly prehistoric fantasy world. Threats faced range from savage ape-men to covens of witches to giant vampire bats to zombie dinosaurs to vengeful woolly mammoths to a flood of snakes. Mostly told without dialogue, Primal is brutal, gory, over-the-top, and unbashedly pulpy while maintaining a solid emotional core in the relationship between Spear and Fang and their grief over their lost families.
- The Witcher (2019-Present): Adapted for Netflix from Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski's popular novel series, starring Henry Cavill (later Liam Hemsworth) as Geralt of Rivia, a superpowered monster hunter in a fantasy world gone wrong. Structurally a little confusing as it tends to jump around different plotlines and time periods, but very well made.
Sword & Sorcery Links
Inspired to do some reading? Here are some online sword & sorcery resources!
- Works by Robert E. Howard at Project Gutenberg and Faded Page
- Works by Clark Ashton Smith at Eldritch Dark
- "The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth" (1908) by Lord Dunsany, often cited as a sword & sorcery tale that predates Howard's setting the formula.
- Black Gate, an online magazine covering all sorts of fantasy, sci-fi, horror, pulp, and weird fiction.
- Dark Worlds Quarterly, an online magazine dedicated to pulp fantasy, sci-fi, and horror.
- "On Thud and Blunder" by Poul Anderson, a critical essay about the importance of research, logic, and realism in writing fantasy fiction.
- Pulp and paperback fantasy cover art at Pulp Covers
- Weird Tales magazine archive at Internet Archive
- Charles R. Saunder's old website, which includes his blog and various articles. His newer website also has some interestng material on it.
- Heroes of Dark Fantasy, an old fansite by author Dale Rippke with sub-sites for Brak the Barbarian, Conan the Cimmerian, Druss the Axe, Elric of Meniboné, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Imaro, Kane, and Kull of Valusia.
- The Unofficial Frank Frazetta Fantasy Art Gallery
- Boris Vallejo' Artwork, an unofficial gallery of fantasy artist Boris Vallejo's work from 1978-2000.
- Grim Dark (Half Off), a Youtube channel dedicated (in part, anyway) to dark fantasy and sword & sorcery, including lore videos on Howard's Hyborian Age and similar fantasy settings.
- A memorial page to sword & sorcery author Lin Carter
- The Barbarian Keep, an old fansite dedicated to Robert E. Howard and historical "barbarians".
- The Savage Website of Conan, an old Conan fansite with great information on the Hyborian Age.
- An old Conan the Barbarian movie fansite.
- The Many Faces of Hercules and Other Hercules Heroes, profiles of actors who've played Hercules and other peplum heroes on the silver screen.
- "The Kings of the Night: A History of Sword & Sorcery" by author G.W. Thomas.
- The Curved Saber, the official website of Harold Lamb (1892-1962), a historian and author of historical adventure fiction who was a huge influence on early sword & sorcery, and who was one of Robert E. Howard's favorite authors.
- Tony Bath and his Hyborian Campaign, a website dedicated to wargamer Tony Bath and his famous Hyborian Campaign, a long-running tabletop wargame set in Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age.
- About "The Eye of Argon", a page by British sci-fi writer and critic David Langford dedicated to The Eye of Argon by Jim Theis (1953-2002), widely considered one of the worst fantasy novels ever written, including online text and scans of the tale's original publication in OSFAN #10.
- The Eye of Argon -- Rules for a Reading by Mary Mason: a set of rules for group readings of The Eye of Argon, once a popular game at sci-fi conventions. If you laugh, your turn is over!
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