Early comedic stories of R. E. Howard

These stories were published in high school and college papers during the 1920s, which probably is the reason why they are comedies and relatively far from the works Howard wrote later on in his career. While the stories do feel like they were written by someone just learning the ropes, the structure in many of them is far from being perfect, they still are interesting, in the sense of that they show some sort of a literary beginning for Howard's writings. Another thing to note is, that Howard was less than 20 when these were written, so that does make it easier to forgive some of the clunkiness.

I am not going to go through them individually, as, in truth, I didn't really care much of them. Many of them I didn't really even bother reading through if the beginning didn't intrigue me enough. The most notable thing about these stories is, that they were written by a young Robert E. Howard. Had they been written by anyone else, there is a very little possibility, that anyone would know of or remember them.

Hawkshaw the detective, a Sherlock Holmes type of a supersleuth parody, appears in three of the stories Howard wrote in his early years and are most likely based on a newspaper strip bearing the name Hawkshaw the Detective published from 1913 to 1922. The stories are "Aha! Or the Mystery of the Queen's Necklace", "Unhand Me, Villain!" and "Who Goes There?". Of these comedy stories, with flaws and all, Hawkshaw stories are probably the best. It also dawned to me, that these stories could be classified as fanfiction, especially if they are based on the comic.

Hawkshaw is a very much of a super sleuth, who can pull evidence from thin air while his loyal sidekick the Colonel is dumbfounded of his brilliance. This brilliance manifests itself in a manner of him deducing things like, as he knows he didn't do the crime and neither did the Colonel because of the reasons disclosed, the criminal must then be someone else, so the best course of action is to go out and start arresting people until they find their man.

This Hawkshaw is the original creation by Gus Mager


The longest comedy story Howard wrote during his school years is "The Sheik", more of an exotic tale of a burly Sheik, who is also a boxer, who fells head over heels for Venus Herring, who isn't a dame easily pleased or persuaded. In the end, the duo ends up taking a boxing match during which the Venus puts the Sheik on his place. The comedy in the story is mostly drawn from the fact, that Venus is a general hellcat, who manages to beat a boxing champion in his own game.

West is West isn't as much of a story but a long joke about a timid man, who goes to a ranch in order to ride a horse and asks a tame one, as he hasn't ridden before. It is fun for what it is, nothing more, nothing less.

"The Thessalians" is a recount of things that happen behind the stage during a play by a troupe, that is also in a hurry to catch the last train leaving the town they are in. As they have only 15 minutes to get to the station before the train leaves, a bit of chaos ensues. This isn't a remarkably good story nor one I thought was particularly funny either, despite it does try. "A Reformation: A Dream" is a daydream, or a daymare if you will, of a college student, of a future where all fun things have been banned. It is both convoluted and archaic in style and not very funny.

"Ye College Days" is a story I tried to read, but couldn't get far. It is your typical humorous boasting storey, where "an ancient Grad" is telling to younger college attendees how much simpler things are for them in contrast to how things were when he was a young whippersnapper. It is, as you might imagine, a story of exaggeration, which is something Howard did much better in his later stories like the exploits of Sailor Steve Costigan.

A couple of the stories are written in a form of a play, those being "After the Game" and "Sleeping Beuty".  Neither of them caught my interest enough for me to finish them. But, Howard did experiment with this style as well. Another one I left unread was a story simply called "A Weekly Short Story",  a letter written in a deliberate bad form from a college student to his girl. These styles, a story in a letter and a story written in a thick dialect, Howard used quite a bit later on with varying results.

So these were the relatively unremarkable college stories of Robert E. Howard, at least as far the collection I have presents them. I am certain he had more scribblings he did during this era, but most of them have been most likely been lost in time or at least to a degree used later on in some capacity in his later, more refined writings.


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