Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Map of Hyboria and The Hyborian Age of Conan

A 1932 illustration of The Hyborian Age based upon a hand-drawn map by Robert E. Howard.
Version drawn by David Kyle for the 1950 Gnome Press edition of Conan the Conqueror.
Marvel Comics Version
A larger map of Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age.

First Appearance: The Hyborian Age is a fictional period within the artificial mythology created by Robert E. Howard, in which the sword and sorcery tales of Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja are set. It was an essay written in the 1930s but not published during Howard's lifetime. Its purpose was to maintain consistency within his fictional setting. The reasons behind the invention of the Hyborian Age were perhaps commercial: Howard had an intense love for history and historical dramas; however, at the same time, he recognized the difficulties and the time-consuming research needed in maintaining historical accuracy. By conceiving a timeless setting – a vanished age – and by carefully choosing names that resembled our history, Howard avoided the problem of historical anachronisms and the need for lengthy exposition.

Word Origin: The word "Hyborian" is derived from the legendary northern land of the ancient Greeks, Hyperborea, literally "Beyond the North Wind".

Time Period: Howard described the Hyborian Age taking place sometime after the sinking of Atlantis and before the beginning of recorded history. Most later editors and adaptors such as L. Sprague de Camp and Roy Thomas placed The Hyborian Age around 10,000 B.C. More recently, Dale Rippke proposed that the Hyborian Age should be placed further in the past, around 32,500 B.C., prior to the beginning of the last ice age. Rippke's date, however, has since been disputed by Jeffrey Shanks who argues for the more traditional placement at the end of the ice age

On the Map: Howard drew conceptualizing the Hyborian Age, his vision of the Mediterranean Sea is also dry. The Nile, which he renamed the River Styx, takes a westward turn at right angles just beyond the Nile Delta, plowing through the mountains so as to be able to reach the Straits of Gibraltar. Although his Black Sea is also dry, his Caspian Sea, which he renames the Vilayet Sea, extends northward to reach the Arctic Ocean, so as to provide a barrier to encapsulate the settings of his stories. Not only are his Baltic Sea and English Channel dry, but most of the North Sea and a vast region to the west, easily including Ireland, are, too. Meanwhile, the west coast of Africa on his map lies beneath the sea.

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