Thommy Ford Reads

A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library

“The Tower of the Elephant” by Robert E. Howard

saturday-shortsSaturday Shorts Week 22
Welcome to our weekend series for 2014. 
Every Saturday this year one of our staff will suggest a favorite short story from the library’s collection, all of them a great choice for quick weekend reading.

He turned back uncertainly, to stare at the cryptic tower he had just left. Was he bewitched and enchanted? Had he dreamed all that had seemed to have passed? As he looked he saw the gleaming tower sway against the crimson dawn, its jewel-crusted rim sparkling in the growing light, and crash into shining shards.


You’ll find “The Tower of the Elephant” in the anthology The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories: SF OXFORD

OK, so I’ve been a bit of a snob towards Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories all my life. I mean they’re barbarian adventure tales, right—it’s kind of hard not to dismiss them. But I’m glad to say that I officially rectified that error in judgement last week. I started with “The Tower of the Elephant” and have been devouring the others at the rate of about one a day.

They really are great fun. The action and adventure are all you would expect, but I was surprised to see just a tiny bit of depth and emotion in the character of Conan. “The Tower of the Elephant” sees Conan wantonly killing strangers in a bar, trying his hand at being a cat burglar, and striking up a rather short lived friendship while attempting to break-in to the eponymous tower and steal a legendary jewel. In the end we also see Conan succumb to pity for a poor suffering being, so much so that he gladly lets his feelings cost him his loot.

My favorite surprise of all, though, was the weird cosmic tone of the story’s conclusion. I wish there was a fabulous Lovecraftian space god waiting at the end of every story, just to give us an immortal’s perspective and, you know, round things out a little.

I say give Robert E. Howard a chance if you haven’t already. “The Tower of the Elephant” is a good place to start.

Review by Matthew

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This entry was posted on May 31, 2014 by in Adventure, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Saturday Shorts, Short Stories.
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