Hyborean geography vs real-world geography

S'mon

Mongoose
I noticed while comparing Conan's world to real-world physical maps that, if you ignore the maps of later authors (such as the one in the Mongoose book) and approach it without preconceptions, Hyborean geography seems to map very closely to the real-world. It seems to me that REH was quite clearly using the real world as his model, and later cartographers have sadly ignored this.

Eg: I've been looking at Zamora. Most maps seem to place it somewhere over the modern Ukraine or even further east. But Zamora is bounded by the Kezankian mts to the east, and the Balkhana to the south. Looking at a real world map it became immediately obvious that Zamora must coincide with real-world Romania: the Carpathians are the Kezankians, the Balkans are the Balkhanas - Howard didn't exactly go in for unnecessary obfuscation with his namings!

I was wondering if there are any good sites for further research along these lines? What Hyborean geography (as written by REH, not secondary sources) is irreconcilable with the real-world, given a change in sea level? The only thing I can think of that might well be is his apparently having west Africa beneath the waves; especially the Atlas mts in north Africa. I'm wondering if even this might be reconcilable by putting the Black Coast roughly where the modern African coast is, and letting the Pictish coast be further west than commonly thought, so the mountainous parts of Britain would be in Cimmeria not in Pictland, and the mountains of Scotland would probably mark the Cimmerian-Vanir border...
 
S'mon said:
I noticed while comparing Conan's world to real-world physical maps that, if you ignore the maps of later authors (such as the one in the Mongoose book) and approach it without preconceptions, Hyborean geography seems to map very closely to the real-world. It seems to me that REH was quite clearly using the real world as his model, and later cartographers have sadly ignored this.

I was wondering if there are any good sites for further research along these lines?

Not that I am aware of. It would be neat to start one, though. I did play around with the maps a little on my site (I put the Vilayet where the Caspian Sea is, approx.) I put Pathenia where Mongolia is (since in the Howard original, the reference was Mongolia. de Camp changed it to Pathenia when he turned the El Borak story into a Conan story).

http://enworld.cyberstreet.com/hosted/adilbrand/conan/kingdoms/world_of_conan01.htm

I will probably continue to play around with it until I get a map I like. I sunk the Congo, but I don't like the shape that gave the black kingdoms, so I will likely revise that. I am having a hard time finding a topographical map of Africa around the house.
 

S'mon

Mongoose
VincentDarlage said:
Not that I am aware of. It would be neat to start one, though. I did play around with the maps a little on my site (I put the Vilayet where the Black Sea is, approx.) I put Pathenia where Mongolia is (since in the Howard original, the reference was Mongolia. de Camp changed it to Pathenia when he turned the El Borak story into a Conan story).

http://enworld.cyberstreet.com/hosted/adilbrand/conan/kingdoms/world_of_conan01.htm

I will probably continue to play around with it until I get a map I like.

Cool map, thanks. I was thinking the Vilayet would need to be the Caspian sea, the northern prong extending as far north as the Urals, the Black Sea seems too far west. Cimmeria seems to be roughly centred on the modern North Sea - I don't know if the north sea is hilly, probably best assume it is. :)

One thing I noticed re Poitain in Aquilonia is that from the REH quote in the book, the mountains are on its northern frontier, which puts it around modern Catalonia, not southern France. Zingara would extend from western Spain out into the Atlantic, and the Styx would flow through most of the modern Mediterranean - its mouth being either east or west of where the straits of Gibraltar is now, depending on how far west the western coast is.

I do find that being able to tie Hyborea to the real world, as REH was keen to do, gives a sense of 'mythic history' that I like a lot, the feel is very different from the usual 'fantasy world'.
 
I'll keep all that in mind when I do my next version of the map. Awesome stuff. I'd love to read your thoughts on what to do with the Black Kingdoms.
 

S'mon

Mongoose
VincentDarlage said:
I'll keep all that in mind when I do my next version of the map. Awesome stuff. I'd love to read your thoughts on what to do with the Black Kingdoms.

I benefit from having some nice topographical maps in a 1980 world atlas I was given as a small child. :)
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
VincentDarlage said:
I will probably continue to play around with it until I get a map I like. I sunk the Congo, but I don't like the shape that gave the black kingdoms, so I will likely revise that. I am having a hard time finding a topographical map of Africa around the house.

The Fractal Terrains program (ProFantasy Software) has a cool raise/lower water levels feature, which you can use on the (included) real-world map or on a map of your own creation. I find that very handy for sussing out post-global-warming sea levels, or prehistoric sea levels, or post-terraforming Martian sea levels (yes, it includes a map of Mars too...)
 

S'mon

Mongoose
VincentDarlage said:
I'll keep all that in mind when I do my next version of the map. Awesome stuff. I'd love to read your thoughts on what to do with the Black Kingdoms.

Well the map based off REH's original shows the northern ones as being very small compared to Koth, say. I think if we start with Stygia it's possible to work down. All indications are that the eastern run of the Styx is the modern Nile, it runs from the mountains north into what's now the mediterranean, then west to the sea. What seems certain is that real-world geography means the Styx can't flow east-west anywhere south of what's now the Mediterranean.

This is highly speculative but...
I think you could place the Stygian capital Khemi where Casablanca is now, with Stygia extending south into the desert. The northern black kingdoms then start where Mauritania now is, and run in a line through Niger and Chad to the Nile/Styx. The Zarkaba river could be the modern Senegal river, which runs east-west. I don't think REH's map goes further south than Sierra Leone/Liberia, if the southern part is anything like to scale with the northern Hyborean/European part.
 

Faraer

Mongoose
Howard's two original maps are reproduced in The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (the Del Rey paperback of the Wandering Star edition). They clearly show the Hyborian Age contours drawn over a traced map of Europe. The Caspian Sea fits within the borders of the Vilayet Sea, for instance.
 
Right, and I used those for reference. I merely tend to get the Caspian and the Black sea mixed up before I have had my morning coffee (I should never write anything before I have had my morning coffee).
 

S'mon

Mongoose
Faraer said:
Howard's two original maps are reproduced in The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (the Del Rey paperback of the Wandering Star edition). They clearly show the Hyborian Age contours drawn over a traced map of Europe.

I thought the map of Europe was added later to Howard's Hyborian map, though? It seems a bit 'off' at the extremities, eg Zamora.

Using an actual theoretical Ice Age map is handy (I was just looking at one, can't seem to post it here as an attachment) but doesn't totally work - eg apparently the Mediterranean sea already existed 18,000 years ago at the glacial maximum, although with the western end pinched off. Ice-Age Europe does look much the same in outline as the Hyborean kingdoms though. Africa is hardly changed; the Red Sea still exists but is pinched off at both ends.

For a Conan game one can theorise that the modern mappers are mistaken - not such a big stretch. 40 years ago the idea of humans 'degenerating' into ape-men would have seem laughable, but modern genetic research indicates that's pretty much exactly how chimpanzees and gorillas evolved from near-human bipedal hominids a little over 3 million years ago - their growth system reverted to an earlier, more 'mature' form, whereas we and the mutual ancestors of humans anbd chimps stay in an infantile form all our lives. There doesn't seem to be anything to prevent this change occurring in a very short space of time, so Howard's degenerate ape-men descended from humans over a mere ten thousand years or so suddenly seems quite plausible!
 
Top