Thursday, March 29, 2012

Howard Pyle

I started playing D&D before I was 10 years old.  At the time, I had very little exposure to the what we would consider the "fantasy" genre.  To me, fantasy was fairy tales and ghost stories.  I had seen the Rankin-Bass animated version of the Hobbit, and that had sparked my imagination.  I had yet to read the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings though.  At the time I was mostly reading Hardy Boys books.  Then I found a book in my school library called "The Story of King Arthur and his Knights".

 I knew a little bit about King Arthur from popular culture, but  Howard Pyle's book took the story to a whole new level for me.  I became totally engrossed in the Arthurian world.  For weeks I read the book and three others that followed it.  Despite Pyle's antiquarian writing style, I moved through the stories quickly, and even went back to reread my favorite parts.

Later I discovered Pyle's Robin Hood stories and book of Pirates.  While I enjoyed them, they never had the impact that King Arthur did. Years later I stumbled across Men of Iron, which was an original story rather than a retelling of existing legend.  Reading Men of Iron rekindled my appreciation of Pyle, though I didn't bother to track down any of his other works.  By then I was reading all sorts of fantasy, old and new, but Pyle still intrigued me.  He is generally considered a children's author, but I never found his stories childish.

Today, thanks to the internet, I've come to appreciate Pyle as an illustrator as well as a writer. While it is hard to consider him a fantasy author,  I have to imagine that both his writing and illustrations influenced the pulp artists and writers that followed him in the decades after his death in 1911. Gary didn't include him in Appendix N, and I don't know if he was familiar with Pyle's work, but as a young boy it was Pyle that lit the fire of my imagination and influenced me.


  1. There's a nice collection of his writings over at Manybooks also, which I find is a nicer interface to ebooks (though the original source is often Project Gutenberg anyways).

    I don't think I have actually read anything by him.

  2. Fantastic art. Thanks for posting this. I'd heard of Pyle but wasn't familiar with him. I went and did a little more reading about him. Apparently he is responsible for the "gypsy" look of pirates that has been all pervasive.

  3. I had "Arthur and his Knights" as well. Those illustrations recall fond memories. His woodcut style always reminded me of Durer. I have used photocopies of Pyle's Arthurian illos for homemade greeting cards. Thanks for this post.