“Breck” Elkins is a hillbilly from Bear Creek, a fictional location in the Humboldt Mountains of Nevada. He is “mighty of stature and small of brain”—a physically huge and imposing figure, and his reputation as a short-tempered and ferocious fighter often precedes him throughout the Southwest. He is usually found in the company of Cap’n Kidd, his equally fierce and cantankerous horse. He sometimes wears a coonskin cap and is depicted wearing one in several illustrations that accompanied the stories in the original pulp magazine. Elkins is a man of limited intelligence and education, illiterate in some of the stories, while able to read in others.

Although Howard referred to the Elkins stories as “Westerns,” they all have exaggerated elements and humor that make them closer in tone to Texas “Tall Lying” stories (such as the well-known tall tales of Pecos Bill) than to traditional Western action stories. Breckinridge is a larger-than-life figure whose ability to dish out and absorb punishment goes well beyond the limits of credulity. He is the first-person narrator (in hillbilly dialect) of all of his stories, and much of the humor is derived from his limited understanding of situations, leading to confusion and complications. His ill-fated attempts to help friends and relatives usually come to grief for himself and often those he was ostensibly aiding. His repeated romantic failures in wooing the eligible women he encounters are another recurring theme in the stories.


Breckinridge Elkins is a giant grizzly bear of a man, well over 6 feet tall. So iron is his constitution that he can drink jug after jug of moonshine without serious inebriation.

Although incredibly strong and tough, the gent from Bear Creek isn’t terribly smart and is easily fooled. Discovering that he has been tricked is liable to make him mad, however, and an angry Breckinridge Elkins has been the end to many a villainous scheme.

He has been known to break through solid timber walls, carry his mule, hurl a mountain lion into a cabin, and throw rocks with explosive force.

Cap’n Kidd is Breckinridge Elkin’s horse – the only horse strong enough to carry him. He allows only Breckinridge or Glory McGraw to ride him. Anyone who attempts to ride Cap’n Kidd is met with hoofs or bite attacks.

Glory McGraw is Breckinridge Elkin’s love interest.

History and reception

Howard wrote twenty-six Breckinridge Elkins stories in all, starting with “Mountain Man,” which was completed by July 1933. While he is better remembered for creating characters such as Conan and Solomon Kane, the Breckinridge Elkins stories were the longest-running and most commercially successful series of Howard’s writing career, running in every issue of Action Stories from “Mountain Man” in March–April 1934 through “The Conquerin’ Hero of the Humbolts” in October 1936 after his death. Despite being overlooked by comparison with his contributions to the swords-and-sorcery genre, some critics have thought that in the Breckinridge Elkins stories “Finally, Robert’s real storytelling voice, unfiltered through books and imagined histories, could be heard, and in the medium in which he was most familiar.”

Based upon the success of the Breckinridge Elkins tales, during the summer of 1935 Howard edited together several of the previously published short stories along with some new material to form the chapters of an episodic novel, A Gent from Bear Creek. The common (and newly added) thread that held the chapters together was Breck’s rocky romance with a young woman named Glory McGraw. Her ultimate consent to marry him marks one of the few unequivocally happy endings in Howard’s writings. Although he had come close several times before, Howard had yet to have a full-length book published. Howard’s agent, Otis Adelbert Kline, was once again unsuccessful in finding an American publisher for A Gent from Bear Creek. It was eventually published in the United Kingdom by Herbert Jenkins in 1937, the year after Howard committed suicide, and copies of that rare first edition have sold for upwards of $14500.


Every Breckinridge Elkins, Pike Bearfield, and Buckner J. Grimes story that Howard wrote and we know of is collected in the collection from REHF Press. Check out the contents of each book below:

More articles and essays

Can’t get enough information about Howard’s humorous characters? Here are some links to feed your appetite:

  • Leno, Brian. “When Yaller Rock County came to Chawed Ear”, Lovecraft’s Southern Vacation, page 237. Available as Kindle on Amazon.
  • Roehm, Rob. “Curly Elkins of Bear-Tooth Creek”; The Cimmerian, vol. 3, no. 4, Apr. 2006; Leo Grin, ed.
  • McIlvaine, Robert. (December 2015). “The Influence of Joseph A. Altsheler’s Apache Gold on Howard’s “The Haunted Mountain”,  The Dark Man V8n1. Available on Amazon as both paperback and Kindle.
Artwork of Scott Gustafson
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Check out all publications and stories on Howard Works:

Elkins - Howard Works

In other media

From 2010 until 2014 Breckinridge Elkins was the subject of a webcomic adaptation by Gary Chaloner. This comic was also published by Dark Horse in their Savage Sword issues. The website was first created by Paradox and the rights for publication went to Dark Horse. I’ve been allowed to provide a sneak peek of this comic here, but you should really visit to see it all.

Adapted and illustrated by Gary Chaloner
Adapted and illustrated by Gary Chaloner
Adapted and illustrated by Gary Chaloner

In 2019 Stanislav Roud published a video adaptation of Mountain Man: Adventures of Breckinridge Elkins. The description goes like this:

A simple farm boy is sent into town for the first time in his life, where he is met with a series of unfortunate yet thrilling events.

Also available on YouTube is several audiobooks:

This is a video podcast of “Gouged Eyes and Chawed Ears: The Rough and Tumble World of Breckinridge Elkins,” a presentation given by Jeffrey Shanks athe the 2011 PCA/ACA national conference. The paper examines the use of violence as comedy in pulp writer Robert E. Howard’s humorous westerns.

Chip Slater’s Storytime Theater – YouTube

Sources: Alchetron, Wikipedia. Raven Crowking’s Nest.
Special thanks to Mathieu Gagnon for input, corrections, and ideas.