“Fist and Fang” is a gripping tale of survival, friendship, and brutal combat set against the backdrop of the South Seas, showcasing Robert E. Howard’s flair for creating vivid, action-packed stories. Steve Costigan, the protagonist, finds himself in a desperate struggle not just for victory but for life itself, under circumstances that test the limits of his endurance and combat prowess.

First published in Fight Stories May 1930. Published again in Winter 1938-1939 but under the name of Mark Adam and the title: “Cannibal Fists“.

Howard’s tale, through its depiction of brutal combat, the stark reality of survival, and the strength of camaraderie, weaves a compelling narrative set against the exotic backdrop of the South Seas, highlighting the resilience of the human spirit in the face of dire circumstances.

From the letters

From a letter (#120) to Tevis Clyde Smith, circa February 1930 we learn:

Well, here is the letter. I haven’t much to add. Fiction House — Fight Stories — took another Steve Costigan story for $100. Also they finally located “Iron Men” and accepted it for $200. This is by far the best fight story I ever wrote. In many ways the best story of any kind I ever wrote. I guess my destiny is tied up with the Costigan family. I’ve never sold Fight Stories a story that didn’t deal with them.


Steve Costigan, serving as the heavyweight champion of the merchant ship Sea Girl, ventures to the island of Roa-Toa with his sidekick Bill O’Brien and his faithful bulldog Mike. Intent on visiting an old friend, Chief Togo, on the nearby island of Tamaru, they instead stumble upon a scene of destruction and are captured by the inhabitants, now led by a new chief, Santos, a formidable figure from Costigan’s past.

Santos, once a celebrated boxer known as the “Borneo Tiger,” had his career shattered after a defeat by Costigan in San Francisco. Embittered and vengeful, he has returned to his native island, overthrowing Chief Togo to assume control. Holding Costigan and O’Brien captive, Santos reveals his plan for revenge through the torturous “Death of a Thousand Cuts.”

A desperate bargain is struck: Costigan agrees to a brutal, bare-knuckle rematch with Santos, with the stakes being a swift death by bullet for him and O’Brien if Costigan wins, or the agonizing death Santos had planned if he loses. The fight is a savage affair, a test of pure survival instinct against Santos’s raw power and fury. Despite the overwhelming odds, Costigan’s resilience and sheer determination turn the tide. The battle ends abruptly when Mike intervenes, saving Costigan from a fatal blow and mauling Santos, leading to the chief’s demise.

The narrative concludes with the arrival of the Sea Girl’s crew, led by the Old Man (the captain), who, having been informed of Santos’s treachery, come to the rescue. Costigan and O’Brien are saved, and despite their severe injuries, there’s a sense of triumph over the adversities faced and the bond of friendship that sustained them through the ordeal.


  • Steve Costigan: The story’s protagonist, heavyweight champion of the merchant ship Sea Girl, known for his toughness and fighting skill.
  • Bill O’Brien: Costigan’s close friend and sidekick, also a sailor on the Sea Girl.
  • Mike: Costigan’s loyal white bulldog, instrumental in the story’s climax.
  • Santos (Battling Santos, the Borneo Tiger): The main antagonist, a former boxer turned chief of Tamaru, seeking revenge against Costigan.
  • Chief Togo: The former benevolent chief of Tamaru, overthrown and killed by Santos.
  • The Old Man: The captain of the Sea Girl, fond of warm waters and the island trade.
  • MacGregor: The only white man on Roa-Toa, running a small trading post and an old friend of the Sea Girl’s captain.
  • Penrhyn: The mate of the Sea Girl, part of the rescue party.
  • The Crew of the Sea Girl: Involved in the rescue operation, demonstrating loyalty to their comrades.
  • Sea Girl: The merchant ship on which Steve Costigan serves as the heavyweight champion. The Sea Girl is captained by the “Old Man,” who has a penchant for the warm waters and island trade of the South Seas. The ship and its crew play a crucial role in the story, especially in the rescue operation that saves Costigan and Bill O’Brien from their dire situation on Tamaru.

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