“‘Golden Hope’ Christmas,” a story written by Robert E. Howard during his time at Brownwood High School, was published in the December 22, 1922 issue of The Tattler, the school’s student newspaper. A handwritten draft of this story also exists, concluding at the end of chapter 1 with only minor differences in the text from the published version. This early work from Howard’s high school years showcases his developing storytelling skills and his ability to weave tales with themes of redemption and the spirit of Christmas.

The draft ends at the conclusion of chapter 1 with only small differences in the text:

The bartender gasped. “What! You giving Red that after he tried to swindle you like he did?”
“Sure,” answered Hal. “I think he got too little for his claim, anyway, so that’s only in payment. Anyhow,” he laughed back over his shoulder, “it’s Christmas, and my hopes have come true.”

The story

The protagonist, Red Ghallinan, is a notorious gunman with a sinister reputation. Known for his skill with a gun and his hardened demeanor, he is an outcast even among outlaws. Red’s background is steeped in violence and crime, shaping him into a feared and solitary figure. However, his life takes a turn when he encounters Hal Sharon, a young and optimistic man from the East. Hal, fueled by dreams of striking it rich and returning to a girl back home, comes to Idaho and buys a mining claim from Red. Despite Red’s attempt to swindle him, Hal works tirelessly on the claim and eventually discovers gold, becoming wealthy.

As Christmas approaches, Red, consumed by hatred and envy of Hal’s success, plans to kill him. However, on Christmas morning, as he lies in wait with a rifle, he hears Hal singing “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” This song triggers a memory from Red’s childhood when he experienced kindness and warmth during Christmas. The realization that it is Christmas and the memory of that past kindness bring about a change in Red’s heart.

The story ends with Red abandoning his murderous intent and being moved by the spirit of Christmas. Hal’s joy and the memories of a kinder time transform Red’s perspective, leading to a moment of redemption.


  • Red Ghallinan: The main character, a feared gunman with a reputation for violence.
  • Hal Sharon: A young, hopeful man from the East who comes to Idaho to find fortune in gold mining. He represents goodness and optimism.
  • Miners and Cowpunchers: The townspeople who discuss the upcoming Christmas festivities.
  • An Old, White-Haired Woman: A figure from Red’s past who showed him kindness one Christmas.

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