THE CONQUERING SWORD OF CONAN BY ROBERT E. HOWARD

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Copyright 2005 storied written between 1935-36.

THE SERVANTS OF BIT-YAKIN

Conan is in the kingdom of Keshia and plots to steal the Jewels of Ghwahlar from the ancient palace at Alkmeenon. An abandoned palace set in the crater of a mountain. He finds that another rogue, a Stygian named Thutmekri is also trying to scam the king out of the jewels. Thutmekri plans to use a Corinthian slave girl to impersonate a goddess as the king visits the palace. Conan manages to get to her first and use her to tell the king to give Conan the jewels. Meanwhile some of the cannibalistic servants of Bit-Yakin are still inhabiting the palace.

BEYOND THE BLACK RIVER

Conan is a scout for the Aquilonians in the province of Conajohara a recently settled province in the Pict Wilderness. Zogar Sag a witch doctor has united the various Pict clans to retake the province. With a young ranger named Balthus, Conan attempts to assassinate the wizard. The endeavor ends in failure and now Conan and Balthus must alert the settlers to evacuate the province. Conan also has to fight the beasts of Jhebbal Sag and a demon.

THE BLACK STRANGER

Conan was captured by the Picts and escapes. He goes west to the coast and finds an abandoned cave. The cave contains the treasure of Tranicos and a demon. Farther on the coast a Zingaran Valenso has built a fortress. He is in mortal terror of a Black Stranger that is a wizard he betrayed. One day a Barachan pirate comes and demands a treasure. He attacks the fort but has to flee with the arrival of Black Zarono a Zingaran privateer. Eventually the three band together and Conan enters the mix with knowledge of the treasure’s location. Only now they have to battle the Picts, the mysterious Black Stranger and each other.

THE MAN-EATERS OF ZAMBOULA

In the desert city of Zamboula Conan stays the night at an inn. This innkeeper has a deal with the local cannibal slaves to sell travelers for their feast. Only Conan kills the cannibal and wanders around the streets at night. He rescues a girl from them. The girl named Zabibi tells a story of how the priest of Hanuman drove her lover mad and she needs a potion to restore him. Conan helps her by battling the strangler Baal-Pteor. At the end he finds out the girl was the mistress of the satrap but Conan already knew that and managed to steal the Star of Khorala. He also gets revenge on the innkeeper.

RED NAILS

Valeria a pirate in the Red Brotherhood is forced to flee mercenary service in Stygia. She comes to an abandoned city in the middle of the plains. Conan has followed her and together they have to fight a dragon. After killing it they explore the city and find two factions in a blood feud. They join one side that puts a red nail into a post for every rival they slay.

WOLVES BEYOND THE BORDER DRAFT A & B

Civil war is being fought in Aquilonia. Gault Hagar is a ranger along the border with the Picts. He finds a plot by a renegade Aquilonian to join forces with the Picts to attack loyalists to Conan.

LETTER TO P. SCHULYER MILLER

A letter to some men from Howard in response to their probably outline of Conan’s career. He elaborates on what is right and fills in the blanks.

HYBORIAN GENESIS PART III by Patrice Louinet

An essay on the origins of Howard’s stories in this volume and background of Howard’s life.

The final volume of the collected works of Conan by Howard. This has his latter stories and they are probably the best. You can see Howard as he experiments with new ideas. My personal favorite is Beyond the Black River. This is the first I was exposed to in the comics. Red Nails is considered is finest. These collections from Ballantine are probably the finest to get the unedited Conan that Howard envisioned.

THE BLOODY CROWN OF CONAN BY ROBERT E. HOWARD

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Copyright 2003. Stories written between 1934-1936.

THE PEOPLE OF THE BLACK CIRCLE

The king of Vendya is dying from magic. The Black Seers of Mount Yimsha are responsible and his sister Yasmina must kill him to save his soul. She seeks revenge and goes to the border province where seven Afghuli headmen are held captive. She wants to negotiate with their chieftain Conan for their release. In exchange for the headmen he must kill the Black Seers. Only Conan has come to the border town and seized the opportunity to kidnap Yasmina. At this time a servant of the Seers is convinced by Yasmina’s handmaiden to rebel and uses his powers to form his own empire. So the first thing he does is kill the seven headman so they can’t be used to ransom Yasmina. Then he kills the chief of a tribe who is a friend of Conan and giving him shelter. His plan is to use Yasmina for his own purposes.

Unfortunately for this ambitious servant the Black Seers kill him and his lover. They take Yasmina and Conan must join forces with Kerim Shah a spy for the Turanians. With his forces they assault Mount Yimsha and destroy the Black Seers. At the end Conan wants to run away with Yasmina but comes on his Afghuli hillmen being destroyed by an invading army of Turanians. At this time forces loyal to Yasmina are arriving and she directs them to help the hillmen. The Afghulis are saved and the two lovers must part ways because of their respective duties to their people.

THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON

Four conspirators use dark sorcery to revive the ancient Acheron wizard Xaltotun. They use him to first install one of their number on the throne of Nemedia. A plague kills the king and his heirs. Then using magic Xaltotun paralysis King Conan before a battle and a magical induced rockslide shatters this army. With his people leaderless another conspirator is placed on the throne of Aquilonia. Conan did not die and is taken prisoner by Xaltotun for possible use by him. Zenobia a harem girl of the king of Nemedia has fallen in love with Conan and helps him escape. Conan arrives back in Aquilonia and finds his country now firmly under the control of the conspiracy. A witch woman tells him the only way to regain his country is find the Heart of Ahriman. A power gem that once defeated Xaltotun. Only the king of Nemedia had it stolen and sent someone to toss it into the ocean.

Conan thus starts a journey to Argos. He gets captured and sold as a galley slave. His fellow slaves are old Black Corsairs from his pirate days. He leads a revolt and continues on to Khemi in Stygia. A wizard there now has the gem. He sneaks into the temple and fights an ancient vampire. Also mysterious wizards serving the Aquilonian pretender king have tracked him there. A three way fight between the Stygian, the wizards and Conan results in Conan getting the Heart of Ahriman. He manages to raise an army of rebellion and with the Heart defeats Xaltotun and his confederates. At the end he promises to go get the harem girl Zenobia and make her his queen.

A WITCH SHALL BE BORN

Queen Taramis of the small state of Khauran is confronted in the night by a woman that looks just like her. It is her twin which was though dead. Born with the mark of the witch the young baby was left in the desert to die. She was found by a traveling Khitain magician and trained in the black arts. When the magician decided the young girl named Salome was nothing special he cast her out. Now Salome has decided to take over Khauran. With a mercenary named Constantius they put Taramis in the dungeon and Salome takes her place.

Next day she assembles the army and disbands it for her new husband Constantius and his mercenaries will now protect Khauran. Conan who is captain of the guard can see that this is not the real queen. He rebels but most of the Khaurani soldiers have been disarmed and it is a slaughter. Conan is taken outside to the desert and nailed to a cross. Olgerd Vladislov the chief of the desert bandits known as Zuagir frees him. The Kharani are soon living under the tyrannical rule of Salome who introduces the worship of a dark god. Conan manages to gain control of the Zuagirs and use them to defeat Constantius’s mercenaries. The true queen is rescued and dies along with a giant frog like creature named Thaug. Conan gets his revenge by nailing Constantius on the same cross.

UNTITLED DRAFT AND SYNOPSIS

Amalric a survivor of a mercenary army destroyed in Stygia is now in the desert with some shady brigands. One day they bring back a beautiful girl named Lissa and Amalric has to kill his companions to save he. She tells of coming from a city not far away. A place called Gazal was founded by Hyborians but now has become decadent and fallen into disrepair. Also the city is haunted by a demon from a red tower. The two go there and Amalric has to kill the demon using a spell he learned from a shaman. Almaric and Lissa are chased by seven demon horsemen but are rescued by Conan another survivor of the mercenary army. Conan tells how he was captured by Tombalku a with with two kings. One that represents the Stygian people and another the black people. The black king is an old comrade of Conan and makes him a general in the army. Eventually fighting breaks out between the two factions and Conan, Almaric and Lissa must flee.

HYBORIAN GENESIS PART II by Patrice Louinet

An article on the origins of these story and possible influences.

The second in the series has three stories and one fragment. The first was a novella and dealt with the Indian part of the Hyborian world known as Vendya. It has a lot of mysticism and hypnosis. Interesting Howard was probably influenced by his doctor father who was known to use hypnotism. A notable part of this story was the introduction of a strong female character. Not the helpless clingy ones that usually populate his stories. In fact this is Conan’s second true love. He really wanted to run off with Yasmina and was going to. But the pull of duty for both to their respective people drives them apart. An enjoyable story.

The next one is his only actual novel. Howard was trying to sell a collection of his stories to an English agent. They were rejected but the agent showed interest in a novel along the line of his stories. Eventually he wrote The Hour of the Dragon. It cannibalized elements from his other stories. I can see elements from The Phoenix on the Sword, Black Colossus, and the Scarlet Citadel. It does make it any less enjoyable as this is very exciting story. It highlights most of this fictional world Howard created. It has wizards and demons. Great epic battles and high sea adventure. It showed he could write a full novel and sadly one wonders if he lived longer if he could have wrote many more.

The third is a fairly average story. In fact Conan isn’t even in half of it. It is famous though for the crucifixion scene. Where he actually kills a vulture with his teeth. This is truly a badass scene. One that Milius decided to use in his movie.

Finally we get one of his first attempts at writing a novel. Reading it you can see why he abandoned it as being unworkable. Roy Thomas did actually adopt it to the comic magazine Savage Sword of Conan. I have to say he did a really good job.

THE COMING OF CONAN THE CIMMERIAN BY ROBERT E. HOWARD

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Copyright 2003. Individual stories written 1932-34.

CIMMERIA

A poem written in Mission, TX suggesting the memory of the hill country in Fredricksburg seen in the mist of a winter rain.

THE PHOENIX ON THE SWORD

Four conspirators in Aquilonia are conspiring to overthrow King Conan. The leader a former lord now bandit named Ascalante is the leader and has arranged for the guard at the palace to be absent. Then three of the conspirators and nineteen men will sneak in and kill Conan. Ascalante’s slave is sent to watch over the cowardly Dion so he doesn’t panic. At the baron’s palace the slave Thoth-Amon finds that the baron has his serpent ring. He kills the baron and with the ring summons a demon to kill his former master and anyone with him. The conspirators enter Conan’s bedchamber and find him waiting and ready. Conan was contacted by the spirit of a dead priest and given a Phoenix symbol on his sword. A fight ensues where Conan is about to be overwhelmed but the demon shows up. After killing Ascalante, Conan uses his shattered Phoenix sword to destroy the demon.

THE FROST GIANT’S DAUGHTER

Conan a young warrior is fighting the Vanir with the Aesir. He is the sole survivor and in his wounded state approached by a naked woman. She is beautiful and white of skin. She entices Conan who chases her and is ambushed by her frost-giant brothers. Conan manages to kill them and the girl calls on her father Ymir who takes her away. Later his comrades find him and don’t believe the story until the find the gossamer garment clutched in his hand.

THE GOD IN THE BOWL

Conan is stealing from a rich noble’s museum when he comes the dead body of the noble. A guard finds him and summons the watch. They think he killed the noble but the captain makes a full investigation. It is found out a mysterious gift for a priest of Iblis was being stored in the museum. Inside is a giant snake with a head of a man. The snakes kills or scares off everyone except Conan who kills it.

THE TOWER OF THE ELEPHANT

Conan a thief in Zamora gets into an argument with another about the Tower of the Elephant. He kills this man and later decides to steal from the tower. There he meets up with another thief who has planned the theft. He has lotus that kills the lions that guard the yard. They climb the tower and the thief is killed by a giant spider which Conan kills. Inside he finds Yag-Kosha an alien with body of a human and head of an elephant. He is an ancient race that came to Earth and was enslaved by the evil sorcerer Yara. He begs Conan to kill him, cut his heart out and squeeze the blood on a gem. Then take it to Yara. Conan does this and the gem sucks up Yara. Conan escapes the tower before it collapses.

THE SCARLET CITADEL

King Conan comes to the aid of his ally Ophir. Only he is betrayed and a combined army of Ophir and Koth defeat him. The wizard Tsotha-Lanti locks him in his tower as the armies go to conquer his leaderless country. Conan manages to escape after an enemy from his corsair days tries to get revenge. Conan finds a rival wizard captive and frees him. The wizard conjures a giant pterodactyl to fly him to his capital. He rallies his people and defeats the invading army. Tsotha-Lanti has his head taken by a giant eagle and the headless body chases after it.

QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST

In Messantia Conan is escaping from court. He decided to chop off the judge’s head and jumps on a departing merchantman bound for the Black Coast. While traveling they are attacked by Belit and her Black Corsairs. The ship is captured but Conan is spared because Belit decides to take him as her mate. Conan joins the crew and raids for some years. Eventually their travels take them to a ruined city and they find treasure. Only it is guarded by a flying ape and his jackels. They kill Belit and the crew. Conan waits at night and fights them. Belit comes back from the dead to save him and Conan kills the flying ape. He sets the pirate ship on fire as a pyre for Belit.

BLACK COLLOSSUS

A thief breaks into the tomb of the evil sorcerer Natohk and resurrects him. Natohk conquest some desert tribes and cities. His next conquest is the small state of Khoraja. It’s ruler the princess Yasmela consults the god Mitra who instructs her to give command of her army to the first person she meets on the street. That happens to be Conan. He is made commander and successfully defeats Natohk’s army.

IRON SHADOWS IN THE MOON

Shah Amurath is chasing his escaped slave girl Olivia into the reeds along the Vilayet sea. He catches her but also comes face to face with Conan. Conan was chief of the Kozaks who were massacred by Amurath’s forces. Conan takes his revenge and with Olivia the two set out on the sea in a small boat. They come to a mysterious island with a huge temple filled with iron statues. Oliva has a dream that they come alive and runs out at night with Conan following. They then fight a giant man-ape. Pirates come to the island and Conan kills their captain but is treacherously knocked on the head. Later at night Olivia manages to sneak in when the pirates are drunk and free Conan. The iron statues come alive and kill many of the pirates. Conan takes their ship and won’t let them on until they acknowledge him the captain which they gladly do.

XUTHAL OF THE DUSK

Conan and a freed slave girl Natala are the only survivors of a mercenary army destroyed in Stygia. They have escaped into the desert and come on a strange city. It appears deserted but is filled with a strange yellow race that seem to be in a drugged state. From a girl Thalis they find that the race is advanced but now spends their time in a drugged state. Also a creature named Thog goes around eating people. Thalis wants Conan and manages to kidnap Natalia. While whipping her Thog comes and eats her. Conan runs into the inhabitants and in a fight falls through a trap door. He has to fight Thog and after finding a miracle elixir that heals him the two leave Xuthal.

THE POOL OF THE BLACK ONES

Conan who was on a leaking rowboat in the Western ocean manages to make it on a Zingaran privateer. The captain Zaporavo lets Conan join the crew. Later they land on an island that has treasure. Conan follows the captain when he goes off alone and kills him. Later he finds the crew captured after being knocked out by eating the island’s fruit. Giant black creatures take the crew to a green pool that shrinks them to a small size. Conan with the help of captain’s girl Sancha manage to rouse the crew and defeat the black giants. Then they escape the island as the green pool erupts and floods the island.

ROGUES IN THE HOUSE

Murilo a noble has been found out to be selling secrets to a hostile nation. The Red Priest Nabonidus is going to expose him. So Murilo makes a deal with Conan who is in jail about to be executed. Conan agrees to kill Nabonidus. Only the jailer that was to help him escape is arrested. Conan manages to free himself eventually and takes revenge on the man and woman who betrayed him. Conan sneaks into Nabonidus’s house and finds Murilo who went in to kill him. They find Nabonidus who is also in danger. His man-ape Thak has escaped and taken over the place. They work together to defeat Thak. Nabonidus then turns on Murilo and Conan but Conan is too quick and brains him with a thrown chair.

THE VALE OF LOST WOMEN

Livia is a Nemedian captured and sold into slavery to the chief of the Bajujh. One day the Bamulas come lead by a white chief. Conan is now chief of the Bamulas and is there to form an alliance with the Bajujh. Livia manages to sneak out and Conan agrees to help free her. He later attacks the Bajujh and during this Livia fears for her safety and manages to grab a horse and flee. She comes to a valley with strange women who tie her to an alter. A bat creature comes to take her but Conan arrives and slays it. He promises to see Livia safely back to civilization.

THE DEVIL IN IRON

A fisherman on the Vilayet comes to an island with ruins. A storm has opened an old tomb and he reawakens the inhabitant. Meanwhile Jehungir Agha the lord of Khwarizm comes up with a plan to get rid of the Kozak leader Conan. He uses a slave girl Octavia to entice him. Then plant a story she escaped to the island of Xapur. Only Octavia does escape to the island. She and Conan find that the ruins have been miraculously restored. The inhabitants are also resurrected but seem in a sleepy state. The one responsible is the god who first founded the city. After being resurrected Khosatral Khel used his magic to recreate the city. Conan has to fight a giant snake, Jehungir and his men to get a magical knife. This knife is the only thing that will penetrate the iron skin of Khosatral Khel.

THE PHOENIX ON THE SWORD FIRST DRAFT

The first draft of the story that was rejected.

THE HYBORIAN AGE

A detailed history of the Hyborian age from it’s beginning to it’s end. Shows how the various fiction people became the modern peoples of today.

UNTITLED SYNOPSIS

Nestor a Gunderman leads a squad of Zamorians after the thief Conan. Conan manages to trigger an avalanche that kills the squad except Nestor. The two eventually join to fight a giant monster in a ruined city. At the end Conan takes a gold serpent statue with gem eyes. It turns into a real serpent and bites a magistrate that tries to arrest Conan.

UNTITLED FRAGMENT

After a battle Conan finds a wounded woman and takes her to the city of Yarlet. Atalis and Prince Than are conspiring about something.

UNTITLED SYNOPSIS AND DRAFT

Conan visits the Black Kingdom of Cush ruled by a degenerate king and his sister Thanada. A pig like beast has killed a popular officer and Tuthmes a noble is in control of the creature. He frames Thanada to use in his scheme to take the throne. Thanada is saved by Conan from an attacking mob and made her captain of the guard. Tuthmes uses a white slave girl Diana in his scheme.

HYBOREAN GENESIS by Patrice Lounet

An article on how Howard started writing Conan and the literary influences for the stories that appeared in this book.

I was introduced to Conan through the old Marvel comics of Roy Thomas back when I was a kid. I loved them and the movies. Yet I never read Howard until this volume came out. A complete collection of his Conan in order of how he wrote it. No pastiches or rewritten stories but the pure Howard. I loved them. In fact they so inspired me that the short story I wrote is the only one I have ever sold. He has such a beautiful prose to his stories. These are before political correctness and focus groups. He truly believed in the philosophy that barbarism is the natural state and civilization is the abnormal. He didn’t idealize barbarism just accepted it as the natural state. He wrote them jumping all over Conan’s life from young impetuous thief. To a mercenary captain in an Assyrian type army. A desert chieftain to a pirate. Finally to a king who is a patron of the arts. Howard said that it was meant to be someone telling stories of his life and people just tend to jump around not in chronological order. He created a very rich fictional world that didn’t require and research but familiar enough so the reader could identify the setting.

I really love his writing and this book is an excellent place to start with his Conan to get a true feel for the author.