"Know, O Prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars... Hither came Conan the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet."
- The Nemedian Chronicles
Conan was a wandering fighter born in Cimmeria who eventually came to rule the largest empire of the Hyborian Age.
The Cimmerian People
It is believed that Conan's tribe, the Cimmerians, migrated east from Atlantis sometime before its destruction. There is even speculation that Conan is a descendant of King Kull himself, though this has never been confirmed. Even if true, the two are separated by thousands of years, and there is no indication that Conan was ever aware of such a link.
Conan's Early Life
Conan was born on a carnage-strewn battlefield in the hills of the western most region of Cimmeria where his tribe was involved in a border skirmish with a rival tribe called the Vanir. Conan's father, Conaldar, and the other members of the tribe encircled Fialla, his mother, to protect her while she was giving birth to Conan. The fact that he was born on a battlefield was considered, amongst the Cimmerians, to be an omen that Conan would grow up to be a great warrior one day.
Conan began working in his father's smithy from a very young age, and working the forge's bellows built his strength. He also learned much about weaponry working in the shop and listening to the men there talk.
Before the age of seven he crippled Donal, a bully in his own tribe, who was much older and bigger than himself. By age eight he was wielding an ax well enough to chop firewood for the tribe, and he was also training with the longsword, spear, and dagger. He was officially accepted as a man of the tribe that year when he rescued the tribe's war chief from a hungry pack of wolves - killing one of the wolves with his bare hands and teeth in the process!
During early adolescence, Conan was severely injured by a great cat. While still recovering from those wounds he was addled by fever and self-doubt. In this precarious mental and physical state, he embarked on a journey to the forbidden battlefield known as Brita's Vale. Two formative events happen to him in Brita's Vale; first, he encounters the supernatural for the first time, in the form of ghostly warriors, although this may be nothing more than fever-induced hallucinations, and secondly he is attacked by a degenerate madman who he kills, thus taking a human life for the first time.
During his early teens, Conan begins his philandering ways, regularly bedding both Caollan (a girl of his tribe being courted by Donal), and perhaps his first love, Arianne, the chestnut haired daughter of Alcibiades (a wizard living in exile nearby).. He is also known to have saved the entire village on one occasion by breaking the neck of a rampaging bull. However, at this point in his life Conan is very much a loner, and tends to bring trouble to his tribe as well, most notably by offending the wizard Alcibiades.
When the tribe discovers Arianne, and takes her for an Aquilonian spy, Alciblades vows to reveal Cimmeria's rich resources to Aquilonia - an act that will eventually lead to the Battle of Venarium (see The Battle of Venarium below). Many members of the tribe blame Conan for this, and in the ensuing scuffle, Conan punches Giallchadh in the face, killing him.
These experiences, along with long hours of listening to his grandfather, Connacht, tell stories of his own travels in exotic lands such as Aquilonia, and the fabled city of Hyperborea, sparks Conan's sense of adventure and wanderlust.
While not particularly religious, Conan does believe in the god Crom.
Conan the Barbarian was the brainchild of Robert E. Howard a pulp fiction writer from Cross Plains, Texas. Howard's influences included, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Harold Lamb, Talbot Mundy, Arthur D. Howden Smith, Sax Rohmer, and his friend, H.P. Lovecraft.
Conan first appeared in Weird Tales magazine in December 1932 in the story 'The Phoenix on the Sword', a rejected Kull story that had been rewritten to feature Conan. The character was roughly modeled on Howard's earlier creation, King Kull. While Howard wrote in many genres, including action-adventure, historical fiction, horror and westerns, he is most remembered as the father of the Sword and Sorcery sub-genre.
In a letter to Clark Ashton Smith dated July 23, 1935, Howard described Conan thus:
“It may sound fantastic to link the term 'realism' with Conan; but as a matter of fact - his supernatural adventures aside - he is the most realistic character I ever evolved. He is simply a combination of a number of men I have known, and I think that's why he seemed to step full-grown into my consciousness when I wrote the first yarn of the series. Some mechanism in my sub-consciousness took the dominant characteristics of various prize-fighters, gunmen, bootleggers, oil field bullies, gamblers, and honest workmen I had come in contact with, and combining them all, produced the amalgamation I call Conan the Cimmerian".
Conan first appeared in comics in 1950s & 1960s in the unlicensed Mexican comic La Reina de la Costa Negra (“The Queen of the Black Coast”) which was loosely based on the adventures of Belit and heavily influenced by the Viking Prince (see Unlicensed Versions).
Conan's first official appearance in comics was in Conan the Barbarian #1 published in 1970 by Marvel Comics. There are two long running licensed comic book Conan chronologies. The first being the Marvel Comics chronology which includes Howard pastiches by other non-comic book writers, and which came to a close in 1995; and the second being the Dark Horse Comics chronology which excludes Howard pastiches by other writers which was begun in 2004, ran concurrently with the Marvel title for four years, and continues to the present (see Alternate Chronologies & Howard Pastiches).
Conan's principal chroniclers in comics have been, writer Roy Thomas and artists Barry Windsor-Smith and John Buscema during the Marvel run; and writer Kurt Busiek and artist Cary Nord during the Dark Horse run. Since 2008, Tim Truman, one of the backup artists on the title, has taken over writing the comic.
The character has become a signature work for no less than three artists, Frank Frazetta (mostly for the Lancer/Ace paperback novel covers); Barry Windsor-Smith (for the Marvel run); and Cary Nord (for the Dark Horse run).
As of the mid-2000s, the Conan stories of Robert Howard have begun to fall into the Public Domain in some parts of the world.
The Battle of Venarium
Aquilonia, the most powerful kingdom in the Hyborian Lands, had expansionist tendencies and had long had its eye on the regions of
Gunderland and the Bossonian Marshlands to their north. They were eventually successful in gaining a toehold in the region and soon established a fortified outpost called Venarium which pushed their empire's northern frontier into southern Cimmeria.
Young Conan often traveled to Venarium in the company of elder warriors who, under the guise of hunters and tradesmen, were secretly scouting out the city's weak points in preparation for a massive raid.
Before Conan had seen fifteen snows, the Cimmerians attacked Venarium; this was the first time Conan had ever been to war, and he is known to have distinguished himself in battle. It is said that the Cimmerians stained the white hills with the blood and entrails of the Aquilonians. So vicious was this battle, and so total was their defeat, that Aquilonia never again attempted an incursion into the region.
At the sack of Venarium Conan had not reached his full growth, but was already six feet tall and weighed 180 pounds. We are told,
"...he had the alertness and stealth of the born woodsman, the iron-hardness of the mountain man, the Herculean strength of his blacksmith father, and a practical familiarity with the knife, axe, and sword."
Following the death of Arianne in the destruction of Venarium, and the passing of Connacht soon after, Conan left his village, and never looked back.
Major Story Arcs
Joining the Æsir
After the sacking of Venarium, the loose confederation of allied Cimmerian tribes went their separate ways and life returned to normal in Cimmeria. Growing increasingly bored of hunting for his tribe, Conan set off to the north, bound for Asgard .
En route, he comes across an Asgardian village being attacked by Vanir marauders, and rescues a woman named Henga and her child from the clutches of one of the attackers. This ingratiates him with Niord, the Æsir chieftain who invites Conan to join their group.
Conan and the Æsir then doggedly pursue the Vanir reavers eastward. But Niord's increasing reliance upon Conan does not sit well with two of the Æsir, Einar and Sjarl (the latter of whom is already incensed over a hand-to-hand defeat at Conan's hands in front of the tribe, and also by having seen his mate Henga slip out at night to make love to Conan). The two plot to deal with Conan after the Vanir are dispatched.
This period is notable for Conan's improved tracking skills which he learns from one of the Æsir named Gorm.
Conan and the Frost Giant's Daughter
The Aesir tracked the Vanir into the icy wastes of Nordheim where a bloody battle ensued between Wulfhere's Æsir and Bragi's Vanir. In the end, only Conan and one Vanir, Heimdul, are left standing. Determined to fight to the last, the two clash, and Conan emerges victorious - but not without suffering a severe blow to the head which dents his helm and leaves him wandering the battlefield alone and disoriented.
Conan collapses and nearly drifts toward unconsciousness as a myriad of colors dance in the Northern sky before his eyes. Suddenly before him appears a beautiful woman with hair like "elfin gold, a glorious compound of red and yellow" and who, "save for a light veil of gossamer, was naked as the day". She says her name is Atali, and she proceeds to tease Conan with her exquisite body and taunt him with her words until he pursues her in lust and vexation across the frozen plain.
He chases her a great distance until his way was is barred by two hulking axe-wielding men. These Frost-Giants are Atali's brothers, but despite his wounds, Conan still manages to slay them both. But, as he attempts to seize his prize he grasps only her gossamer veil. As she slips away she begs her father, Ymir, to save her. Suddenly the night sky splits in a bolt of lighting leaving Atali nowhere to be found and knocking Conan unconscious.
Conan is found lying in the snow by Niord's men. When he relates his story, they think he is delirious due to the large dent in his helmet. But Gorm, insists that it was Atali, the daughter of Ymir, the frost giant who he himself saw when he was nearly slain as a boy. The others laugh this off, since they believe Old Gorm's mind was affected by a sword cut to the head when he was a boy. Even Conan himself is half convinced it was all a dream, but then all fall silent when he raises his hand, and clenched in his fist is a wispy gossamer cloth unlike any human clothes.
Later Conan mends his horned helmet which we learn was made for him by Conaldar, "shortly after my day of manhood".
Niord's band of Æsir overtake Tir's group of Vanir an hour after daybreak, and after a short battle, Tir surrenders. But, then one of the Æsir is felled by an arrow, and the group is beset upon by tall, pale skinned Hyperboreans.
Conan frees Tir's men, and now the Æsir and Vanir stand side-by-side against the Hyperboreans, but they are all battle-weary and it does not go well. Tir spots Sjarl and Einar outside the enemy lines atop a small hillock that overlooks the battlefield, and tells Conan to join them and try to break the enemy line from behind. But Sjarl and Einar are the ones responsible for the Hyperborean trap, and had only intended to lead Conan into it. When Conan tries to rally them, Sjarl and Einar throw him from the hill into the hands of the enemy, and all save Sjarl and Einar are enslaved. All that's left behind are the dead, and Conan's recently repaired helm, lying in the wind-swept snow.
Conan, who long dreamed of visiting the fabled city of Hyperborea, arrives there in chains and becomes a gladiator for the amusement of the Hyperboreans. Kept in a drugged state, he has no idea whether this existence continues for days, weeks, or even years.
One day, Iasmini, a beautiful slave girl with dreams of freedom comes to Conan and reveals that his men are kept drugged with the Yellow Lotus. She has some antidote, and agrees to help them escape if they will take her with them. Conan agrees, and begins slipping the antidote into his comrade's food. He continues the charade of a drugged arena fighter by day, but spends his nights searching for a way out of the city.
During his nocturnal prowls, Conan learns that Hyperborea is a land
"of gleaming cities, of riches, and wonders, and exotic women, who live lives of serenity and contemplation, in peace with all manner of bird and beast, from the lamb to the griffin and milk and honey flow in streams from the hills"
but only for a few, and is magically powered by the life essence of the city's massive slave population - a population that now includes him and the rest of his band of Æsir!
When Lord Aishti'ana learns that there is an intruder in the palace, he lets lions loose in the house. Conan is injured by one, and loses his sword before escaping through a window. A few days later, Conan finally leads a slave revolt. Unfortunately, they cannot stand up to the power of Hyperborea's wizards, and though he makes it to freedom, he is unable to save Niord, Iasmini, or any of the rest of his comrades-in-arms, and they all perish. These experiences will haunt him for the rest of his life.
Conan, now harboring a life-long hatred of sorcerers, vows to one day see Hyperborea ground to dust. But, first he heads south to seek revenge against Sjarl and Einar. Scavenging a new sword, armor, and gold from the dead, he stumbles southward through the driving snows. He finally finds Sjarl and Einar in a small town just across the border in Brythunia where he slaughters them like animals in the street.
Conan then uses what little gold he has left to buy food, wineskins and other supplies before setting out for Nemedia.
Life as a Thief
Money ruled the south, which was a concept unfamiliar to Conan, that without a job or source of income you were less than dirt in the eyes of the civilized world. So upon arrival Conan had little in the way of earning his food or even a meager flask of ale. Conan then resorted to thievery as a way of life. Some question that with his immense skill with blades and his combat prowess why he did not take up a life as a mercenary. Well the answer was quite simple had, their been anyone willing to pay he most certainly would have went that route.
However paying mercenary quests were few and far between without the recognition he had in the northern lands of Cimmeria his sword was not requested. And as for joining the Military that was out of the question, Conan was raised in a land where you seldom “truly” fought as a group, to him there was little glory in team work. And that was exactly how he viewed the military, a team of honor-less cowards, needing another man’s sword to guard their backsides. So becoming a Thief was the most clear path, in Conan’s mind.
In the Hyborian Age thieves were a dime a dozen, no matter how large or small the city. The thieves themselves varied, from the light handed pick pocket, to the cunning lock pick, to strong armed mugger.
It is believed that Conan rivaled even the most infamous thief of all “Adroit”. Conan gained this reputation as thief by committing his acts of thievery in Zamora. Zamora was a town filled with great thieves, people in the town had become skilled in detecting thievery, and Conan was able to steal from even the most wary of citizens. Not only was Conan skilled enough to take the monies of Citizens of Zamora, he was able to thieve from the thieves of Zamora, Which was considered an incredible feat. Conan’s stealth was just as impressive as his battle honed skills of combat.
Even in “The City of Thieves” (Zamora) as it had been dubbed by citizens and outsiders alike Conan became a legend of shadows. There are tales of even earlier examples of skilled thievery from Conan, There is a Tale that Conan made a vow to a village that he would return the large sums of money that had been forced from them by a Wizard by the name of Zukala. Conan not only infiltrated the Wizard’s Tower Keep, and retrieved the money from the keep’s vaults, he was able to cut the throat of the Wizard in the middle of the night without stirring so much as a rat. However Conan in true barbarian fashion retrieved the money but, never returned it to the starving village, instead he kept it for himself. It turned out to be a wise move on the behalf of Conan, for the villagers planned to murder him once he returned with the money, whether they would have succeeded is doubtful. But still Conan’s greed in this manner led to an easier day.
Conan happened to cross paths in Corinthia with some of the Gunderman he had fought alongside of at the Battle of Venarium. He created a small thieves guild with these once great warriors, which he led. For a good period of time the were highly successful making themselves seemingly wealthy. However it all came crumbling down when they stole, from a fat priest whom served the god Anu, the priest was also a fence and police spy. His group was caught by the police, thanks to the priest. All of his group except him were hung as thieves in the town common.
Angered by this Conan snuck silently into the temple of Anu that night and slayed every single priest in there and posted their heads on pikes. He gutted the fat priest and hung him from the altar of Anu. Conan had matured a little as he grew up and realized that friendship meant something. And that he felt he owed this to his fallen comrades. He was age nineteen when he moved on from the thieving way of life.
Conan and the Tower of the Elephant
An Alien from the stars, known as Yag-Kosha built the Elephant Tower in a single evening. Yag-Kosha was a prisoner of the vile priest called Yara. The Tower was unto a separate world almost. The closer one ventured toward it, the more foreign and unrecognizable the surroundings became.
Conan and the thief called Taurus willfully wandered towards the tower. At the base of the walls of the tower, in the gardens there were two lions whom patrolled the area. Something wasn’t normal about these lions, and it dawned on Conan that the lions weren’t emitting and sounds, there were designed for stealth. However, he and Taurus were more stealthy. The easily dispatched of the Lions with a mist they had created using powdered Black Lotus flowers, which poisoned the two beasts. However once in side the tower Taurus met his gruesome end at the fangs of a deadly spider, that was as large as a full grown boar. The Spider turned it’s attention to Conan, it shot it’s web and missed. However some drops of acidic venom from it’s fangs did scar Conan’s muscular body. Conan quickly recovered, grabbing hold of a 400 plus pound chest of jewels which he hurled at the large spider crushing it, spilling the jewels in it’s gooey white innards.
Conan found his way to the main tower chamber, where saw a gem known as the heart of the elephant, as well as Yara and the imprisoned Yag-Kosha. The Heart of the Elephant began to rotate rapidly and emit a blinding light. Once things had cleared, Yara and Yag-Kosha were no where to be seen. The unearthly tower began to quake and crumble, Conan knew that he would have to flee the tower immediately, it was clear that Yara and Yag-Kosha’s sorcery was all that kept the tower standing. He made it outside to the gardens just in the nick of time, as the tower exploded into crystalline shards.
Conan often pondered why the Tower and Gem were both had names involving Elephant. Until he met Yag-Kosha, The Alien resembled a hybrid of Man and Elephant with pale green skin. Yag-Kosha as well as several others had made their way to earth several hundred years ago from the lush green jungle planet of Yag, which was light years beyond the milky way. The came to earth after a great war had them beaten and exiled from Yag. Conan connected Yag-Kosha’s stories to coincide with the age of the dinosaurs. From thousands (not hundreds) of years ago, perhaps time flowed differently for the alien Conan thought.
For Yag-Kosha regaled him with stories of seeing man evolve from primitive ape, to the sword swinging, city building creatures they were today. Yag-Kosha also mentioned that over the years all of his kind that had come to earth died except for himself. And that he survived in the half destroyed and fully abandoned temples mankind built in the wilds of Khitai. It is believed that Yag-Kosha is also the Hindu god known as Ganesha. Yag-Kosha however was wrapped in mystical chains when Conan found him, Yag-Kosha had revealed the he had been deceived by the mystic called Yara, and was enslaved by Magical Chains, and taken to the city of Zamora. And that Yara then tortured the poor Alien until he built him the Tower of the Elephant, which was now crystal rubble. Thanks to Conan and Taurus. Conan saw that the Alien had been, crippled and blinded, and was unable to move or see, yet he still did Yara’s biddings.
Conan for the first time in his life felt something akin to empathy (something that rarely happened to Conan). Feeling the creature’s plight, He heeded the wishes of Yag-Kosha, Yag-Kosha simply wished to die. Conan drove his blade into the alien’s chest, and removed it’s heart, he then followed the creature’s command to let his hearts blood, bleed onto the gem known as the Heart of the Elephant. The Blood magically soaked into the gem leaving not a drop on the surrounding area. Conan then went to Yara who was in a drunken snobbish sleep, and placed the heart at his feet. And then as Yara began to stir, Conan uttered the phrase he was told by Yag-Kosha. “Yag-Kosha gives you your last gift and your last enchantment”. With those words Yara was also absorbed into the gem. The Gem then burst into a rainbow of light, and that was the end of the Mystic known as Yara.
Conan and Janissa
Janissa was born to wealthy Zingaran family. They had made plans to wed her off to a very rich Nobleman, which would further their reputation. They did not bother nor care with what Janissa felt about being treated as no more than a pawn of social and political advancement by her own family. Janissa absolutely hated the fact that she meant so little to her own family, it was as if they were trading livestock or such. And it turned her gut.
Janissa fled before the wedding, refusing to be any man’s piece of property. She made her way into the wilds, where she ran into a witch known as the Bone Woman. The Bone Woman listened to Janissa’s plight, and offered her the power to be equal to or superior to any male. The price for the power would be to serve the witch for a period of time. Of course wanting the power, she agrees to the conditions of the deal.
On the very first day of her training Janissa knew she was in for a rough time, when the Bone Woman used the poultice of the Yellow Lotus, to put her into a drugged stupor, she then handed Janissa a short sword, and kicked her into a large pit filled with savages, where she was raped repeatedly night after night by the savage demons. She was in the pit for several weeks being raped and tortured before she finally was able to use the sword to kill one of the vile demons. The brothers of the demon however stripped her of her sword and raped her yet again. But each day she grew stronger and fought the demons harder and harder. After being in the pit for a decade she had managed to kill more than 10,000 demons. She also managed to climb her way out of the pit to the Bone Woman’s feet.
Janissa had become the epitome of tough, not only could she withstand any pain that fate or the heavens through at her, she could overcome it and destroy the source of it. In that since she was as Conan was. However she came to realize during her time with Conan that she was in all aspects of her power very similar to Conan, well all except for one. Where Conan had given himself great power, she had begged a witch for her power. Ashamed she parted ways with Conan as traveling companions.
Conan and Thoth-Amon
Although Conan and he never met eye to eye, they were life-long and eternal enemies. Thoth-Amon despite never meeting or even knowing of Conan’s existence (and vice-versa) nearly cause his death not once but twice within the span of three decades. Thoth-Amon was member of the Black Ring, a group of powerful sorcerers in Stygia. For years he wore the Serpent ring of Set. Once the ring left his possession he lost all of his mystic powers.
The first mention of Thoth-Amons existence known to Conan was Thoth-Amon’s symbol on the Sarcophagus of the Man-Serpent. This was also the night he learned that Thoth-Amon was the mortal enemy of the priest that helped Conan open the Sarcophagus, named Kalanthes. But it is doubtful if Conan knew anymore of the wizard, or if the Wizard knew anything at all of Conan for he was some thousands of miles away in Stygia.
The Second time their fates crossed was when Conan became the king of Aquilonia some years down the road. Disguised a Slave to the rebel leader Escalante, Thoth-Amon entered Aquilonia without notice of King Conan. However Ascalante believed Thoth-Amon to be a loyal slave, Thoth was solely biding his time for he knew the Serpent Ring had made it’s way into the city. Once he found it and regained his powers, He sent a Dog-Demon to kill Ascalante. However on this particular night Ascalante his rebels had plans on assassinating King Conan, and they were in the Castle of the King, when the Demon struck. After a long and grueling battle Conan slayed the Demon. However Thoth-Amon and Conan never met face to face.
Conan and Jenna
Shortly after Conan’s slaying of the priests of Anu, the local police were having an impossible time finding the temples slayer. Conan was getting drunk at the local tavern, when he saw a most beautiful blonde maiden. He grabbed the wench and went bed with her at her house, where during love making. He confessed in his drunken stupor what he did at the Temple of Anu. And when the barbarian collapsed into a ale riddled dream.
The blonde who called herself Jenna went to the authorities. Whom arrested the passed out thief. And Threw him in the castle dungeon. Conan of course with his raw strength was able to break free, and to his luck he found her in the Castle’s Second floor, She screamed and begged for her life. But Conan said nothing picking her up like a brute. He walked to the window and tossed her two towers down into the castles cesspool where she screamed, and cussed, and fought to stay afloat in the muck and mire.
Conan would run a foul of Jenna several years later, when he fought a cult who worshiped a giant bat, and then fought the giant bat to find the cult had intended to sacrifice her to the Bat. He saved her life and sent her on her way, for a fleshly reward.
The Red Priest and Prince Murilo
Prince Murilo despite appearances was quite a swordsman, and had charm to match. Murilo was always able to bribe officials for state secrets then sell them to rival nations at a profit. He was not even an ounce remorseful for this. He was too greedy to feel remorse. However Nabonidus, also known as the Red Priest, learned of the young princes betrayal and had planned to undo the evil the prince had done, by telling the king. This of course meant that Murilo would be executed as was punishment for all traitors, so this of course drove Murilo to find an assassin to claim the life of the Red Priest… Prince Murilo found Conan in the local jail and offered him freedom for the job, naturally Conan accepted.
Instead of immediately reporting the treachery to the king. The Red Priest sliced off the ear of Prince Murilo’s friend. This was the message to get out of town.
Nabonidus then learned that both nationalists and Conan were coming (separately) to kill him, and readied his traps accordingly. However, before he could act, his servant/pet Thak betrayed him, and stole Nabonidus' red robe to masquerade as him. As Conan and Murilo arrived, Nabonidus filled him in on the events, as well as Thak's origin. Thak was from a very primitive proto-human tribe that were all slaughtered upon discovery; all save the baby Thak, and Nabonidus took Thak and raised him.
As Thak grew, his semi-human intellect and great strength made him very dangerous. As Nabonidus filled Conan in on the particulars, Thak killed the nationalists with traps located in Nabonidus' mansion. Conan volunteered to take out Thak, and hid as Thak raced down the hallway. As Thak passed, Conan sprung out from hiding, and knocked Thak to the ground! The battle was short but brutal, and Thak nearly overpowered Conan, but the Cimmerian was triumphant, regarding Thak not as a beast, but a man.
It was then that Nabonidus tried to trap Conan and Murillo, but Conan's lightning reflexes proved faster, and he killed the Red Priest by throwing a chair at his head and smashing it. Murillo then honored his promise to Conan and provided him with gold and a horse, as Conan departed for his next adventure...
Life as a Mercenary.
After gaining much in life experiences as a thief through ages 16-21 Conan decided it was time to move on in life. Thus taking his skills, and renown to a new frontier, that of the Mercenary.
Conan traveled East to the exotic kingdom of Turan. Determined to amass himself an army that would rival Aquilonia’s he spearheaded a large band of mercenaries, who were willing to join with him for glories sake. It was up until this point that Conan relied on only himself and his abilities for adventure. But now he had a group. They all learned new tricks and techniques from one another. Increasing their already formidable might. He soon learned a to use bows, from the Turian archers. A weapon that before now he cared little for. He mastered the Bow easily.
However Conan grew bored of the Turians, and once again traveled back westward, hearing rumors of war. He accepted many a various paying jobs, and still used his thievery skills along the Road of Kings, on his journey back to the west. The Land was no longer under control of Aquilonia but, now under the Rule of Prince Murilo who no doubt played a part in Conan’s acceptance upon his return home.
The Battle with Nergal and Tammuz.
Nergal the demon of the dark, and Tammuz the God of Light. Waged a war from the beginning of time in the space between the light and dark, known as earth. It was here that there war would also end at the hands of Conan.
In the Northern city of Turanian called Yaralet, Munthassem Khan was striving once again to throw off the balance of Agrapur. Once Khan had been the epitome of that was before he found the Hand of Nergal in a broken down Caravan. The Talisman filled his soul with rage, and lust for power. It also filled his body with mystical power. And the only power that could rival Nergal’s Hand was the Heart of Tammuz, and as fate decreed Conan was the one to come into possession of the Heart.
Conan found it while traveling with the Turanian army to put a halt to Khan’s forces. The heart protected Conan when a group of phantom bats slew his army. Conan was left standing alone amongst the carnage. Conan found his way into Khan’s Palace. And When Conan and Khan met eye to eye the Talismans released the Demon and the God who fought each other till both were dead and Khan’s palace was destroyed. Conan escaped.
Powers and Abilities
Robert Howard never gave exact details about Conan's height, weight, etc. He probably lived in a medieval type society where height averages were equal to today's average. For the Hyborian Age, he was sometimes described as "massive". Whether this refers to his height or muscle mass, or both is unknown. Estimates of these statistics vary by author, and Conan's presumed age at the time of a given tale.
- Height: 6'0 - 6'6"
- Weight: 180 - 265 lbs.
- Eyes: Blue (often described as "smoldering" or "sullen")
- Hair: Black, (often described as being "mane-like")
- Ethnicity: Cimmerian
- Skin: Conan's skin coloring is considered unusually dark for a Cimmerian (often described as being "sun-bronzed")
- Distinguishing features: Conan has numerous battle scars, especially on his face
Skills/Abilities: Conan is an accomplished hunter, unarmed combatant, sword-fighter, horseman, and archer. Conan is familiar with the following weapons: the knife, the axe, the longsword, the broadsword, the short sword, and the bow. The broadsword is his favored weapon. He was one of the most accomplished swordsmen of the Hyborian Age. He is often listed alongside D'artagnan, King Arthur, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ogami Itto and Zorro as one of the greatest fictional sword fighters in history.
Conan has unusual strength, agility, and speed for a human, often lifting immense objects or enemies, and relying upon his lightning-fast reflexes in combat situations. Through years of dealing with sorcerers, magicians and witches he has developed a moderate level of resistance to magic and mind control spells. While primarily known as a wandering sell-sword, Conan progressively became a master tactician, leading entire armies into battle. Eventually, Conan became king of Aquilonia by his own hand.
Personality Conan is frequently described as being "grim", or "suffering from great melancholies". In modern times he might be diagnosed as having bipolar disorder or some other form of depression. Less frequently he can be found to be quite mirthful, and occasionally he is prone to fits of rage when in battle. He also exhibits a strong wanderlust.
The Robert E. Howard estate maintains the exclusive rights to license Conan in all media. However there have been several legal battles over the rights to the character in the years following Robert Howard's suicide. Because of this legal wrangling over the rights, or in areas outside the U.S. where American copyright laws didn't apply, or sometimes just in defiance of the law, a number of unlicensed or quasi-licensed versions of Conan have appeared.
Conan first appeared in comics in the 1950s & 1960s in the unlicensed Mexican comic book La Reina de la Costa Negra (“The Queen of the Black Coast”), which was loosely based on the adventures of Belit. It was heavily influenced by the Viking Prince which was popular in the United States at the time (see The Brave and the Bold).
Due to a licensing dispute, a thinly veiled version of Conan called "Kalidor" appeared in the film Red Sonja (see Conan films and the comic book adaptations below)
Marvel comics released several issues of What If? containing stories featuring Conan they included:
Conan films and their comic book adaptations
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
In 1982 Universal Pictures produced a Conan film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, titled Conan the Barbarian. The original script was by Oliver Stone, who was a fan of R.E. Howard's stories, but it was scrapped by director John Milius (who hadn't read any Conan stories) in favor of a script of his own. Milius' script borrowed from a number of sources.; one scene resembles " The Tower of the Elephant"; another resembles the L. Sprague DeCamp Conan short story " The Thing in the Crypt". The main villain of the piece, Thulsa Doom, was borrowed from a story of one of Howard's other fantasy hero, Kull. A two issue comic book adaptation was released by Marvel to coincide with the film's release, however it is non-canonical.
Conan the Destroyer
In 1984 a sequel to Conan the Barbarian, was released titled Conan the Destroyer (also adapted as a Marvel comic). Lighter in tone than the first film, it was more high fantasy than sword-and-sorcery. In the film, Conan teams up with a motley band of adventurers to escort a princess on her quest. The script was based on a story by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway.
Thomas and Conway were so disappointed in the way the story was adapted, however, that along with artist Mike Docherty, they published their own version as a graphic novel entitled Conan: The Horn of Azoth with the character names changed. It too was non-canonical.
In 1985, the same production company produced Red Sonja with much of the same cast and crew. It was intended to be the second sequel to Conan the Barbarian, but it was eventually released by a different studio ( MGM), and the rights to the Conan character name were never secured so Conan, again portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, is referred to as 'Kalidor'.
Red Sonja was even more light in tone than Conan the Destroyer resembling the Saturday morning adventure serials of the 30s & 40s. The plot involved Red Sonja seeking revenge against Queen Gedren who slew her family and who plans to conquer or destroy the world. As with the previous two films, Marvel released a two-issue comic book adaptation (once again, non-canonical).
Conan the Barbarian (2011)
Another film adaptation of Conan released on August 19, 2011, titled Conan the Barbarian. The film follows no previously established chronology and is a completely new interpretation of the character. Jason Momoa starred in the role of Conan, with Rachel Nichols, Rose McGowan, Stephen Lang, Ron Perlman, and Bob Sapp rounding out the main cast. Marcus Nispel directs the film.
Conan on TV
In 1992 an animated TV series called Conan: The Adventurer aired in France. It was made up of 64 half-hour episodes, roughly patterned after the short-lived Marvel Conan series of the same name. It was followed by a second series called Conan and the Young Warriors.
A live-action TV series also entitled, Conan: The Adventurer, or sometimes simply Conan, aired in 1997-98. It starred Ralf Moeller as Conan. It ran for 22 one-hour episodes and appeared to be roughly patterned off the Schwarzenegger films.
Age of Conan
A massively multi-player online role-playing game (MMORPG) called Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures was released in 2008. Produced by Funcom, it is set in the later years of Conan's life during his reign as king of Aquilonia. Conan appears in the intro cutscene.
To promote the release of the game, Dark Horse produced a limited edition comic also entitled Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures.
Alternate chronologies & Howard pastiches
There have been a large number of additional stories both in prose and comic form some from Howard's own unfinished manuscripts, others completely invented by licensees. The legitimacy and order of these stories continue to be a matter of hot debate. In particular, writer L. Sprague DeCamp is largely responsible for collecting, contributing to, amending and editing Howard manuscripts and is often credited as a co-author.
This has resulted in what some consider an "impure" take on Howard's vision. For others it adds a richer more diverse and comprehensive Conan saga. As such these Howard pastiches can be viewed as an alternate chronology from the comics since many writers like Kurt Busiek have chosen to ignore not only the stories written by other licensees, but the DeCamp/Howard pastiches as well.
There have been several versions of Conan's enslavement. Some hold that as a child of about 9 snows he was enslaved and taken north to become a pit fighter. Many believe that these stories are apocryphal, however, as it would preclude Conan's presence at the siege of Venarium.
'Legions of the Dead' by Lin Carter & L. Sprague DeCamp offers an alternate version of how Conan and the Æsir (Gorm is also among the group, but as a skald, not a fighter) come to be enslaved by the Hyperboreans, and Conan's subsequent escape. In it, Conan follows a different Æsir jarl, named Njal, to rescue his daughter from Haloga Castle, a Hyperborean stronghold ruled by Vammatar. Since 'Legions of the Dead' was also an officially licensed property, it's difficult to say which one is actually canon.
It does however present a conflict with almost all accepted chronologies in that Gorm perishes in this story, but is shown alive in the story 'The Frost Giant's Daughter' which occurs later according to almost all the widely accepted chronologies. The only possibility here is that there were two warriors among the Æsir named 'Gorm'. "Legions of the Dead" was adapted in comic form by Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema in Savage Sword of Conan #39.
Most likely there will always be at least 2 separate "official" Conan chronologies - one in text form and one in comic form (and in the future, there may be a 3rd "official" film chronology).