Franchise: Conan the Barbarian aka: Conan Thebarbarian
"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 spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars - Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. 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 star of a gritty Heroic Fantasy series of stories set in the Hyborian Age, an age before modern history. Created in the 1930s for Weird Tales magazine, Conan of Cimmeria quickly became Robert E. Howard's (1906-1936) most famous and popular creation. When people think 'barbarian', they often picture Conan.Not at all influenced by the concept of the 'Noble Savage', Conan represented the ever-present danger posed to civilization by humanity's warlike nature (or vice versa). Howard's stories frequently relied on pulp formulas, much to Howard's chagrin. Howard would try to subvert these formulas wherever possible, especially where they required him to include a perfunctory sex scene. He took great delight in the publication of 'Beyond the Black River', precisely because it left out sex entirely.Conan is strong, courageous and - despite his string of casual romances - quite respectful of women. He is not an idiot, but neither is he of a scholastic disposition — he is mostly practical and naturally cunning, though through extensive experience he is also knowledgeable, able to speak, read and write a dozen languages, and even puzzle out ancient scripts in one story. He is a defining example of the type of barbarian who has the principles of a snake.It is possible to see him as a Marty Stu in the sense of being an idealised version of the author. Yet in Beyond the Black River, Howard included a character that was explicitly stated in one of his letters to be an Author Avatar, and - while brave and capable - he was shown to be inferior to Conan in many ways. Specifically, he was a very young man who looked up to Conan.Conan reflects Howard's preferences and prejudices; non-Hyborian (white) people are usually untrustworthy, foolish or villains. And snakes... Howard must have been scared of snakes - huge "loathsome serpents" turn up continually, although this could also have to do with his friendship with H.P. Lovecraft. The original Conan stories are actually a peripheral part of the Cthulhu Mythos.Two Conan movies were made in the eighties: the first, Conan the Barbarian (1982) put Nietzschean philosophy together with rubber snakes and an epic tale of revenge. While it wasn't very accurate to the original Howard stories, hewing more to Oliver Stone's ideas filtered through John Milius' direction regarding both plot and themes, it has become a Cult Classic on its own merits. Its awesome music, epic feel, and interesting plot helped launch Arnold Schwarzenegger's acting career. The second movie, Conan the Destroyer, took a more comical and lighthearted tone, wasn't as successful and got a critical negative reception. Plans for at least another movie fell through. There were rumors in the early 2000s, and again in 2014, about plans for Schwarzenegger to reprise the role in 'The Legend of Conan', a movie set during Conan's later years as king of Aquilonia, but its release has been delayed. It will center around an aging Conan who seeks one last adventure before he dies (the film's producer is describing it as "Conan's Unforgiven").In the meantime, a Continuity Reboot Conan movie, again titled Conan the Barbarian was released in August 2011. It was generally acknowledged as being more true to the original tales as Howard told them.There has also been anMMORPG, notable for being unusually bloody for the genre, and several other adaptations in various media. A British game company named Mongoose Publishing, creators of, among other things, Infernum and two successive Judge DreddRole Playing Games, created a Conan role-playing-game using the D20 ruleset.Not to be confused with Conan O'Brien. Also not to be confused with Detective Conan or Future Boy Conan.
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The Conan literature
Robert E. Howard
From 1932-1936, Robert E. Howard completed one novel and 20 shorter stories about Conan. Some of these were first published posthumously. In order of writing, these are:
"The Frost-Giant's Daughter" (a.k.a. Gods of the North) Written in 1932, but not published. A version modified by Howard appeared in March, 1934. A version modified by L. Sprague de Camp appeared in 1953. The original version was first published in 1976.
"The God in the Bowl". Written in 1932 or 1933, but not published. A version edited by L. Sprague de Camp was first published in September, 1952. The original version was first published in 1975.
"The Black Stranger" (a.k.a. "The Treasure of Tranicos"). There are 3 versions of this story. Two by Howard, and one by L. Sprague de Camp. The original version was written in 1934 or 1935, first published in 1987. The second version by Howard was written c. 1936, and was first published in 1976. The de Camp version was first published in 1953, and further modified in 1967.
Over the decades, many other authors have written official fanfics - or more formally, pastiches - of Conan. There are more Conan stories by other writers combined than Howard himself ever wrote.Their ranks include Robert Jordan and Harry Turtledove, but the most significant of them was the showrunner-of-sorts back in the day, L. Sprague de Camp (1907-2000). He wrote several pastiches with the frequent collaboration of another author, Lin Carter (1930-1988). Both were prolific fantasy and SF authors in their own right, but they are perhaps most associated with Conan today.Besides writing pastiches, De Camp edited Howard's stories, which often meant retooling the text altogether. De Camp and/or Carter also produced full versions of stories Howard left unfinished, and reworked some of Howard's unrelated fiction to make them Conan tales. The De Camp-supervised books featured pastiche stories together with Howard's edited originals until finally they ran out of the latter, in which case the books became complete pastiches.The Conan books published by Lancer Books and Ace Books from 1966-1977 are among those supervised by De Camp, and they are perhaps most famous for their cover art by Frank Frazetta.For years, the pastiches and modified versions of Howard's stories were all considered Canon while the unedited originals were allowed to fall out of print. Nowadays however, Howard's unedited stories are available on the market again (and provided they're in public domain, the Internet), while the pastiches and modified texts are mostly out of print. In the late 1970s, Karl Edward Wagner edited a collection of Conan stories exactly as they had been published in Weird Tales; Ballantine/Del Rey began publishing a complete collection of unedited, uncensored Conan (which is still in print, in three volumes) in 2002.Though the dozens of pastiches are of varying quality, they are not without merit. Some readers of today assign these stories Expanded Universe status, some ignore them altogether, some accept them all as part on one big canon, and some accept just the stuff they like. The status of Lin Carter and L. Sprague De Camp's works can also be considered a secondaryCanon of sorts, due to de Camp's decades-long control of the franchise and efforts to "reconcile" the original works. Not to mention the sheer preponderance of in-universe works written posthumous to Howard's Shorter Than They Think series.
Novels and short stories by other authors
"Conan of the Isles" (1968) by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. Novel, chronologically the last Conan tale. Conan is about 65 years old when abdicating the throne of Aquilonia and heading to the Western Ocean for one last adventure.
"Black Sphinx of Nebthu" (July, 1973) by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. Sequel to "The Witch of the Mists".
"Conan and the Amazon" (April, 1995) by John Maddox Roberts. Novel. Conan and an Amazon are in search of the lost city of Jangar, which was the battleground between sorcerers and gods. But the current incarnation of the city is a perilous place and there were reasons for its isolation.
"Conan and the Death Lord of Thanza" (January, 1997) by Roland Green. Novel. Conan joins a force of rangers, active in the mountainous borders between Aquilonia and Nemedia. Their mission is to face the groups of bandits active in the area. A seemingly simple mission. Until a local bandit leader seeks a magical artifact which grants power over death.
"Conan and the Emerald Lotus" (November, 1995) by John C. Hocking. Novel. A sorcerer has gotten two of his rival magic users addicted to a drug. It amplifies their powers when used, but has nasty withdrawal symptoms. He then cut off their supply, waiting for results. The two afflicted magic users intend to use Conan as a pawn to get them their drug. He has no choice on the matter as their spells threaten his own life.
"Conan and the Gods of the Mountain" (May, 1993) by Roland Green. Sequel to "Red Nails". Conan and Valeria continue wandering the Black Kingdoms (Africa), stumbling on a conflict between the Speakers of Spirits and the God-Men.
"Conan and the Grim Grey God" (November, 1996) by Sean A. Moore. Novel. Conan is searching for the statue of an ancient deity, reputed to be priceless. But there are others searching for the statue, since another version of its tales speaks of its great power. The power to end the reign of light and begin the rule of darkness.
"Conan and the Manhunters" (October, 1994) by John Maddox Roberts. Novel. Conan is leading bandits in the deserts between Shem and Turan. He has the idea to steal a valuable treasure from a temple of Ahriman. Consequently he and his group have the Cult of the deity and a group of extraordinary manhunters following their trail.
"Conan and the Mists of Doom" (August, 1995) by Roland Green. Novel, follows shortly after "The People Of The Black Circle". Conan has left Afghulistan with a number of tribesmen loyal to him. He intends to lead them to Koth. But in the Kezankian Mountains, the Mist of Doom drains travelers of their lifeforce. Conan's group has to join with other groups to ensure their survival.
"Conan and the Shaman's Curse" (January, 1996) by Sean A. Moore. Novel. The opening scene has Conan on a battlefield, the last survivor of both groups of opponents. A dying shaman uses his last breath to curse him. Soon Conan realizes the effects of the curse. He has become a Werebeast, subject to periodic transformations.
"Conan and the Sorcerer" (October, 1978) by Andrew J. Offutt. Novel, features intrigues in Zamora and Zamboula.
"Conan and the Spider God" (December, 1980) by L. Sprague de Camp. Novel, features Conan facing the priests of Yezud, a city which worships a Spider God. Conan spoke about having been to Yezud and seen the spider god's temple dancers in People of the Black Circle.
"Conan and the Treasure of Python" (November, 1993) by John Maddox Roberts. Novel, partly based on "King Solomon's Mines" (1885) by H. Rider Haggard. Conan is hired to return to Darkest Africa, where he had spend several years of his life, and lead an expedition through the wilderness. They are supposedly looking for the missing brother of his employer. But more accurately searching for the treasure that both brothers had been seeking.
"Conan at the Demon's Gate" (November, 1994) by Roland Green. Novel. Set in the period that Conan is the chief of the Bamulas, an African tribe. Serves as a prequel to "The Vale of Lost Women". A Cool Gate transports Conan and his tribesmen to the Pictish Winderland. And the locals are not welcoming.
"Conan of the Red Brotherhood" (February, 1993) by Leonard Carpenter. Novel. Sequel to "Shadows in the Moonlight". Covers the period of Conan serving the Red Brotherhood, pirates of Vilayet Sea, and having Turan and its rulers as enemies.
"Conan of Venarium" (July, 2003) by Harry Turtledove. Novel. Depicts events mentioned in passing during "Beyond the Black River", but never depicted in detail. Aquilonia attempts to colonize areas of Cimmeria, building the fortress of Venarium to control the area. The Cimmerians eventually storm the fortress and drive the invaders away. A very young Conan, barely a teenager, participates in his first battle.
"Conan the Barbarian" (July, 2011) by Michael A. Stackpole. Novelization of the film.
"Conan the Barbarian" (May, 1982) by L. Sprague de Camp, Lin Carter, and Catherine Crook de Camp. Novelization of the film. First credited collaboration for Catherine, though she is thought likely to have co-written, revised or otherwise contributed to several previous novels.
"Conan the Bold" (April, 1989) by John Maddox Roberts. Novel. A youthful Conan is contemplating marriage when his would-be-bride is slaughtered with most of her family. Conan swears vengeance. He follows the trail of the one responsible across several countries over a period of years.
"Conan the Buccaneer" (1971) by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. Novel, featuring political intrigues over the throne of Zingara.
"Conan the Champion" (April, 1987) by John Maddox Roberts. Novel. Conan's career as a pirate of the Vilayet Sea ends in a shipwreck. His attempt to find mercenary work results in Conan being at the center of a three-way war between city-states.
"Conan the Defender" (December, 1982) by Robert Jordan. Novel, features unrest and political conspiracies within Nemedia.
"Conan the Defiant" (October, 1987) by Steve Perry. Novel. Conan's seeks vengeance against a Necromancer. But will have to face an army of Animate Dead to get to his opponent.
"Conan the Destroyer" (July, 1984) by Robert Jordan. Novelization of the film.
"Conan the Fearless" (February, 1986) by Steve Perry. Novel. A young girl with Elemental Powers is being targeted by more experienced magic users. Conan becomes her reluctant protector. A secondary antagonist is a nymphomaniac witch who needs Conan's heart to power up a Sexbot
"Conan the Formidable" (November, 1990) by Steve Perry. Novel, features a youthful Conan entering Zamora for the first time. But instead of reaching civilization, Conan becomes the unwilling "guest" of a race of giants. And he gets his introduction to the Vargs, a race of Green Dwarves who feast on other humanoids, and to the members of a freak show seeking new recruits.
"Conan the Free Lance" (February, 1990) by Steve Perry. Novel. Having recently parted with his traveling companions, Conan spends some time with the Tree Folk. That is a forest tribe living on top of the trees. His visit coincides by an attack on the tribe by the forces of a sorcerer, who needs the Tree Folk's Sacred Seed to ensure his own survival. Without the Seed the tribe and its forest face extinction. conan volunteers to help retrieve the Seed.
"Conan the Gladiator" (January, 1995) by Leonard Carpenter. Novel. Conan has joined a traveling circus as their strongman, crossing various countries. But their idea to perform in Stygia results in their introduction to Gladiator Games... as unwilling participants.
"Conan the Great" (April, 1990) by Leonard Carpenter. Novel. Conan, King of Aquilonia defeats an invasion by the combined troops of Nemedia and Ophir. Among the prisoners of war is a court jester who gladly switches allegiance. What Conan doesn't know is that the jester is the representative of a god, aiming to unite Hyboria under a single ruler. And Conan has unwittingly volunteered for the position. Meanwhile Koth has just entered a new expansion phase.
"Conan the Guardian" (January, 1991) by Roland Green. Novel. Conan serves as the bodyguard of a young Argosian noblewoman. His role gives him insight into a culture dominated by wealthy merchants. And to the ruthlessness and deadly intrigues underlying the civilized veneer.
"Conan the Hero" (February, 1989). Novel, serves as a sequel to "The City of Skulls". Conan and Juma still serve in the army of Turan. But their emperor is about to be betrayed by his foreign allies and members of his own court.
"Conan the Hunter" (January, 1994) by Sean A. Moore. Novel. Conan buys a bracelet as a gift to a girlfriend. But the bracelet belonged to a recently-murdered princess and was apparently stolen from her corpse. His possession of it makes him a suspect in the high-profile murder case. Someone set him up. Conan seeks to find answers and clear his name, while facing complex conspiracies.
"Conan the Indomitable" (October, 1989) by Steve Perry. Novel, a sequel to "Conan the Defiant". Conan, his lover Elashi, and a number of new companions are trapped Beneath the Earth. In an underground realm ruled by a sorcerer and a sorceress in constant battle with each other. The various sentient races serving them are on the verge of a rebellion. The humans are soon caught up in a bizarre conflict.
"Conan the Invincible" (June, 1982) by Robert Jordan. Novel, features Conan's encounters with a bandit queen.
"Conan the Liberator" (February, 1979) by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. Novel, features Conan leading the rebellion against the King of Aquilonia. Events which lead him to the throne.
"Conan the Magnificent" (May, 1984) by Robert Jordan. Novel, features Conan as a thief in Shadizar. Having recently been outperformed by a female thief, Conan decides to track her down and beat her in her own game. But both thieves are unwittingly following a perilous expedition into the wilderness.
"Conan the Marauder" (January, 1988) by John Maddox Roberts. Novel. A Hyrkanian warlord attempts to unite all the tribes and create an Empire. A Turanian sorcerer attempts to place this army under his own control. Conan is caught up in the resulting conflicts.
"Conan the Mercenary" (January, 1981) by Andrew J. Offutt. Novel, covers a missing period between "Conan and the Sorcerer" and "The Sword of Skelos".
"Conan the Outcast" (April, 1991) by Leonard Carpenter. Novel. Takes place within the city-states of eastern Shem, a desert area. The city of Sark is in decline, consequence of a prolonged drought. A priest convinces its monarchs that a sacrifice to his god could reverse the situation. But not just any sacrifice, but that of another city-state and every life within it. Said city is Qjara, a vibrant city which serves as part of a significant trade route. Currently living in Qjara is Conan, stranded there for months while waiting for a caravan to Zamora.
"Conan the Raider" (October, 1986) by Leonard Carpenter. Novel. Conan joins a tomb-robbing expedition in Stygia. A subplot involving a precious gem has the story serving as a sequel to "Shadows in Zamboula" and a prequel to "The Star of Khorala".
"Conan the Rebel" (July, 1980) by Poul Anderson. Novel, features Conan and Belit involved in a Stygian provincial rebellion.
"Conan the Relentless" (April, 1992) by Roland Green. Novel. Conan attempts to cross the Border Kingdoms, heading for other areas as usual. But he soon ends up in a war zone, with the Kingdoms no longer the relatively peaceful area of his experience. When he recognizes Raihna (an old ally from "Conan the Relentless") among the combatants, Conan starts getting interested in his surroundings.
"Conan the Renegade" (April, 1986) by Leonard Carpenter. Novel. Features mercenary adventures in the borders of Koth and Khoraja. Serves as a sequel to "Black Colossus" and "Shadows in the Dark".
"Conan the Rogue" (November, 1991) by John Maddox Roberts. Novel, partly based on Red Harvest (1929) and The Maltese Falcon (1930), both by Dashiell Hammett. Conan has just ended a stint as a mercenary to the army of Nemedia. He has already lost his entire pay and most of his equipment gambling. So he gladly accepts a new job offer, searching for a mysterious and valuable item. Said job leads him to Sicas, an Aquilonian city increasingly dominated by organized crime. A Mob War between the five main gangs, and several minor factions, is ongoing. Deciding that this city of rogues is his kind of place, Conan soon uses the conflict to his own advantage. Meanwhile several parties in the War are also after the MacGuffin.
"Conan the Savage" (November, 1992) by Leonard Carpenter. Novel. Conan has recently escaped from the mines of Brythunia, where he spent a period as a convict. He has retreated to the wilderness and joined a fairly isolated tribe. He is Going Native. But Brythunian armies destroy the tribe and its village. Conan seeks vengeance against the Brythunian ruler. Who is actually a victim of Demonic Possession.
"Conan the Triumphant" (October, 1983) by Robert Jordan. Novel, features Conan leading a group of freelance mercenaries within Ophir, a country about to enter a civil war.
"Conan the Unconquered" (April, 1983) by Robert Jordan. Novel, features the activities of a necromantic cult in Turan and Hyrkania.
"Conan the Valiant" (October, 1988) by Robert Green. Novel. Conan serves as an officer of the Turanian Army. When the secret service arranges for him to join a sorceress in a mission. They are to take out a sorcerer whose plans threaten Turan and its empire.
"Conan the Valorous" (September, 1985) by John Maddox Roberts. Novel. Conan is hired by a Stygian Sorceress to transport certain items to the sacred mountain of Crom in Cimmeria. The relatively "simple" mission turns up to be part of a conflict between sorcerers.
"Conan the Victorious" (November, 1984) by Robert Jordan. Novel. Conan flees Turan after becoming the main suspect in a high-profile murder investigation. He also suffers from poisoning and enters Vendhya in search for a cure. He instead finds himself involved in complex political intrigues.
"Conan the Warlord" (March, 1988) by Leonard Carpenter. Novel. Conan finds himself trapped within a Nemedian prison. He is offered freedom in exchange for a job. Becoming the political decoy to a Nemedian noble who resembles him in appearance. But there are multiples threats surround himself and his employers. Who have some secrets of their own.
"Conan, Lord of the Black River" (April, 1996) by Leonard Carpenter. Novel. To face an undead sorceress, Conan has to experience a journey to the underworld. His chance to return among the living depends on victory over the nightmares of the realm.
"Conan, Scourge of the Bloody Coast" (April, 1994) by Leonard Carpenter. Novel, sequel to "Conan of the Red Brotherhood". Conan is still leading the Red Brotherhood in ravaging the coasts of the Vilayet Sea. He is trying to instigate conflict between the two powers of the region, Turan and Hyrkania, to weaken them. But a magic user seeks to undermine all three naval powers.
"Hawks Over Shem", also known as "Hawks Over Egypt". Novella written by L. Sprague de Camp, first published in October, 1955. Based on an Diego de Guzman tale by Robert E. Howard. The original story was set in 1021 Cairo. The antagonist was the Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, a Fatimid Caliph (reigned 996-1021) who reputedly went insane.
"Legions of the Dead" (August, 1978) by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. There are arguments that Catherine Crook de Camp was an uncredited co-writer in this tale.
"Moon of Blood" (August, 1978) by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. A sequel to "Beyond the Black River".
"Red Moon of Zembabwei" (July, 1974) by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. Sequel to "The Witch of the Mists, and the "Black Sphinx of Nebthu".
"Shadows in the Dark" (August, 1978) by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. A sequel to the "Black Colossus".
"Shadows in the Skull" (February, 1975) by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. Sequel and conclusion to the storyline of "The Witch of the Mists, the "Black Sphinx of Nebthu", and the "Red Moon of Zembabwei".
"The Blood-Stained God", also known as "The Curse of the Crimson God". Novella written by L. Sprague de Camp, first published in 1955. Based on a Kirby O'Donnell tale by Robert E. Howard. The original story was set in 1930s Afghanistan.
"The Castle of Terror" (1969) by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter.
"The City of Skulls" (1967) by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter.
"The Curse of the Monolith" (1968) by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter.
"The Flame Knife", also known as "Three-Bladed Doom". Novella written by L. Sprague de Camp, first published in 1955. Based on an El Borak tale by Robert E. Howard. The original story was set in 1930s Afghanistan.
"The Gem in the Tower" (August, 1978) by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. Based on "Black Moonlight" (November, 1976), a Thongor Tale by Lin Carter.
"The Ivory Goddess" (August, 1978) by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. Sequel to "Jewels of Gwahlur". There are arguments that Catherine Crook de Camp was an uncredited co-writer in this tale.
"The Lair of the Ice Worm" (1969) by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter.
"The People of the Summit" (December, 1970) by Björn Nyberg. Revised by L. Sprague de Camp in 1978.
"The Return of Conan" (1957). Novel mainly written by Björn Nyberg, edited and slightly revised by L. Sprague de Camp.
"The Road of Kings" (October, 1979) by Karl Edward Wagner. Novel, features intrigues over the throne of Zingara.
"The Road of the Eagles", also known as "Conan, Man of Destiny". Novella written by L. Sprague de Camp, first published in December, 1955. Based on an Ivan Sablianka tale by Robert E. Howard. The original story was set in 1595 Caucasus, with Cossacks active in the border areas of the Ottoman Empire.
"The Star of Khorala" (August, 1978) by Björn Nyberg and L. Sprague de Camp. A sequel to the "Shadows in Zamboula". Also serves as an origin tale to a supporting character from the "The Hour of the Dragon".
"The Sword of Skelos" (May, 1979) by Andrew J. Offutt. Novel, sequel to "Conan and the Sorcerer".
"The Thing in the Crypt" (1967) by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter.
"The Witch of the Mists" (August, 1972) by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter.
Age of Conan, Hyborian Adventures novels
Novels which take place in the familiar Hyborian Age but do not actually feature Conan himself as a major character. His activities as King of Aquilonia are mentioned however.
"A Soldier's Quest" trilogy
"The God in the Moon" (July, 2006) by Richard A. Knaak.
"The Eye of Charon" (September, 2006) by Richard A. Knaak.
"The Silent Enemy" (November, 2006) by Richard A. Knaak.
"Anok, Heretic of Stygia" trilogy
"Scion of the Serpent" (September, 2005) by J. Steven York.
"Heretic of Set" (October, 2005) by J. Steven York.
"Venom of Luxur" (November, 2005) by J. Steven York. Also known "Venom of Luxor". The city of the title is typically spelled "Luxor" in Conan stories, but not in the cover of the first edition.
"Legends of Kern" trilogy
"Blood of Wolves" (May, 2005) by Loren L. Coleman.
"Cimmerian Rage" (June, 2005) by Loren L. Coleman.
"Songs of Victory" (July, 2005) by Loren L. Coleman.
"Ghost of the Wall" (January, 2006) by Jeff Mariotte.
"Winds of the Wild Sea" (March, 2006) by Jeff Mariotte.
"Dawn of the Ice Bear" (May, 2006) by Jeff Mariotte.
The character has had a long history in comics over the decades. At first handled by Marvel Comics, the license has since been acquired by Dark Horse Comics. The Dark Horse series is the most faithful of all adaptations to date and is endorsed by the Robert E. Howard Foundation. It started out with Kurt Busiek on script and Cary Nord on pencils. It's currently written by Timothy Truman and drawn by Tomas Giorello.Just as some of Howard's non-Conan stories were reworked for inclusion in the Conan books, the character of Red Sonja was created for Marvel loosely based on two of Howard's other characters from his historical fiction - Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes, both Action Girls from the 16th century.
Film and television
The films Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Conan the Destroyer (1984). Both had Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan, and Mako Iwamatsu as Akiro, his KWONICLER. The first film also had James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom, and Sandahl Bergman as Valeria. It was co-written by John Milius and Oliver Stone, directed by Milius alone. The second film had Grace Jones as Zula, Olivia d'Abo as Jehnna, Sarah Douglas as Taramis, Pat Roach as Toth-Amon, Wilt Chamberlain (yes, thatWilt Chamberlain) as Bombaata, and an uncredited André the Giant as the monster Dagoth. It was written by Stanley Mann, and directed by Richard Fleischer.
Conan The Adventurer (1992-1993) was an animated cartoon based on elements from the various Conan stories, but it was so very much Lighter and Softer. It takes only a few elements from the original. Decent on its own terms, despite the "kiddification" (e.g. a talking phoenix that lived in Conan's shield and was obsessed with pomegranates). Run for 65 episodes.
Conan and the Young Warriors (1994). Continuation of the above. This had Conan leading kids around. Having defeated his enemies, Conan was contemplating retirement. Fate, in the form of Epimetrius the Sage, has other plans and the Cimmerian becomes mentor to The Chosen Ones, three siblings with magical powers who are destined to rule the Hyborian world. All three are blonde, and blue-eyed. Draegen, the eldest boy, summons an Instant Armor with magical qualities. He has also been trained to Whip It Good in battle. Brynne, middle child and only girl, is a Master of Illusion. She has also had training as a thief and Archer. Navah, the youngest boy, is a The Beastmaster of the group. He has had training as a slinger. This show was never particularly successful. A total of 13 episodes were released.
Conan The Adventurer (1997-1998) was a live-action Conan series starring Ralf Moeller. It was one of many failed attempts to match the success of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. It makes superficial use of Conan's name and elements from the movies and animated series, as well as Robert Jordan's Conan novels, but otherwise was Howard's character in name only. A total of 22 episodes were released.
The film Conan the Barbarian (2011) (2011) was Continuity Reboot, starrs Jason Momoa as Conan. It featured Rachel Nichols as Tamara , Stephen Lang as the villain Khalar Zym, Rose McGowan as witch Marique, and Ron Perlman as Corin, Conan's father. The script was written by Thomas Dean Donnelly, Sean Hood, and Joshua Oppenheimer. Directed by Marcus Nispel.
The Legend of Conan, which is a sequel to the 1982 film, is set for a Summer 2014 release and will feature the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Absurdly Sharp Blade: Conan's swords can cut through nearly anything. Hardly a fight scene goes by that doesn't have the Cimmerian casually hewing off limbs and heads, plunging a sword through chainmail like wet paper or rotten fruit or some other metaphor for softness, and occasionally bisecting still-helmeted skulls and whole torsos. In "The People Of The Black Circle," he chops through a door with his sword. And yet it's still always described as "razor-sharp".
It's worth noting here the awesome physical power that Conan was able to put behind his sword work.
The story "The Thing in the Crypt" (which inspired a similar scene in the movie) has Conan finding a sword in a ancient tomb, before having to use it to fight the titular "thing". It may or may not explain the absurd sharpness.
Not really, the sword was specifically mentioned to be an early iron sword from some unknown chieftain and while it was very good quality for its time period, it was slightly pitted and a little bit rusty. Main thing is that it was tough and lasted for a few adventures before he found other weapons (the Conan stories were never about a Cool Sword and it was rare for Conan to hold on to the same weapon in an adventure, let alone finding an enchanted one).
Adaptation Distillation: The Dark Horse comic book series and the first Conan film. The quality of their distillations is debated, to say the least.
To the extent that the first film captured the "Frank Frazetta feel", and had assorted story elements from both Howard and pastiche, it was an Adaptation Distillation; but its plot and themes are incompatible at worst with Howard's Conan. Of course, one may enjoy it on its own, regardless of the source material.
The second film tends to grab names and jam them onto people, places, and things unrelated to the canon, and doesn't even make sense internally on some story points.
The 2011 film manages to feel the most like Howard's original story, right down to the pulpy feel and escapist action. It helps that they made sure to write around established stories and events from the Howard canon instead of just rewriting Conan's life to fit their movie plot like the '82 film.
Adaptation Dye-Job: Schwarzenegger, Ralf Moeller, and Jason Momoa have dark brown hair instead of plain black.
She gets repeatedly mentioned in the second film. Prior to that, you could be forgiven for thinking she's supposed to be Belit, who did some of the same things in the books. She appears to be, if anything from the books at all, a pastiche of the two.
All Myths Are True: The gods of the Hyborian Age go on to be the gods (or demons) of later cultures. The Cimmerian deities Crom, Lir, Babd, Macha and Nemain are all Celtic deities, Mitra god of the Hyborians becomes the Persian Mithra (some art represent him as Jesus), the Shemite Ishtar becomes the Babylonian Ishtar and Set seems to have characteristics of both the Egyptian Set and Apep, just to name a few. Perhaps best exemplified in the twin Nordheimir tribes Conan encounters in "The Frost Giant's Daughter." They're called the Aesir and the Vanir, and they worship Ymir, the Frost Giant. The implication is that they themselves will be worshipped as the Norse pantheon further down the line.
Always Chaotic Evil: Howard wrote in broad strokes, depicting entire civilizations in shorthand, and some of the cultures Conan brushes up against are painted with a uniformly dark brush. Stygians are always conniving, knowledgeable and ruthless: Zamorans are always self-serving and treacherous: Picts are always savages who yearn to crush civilization. The Acheronian civilization is long-dead, but everything we learn about them indicates that they were monstrous.
Conan himself is a bit more understanding about 'evil' people than his author - he comments sympathetically that the Picts are killing people and committing atrocities because 'civilization' is slowly but surely invading their land, and in another story he rewards a poor Stygian fisherman richly for assisting him. He chooses his enemies based on their personal offenses, not their background. But the tendency for so many of his enemies to have the same few nationalities over and over is quite apparent.
Ambiguous Time Period: According to Howard's timeline, the stories take place sometime between 20,000 B.C. and 9500 B.C. An unknown apocalypse has shifted the European and African coastlines since that time, so the earlier end of the scale is less implausible.
"He said I was but an earthly sprite, knowing naught of the deeper gulfs of cosmic sorcery. Well, this world contains all I desire — power, and pomp, and glittering pageantry, handsome men and soft women for my paramours and my slaves.
In "The Hour of the Dragon" and "The Phoenix on the Sword," more than one conspirator wanted the throne. (At least two wanted the same throne, that of Aquilonia, which gets awkward.)
Ancient Africa: Kush, Keshan, Darfar, Punt, Zembabwei, Atlaia, Amazon and the other "Black Kingdoms" to the south of Stygia where Conan managed to lead a tribe for a few months. Implied, though not shown, in the second movie featuring Grace Jones as a psychotic tribeswoman (as one of the heroes).
Ancient Astronauts: The Tower of the Elephant features one that crash-landed on Earth long before and was captured by sorcery.
And the Adventure Continues: The end of ''Conan of the Islands:" more than 60 years old, he entrusts his kingdom to his son, takes a crew of volunteers, and sails beyond the western ocean in search of Mayapan (America).
Animated Armor - Conan once fought one of these guys, realising he was screwed as even though he could chop the arm and the head of the armor off, the thing could still attack. Thankfully the Wench of the Week shone some light onto the priest controlling it, following which it collapsed like a sack of potatoes.
At worst, he's a thief, a reaver, a slayer... and pretty much everything else you can think of where there's an opportunity for violence, wenches and loot. Including piracy, assassination, mercenary work... At best, he's archetype of a Chaotic Good hero. He never kills anyone who doesn't deserve it or isn't trying to kill him, keeps his word, and will fight without pay for somebody who engages his sympathies (beautiful women tend to find this easier than others). He even states this bluntly in "The Vale of Lost Women." But though he may pillage and burn, he will never rape anyone.
When he first seizes the Aquilonian throne, he figures it's the big payoff to his greatest adventure: he makes a few improvements to keep his promises to those who got him there, but doesn't really change. Phoenix in the Sword teaches him just what's at stake, and the threats it revealed encourage him to become a better and more responsible king. By the time of Hour of the Dragon, he is aghast at the thought of what his foes will do to his kingdom, and resists the temptation to return to adventure because he needs to save his kingdom: he's become The Hero or something close to it.
In "The People of the Black Circle," Conan laughs at Yasmina's offer of reward.
"Would you make me your king?" he asked sardonically. "Well, there are customs —" she stammered, and he interrupted her with a hard laugh. "Yes, civilized customs that won't let you do as you wish. You'll marry some withered old king of the plains, and I can go my way with only the memory of a few kisses snatched from your lips. Ha!"
In "Shadows in the Moonlight" Olivia was Made a Slave for refusing this.
Artifact of Doom - In The Hour of the Dragon, the Heart of Ahriman. One of the evil conspirators even tries to deprive the Evil Sorceror of it because it threatens... everything.
Ascended Extra: Thoth-Amon becomes the arch-enemy of Conan in pastiches and comic adaptations, though they never even meet in the original stories and the one time he puts Conan in danger, he does so unintentionally. The movie version of Thulsa Doom is more like him than the original Thulsa Doom, who was a Kull villain (and looked like Skeletor before Skeletor existed). An Expy of him named Wrath-Amon was in the first cartoon.
In "The Phoenix on the Sword," Conan does not even fight a defensive battle when outnumbered twenty-to-one.
He was no defensive fighter; even in the teeth of overwhelming odds he always carried the war to the enemy.
In "The Slithering Shadow", the forces of Xuthal nearly overcame him though they aren't good fighters because of this and their numbers.
Attempted Rape: In "Red Nails" Olmec tries this on Valeria. The rescue is even worse.
The Frost-Giant's Daughter is one of the rare examples of Conan himself being the aggressor. The lady in question was Atali, daughter of the Frost Giant Ymir, who appeared to the wounded and dying to taunt them and lure them to their deaths at the hands of her giant brothers.
Of course, this was only the second Conan story, and Atali is a supernatural entity whose beauty causes men to go insane with lust. It could be said that Conan wasn't really himself (on multiple levels) at that time.
Author Avatar: Howard made one appearance in a story. Was he an unstoppable killing machine? No. Was he a hero to rival Conan? No. He was Balthus, a very young man who looked up to Conan as a sort of mentor, killed along with the self-insert of his dog, Patches, by Picts in "Beyond the Black River". He was still pretty awesome in his own way though. Enough that Conan swore to personally avenge him (and his dog, "a better fighter than many a man"). It seems that Howard wrote it this way because Conan had become so superhuman that it was hard to identify with him.
An Axe to Grind: While Conan generally uses swords as his weapon of choice, he has used the battleaxe from time to time in Howard's stories, such as in the first Conan story, "The Phoenix on the Sword," which has King Conan taking one to the assassins trying to kill him in his bedchamber after breaking his sword. King Kull, another Howard creation, famously used the axe, with his catchphrase being "With This Axe I Rule!"
Back from the Dead: In the Savage Sword of Conan comics, Boraq D' Sharaq did this so often that Conan remarked during his later appearances that the former pirate had more lives than a cat. He even returned to life after being turned into a glass statue.
"Did you deem yourself strong, because you were able to twist the heads off civilized folk, poor weaklings with muscles like rotten string? Hell! Break the neck of a wild Cimmerian bull before you call yourself strong. I did that, before I was a full-grown man — like this!"
Big Bad: Because opposing Conan was usually a lethal career choice, the original stories had lots of villains but very few who appeared in more than one. However, later adaptations tended to supply one - if only to ensure that they'd be able to sell further materials.
Thoth-Amon is the most prominent, with Xaltotun and Yah Chieng briefly taking the scene for themselves. Maybe Set as well.
One of the few recurring (but offscreen) villains in the original mythos was Yezdigerd, king of Turan: Conan keeps accidentally interfering with the ambitious and ruthless young king's plans.
Bittersweet Ending: "Queen of the Black Coast" ends with Conan having overcome his enemies, but having lost perhaps his greatest love.
Black and Gray Morality: Very much so in the original stories. Lightened somewhat in the movies and later books. In the original stories, Conan was often little more than a thug of some manner (pirate, bandit, hired sword, whichever) who was going up against fiendishly evil sorcerers, mad kings, or mad-fiendishly-evil-sorceror-kings. He gets a much more sympathetic portrayal when he is king of Aquilonia - then his foes are scheming aristocrats or ambitious rival kings and Conan himself is the benevolent ruler defending his throne.
Alternative Character Interpretation: Conan repeatedly does the right thing at personal expense, such as saving the girl rather than the gems of Gwaihlur or giving two orphans enough money to lead a comfortable life. It gets to the point where Conan is, arguably, a barbarian version of The Cape.
Black Magic: Nearly all magic in the Conan universe is this, requiring some seriously nasty material components.
Blade on a Stick: Not Conan's usual favored weapon, but when the situation demanded it he could use a lance or spear.
Blood Bath: When the malicious King Numedides expressed a desire to become immortal, he enlisted the services of the Evil Sorcerer Thulandra Thuu, and together they sacrificed young women in order for Numedides to bathe in their blood.
Breakout Villain: Thoth-Amon the sorcerer appears exactly once in Howard's stories (though he's name-dropped in a few others), never meets Conan, and is at best a tangential antagonist in the story. In later adaptations, however, Thoth-Amon and his various Expies are usually the Big Bad.
Breast Plate: Red Sonja... and Conan! Sonja wears very little armour in her original comic book, whereas Conan averts this in the original stories (but not their illustrations) by wearing whatever suits the job or climate. In Sonja's movie, she wears a lot more armour, and Conan spends most of the first movie at least shirtless, and by the second movie he is both shirtless and pantsless almost all the time.
The canon as a whole could be considered Broad Strokes, given various attempts to reconcile it, with or without the pseudocanonical works.
Broke Episode: Often. Conan likes the good life, and when he actually has cash will spend money like water. One novel starts with Conan having gambled away almost literally everything he owns at dice. He ponders gambling with his sword (the only thing he has left besides the clothes on his back), then decides not to... after all, it's what he'll use to go out and get more money!
The Chains of Commanding: During The Phoenix on the Sword Conan feels this way, but by The Scarlet Citadel he carries those responsibilities gladly.
The Chosen One: In The Phoenix On The Sword Conan is visited by the spirit of the sage Epemitreus. During their conversation Epemitreus implies that Conan was destined to become the king of Aquilonia and save the world from the cult of Set.
Combat Pragmatist: While a 'stout broadsword' is his usual preference, Conan will use pretty much whatever else is at hand. This includes other weapons like axes,spears, daggers, bows and arrows (though he only learns archery after leaving Cimmeria), and improvised ones - like a stool in "Rogues in the House". He will also fight dirty, as when he gouges someone's eyes out in "The God in the Bowl".
Cool Ship: The Dragon-ships of Ptahuacan, Conan get one of them.
The Tigress from "Queen of the Black Coast" and the Marvel Comics set during that period of Conan's life.
Cool Sword: In the original stories by Howard, Conan didn't really have a signature sword (or indeed, any other signature weapon) unlike some other fictional characters, and weapons tended to be nondescript. (Conan had a bad habit of losing stuff, up to and including kingdoms.) More apparent in derivative works like the swords from the 1982 film (especially the Jody Samson-designed Atlantean and Father swords) and the "starmetal" sword from the cartoon.
The one time he gets a cool magic sword in the original tales, namely in The Phoenix on the Sword, it promptly breaks in combat, and he grabs an axe instead (the story was a rewrite of a King Kull one called By This Axe, I Rule!). Still, he uses the sword's hilt-shard to save the day.
Crystal Dragon Jesus: Inverted with Mitra. He's essentially the Judeo-Christian God under a different name. He bears very little similarity to the classical descriptions of Mithra. His followers are monolatristic and believe in Heaven and Hell and He is most at odds with Set, a God of Evil and slight Satan analogue.
Cthulhu Mythos: The Howard version is connected loosely to that mythos. But while Lovecraft's heroes tended to insist that 'this can't possibly be happening' right up until it happens in a very final sense, Conan tended to know when the situation could be resolved with swift violence and when it was time to get the hell out - as it was in "Pool of the Black One" and "Shadows in the Moonlight."
Cunning Linguist: Conan can speak several languages. In addition to Cimmerian, he also knows how to speak Aquilonian, Stygian, Zamoran, Kushite, Kothic, Nemedian, Vendhyan, Hyrkanian, and several more.
Distressed Damsel: Many. Flanderizations, however, have put a scantily-clad buxom maiden at Conan's feet being menaced by someone or something on every cover, bar none (but see below), regardless of story content. She could be an Action Girl in the story, she might be a background characters who never meets Conan face to face, but on the cover it's always Strictly Formula: 1.) Loincloth 2.) monster and/or ravening horde of savages, 3.) hot half-naked chick sprawled between Conan's legs looking terrified at #2.
This started in Howard's own lifetime: Margaret Brundage, the resident illustrator of Weird Tales, was particularly fond of depicting barely-clad women (hey, whoisn't?), especially being menaced by monsters or engaging in a little sadomasochism. note She often used her own daughters as models. Since Howard knew he could get paid extra for writing the cover story, he sought to exploit that predilection by inserting some cheesecake into the stories.
Note that many of the books' original covers did indeed have somewhat faithful renditions of Conan fighting enemies, to be replaced with the damsel in distress scene in reprints. The chance of a Damsel cover being the original cover is inversely proportional to how much skin she is showing. A prime example is the cover of Conan the Buccaneer, which originally had Conan, in mail pants and a horned helmet, losing his axe in a battle against overwhelming numbers, to be replaced with Conan striking a pose while a woman in a golden thong bikini looks scared, astride a giant snake. Possibly the latter is inspired by a Dungeons & Dragons supplement based on the book which has a halfway cover, where Conan is actually fighting the snake while a woman in a long blue dress lifts up her skirt to expose one leg. Best not to speculate if they're before and after scenes.
Flanderization averted with the Weird Tales cover for Red Nails, which although showing the normal S&M overtones with a side dish of F-F interplay, the scene depicted is a point-for-point accurate depiction of the action near the climax of the story. Whether the scene was written with a salacious cover in mind or not is subject to debate.
Driven to Suicide: Sometimes the love interest of the moment is seeking to avoid 'a fate worse than death' by dying.
Dropped a Bridge on Him: Zarono the Black, hands off. He's been depicted as a charming character and skilled warrior, a pirate whose skills rival those of Conan himself and even allies/work for Thoth-Amon himself. Then, in the second story he appears in (The Treasure of Tranicos), he gets unceremoniously killed by an anonymous Pict axeman while he's trying to get up and fight back.
Dumb Muscle: Some of the side characters, (like, say, anyone dumb enough to keep attacking him) but not Conan. See Flanderization. (even in The Movie he's somewhat articulate, he just doesn't say much).
Dungeon Punk: Machinery is not common in most Conan tales, but Nabonidus the Red 'Wizard' from "Rogues in the House" has constructed a fortified home full of pressure-plate traps, sliding walls and tubes/mirrors that mimic a surveillance system.
Evolutionary Levels: In Howard's essay The Hyborian Age evolution is fast and fluctuating. Several peoples "regress to apedom" and back to humanity, including the Cimmerians, Conan's people. When animal adversaries appear in these stories, ape-men are nearly as common as snakes.
Fanservice: It seems most of the women of the Hyborian Age were young, beautiful, and scantily clad: while Conan himself is untamed, dangerous but honorable, and of course a model of muscular perfection. This is undoubtedly Howard pandering to the audience (and illustrator), since he's shown himself perfectly capable of writing more realistic women.
Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Hyborian nations derive their names and cultures from many different points of history, so that Howard could place a consistent series character in different milieus whenever he wanted to tell a particular type of adventure. Hence how Conan could be in a pirate yarn one story, and a frontier tale the next. The Hyborian Age itself was born as a solution to Howard's love for historical fiction, but lack of time to properly research the settings - rather than worry about getting the details wrong, he simply created a fictional version of the setting with the Serial Numbers Filed Off.
Fantasy Pantheon: Most 'pantheons' aren't really made up so much as stolen from various historical pantheons (Crom being an exception). Derketo, Ibis, Hanuman, Ishtar, Asura and Ymir are all mentioned, but the two big names theologically are Mitra (the chief Aquilonian deity) and Set (the chief Aquilonian demon and head of the Stygians' pantheon).
Fate Worse than Death: While James Bond is more famous for it, Conan was left in a number of situations that the villain expected to finish him off horribly. Some stories have a minor character undergo such a fate at the beginning, to show how unpleasant it is.
Feathered Fiend: One appears in The Hour of the Dragon as the witch's familiar. Pelias can turn into one.
Finger in the Mail: In "Rogues in the House", Murilo is given a recognizable ear as a hint.
Flanderization : The original Conan is clever and surprisingly book-smart and almost always had something worthwhile to say. Despite this he has become the stereotypical "dumb barbarian" of pop culture. Consider the Queen of the Black Coast quote on the quotes page.
Functional Magic: Primarily Rules Magic, usually with the magician's power focused in a device of some kind like Thoth-amon's ring. Epimetrius may have used Theurgy in his battles with Set. Alchemy also plays a big role, especially powders and potions extracted from the many color-coded forms of the lotus. Regardless, it is almost always Black Magic, at least in the Howard stories. The movies have some benevolent magicians.
Giant Spider: A pig-sized one in Tower of the Elephant and a bull-sized one in Conan and the Spider God... along with her babies. And let's not forget the black jade beads in People of the Black Circle, worn by the priestesses of Yezud when they dance for the spider god. Yar Afzal picks up such a bead, then drops dead, and Conan later takes a few minutes to figure out what happened.
GIFT: A pre-internet musing on the principle comes up in "The Tower of the Elephant," where the narration muses that "Civilized men are more discourteous than savages, because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split."
A God Am I: Some of Conan's enemies had this as their motivation. One of them even actually succeeds in becoming an aspect of her goddess due to a magical artifact that's enhancing everyone's perceptions, without even intending to. Also implied to be Conan himself's fate at the end of the crossover with Thor in the pages of What If...?, where Conan is climbing Crom's mountain to either deliver Mjolnir or deliver a beatdown depending on how he felt when reaching the summit.
God of Evil: Set, even more so in works by other writers, most of all in the cartoon.
God Save Us from the Queen!: When the evil witch Salome steals the throne by assuming the identity of her twin sister in A Witch Shall Be Born, she quickly becomes the most cruel and sadistic tyrant imaginable. Some of her atrocities include raising taxes so high that rich and poor alike are starved, disbanding the royal guard and replacing them with cruel mercenaries who are given free reign to rape and brutalize, killing men of fighting age to prevent any possible rebellions, forcing women old and young to participate in degrading orgies, and feeding hundreds of innocent people to her pet monster.
Good Hair, Evil Hair: A bit of this by courtesy of some of the Villains Conan has to face in some of his adventures.
The Good King: Conan is one of these. He rules with the support of the outlying barons as well as the common people. During his reign he lowers taxes, institutes freedom of religion, and curbs the abuses of commoners by the nobility. When he is temporarily deposed in The Hour of the Dragon he is tempted to abandon his quest to reclaim his throne and return to the exciting life of a wandering adventurer, but he quickly decides that he can not leave his people in the hands of a tyrant. He sums up his reign in The Scarlet Citadel:
Conan: I found Aquilonia in the grip of a pig like you—one who traced his genealogy for a thousand years. The land was torn with the wars of the barons, and the people cried out under oppression and taxation. Today no Aquilonian noble dares maltreat the humblest of my subjects, and the taxes of the people are lighter than anywhere else in the world.
Half-Human Hybrid: Humans tainted by demonic, serpent, or worse ancestry appear - they're always wicked and rarely sane.
Hat of Power: The Cobra Crown from Conan the Buccaneer, which grants magic powers to its wearer.
Hidden Depths: It's really rare for Conan to pontificate, but that doesn't mean he cannot.
"Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is an illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and I am content."
The High Queen: In A Witch Shall Be Born, Queen Taramis is beloved by her people for being a kind, compassionate, and virtuous ruler.
Hulk Speak: In the books, Conan has a much bigger vocabulary than the average reader — much less the stereotypical barbarian. But in the films, some of the barbarian side-characters get this treatment.
"Sit — here. Sit HERE!"
Could be justified by a subtle translation convention going on. "Sit here!" may have been some of the only words of Cimmerian the man knew, and he was effectively talking to a child in the body of an adult. Most other conversations occur after Conan's education, when he might actually be expected to speak the more common languages.
I Gave My Word: One of the key elements of Conan's personality and one of the characteristics that makes him an antihero rather than a mere brute. He keeps his word, and anybody who doesn't keep their word to him will rue that day.
Informed Ability: Sorcerers like Xaltotun and Yah Chieng, who were powerful enough to wipe out armies with quakes and plagues fail to find a proper spell to deal with Conan himself and end up toasted.
In Harm's Way: Many times Conan will let himself in for all sorts of challenges and suffering out of a craving for adventure and/or bloodshed.
Invincible Hero: More so in the later books. Conan rarely loses. When he does, he comes back and wins or just leaves. Howard himself seemed to be aware that Conan's sheer impressiveness might hurt the dramatic tension, since in many tales he adds a secondary protagonist to function as the dramatic foil/romantic lead, then finds a clever way to scoot Conan out of the story for a time.
He also tends to prevail for polar reasons: if his opponent is a skilled fighter or a soldier or something, he wins thanks to his "wild spirit and upbringing". If he's confronted by strong savages or monsters he wins because of his skills.
Jerkass Gods: Set demands unquestioned obedience, willing self-sacrifice, snakes (and plenty of 'em), and in return offers not to kill you horribly. Crom is neither caring nor merciful toward his chosen people, the Cimmerians: he gave them strength, brains and courage and figures that's more than enough.
Leonine Contract: A slave taunts Conan with the prospect of one in "The Scarlet Citadel"
Lightning Bruiser: Conan is repeatedly described as very fast and agile despite his size, as in "Xuthal of the Dusk":
"He was never motionless or in the same place an instant; springing, side-stepping, whirling, twisting, he offered a constantly shifting target for their swords, while his own curved blade sang death about their ears."
Literary Agent Hypothesis: Not exactly; though Howard wrote in a 1936 letter to a friend, "I've always felt less as creating [the stories] than as if I were simply chronicling his adventures as he told them to me," he also wrote a disclaimer in "The Hyborian Age", published that same year: "[This article] is simply a fictional background for a series of fiction-stories."
Living Shadow: The nightmarish monster from Xuthal of the Dusk, Thog.
Loincloth: In many adaptations and a few of the original stories, although Howard more often has him dressing as appropriate to the culture and circumstances he finds himself in.
Loose Canon: According to L. Sprague de Camp, Conan's backstory in Conan the Barbarian (being a child slave and gladiator, etc.) is an alternative account of his early years, though of uncertain validity. Still, it's depicted with Broad Strokes (no Thulsa Doom or Riddle of Steel).
Lost in Imitation: Howard's Conan in the live-action TV series, which was influenced by the movies in several aspects. Conan is played by a German actor, is outfitted in loincloth and headband like Conan the Destroyer, and has a similar Wheel of Pain backstory and Atlantean sword. Still, the series was even further from the original stories than was Destroyer, with Conan becoming Crom's Chosen One fighting the Evil Empire.
Made a Slave: Plenty of instances in the original works, just not applying to Conan until the first movie.
Made of Iron: Conan often survives wounds that would kill a small army. The apotheosis of this is the crucifixion scene in "A Witch Shall Be Born".
He actually came really close to the very end in the story Xuthal of the Dusk after defeating Thog.
The Magic Goes Away: Pelias informed Conan that due in part to the Cimmerian's actions, the world is entering in a new age of reason and logic and without magic (implied to be the world as we know it today).
Magic is Evil: Mostly. Even Pelias in The Scarlet Citadel, while using his arts to Conan's benefit, managed to creep him out so badly that Conan felt no friendship for him afterward - a circumstance so odd that Conan muses on it. In Hour of the Dragon the priests of Asura and the witch woman Conan meets in the hills are at least neutral. The spirit of Epimetreus is the only absolutely clear example of white magic... although it can be inferred that the offscreen priest of Ibis in "The God in the Bowl" is a good guy. In the film the Wizard of the Mounds brings Conan back from the edge of death, but the process is all but stated to be a Deal with the Devil that costs Valeria her life.
Manly Tears: When finding his son Conn after he was kidnapped by a witch.
Master Swordsman: Played straight and subverted. Unlike in the Arnold films, the original Conan does not receive formal training in swordsmanship: he learns by experience as a child-soldier in Cimmeria. But he is able to defeat certified Master Swordsmen because he is a barbarian. Spelled out in the story "The Pool of the Black One":
"Zaporavo was the veteran of a thousand fights by sea and by land. There was no man in the world more deeply and thoroughly versed than he in the lore of swordcraft. But he had never been pitted against a blade wielded by thews bred in the wild lands beyond the borders of civilization. Against his fighting-craft was matched blinding speed and strength impossible to a civilized man. Conan's manner of fighting was unorthodox, but instinctive and natural as that of a timber wolf. The intricacies of the sword were as useless against his primitive fury as a human boxer's skill against the onslaughts of a panther."
Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Not sorcery itself, which is unquestionably magic - but some things happen that might be the work of gods, spirits or fate - or they may just be coincidences
The Men First: Chivalry is pretty universal - Conan has his own rough type and even a number of his enemies value their women over themselves. Exceptions tend to be vile, regarding women as playthings, food, or in Tsotha-lanti's particularly vile case, a source of human skins on which to write his spells.
Mighty Whitey: Played with. A few of the stories are about black people getting defeated by a quasi-Celtic white guy, who is pretty savage. He also recurrently fights against the Picts, described as having white skin but not considered white by their neighbors for being painted, cannibalistic savages. Many of his longer-term enemies were also Stygian (Egyptian equivalent), not least Thoth-Ammon, with more than a handful of clashes against white Hyboreans to even the scales. And the lily-white Vanir are the Cimmerians' worst blood enemy, whom they'd gladly cross a glacier to kill, though Conan eventually becomes more tolerant of a few of them.
Mistaken for Granite: In Conan the Buccaneer, the shrine of Tsathoggua the Toad God contains a stone statue of the god, watching over the treasure. If someone steals from the temple, the statue comes back to life (still remaining stone) and chases them.
Modest Royalty: Once he's king, Conan prefers a relatively simple crown and garments rather than the ostentatious displays that most kings prefer.
Mook Horror Show: Minions of evil forces tend to die a lot due to dissension between their bosses, opening Sealed Evil in a Can, or finding a certain black-haired warrior sneaking through their domain with panther-like tread.
Ninja: The followers of Louhi are Hyperboreans wearing form-fitting black suits, blank masks and wielding platinum-tipped sticks. Yeah, that's right, Finnish Ninjas.... Finnjas.
Noble Savage: Conan himself certainly fits the bill, although other uncivilized types like the Picts are portrayed as Always Chaotic Evil. Quite forcefully averted in the original stories, however. In Howard's own words, "I have no idyllic view of barbarism - as near as I can learn it's a grim, bloody, ferocious and loveless condition. I have no patience with the depiction of the barbarian of any race as a stately, god-like child of Nature, endowed with strange wisdom and speaking in measured and sonorous phrases." Conan is simply far too busy enjoying his life of bloody adventure to bother with such high-minded nonsense.
To put it more bluntly, Conan is a Noble Savage, but doesn't LIKE being one and spends most of his career as a mercenary, thief and warlord actively trying to get away from it... in fact, his backstory as a nature-attuned savage warrior is almost his entire motivation for his laser focus on obtaining the treasures and creature comforts of civilization.
Not So Extinct: Finding the pelt of a long-extinct golden leopard in "The Devil In Iron" suggests to Conan that sorcery has reverted the area he's exploring to the state it had in the remote past. This is confirmed when he fights a giant snake, also of a long-extinct species.
Not Too Dead to Save the Day: Belit in Queen of the Black Coast does this in Conan's hour of need. The scene in the movie when Valeria does this was inspired directly by the story in question.
Obfuscating Disability: In "A Witch Shall Be Born", Salome tossed the head of a murdered man to a deaf beggar — who proves to be Valerius, who heard that the true queen is prisoner there.
Planet of Hats: In many instances: almost every Stygian is an Evil Sorcerer or priest worshipping Set, all Picts are wild, bloodthirsty barbarians and woodsmen, Zamorans are sniveling thieves, Aesir and Vanir are viking-likeBoisterous Bruiser warriors, Khitans and Eastern people are enigmatic fatalists, Zuagirs are noble sand raiders with a strict code of honor, Hyperboreans are bald scrawny members of a Church Of Evil. Furthermore, inhabitants of lost cities tend to be depraved and decadent psychos. Generally, the more often a nation appears, the more nuanced and varied its population (Stygia being the exception).
Plot Armor: In "A Witch Shall be Born" he is hung on a cross in the middle of a desert, which the villain of the tale supposed would be enough to kill him — luckily, he is rescued. When an assassination attempt is made on him in a later story, "The Phoenix on the Sword" the would-be assassins fail only because a wizard finds a ring that he has lost for almost a hundred years by total accident (though since it's a magic ring, one wonders if it was an accident at all). Talk about luck.
Precursors: There are a few fragments of 'pre-human' architecture and magic, such as those of Acheron, here and there: there are also remnant artifacts from Atlantis, Valusia, Lemuria and so on - human empires that fell before the Hyborians re-invented the art of writing. And then, in turn, the Hyborian Age collapsed into savagery, leaving them as the Precursors to our age.
Protagonist-Centered Morality: Whenever we see Conan, he's acting honourably towards people he knows. Offscreen, as a barbarian, mercenary and pirate, he has no qualms at all about pillaging peaceful villages and merchant shipping.
Purple Prose: Robert E. Howard probably reached for his thesaurus more times in a paragraph than most writers do in writing a whole novel. This results in a kind of pomposity that is the written equivalent of the Frank Frazetta painting on the cover. That's not to say that the prose is bad: Howard had a gift for this style of descriptive narration.
Random Events Plot: Most of the individual stories follow a distinct arc, but there's no denying that when the short stories were combined into a 'series', it was wandering and unpredictable.
Real After All: In The Frost Giant's Daughter and The Phoenix on the Sword there are people who initially disbelieve Conan's stories about clashes with supernatural beings. But then Conan produces physical proof of his encounter, immediately silencing the disbelievers.
Conan gives one of these to Constantius in "A Witch Shall Be Born" while the latter is hanging on a cross.
"Seven months ago, Constantius," said Conan, "it was I who hung there, and you who sat here."
"You are more fit to inflict torture than to endure it," said Conan tranquilly. "I hung there on a cross as you are hanging, and I lived, thanks to circumstances and a stamina peculiar to barbarians. But you civilized men are soft; your lives are not nailed to your spines as are ours. Your fortitude consists mainly in inflicting torment, not in enduring it. You will be dead before sundown. And so, Falcon of the Desert, I leave you to the companionship of another bird of the desert."
Reasonable Authority Figure: Conan as king of Aquilonia wears the crown well, setting taxes at a fair rate, keeping the kingdom at peace with its neighbors, and ensuring the nobility does not unduly abuse the peasants. It's implied that he's probably the most competent ruler in the world at the time. (The one group this doesn't sit well with is Aquilonia's existing nobility, leading to at least two coup attempts.)
Reincarnation: Howard implied more than once that Conan was the reincarnation of Kull. In "People of the Black Circle" the Master of Yimsha forces Yasmina to relive the humiliations of her past lives as punishment for defying him. "A Witch Shall Be Born" centres around a witch who keeps being reincarnated in the same family.
Religion of Evil: Played straight with the followers of Set. Subverted with the followers of Asura, a mysterious and shadowy cult feared by the followers of Mitra, who turn out to be decent folks.
In "A Witch Shall Be Born", Conan is crucified after he realizes the Evil Twin of a queen he's serving has taken her place. He survives to lead an invasion against the impostor, while the queen is rescued by a secondary protagonist.
In "Iron Shadows in the Moon", a fugitive Conan comes by chance upon a warlord who had recently slaughtered a mercenary band he served in (about to rape the Girl of the Story) - and, with a Pre Asskicking Monologue, kills him in turn.
..."Oh, I've dreamed of such a meeting as this, while I crawled on my belly through the brambles, or lay under rocks while the ants gnawed my flesh, or crouched in the mire up to my mouth - I dreamed, but never hoped it would come to pass. Oh, gods of Hell, how I have yearned for this!"
..."Shah Amurath, the great Lord of Akif! Oh, damn you, how I love the sight of you - you, who fed my comrades to the vultures, who tore them between wild horses, blinded and maimed and mutilated them all, you dog, you filthy dog!" His voice rose to a maddened scream, and he charged.
This is Conan's entire motivation in The Movie, although the final conflict is about how he overcomes this desire to become the Self-Made Man we recognise Conan to be.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: After becoming king, Conan embodies this trope. When Aquilonia goes to war, you can be sure that Conan will personally be leading his army into battle (something that he most certainly enjoys, considering his love of combat and the fact that he occasionally complains about how boring sitting on a throne is).
Scenery Porn: Many people have credited the revival of the Conan series to the use of Frank Frazetta's artwork on the covers. The Conan the Barbarian (1982) movie tried to copy Frazetta's paintings as much as possible for the scenery and art direction, and it's a major influence on the appearance of Age of Conan.
Science Destroys Magic: According to the good sorcerer Pelias, Conan's kingdom brought forth an age of logic and science which is slowly destroying the magic.
Science Marches On: The concept of continental drift was new and little-understood at the time Howard was writing, so the idea that the European landmass could have been vastly different merely thousands of years ago wasn't as unlikely as it seems to today's reader. We also know a great deal more today about anthropology and ancestry than what was incorporated into the stories.
Seen It All: He's traveled from Asgard and Vanaheim (Scandinavia) in the north to the tribal lands south of Kush (central Africa), from West of the Baracha Isles (Azores or Canary Islands) to Vendhya (India) in the east (and in other authors' work to Khitai (China)). He's been a mercenary, a thief, a pirate, a bandit, a tribal chieftain in four distinct geographical areas, a Captain of the Guard, a wilderness scout, a General and finally a king. He's fought men, beasts (especially snakes) and demons. He's discovered lost civilizations and the ruins of lost civilizations. This was lampshaded by Thulsa Doom in one of the later Savage Sword of Conan stories, when Conan recounts his experiences. Thulsa Doom calls Conan a liar, stating that no one could have lived through so many adventures over the thirty-odd years that Conan had been alive.
Conan himself is rescued by one of these in The Hour of the Dragon. Her name is Zenobia and she is a slave in the King of Nemedia's harem, although she admits that the King of Nemedia has never touched her (probably due to the fact that his harem contains dozens, if not hundreds of girls). After she helps Conan escape the royal palace of Nemedia, he rewards Zenobia by marrying her and making her the queen of Aquilonia.
Space Jews: The followers of Asura are a secretive group, persecuted by the followers of Mitra but protected by Conan because no one can prove any of the accusations against them (and who aid him in Hour of the Dragon) might be this.
Asura being ancient demigods of India, Hyborian Asura-followers would seem to be proto-Hindus. They speak of their ancestors as coming from Vendhya (India). This may be an example of History Marches On. Howard didn't know it, probably just pulled the name "Asura" from an encyclopedia; but it is now known that the historical Asura deities began as good guys who developed a bad reputation, just as the Hyborian ones did.
Status Quo Is God: No matter how much treasure Conan carries off from an adventure, the next story will be preceded with a brief note of how he squandered or lost it all, usually by partying non-stop in the first city he comes to.
Übermensch: Possibly. The trope definition is complex and Conan ticks some boxes and misses others. He has the right kind of primal charisma. He works to his own rules. He is very strong — in flesh and in spirit. He is a larger than life character. But in the films he is religious and he is sociable, two things an ubermensch is not. Also, he does not want to set up a new society — whereas the Ubermensch often does.
Unknown Rival: In the Howard stories Conan and Thoth-Amon never actually meet or even knowingly act against each other. In Sword On the Phoenix Thoth-amon sends a demon not after King Conan but after his former master who is trying to assassinate Conan, thus inadvertantly saving his life, although since Thoth-Amon also told the demon to kill everyone with his master he also inadvertantly puts him in danger again. In The God In the Bowl Conan just happens to be robbing the museum where a deadly gift intended for a rival of Thoth-Amon's is being stored and gets loose. In The Black Stranger the object of Thoth-Amon's wrath is one of several parties including Conan after a pirate's treasure treasure. Once again, Conan just happens to get in the way. In Hour of the Dragon Thoth-Amon is merely mentioned by a group of Stygian priests looking for a weapon to use against him since his return to Stygia that Conan happens to encounter.
The Vamp: Appears several times in Howard's Conan stories. There's Thalis the Stygian from Xuthal of the Dusk, Belit from The Queen of the Black Coast, Tascela from Red Nails, Atali from The Frost Giant's Daughter, and Akivasha from The Hour of the Dragon who is a vamp in the most literal sense (i.e. the blood-sucking undead kind)
Victory Is Boring: Conan discovers this after becoming King of Aquilonia. He takes any opportunity to visit new countries, and travelled far as king, though happily (for him) the political turmoil of the Hyborian nations meant his kingship wasn't exactly quiet. The movies also briefly touch on it.
Belit: "...My love is stronger than any death! I have lain in your arms, panting with the violence of our love; you have held and crushed and conquered me, drawing my soul to your lips with the fierceness of your bruising kisses. My heart is welded to your heart, my soul is part of your soul! Were I still in death and you fighting for life, I would come back from the abyss to aid you—aye, whether my spirit floated with the purple sails on the crystal sea of paradise, or writhed in the molten flames of hell! I am yours, and all the gods and all their eternities shall not sever us!"
And the fact that she really does come back from the afterlife to aid Conan shows that she wasn't kidding.
Weapon of Choice: Conan most commonly uses swords in all media, and is described as "sword in hand" right away in his very first appearance. But in contrast to his film and TV versions (which had the Atlantean and Starmetal swords), the original Conan used nondescript swords - not magical, let alone named - and he's not particularly attached to them. He's also just as comfortable with other weapons like spears and axes.
For reference, this is likely because in the movies, Conan is a hero, and has destiny on his side to glue his blade to him. In the books, he spends a significant amount of time falsely accused of crimes and the majority of the time correctly accused of crimes, so any weapon he doesn't break is going to be taken when he inevitably gets arrested or captured again, and he finds it easier to steal new gear than hang around and risk getting caught again.
In one story Conan, after a losing streak gambling, considers selling his sword to make up his losses, but stops when he realizes he can use the sword to make more money than he'd ever get by selling it. Obviously he's not that attached to his weaponry if he's even considering such a move.
World Half Empty: The civilizations are decadent empires that don't give a damn about their people. Anybody living in a city with a sorcerer in residence is at risk of being kidnapped and taken to their secret tower and never seen again. Barbarians are crazy savages who want to destroy civilization - some of them are cannibals as well. The only thing that keeps Conan at his "hero" rather than "Blood Knight" status is that he's usually fighting some of the most hideously evil people of his time.
A World Half Full: Thanks to... Conan! Sure, he is not an All-Loving Hero, but he sees this as a world full of adventures and treasures and inspires those under his command, encouraging them to triumph over impossible odds. He eliminated many tyrants allowing more benevolent governors to ascend to power in various nations large and small. After ascended to the throne of Aquilonia he becomes a good and righteous monarch, ensuring the prosperity and justice of the Aquilonian Empire and its peple. He saves the world from the machinations of evil sorcerers and their dark gods, ensuring an age where Black Magic is vanquished. In his last adventure, he overthrows the evil priests ruling the Antillian Isles, and then navigates to the continent of Mayapan (America) where he ends up in legend as Kukulcan/Quetzalcoatl, bringer of (ironically) civilization.
Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Actually, Conan might knock down a woman and would certainly slap her behind, but he tries to avoid killing them. A woman who betrayed him to the police on one occasion was simply dropped into a cesspit as punishment, while Conan disembowelled her new boyfriend without a second thought.
Wretched Hive: Shadizar, capital of Zamora (and its thieves' quarter, the Maul, is considered even worse by the residents of other parts of the city. Tortage, the pirate city of the Barachan Islands. In a very different Lawful Evil way, the city of Khemi in Stygia may qualify as well.
Xtreme Kool Letterz: An Unbuilt Trope at the time, but Conan visited Xuthal, Xuchotl, Khawarizm, Shadizar and Khoraja: his adversaries included King Yezdigerd and the arch-sorceror Xaltotun.
You Imagined It: Conan gets this a lot when he encounters supernatural things, which not many other people believe in. See The Phoenix On The Sword and The Frost Giant's Daughter. Usually the protagonist does have some physical evidence that proves him right, like the title mark on his broken sword or a scrap of cloth from the title character's clothing.