Literature / The Tower of the Elephant

"The Tower of the Elephant" is a Conan the Barbarian story by Robert E. Howard. First published in March, 1933. It is generally considered one of the best of the Conan yarns and often recommended as a starting point for new readers.

A very young Conan hears of a mysterious tower and goes to steal from it. He meets up with Taurus of Nemedia, one of the undisputed masters of thievery, and together they tackle the tower and brave its various hazards. After losing Taurus to a Giant Spider and killing it, Conan meets up with the Tower's most unusual occupant, a being from beyond the stars enslaved by the Evil Sorcerer who calls the tower home, who reveals to him much about the ancient history of his world before charging Conan with carrying out his vengeance against the sorcerer after three hundred long years.

Yag-Kosha, the elephant-like creature of the title is notable for being the inspiration for the "Space Jockey" (later revealed to be called Engineers) of the Alien series.

Tropes included

  • Acrofatic: Taurus the thief is described as fat, but it does little to hinder his agility.
  • All Just a Dream: Conan wonders this about his adventure. Considering what happens in the story, you can't blame him.
  • Call Back: In the opening paragraph of the very first Conan story, Zamora's "towers of spider-haunted mystery" are mentioned. Guess what Conan runs into while breaking into a tower in Zamora?
  • Collapsing Lair: After both Yara and Yag-Kosha are finally dead the tower starts to fall apart into dust. Lucky for Conan, Yag-Kosha put a delay on it so he would have time to get out.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: The only way the King of Zamora can cope with his fear of Yara.
  • Eldritch Abomination: A rare sympathetic example in Yag-kosha.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Yara is so terrible and powerful that even the King of Zamora lives in utter fear of him.
  • Eye of Newt: Most of the implements that Taurus procures in order to successfully break into the tower have extremely exotic origins, such as his rope and his dust.
  • Gem-Encrusted: The tower is made of a silvery material, and encrusted with gems at the top and on the inside.
  • Giant Spider: A pig-sized one, hidden in the ceiling of one room.
  • Gold Makes Everything Shiny: The door of the tower.
  • Immortality Inducer: Yara uses the Heart of the Elephant to prolong his life.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard
  • Mineral MacGuffin: The Elephant's Heart.
  • The Need for Mead: Conan hears of the tower in a bar.
  • Perfect Poison: The black lotus derived powder that Taurus uses to kill the lions guarding the outer perimeter of the tower.
  • Petting Zoo People: Actually, it's the head of an elephant.
  • The Philosopher: Conan finds them unimpressive. When he references them again in a later story, though, he has grown more respectful of them, probably because he himself had had his share of experiences with the things of which they spoke.
  • Roar Before Beating: That the lions do not roar is evidence of the uncanniness.
  • White Magic: Yag-kosha originally taught Yara this, but Yara wasn't satisfied with only being taught this, and eventually turned Yag-kosha's power against him and enslaved him.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/TheTowerOfTheElephant