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Literature / Man-Eaters of Zamboula

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"Man-Eaters of Zamboula" (a.k.a. "Shadows in Zamboula") is a Conan the Barbarian story written by Robert E. Howard. First published in November, 1935.

Conan's travels across Hyperborea bring him to Zamboula, a city-state heavily populated by a slave-caste of blacks from a specific region. Having wasted his money gambling, as usual, Conan prepares to retire for the night to a pre-rented room when a friend of his tries to warn him of the dark secret of the city; many of the black slaves of the city are members of the Darfar, a tribe that practices cannibalism in homage of dark gods, and because of their numbers, the townsfolk allow them to run rampant at night so long as they only prey upon beggars and travellers. Conan scorns this claim, and the rumors that the inn at which he stays makes extra money by selling travellers to the slaves for their cannibal banquets, but finds himself forced to believe when he is attacked in his bed by one of the slaves.


Slaying his assailant, Conan wanders out into the night, where he finds himself drawn to rescuing a woman who is being threatened by more cannibals. She gives her name as Zabibi, and begs Conan to aid her, using promises of gold and her body. Firstly, he catches and subdues her lover, who has been driven mad, then he goes with her to the Temple of Hanuman to retrieve an antidote to the "love potion" that rendered him this way.

There, he fights a holy strangler and kills the high priest to retrieve the antidote, only to learn that Zabibi hasn't been telling him the whole truth. Given gold as a reward, he leaves — though not before stealing a magical talisman from her, and murdering the innkeeper who almost got him killed.


Tropes included

  • Badass Boast: Conan gets one when faced by the professional strangler, who he promptly throttles to death in turn. Though he notes afterwards that he was mostly bluffing; a few seconds either way and his opponent genuinely would have strangled Conan first.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Conan aids a random woman he meets on the street, simply because he can't bear the thought of allowing a woman to be slaughtered and devoured.
  • The Gambling Addict: Conan gets his room in advance so he doesn't gamble the money he needs to pay for it away beforehand.
  • Human Sacrifice: Baal-pteor trained as a strangler to offer these up to the gods of his homeland before becoming hired by the Temple of Hanuman. He goes to break Conan's neck for this.
  • If I Can't Have You...: The intended love potion drives her lover mad so that he attacks her, because she got it from a man whose advances she rejected.
  • Infallible Babble: Warns about the Inn of No Return.
  • Inn of No Return: Conan books a room at an inn where the malevolent innkeeper Aram Baksh sells travellers to the cannibal slaves for money.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Conan flatters Zabibi with this.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The prince, it is said, is ruled by his mistress.
  • Master of Illusion: Conan realizes he's fighting one of these.
  • Moral Myopia: Since the slaves murder only strangers, the townsfolk don't care.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Zabibi, who spends the entire story in the nude and is forced to dance while dodging poisonous snakes at one point.
  • Neck Snap: Used for human sacrifice in one distant country, and one of the temple executioners is working in the city.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Conan knew Zabibi's true identity from the start and only pretended to be fooled by the ruse.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: At the end of the story, Conan removes the tongue from the innkeeper mentioned above, mutilates his beard, and gives him to the cannibal slaves to be eaten.
  • Pillow Pistol: Conan sleeps with his steel, which is how he avoids being cut down by the cannibal who sneaks into his room.
  • The Power of Blood: Why no blood can be shed during the sacrifice.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Evil Sorcerer has 'em.
  • Ring of Power: The Star of Khorala.
  • The Reveal: Zabibi is Nafertari, the mistress of the town's ruler, Jungir Khan.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Conan is warned about the inn by a man he had traveled with for many month, and stayed in his tent.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Zabibi slips her lover something.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: The local slaves are all cannibals who are allowed to run riot at night because the townsfolk consider them too useful to give up.

Alternative Title(s): Shadows In Zamboula


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