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Conan The Cimmerian Black Haired, Sullen Eyed, Sword In Hand, A Thief, A Reaver, A Slayer Discover How It All Began Conan The Barbarian Spawned A Hundred Imitators Find Out Why With These Tales From His Early Life From The Tower Of The Elephant To Beyond The Black River, Follow Robert E Howard S Greatest Creation As He Cuts A Bloody Swathe Through The History Of Hyborea Over Pages Of Epic Action, Personally Selected By The Makers Of The New Film And The Greatest Robert E Howard Scholars A Hero Of Mythic Proportion, Fashioned By A Storyteller Who Helped Define What A Modern Fantasy Should Be Raymond E Feist Conan Warrior, Hero, Legend Love the Conan books, a must read for anyone mystified by the films, the character, the games.. This is a collection of novellas about the swashbuckling adventures of the wandering Barbarian Conan Conan s instincts are uncivilized which means he is aware of things that lesser mortals including the feisty lady pirate Valeria cannot detect And so he roves over the ancient world, seeking loot, adventure and amorous conquests He is basically not a bad guy to have on your side, in spite of the fact that he is lustful, covetous and supremely confident in his own abilities The only cracks in his armour seem to be his fondness for booze and his fear of the occult but even these are not much of a handicap.The writing is pulpy, sometimes racist, and often sexist with Valeria being the grand exception , not unlike the writing of Burroughs There are clear references to the depravity of dark skinned people There are many references to the muscles of men and the erotic allurements of women as with James Bond, most females, despite initial resistance, succumb to the macho mystique of Conan And yet, if the reader can get past the dated qualities of the prose, the stories are exciting Go figure. Conan, what is best in life Love this quote from the film Conan The Barbarian By far Arnold Swartznegger best film If it were not for Robert E Howard we would not have seen Arnold play the part of Conan He really is Conan, just like I imagined he would look like in the book The remake with the guy from the Game Of Thrones was very poor, compared to Arnie who could match that Maybe they should have dyed his hair though, Conan is not blonde Anyhow Arnie should have made of these films Conan The Invincible never came to fruition as he had the perfect physique for the part I suppose the wrinkly old Arnie of today could play Conan The Great Great Grandfather, lol I also have the soundtracks of the two Conan films by Basil Poledouris Fantastic Seems everything associated with Conan is just brilliant These books are great If you like high adventure and lots of swordplay then I strongly recommend the Conan books , and the Arnie films too. Of all the seminal Fantasy works, there are certain authors that are named as setting the standard Before Tolkien, there was Robert E Howard, whose epic tales have entertained readers for over eighty years.Here, to tie in to the latest impending film starring Jason Momoa we have what I will describe as a Conan primer It s not the Complete Conan of twenty one stories you d need the lovely Gollancz leather bound Black Library edition for that , but instead a select grouping of eight novella novelettes, one article setting out the fictional world of Conan, one piece of verse Cimmeria and a brief paragraph biography of Howard The stories originally date from 1933 1953, with most published in 1934 This short time of intensive publication is such for a very sad reason Howard killed himself, following the death of his mother, at the age of thirty in June 1936 Most of his Conan tales therefore were written between 1932 and 1936, and set in the Hyborean Age, which Howard described as a time after the disappearance of Atlantis but before present civilisations appeared The tales included here are The Tower of the Elephant Rogues in the House The Frost Giant s Daughter Queen of the Black Coast A Witch Shall Be Born The People of the Black Circle Red Nails Beyond the Black River and the background article for the stories, The Hyborian Age.The selection is generally a good one The tales are not in written publication order, but instead broadly chronologically throughout Conan s life The Conan in The Tower of the Elephant is described as a youth , the Conan of Beyond the Black River an older man So what will the reader new to the Conan stories get from this collection Those who know Conan only through the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies may be surprised by what they read here The Conan of the tales is a multi faceted character than those of the 1980 s movies That s not to say that he isn t a killer he dispatches a rogue in the first four pages but as we read, Conan in the stories, so than the films, is thoughtful, intelligent, resourceful and cunning.There are also much darker aspects to these tales, which were not as paramount in the movies Many of the things Conan fights against are occult based, or even Lovecraftian In the first tale alone, The Tower of the Elephant, for example, Conan encounters a blind deformed creature from the green planet Yag held captive, and fights giant spiders and an ancient sorcerer to attain a treasured jewel There are tales here of witches and Pictish wizards, demons and hints at the Elder Worlds , which give the impression that there is to this world than we might initially conceive in such short stories.This should not be too much of a surprise, given that Howard was a friend and regular correspondent with H.P Lovecraft and it is clear that they shared similar interests in writing It s not just coincidence that most of Howard s stories here were published in Weird Tales, the literary residence of Cthuluian H.P What works here throughout, still, and like Lovecraft, is that dazzling baroque of images and places as Conan goes from one challenge to the nextBy the side of the caravan road a heavy cross had been planted, and on this grim tree a man hung, nailed there by iron spikes through his hands and feet Naked but for a loin cloth, the man was almost a giant in stature, and his muscles stood out in thick corded ridges on limbs and body, which the sun had long ago burned brownA Witch Shall Be Born And this from a writer of mid to late twenties in age If you can cope with, or indeed relish, such dialogue as Keep back, you barbarian dog I ll spit you like a roast pig or I killed three of the blue bearded beasts, by Ishtar then you ll love these They are rip roaring reads that can take the reader away to other worlds and places, and must have been nectar to a Fantasy reader in the 1930 s There are, however, some aspects that work less well to the modern palette The tales are of Conan s meetings with the other races of Howard s world, and, as you might expect, there are parallels with earth bound cultures and races that will have been in keeping with the 1930 s viewpoint and less so today The tales are about race and racismThe blonde Achaians, Gauls and Britons, for instance, were descendants of pure blooded AEsir and from pure blooded Shemites, or Shemites mixed with Hyborian or Nordic blood, were descended the Arabs, the Israelites, and other straighter featured SemitesThe Hyborian Age Anyone using the term pure blood these days uses it with caution The Hyborian European, not to mention Shemitish Semitic similarity has been noticed by many In these tales, the Shemitish hook noses are mentioned and may sit a little uncomfortably with the contemporary reader Similar points can be made about the role of women here too Even when there are female characters, Conan s world is very masculine and the threats to him are often from women Queen of the Black Coast A Witch Shall Be Born when they re not being lusted over Psychologists could have a field day Women in this primitive world are often there as wenches , to be servile, tamed, wooed and fought against In this collection we have Queen of the Black Coast, with Conan becoming a notorious pirate and plundering the coastal villages of Kush alongside B lit, a strong willed pirate queen and Conan s first loverShe turned toward Conan, her bosom heaving, her eyes flashing Fierce fingers of wonder caught at his heart She was slender, yet formed like a goddess at once lithe and voluptuous Her only garment was a broad silken girdle Her white ivory limbs and the ivory globes of her breasts drove a beat of fierce passion through the Cimmerian s pulse, even in the panting fury of battle Her rich black hair, black as a Stygian night, fell in rippling burnished clusters down her supple back Her dark eyes burned on the Cimmerian We also have Red Nails, Conan s last Conan tale published in his lifetime, which unusually for Howard is told mainly from the female viewpoint of Valeria, though Howard s description of her is hardly politically correctShe was tall, full bosomed, and large limbed, with compact shoulders Her whole figure reflected an unusual strength, without detracting from the femininity of her appearance She was all woman, in spite of her bearing and her garments The latter were incongruous, in view of her present environs Instead of a skirt she wore short, wide legged silk breeches, which ceased a hand s breadth short of her knees, and were upheld by a wide silken sash worn as a girdle Flaring topped boots of soft leather came almost to her knees, and a low necked, wide collared, wide sleeved silk shirt completed her costume On one shapely hip she wore a straight double edged sword, and on the other a long dirk Her unruly golden hair, cut square at her shoulders, was confined by a band of crimson satin Whilst not defending Howard, these two examples are typical of a view prevalent at the time of writing Bearing in mind the audience Howard was writing for at the time predominantly, though not exclusively, young men , it can perhaps be understood, if not agreed with.Put together out of their original context, with the reader not waiting a month or until the next tale, the two examples above show that these stories can appear a little repetitive and unremittingly intense Howard was not afraid of using similar words and phrases when working on time schedules seen as ridiculously short these days, for very little wage Most readers would not realise the similarities, having read them a month or apart.Despite these not inconsiderable issues, Conan is one of the seminal templates of epic Fantasy, and therefore should be read by all interested in the origins of the genre Nearly eighty years on, for all their faults, the stories still have an energy and an intensity that will keep contemporary readers entertained, if they can read them in their original context In summary, this edition is what I would call Conan light lite It serves as a great introduction to Howard s writing, and for the uninitiated is a great place to be introduced to the Cimmerian For some that may well be enough, and if that is so, then this book gives you a good idea of what Howard has to offer Others may well want to go further, and so I will point them then to the full fat collection for In my opinion, if the new film, due later this month, follows these tales closely it should be a good one Here s hoping