Conan - known as Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Cimmerian (from the name of his homeland, Cimmeria) - is a literary character created by Robert E. Howard in a series of stories published in Weird Tales in the 1930s.
Biographical sketchEditConan is a Cimmerian, a barbarian of the far north; he was born on a battlefield and is the son of the village blacksmith Corin. During the battle in Cimmeria, his mother Greshan was fatally wounded by an enemy while attempting to save Corin. The weakened Greshan uses the last of her strength to give birth to Conan, she names him Conan before she dies. He grew up quickly: by age fifteen he was already a respected warrior, participating in the destruction of the Aquilonian outpost of Venarium. After this he was struck by wanderlust and began the colorful and exciting adventures chronicled by Howard and others, encountering fabulous monsters, evil wizards, and beautiful wenches and princesses - he has travelled throughout the world and been a thief and outlaw, a mercenary and commander of a mercenary company, and a pirate. He begins building larger units of men, aiming for greater territorial ambitions, though his efforts are repeatedly thwarted - usually by the total massacre of his force excepting himself. But in his forties he finally succeeds, becoming king of Aquilonia, the most powerful kingdom of the age, having strangled the previous ruler, Numedides, on the steps of the throne. In his sixties, Conan leaves his country—never to return—to seek new battles in the uncharted west, leaving Conan II, his son by Queen Zenobia (a former Nemedian slave girl), to rule Aquilonia in his stead. Although Conan's adventures often result in him performing heroic feats, his motive is more than often his own survival, enrichment or rise to power and he thus displays many of the characteristics of an anti-hero.
Conan is the anglisicized version of the Irish name Conán. There are several characters who bear the name Conán in Irish mythology, most notably Conán mac Morna, also known as Conán Maol ("the Bald"), a member of the fianna and an ally of Fionn mac Cumhail. While uncommon, the name is still used in Ireland.
Its etymology is ambiguous. Some sources (e.g., Irish Baby Boy Names) say it is the diminutive of con or cú, meaning a "hound" or (figuratively) "a swift-footed warrior". Hence, Conan would mean "Little Hound" or "Little Warrior". Others (e.g., Collins Gem Dictionary of First Names, ISBN 0004587480, 1983) say it comes from the Irish meaning "high" or "wisdom". Given Conan the Cimmerian's career, both are apt.
Conan is darkly tanned, has "sullen" or "smoldering" blue eyes, a "mane" of long black hair, and is scarred - Howard mentions most often the scarring on his face. Contrary to many modern illustrations, Conan is hirsute:
- So formidable was his appearance, naked but for short leather breeks and sleeveless shirt, open to reveal his great, hairy chest, with his huge limbs and his blue eyes blazing under his tangled black mane, ... [The Hour of the Dragon, Chapter 3]
- At Vanarium he was already a formidable antagonist, though only fifteen. He stood six feet [1.83 m] and weighed 180 pounds [82 kg], though he lacked much of having his full growth.
Conan's height and weight as an adult are subject to speculation - some estimates make him 6' 6" (1.98 m) and up to 250 lb (113 kg) - but extrapolating the growth of the 15-year-old Conan based on modern data would make him at least 6' 2" (1.88 m) and 215 lbs (98 kg) at 18. This talies with a comment Howard wrote in another letter that his crusader character Cormac Fitzgeoffrey is a double of Conan and that Cormac is 6' 2" and 215 pounds. It is also of note that the blade of Conan's sword is described as being 5 feet long, likely making for a 6 foot sword including the grip, in the earlier story, The Scarlet Citadel. He uses it with one hand as well as both hands with ease, therefore it is possible that Howard imagined him quite taller at the character's beginning.
In Howard's tales no human is ever described as stronger than Conan, although several are mentioned as taller (such as the strangler Baal-Pteor) or of larger bulk.
Although Conan is muscular, Howard frequently compares his silence, suppleness, agility, way of moving to that of a panther - see, for instance, "The Servants of Bit-Yakin" ("Jewels of Gwahlur"), Beyond the Black River or "Rogues in the House" - or another feline:
- He moved with the supple ease of a great tiger, his steely muscles rippling under his brown skin. ["The Tower of the Elephant"]
His garb is very often a loincloth or breeches and sandals, and his weapon a sword of some description, depending on his fortunes and location.
- He had discarded his torn tunic, and walked through the night naked except for a loin-cloth and his high-strapped sandals. ["The Tower of the Elephant"]
- His only garment was a pair of short red silk breeks, and his sandals were slung to his back, out of his way, as were his sword and dagger. ["The Servants of Bit-Yakin"]
Sometimes he wears more:
- The man in the boat was a picturesque figure. A crimson scarf was knotted about his head; his wide silk breeches, of flaming hue, were upheld by a broad sash, which likewise supported a scimitar in a shagreen scabbard. His gilt-worked leather boots suggested the horseman rather than the seaman, but he handled his boat with skill. Through his widely open white silk shirt showed his broad, muscular breast, burned brown by the sun. ["The Devil in Iron"]
- The stranger was clad like himself in regard to boots and breeks, though the latter were of silk instead of leather. But he wore a sleeveless hauberk of dark mesh-mail in place of a tunic, and a helmet perched on his black mane. That helmet held the other's gaze; it was without a crest, but adorned by short bull's horns. [Beyond the Black River]
During his reign as King of Aquilonia, Conan was:
- … a tall man, mightily shouldered and deep of chest, with a massive corded neck and heavily muscled limbs. He was clad in silk and velvet, with the royal lions of Aquilonia worked in gold upon his rich jupon, and the crown of Aquilonia shone on his square-cut black mane; but the great sword at his side seemed more natural to him than the regal accouterments. His brow was low and broad, his eyes a volcanic blue that smoldered as if with some inner fire. His dark, scarred, almost sinister face was that of a fighting-man, and his velvet garments could not conceal the hard, dangerous lines of his limbs." [The Hour of the Dragon, pp. 89-90)]
He loses none of his vigour with age with the above description coming when he is in his mid 40's.
Though several later authors have referred to Conan as "Germanic-looking," Howard imagined the Cimmerians as a proto-Celtic people with mostly dark hair and blue or grey eyes. Racially the Cimmerians to which Conan belongs are descendants of the Atlanteans, though they do not remember their ancestry. In his pseudo-historical essay "The Hyborian Age", Howard describes how the people of Atlantis (the land where his character Kull originated) had to move east after a great cataclysm changed the face of the world and sank their island, settling where northern Scotland and Norway would eventually be located. In the same work, Howard also described how the Cimmerians eventually moved south and east after the age of Conan.
Traits and skillsEdit
Despite his brutish appearance, Conan uses his brain as well as his brawn. The Cimmerian is a talented fighter who overpowers most men with his strength and skill, and his endurance allows him to fight with unfailing ferocity long after most would have collapsed in exhaustion. Due to his travels abroad, he also has vast experience in other trades. He is a talented commander, strategist, thief, as well as a born leader.
Conan speaks many languages:
- Many a sheltered scholar would have been astonished at the Cimmerian's linguistic abilities, for he had experienced many adventures where knowledge of a strange language had meant the difference between life and death. ["The Servants of Bit-Yakin"]
And can read and write. His very first appearance shows him busy writing!
- Behind an ivory, gold-inlaid writing-table sat a man whose broad shoulders and sun-browned skin seemed out of place among those luxuriant surroundings. ["The Phoenix on the Sword"]
In some stories, he's able to recognize, or even decipher, certain ancient or secret signs and writings, such as when he uses the sign of Jhebbal Sag in Beyond the Black River. However, Howard never has him reading Stygian, although he can speak it.
Another noticeable trait is his sense of humour, largely absent in the comics and movies, but very much a part of Howard's original vision of the character, particularly apparent in "Xuthal of the Dusk" ("The Slithering Shadow"). He is a loyal friend to those true to him with a barbaric code of honour and chivalry that often marks him as more civilized than those more sophisticated people he meets in his travels. Indeed his straighforward nature and barbarism are constants in all the tales.
One fact that is often emphasized is that Conan is very difficult to defeat in hand-to-hand combat. Conan needs only to have his back to the wall so that he cannot be surrounded, and then is capable of engaging and killing opponents by the score. This is seen in several stories, such as "Queen of the Black Coast", "The Scarlet Citadel" and "A Witch Shall Be Born". Conan prefers to fight with a single sword and an open off-hand, which he uses for punching and grappling. However, he is also skilled with shields, axes, spears, daggers, and many other weapons.
Conan is not superhuman, though: he did need the providential help of Zelata's wolf to defeat four Nemedian soldiers in the story The Hour of the Dragon. Some of his hardest victories have come from fighting single opponents, but ones of inhuman strength: one such as Thak, the ape man from "Rogues in the House", or the strangler Baal-Pteor in "The Man-Eaters of Zamboula" ("Shadows in Zamboula").
Conan is far from untouchable and has been captured several times (knocking himself out running into a wall drunk after being betrayed, although he still slays the people initally sent to arrest him, a fall from a wounded horse) but never as a result of martial failings.
One of Conan's skills is that of climbing. Cimmeria is a land of hills and cliffs, and its people are skilled at navigating them. Conan frequently astounds others with his abilities to climb sheer walls and cliffs. Conan is not greatly skilled at diplomacy or deception. However, his many years of combat experience have made him highly skilled at recognizing dissembling in others. He is especially skilled at reading body language, or in using it to miscommunicate his intentions
The very first Conan cinematic project was planned by Edward Summer. Summer envisioned a series of Conan movies, much like the James Bond franchise. He outlined six stories for this film series, but none were ever made. An original screenplay by Summer and Roy Thomas was written, but their lore-authentic screen story was never filmed. Instead the resulting film, Conan the Barbarian (1982), was written by the unlikely pairing of Oliver Stone and John Milius. Their script had very little in common with Howard's original Conan tales, and was a complete re-imagining of Conan's life.
The plot of Conan the Barbarian (1982) begins with Conan being enslaved by the Vanir raiders of Thulsa Doom, a malevolent warlord who is responsible for the slaying of Conan's parents and the genocide of his people. Later, Thulsa Doom becomes a cult leader of a shamanist religion that worships Set, a Snake God. The vengeful Conan, the Archery Subotai and the thief Valeria set out on a quest to rescue a princess held captive by Thulsa Doom. The film was directed by John Milius and produced by Dino De Laurentiis. The character of Conan was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and was his break-through role as an actor.
This film was followed by a less popular sequel, Conan the Destroyer in 1984. This sequel was a more typical fantasy-genre film and was even less faithful to Howard's Conan stories. There were rumours in the late 1990s of a second Conan sequel, King Conan: Crown of Iron, but Schwarzenegger's election in 2003 as governor of California ended this project.
The film rights to Conan were acquired by Millennium Films in August 2007. Millennium plans to complete production on a new Conan movie in 2010, with the movie intended to be more faithful to Howard's original works than the earlier movies. Marcus Nispel is set to direct, Actor Jason Momoa, starring in Stargate: Atlantis television series, was selected for the role of Conan. Universal Pictures announced a direct sequel to the 1982 film titled The Legend of Conan with Schwarzengger returing as Conan.
An animated feature, Conan: Red Nails, based upon the Red Nails of the same name is being made.
There have been three television series related to Conan: A live-action TV series and animated cartoon series — both entitled Conan the Adventurer, as well as a second animated series entitled Conan and the Young Warriors.
- Conan The Adventurer was the name of a popular animated television series. Produced by Jetlag Productions and Sunbow Productions, the series debuted on October 1, 1992, ran for 64 episodes and concluded exactly two years later, on October 1, 1994. The series involved Conan chasing Serpent Men across the world in an attempt to release his parents from eternal imprisonment as living statues.
- Conan and the Young Warriors was an animated television series which premiered in 1994 and ran for 13 episodes. DiC Entertainment produced the show and CBS aired this series as a spin-off to the previous Conan the Adventurer animated series. This cartoon took place after the finale of Conan the Adventurer with Wrath-Amon vanquished and Conan's family returned to life from living stone. Conan soon finds that the family of one of his friends are being turned into wolves by an evil sorceress and he must train three warriors in order to aid him in rescuing them.
- Conan: The Adventurer was a television series loosely based on Conan. The TV show premiered on September 22, 1997, and ran for 22 episodes. This live-action series starred German bodybuilder Ralf Moeller as Conan and Danny Woodburn as his sidekick Otli. The storyline was quite different from the Conan lore of Robert E. Howard. In this adaptation, Conan is a pleasant and jovial person. Also in this version, Conan is not a loner but one member in a merry band of adventurers.
Stories featuring ConanEdit
- Well, pretty much all of them really!
See also Edit
- Well, the whole Conan Wiki!
- Pop-culture references
|This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Conan the Barbarian. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with the Conan Wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.|