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The Tower of the Elephant

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"The Tower of the Elephant" is a novelette by Robert E. Howard first published in the March, 1933, issue of Weird Tales.

Plot SummaryEdit

Conan decides to steal a priceless gem from the Tower of the Elephant, encountering a rival thief, a giant spider, and an alien creature in the process.

Detailed SynopsisEdit

  • 1. In the dangerous and dirty Maul (or thieves district) of the City of Thieves in Zamora, the dregs of society live, work, and play. A fat rogue loudly talks about the Elephant Tower of Yara and the jewels hidden within, which catches the attention of young Conan, who notes he has seen the tower, and that it seems unguarded, and therefore easy pickings. The rogue laughs at Conan's ignorance, and states that yes, there are no human guards protecting the tower, although they do patrol the grounds. Conan wonders if someone could bypass the ground guards alltogether, which sets the Kothian rogue laughing some more, to Conan's annoyance. Annoyance turns to a brawl, as the candles lighting the tavern are knocked over. When they are re-lit, the rogue lies dead on the floor and Conan is not to be found.
  • 2. Conan observes the tall shaft of the Elephant Tower from the temple district, which is rarely patrolled by the city guard, for even the thieves of the city give the gods a wide berth. Conan does not fear the gods however, and he contemplates how the tower got its name, likely after Yara's magical gem, the Heart of the Elephant. He is vaguely aware of elephants, but has never seen one. The silver tower itself rises from a large high-walled garden, and as Conan silently approaches the walls, his thoughts turn to the legends of the powerful, evil sorceror Yara, who even the king of Zamora fears. The soft clink of metal on the other side of the wall tells him that the garden is, indeed, patrolled, but as he waits for the guards to return on his rounds, he hears nothing. Finally, he climbs the wall and descends to other side, where he is greeted with the body of the guard he had heard. Someone, during that brief interlude, had strangled the man to death. Conan looks around, and finds a human shape moving slowly through the garden. He begins to follow, but the man turns around. After sizing each other up for a moment, they they introduce themselves, and the man is revealed to be Taurus of Nemedia, known as the King of Thieves. It seems they are both here to steal the Heart of the Elephant. Taurus seems to enjoy having the young Conan around to show off to, so together they move toward and onto the inner wall. This area is guarded by a group of lions, and they rush towards the two thieves. Taurus takes out a small pipe and blows a yellowish powder at the beasts, the rare black lotus powder, and the lions drop dead. Reaching the wall of the tower, Taurus pulls out a grappling hook and rope, not noticing another lion pouncing. At the last moment, Conan realizes the danger and lashes out with his sword killing the beast. The two men scale the tower, which they see is encrusted with uncountable jewels and gemstones, and reach the lip, preparing to descend into the depths of the tower. First, Taurus tells Conan to walk the perimeter of the tower's landing to look for guards below. While Conan does so, he sneaks inside the door and shuts it behind him. When Conan returns to the door, puzzled, he hears a cry and Tauraus stands revealed in the door, then falls forward dead. He has only small needle-like marks on his neck. Conan cautiously enters the room, and save for piles of jewels and an unusual eight-sided pattern on the ceiling above him, sees nothing out of the ordinary - until the giant spider swings down and attacks. Conan evades the spider's first attack, but before he can reach the door the creature shoots a sticky web to seal Conan in. The spider scuttles back and forth, sending webs everywhere, one finally catching Conan on the leg. In desperation, Conan flings a treasure chest at the beast and manages to crush it. He cuts his way free and through the inner door.
  • 3. Conan sees an elephantine idol sitting on a throne, and is shocked when the creature begins to move. It looks around sightlessly, assuming that Yara has come to torture it yet again. Conan hesitantly speaks to it, and the creature, Yag-Kosha, asks Conan to come closer so he may touch the barbarian. Conan does so, and Yag-Kosha reveals he is an ancient space traveler who has visited for thousands of years, until he was the last of his kind, and was imprisoned three hundred years ago by a scheming Yara. He begs Conan to kill him, to cut out his heart and squeeze the blood over the Heart of the Elephant jewel. Conan does so, and the blood is sucked into the gem. Yag-Kosha had also instructed Conan to take the gem to Yara, who is sleeping in a nearby chamber. Conan goes to the room and speaks Yara's name, causing the sorceror to awaken and sneer at Conan, until Conan places the gem on a table and Yara shrinks and is magically drawn into the gem, where an image of a majestic Yag-Kosha waits. Conan, having been warned by Yag-Kosha to flee, leaves the tower, noting that the guards are all dead and nothing bars his way. The Tower of the Elephant collapses, and Conan stands alone to contemplate all that he had seen.



  • The city of thieves in Zamora. The name was edited to be Arenjun by de Camp for the Lancer paperback series.

Continuity NotesEdit

Miller/Clark/deCamp Chronology
Previous Story:
"The Thing in the Crypt"
"The Tower of the Elephant" Next Story:
Conan the Destroyer
Robert Jordan Chronology
Previous Story:
Conan the Defiant
"The Tower of the Elephant" Next Story:
Conan and the Sorcerer
William Galen Gray Chronology
Previous Story:
Conan the Formidable
"The Tower of the Elephant" Next Story:
Conan and the Sorcerer
Joe Marek Chronology
Previous Story:
"The Frost Giant's Daughter"
"The Tower of the Elephant" Next Story:
"The Hall of the Dead"
Dale Rippke Chronology
Previous Story:
"The God in the Bowl"
"The Tower of the Elephant" Next Story:
"The Hall of the Dead"


Publication HistoryEdit

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