Conan the Barbarian

Conan the Barbarian (also known as Conan the Cimmerian, from the name of his homeland, Cimmeria) is a literary character created by Robert E. Howard in a series of fantasy pulp stories published in Weird Tales in the 1930s.



The Conan stories take place on Earth, but in the mythical (created by Howard) "Hyborian Age", between the time of the sinking of Atlantis and the rise of the known ancient civilizations. According to Howard himself: "...between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas..."

Conan is a Cimmerian, a barbarian of the far north; he was born on a battlefield and is the son of a blacksmith. He grew up fast: by age fifteen he was already a respected warrior, participating in the destruction 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 slave, a thief and outlaw, a mercenary and commander of a mercenary company, and a pirate and privateer. 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 on the steps to the throne.


Howard was a friend of H. P. Lovecraft, and the two would sometimes insert references to elements of each others' settings in their works; the Conan stories thus could be said to have originally occurred in the Cthulhu Mythos universe. Modern editors have since reworked many of the original Conan stories, however, diluting this connection.

The Conan stories are informed by the popular interest of the time in unscientific ideas on evolution and "social Darwinism". Are some peoples destined to rule over others? Are our physical and mental characteristics the result of our experiences or our inheritance from our ancestors? Is human civilization a natural or unnatural development? As Conan remarks in one story:

Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing. (Howard, Tower of the Elephant, Weird Tales, March 1933)

Additionally, scholars such as Mark Schultz have concluded that Conan was an idealized alter ego for Howard. Unlike the modern, stereotypical view of a brainless barbarian (mainly from his appearances in movies and comics), Howard originally created Conan as a thoughtful but melancholic figure who often battled with depression, much like Howard himself (the writer eventually committed suicide). However, Howard's Conan is unaffected by such feelings:

Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is an illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and I am content. (Howard, Queen of the Black Coast, Weird Tales, May 1934).

Modern works and revisions

The character of Conan has proven durably popular, resulting in pastiche Conan stories being assembled by later writers such as Lin Carter, L. Sprague de Camp, Karl Edward Wagner, John Maddox Roberts, Andrew Offut, J. Ramsey Campbell, Poul Anderson, Richard A. Lupoff, Bjrn Nyberg, Robert Jordan, Steve Perry, Leonard Carpenter and John C. Hocking from Howard's notes and by rewriting his stories of other similar heroes. Ten novels and over sixty shorter Conan tales have been written. Conan has also appeared in comic books (the latest issues are written by Kurt Busiek and published by Dark Horse Comics (, in films played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and in TV series played by Ralf Moeller.

In 2003, Mark Schultz made an effort to both restore Howard's original manuscripts and to provide a more scholarly and historical view of the Conan stories. The result, The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, was published by Ballatine Books, and includes Howard's notes on the fictional setting, as well as letters and poems concerning the genesis of his ideas. It also includes the first thirteen Conan short stories Howard published , between 1932 and 1934.


The film Conan the Barbarian (1982) was written by the unlikely pairing of Oliver Stone and John Milius. The script draws material from a number of stories. It tells the story of Conan rising up in slavery and finally taking revenge on Thulsa Doom, the killer of his parents. The film was directed by John Milius and produced by Dino DeLaurentis. The title role was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and was his break-through as an actor. A sequel, Conan the Destroyer (1984) was also made.

It must be noted that, in spite of the title and its qualities, the movie is not a proper Conan yarn. The only three elements properly tying the Conan movie to its literary namesake are 1) being called a Cimmerian and being the son of a blacksmith, 2) the opening speech about "Between the time the Ocean drank Atlantis and the rise of the Son of Aryas" and 3) the crucifixion episode, which is reasonably true to the one happening in A Witch Shall be Born. The rest is only loosely adapted. The episode when Schwarzenegger climbs the tower is obviously inspired from The Tower of the Elephant, Also, while a Valeria appears in Red Nails, that character's attachement to Conan and her coming back from the dead to save him are more akin to the Blit of Queen of the Black Coast but otherwise similarities are quite few. Some elements like the Riddle of Steel, the Black Sun Cult of Seth, Conan's having been a mill slave for most of his adolescence, and his having served through the East as a gladiator are apparently from Milius' imagination (Howard's Conan was still with his tribe around the time he was 15 or 16, since it is about that age that he took part in the sacking of the Aquilonian outpost of Venarium). More disturbingly to Howard fans, certain elements seem to have been borrowed from non-Conan sources: the face changing Snake Folk, as well as Thulsa Doom are loosely inspired by Kull stories (though Howard's Thulsa Doom was a traditional necromancer, not a Serpent man), and Schwarzenegger's encounter with the werewitch bears some similarity with the Bran Mak Morn story Worms of the Earth (which is also evoked by Thulsa Doom's lines about fearing the dark and the night).

Schwarzenegger also played a muscular sword-fighter (named "Kalidor" due to licensing issues) in the Howard-inspired Red Sonja (1985).

A fourth film based on the Hyborian setting, Kull the Conqueror, starred Kevin Sorbo as Kull, an Atlantean (the ancestor race of Conan's own people, the Cimmerians) who, like Conan, advanced in rank in more civilized lands and became king by force, and now must contend with those who don't like his rule. It is widely rumored that there may be a third Conan film, called Conan the King, and it may star Schwarzenegger as Conan, assuming that in 2008 "Ahnuld" doesn't run again for governor of California .

TV Series

Conan has appeared in a TV series (1997), played by the German bodybuilder Ralf Moeller.

This short lived series, "Conan: the Adventurer", featured a more caring Conan, and involved much less blood and gore - with predictable effects on the ratings.


Two animated series from the early 90's feature a muscle-bound Conan character.

The first animated series, also called "Conan: the Adventurer" (1992), involved Conan chasing the serpent men across the world (possibly inspired by the Thulsa Doom character from the movie) in an attempt to release his parents from eternal torture as living statues. It is a typical example of the action-adventure cartoon genre of the time.

The second animated series, "Conan and the Young Warriors" (1994), saw Conan as a mentor to three young adventurers, focusing mainly on the young characters.


Conan has appeared in comics nearly non-stop since 1970. These are arguably, apart from the books, the vehicle that has made the greatest influence on the character.

Marvel Comics

Marvel Comics introduced Conan in 1970 with Conan the Barbarian, written by Roy Thomas and illustrated by Barry Windsor-Smith. Pencils on the title were later given to John Buscema, while Roy continued to write for many years. Marvel's Conan stories borrowed from the 1982 and 1984 files, with Thulsa Doom as a reccurring villian. In 2001 Marvel let Conan go as part of a company-wide purge of licensed properties.

  • 1971 Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards
Best Continuing Feature. Conan the Barbarian
  • 1971 Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards
Best Writer (Dramatic). Roy Thomas.
  • 1973 Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards
Best Individual Story (Dramatic). Song of Red Sonja.
  • 1974 Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards
Best Continuing Feature. Conan the Barbarian.
Best Penciller (Dramatic). John Buscema.
Superior Achievement by an Individual. Roy Thomas.
Core appearances
  • Conan the Barbarian, (1970-1993) 275 issues
  • Savage Tales, (1971-1975) First 5 issues
  • The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian, (1974-1995) 235 issues
  • Conan the Barbarian Annual (1973-1987) 12 issues
  • Giant-Size Conan, (1974-1975) 5 issues
  • The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian Annual, (1975) 1 issue
  • Newspaper Strip, (1978-19??) ?? strips.
  • King Conan/Conan the King, (1980-1989) 55 issues
  • Handbook of the Conan Universe, (1985) 1 issue
  • Conan the Adventurer, (1994-1995) 14 issues
  • Conan, (1995-1996) 11 issues
  • Conan the Savage, (1995-1996) 10 issues
  • Conan vs Rune, (1995) 1 issue
Marvel Graphic Novels
  • The Witch Queen of Acheron, (Marvel Graphic Novel (MGN) #19, 1985)
  • Conan the Reaver, (MGN #28, 1987)
  • Conan of the Isles, (MGN #42, 1988)
  • The Skull of Set, (MGN #53, 1989)
  • The Horn of Azoth, (MGN #59, 1990)
  • Conan the Rogue, (MGN #69, 1991)
  • The Ravagers Out of Time, (MGN #73, 1992)
Marvel Conan the Barbarian Mini-Series
  • Stalker in the Woods, (1997) 3 issues.
  • The Usurper, (1997-1998) 3 issues.
  • Lord of the Spiders, (1998) 3 issues.
  • River of Blood, (1998) 3 issues.
  • Return of Styrm, (1998) 3 issues.
  • Scarlet Sword, (1998-1999) 3 issues.
  • Death Covered in Gold,(1999) 3 issues.
  • Flame and the Fiend, (2000) 3 issues.
Marvel Universe appearances
  • Avengers Forever, #12 (19??).
  • Dr. Strange, #11 (volume 3, 19??).
  • Dr. Strange, #26 (volume 3, 19??).
  • Excaliber, #47 (19??).
  • Fantastic Four, #411 (19??).
  • Tomb of Dracula, #27 (19??).
  • Incomplete Death's Head, #11 (19??).
Miscellaneous appearances
  • WhatIf, issues 13, 39, 43 and 16 (volume 2).
  • Conan the Barbarian - Movie Special, (1982) 2 issues.
  • Conan the Destroyer - Movie Special, (1985) 2 issues.
  • Marvel Age, issues 1, 2, 8 and 13.
  • Conan the Barbarian - Special Edition, (1983) Red Nails.
  • Conan Saga, (1987-1995) 97 issues.
  • Conan Classic, (1994-1995) 11 issues.
  • Marvel Treasury Edition, issues 4, 15, 19 and 23.
  • Marvel Super Special, issues 2, 9, 21 and 35.
  • Essential Conan, (2000) 1 issue.

Dark Horse Comics

Dark Horse Comics began their take on Conan 2003. Currently publishing the comic series Conan, written by Kurt Busiek and pencilled by Cary Nord. This series is a fresh interpretation, based solely on the works of Robert E. Howard, with no connection to the large Marvel run. Dark Horse Comics are also publishing digitally re-coloured compilations of the 1970's Marvel Comics Conan the Barbarian series in graphic-novel format. By Roy Thomas (writer), Barry Windsor-Smith, John Buscema, Ernie Chan (artists) and others.

  • 2004 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards
Best Single Issue or One-Shot. Conan #0: The Legend.
  • 2004 Eagle Awards
Favourite new comicbook. Conan.
Core appearances
  • Conan #0: The Legend,, (2003).
  • Conan, (2004+). 15+ issues.
  • Conan and the Daughters of Midora, (2004). 1 issue.
  • Conan and the Jewels of Gwahlur, (2005). 3 issues.
  • The Chronicles of Conan
    • Volume 1: Tower of the Elephant and Other Stories, (2003). Reprints Marvel Comics' Conan the Barbarian issues 1-8.
    • Volume 2: Rogues in the House and Other Stories, (2003). Reprints Marvel Comics' Conan the Barbarian issues 9-13,16.
    • Volume 3: The Monster of the Monoliths and Other Stories, (2003). Reprints Marvel Comics' Conan the Barbarian issues 14,15,17-21.
    • Volume 4: The Song of Red Sonja and Other Stories, (2004). Reprints Marvel Comics' Conan the Barbarian issues 23-26 and Red Nails originally published in Savage Tales.
    • Volume 5: The Shadow in the Tomb and Other Stories, (2004). Reprints Marvel Comics' Conan the Barbarian issues 27-34.
    • Volume 6: The Curse of the Golden Skull and Other Stories, (2004). Reprints Marvel Comics' Conan the Barbarian issues 35-42.
    • Volume 7: The Dweller in the Pool and Other Stories, (2005). Reprints Marvel Comics' Conan the Barbarian issues 43-51.
    • Volume 8: The Tower of Blood and Other Stories, (2005). Reprints Marvel Comics' Conan the Barbarian issues 52-60.
  • Conan
    • Volume 1: The Frost Giant's Daughter and Other Stories (2005). Collects issues 0-6 and fourteen pages from issue 7 of the ongoing series Conan.

Miscellaneous or parody appearances

  • National Lampoon, (May 1972).
  • Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!, (DC, 1982) issue 7. Written by Roy Thomas.


Three commercial computer and video games were released based on the Conan mythos.

Parody and other references


Despite his brutish appearance, Conan uses his brain as well as his brawn. The Cimmerian is a talented fighter, but due to his travels abroad, he also has vast experience in other trades, especially the thiefly one; he is also a talented commander, tactician and strategist, as well as a born leader. In addition, Conan speaks many languages, including advanced reading and writing abilities : in certain stories, he's able to recognize, or even decipher, certain ancient or secret signs and writings (like when he uses the sign of Jhebbal Sag in Beyond the Black River)(but noticeably, he apparently is never shown by Howard reading Stygian, though he can speak it), and his very first appearance in writing (in The Phoenix on the Sword) shows him busy writing.


Conan has "sullen blue eyes," long black hair, stands 6'6" (2 m) and weighs over 200 lbs (90 kg).


  • "You cannot escape me!" he roared. "Lead me into a trap and I'll pile the heads of your kinsmen at your feet! Hide from me and I'll tear apart the mountains to find you! I'll follow you to hell!"
  • Conan did not hesitate, nor did he even glance toward the chest that held the wealth of an epoch. With a quickness that would have shamed the spring of a hungry jaguar, he swooped, grasped the girl's arm just as her fingers slipped from the smooth stone, and snatched her up on the span with one explosive heave. ( from Jewels of Gwahlur )
  • "Keep back!" ordered Shah Amurath, watching him narrowly. "Ha!" It was like the bark of a timber wolf. "Shah Amurath, the great Lord of Akif! Oh, damn you, how I love the sight of you - you, who fed my comrades to the vultures, who tore them between wild horses, blinded and maimed and mutilated them - at, you dog, you filthy dog!" His voice rose to a maddened scream, and he charged.

Conan the Barbarian movie quotes:

  • Mongol General: "What is best in life?"

Conan: "To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women."

  • "Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you will remember, if we were good men, or bad. Why we fought, or how we died. No, all that matters is, that two stood against many. That's what's important. Valour pleases you Crom, so grant me one request, grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then the hell with you!"
  • Conan, to Subotai: "Crom laughs at your four winds."
  • King Osric: There comes a time, thief, when the jewels cease to sparkle, when the gold loses its luster, when the throne room becomes a prison, and all that is left is a father's love for his child.
  • Valeria: To the hell fires with Thulsa Doom. He's evil; a sorcerer who can summon demons. His followers' only purpose is to die in his service. Thousands of them.
  • Valeria: All my life I've been alone. Many times I've faced death with no one to know. I would look into the huts and the tents of others in the coldest dark and I would see figures holding each other in the night. But I always passed by.
  • The Wizard: Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis, and the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of. And onto this, Conan, destined to wear the jeweled crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow. It is I, his chronicler, who alone can tell thee of his saga. Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!
  • Thulsa Doom: Infidel Defilers. They shall all drown in lakes of blood.
  • Thulsa Doom: My child, you have come to me my son. For who now is your father if it is not me? I am the well spring, from which you flow. When I am gone, you will have never been. What would your world be, without me? My son.
  • Conan's Father: For no one - no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts. This you can trust.

[Points to sword]

  • Thulsa Doom: Yes! You know what it is don't you boy. Shall I tell you? It's the least I can do. Steel isn't strong boy, flesh is stronger! Look around you. There, on the rocks; that beautiful girl. Come to me my child... That is strength boy! That is power! What is steel compared to the hand that wields it? Look at the strength in your body, the desire in your heart, I gave you this! Such a waste. Contemplate this on the tree of woe. Crucify him!
  • Valeria: Do you want to live forever?
  • Thulsa Doom: Now they will know why they are afraid of the dark. Now they learn why they fear the night.
  • Thulsa Doom: I wish to speak to you now. Where is the Eye of the Serpent? Rexor said that you gave it to a girl; probably for a mere night's pleasure. Such a loss. People have no grasp of what they do.
  • Subotai: He is Conan, Cimmerian, he won't cry, so I cry for him.
  • Black Lotus Street Peddler: Two or three years ago it was just another snake cult.
  • The Wizard: I'm a wizard, mind you. This place is kept by powerful gods and spirits of kings. Harm my flesh and you will have to deal with the dead!
  • Valeria: All the gods, they cannot sever us. If I were dead and you were still fighting for life, I'd come back from the darkness. Back from the pit of hell to fight at your side.
  • Conan: For us, there is no spring. Just the wind that smells fresh before the storm.

External links

fr:Conan le barbare ko:코난 it:Conan pl:Conan_barbarzyńca fi:Conan Barbaari


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