My Top Five Conan Stories by Robert E. Howard
I’m a Conan fan even though I came to Robert E. Howard’s stories of the Cimmerian later than I did his pastiches. I started, like most fans of my generation, on the movies starring Arnold, then I moved on to the comic books, and finally I reached the Tor Conan line from the later eighties and nineties. It’s been a decade plus since I read many of them, but it’s been less than a decade since I read my first Robert E. Howard penned Conan yarn. In that time, I’ve read most of them (mostly last year when I did my Wizards of Conan series). I took the opportunity to re-read some of my favorites by Howard. So here they are:
5. The Scarlet Citadel- The scenes set in Tsotha-lanti’s dungeons are amazing, filled with awesome weirdness. I also really enjoy the play of the two wizard rivals- Tsotha-lanti and Pelias. The implication that there are few “good” wizards is a cool one. And King Conan’s telling off of the two kings is simply amazing.
4. The Tower of the Elephant- This yarn is likely to be my earliest favorite. The story’s most powerful moment is the encounter with Yag Kosha. The humanity of the non- human entity and the inhumanity of the human wizard is simply a great theme.
3. The Queen of the Black Coast- The powerful and tragic love story of Conan and Belit. Simply moving and terrifying.
2. Red Nails- The fall of a society due to the insane jealousies of the three leaders is truly horrifying. The lost city is amazingly well done and provides, I think, a suitable setting for this dark drama.
1. The People of the Black Circle- I love this story largely for the wizards. Khemsa is an amazing character and acts, I think, as a nice foil for Conan. And I really love the Black Seers of Yimsha.
There you have it, my favorite stories of Conan penned by REH. This is a personal list that is not meant to be academic. Indeed, I often wonder if I am an atypical sword and sorcery fan. So often when I read anthologies, blogs, and other sources, the emphasis is on the sword rather than the sorcery. As stated before, I’m all about the sorcery. Give me a good wizard any day.
Post script: While I’ve been rereading Howard’s Conan, I’ve also taken the chance to read some of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels. I may have a post up soon on my favorite Bond novels (and movies).