The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian

September 21, 2010 at 5:08 pm (Adventure, Fantasy, Horror, Short stories) (, , , )

The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian by Robert E. Howard

The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian: The Original Adventures of the Greatest Sword-and-Sorcery Hero of All Time! by Robert E. Howard
illustrated by Mark Schultz
materials originally published 1932-1976
DelRey, 1st edition, 2005
457 pages
Genre: Fantasy, sword & sandals, short stories, adventure!

Jacket copy: “Between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities . . . there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars. . . . Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand . . . to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.”

Conan is one of the greatest fictional heroes ever created–a swordsman who cuts a swath across the lands of the Hyborian Age, facing powerful sorcerers, deadly creatures, and ruthless armies of thieves and reavers.
In a meteoric career that spanned a mere twelve years before his tragic suicide, Robert E. Howard single-handedly invented the genre that came to be called sword and sorcery. Collected in this volume, profusely illustrated by artist Mark Schultz, are Howard’s first thirteen Conan stories, appearing in their original versions–in some cases for the first time in more than seventy years–and in the order Howard wrote them. Along with classics of dark fantasy like “The Tower of the Elephant” and swashbuckling adventure like “Queen of the Black Coast,” The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian contains a wealth of material never before published in the United States, including the first submitted draft of Conan’s debut, “Phoenix on the Sword,” Howard’s synopses for “The Scarlet Citadel” and “Black Colossus,” and a map of Conan’s world drawn by the author himself.
Here are timeless tales featuring Conan the raw and dangerous youth, Conan the daring thief, Conan the swashbuckling pirate, and Conan the commander of armies. Here, too, is an unparalleled glimpse into the mind of a genius whose bold storytelling style has been imitated by many, yet equaled by none.

Book report: So, I dig Conan. I totally dig Conan, from the stories to the movies. (Basil Poledouris’ score for Conan the Barbarian is one of the greatest film scores of ALL TIME. I listen to it constantly. We played the “Anvil of Crom” at our wedding, in fact. That is how much I love Conan. And how much of a huge dork I am.) I love the idea of Conan, and that exotic, crazy world in which he lives. It’s totally awesome, and I want to go there–but just for a visit. Now, I’ve discussed Conan before, and the treatment REH’s creation suffered at the hands of MONSTERS in the decades following his death, so I probably don’t need to go into that again.

Let me tell you of the days of high adventure! So the Wizard introduces Conan’s saga in Conan the Barbarian, and it is high adventure indeed that you will find in The Coming of Conan. These are Howard’s stories as he originally published them, and in the order they were first published. They are achronological, mind you, so you will not be following Conan’s career in an orderly fashion, but will find yourself with Conan the King of Aquilonia in the first story “The Phoenix on the Sword” and then with a youthful Conan, still in the North among the Æsir in the second story, “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter,” and then on to Conan the thief in “The God in the Bowl,” and so on and so forth. The collection includes one of his best adventures and female characters, “The Queen of the Black Coast,” one of my particular eerie favorites “Black Colossus,” but also an example of some of REH’s more questionable attitudes in “The Vale of Lost Women,” which concerns a black-skinned jungle tribe. Overall, though, a jolly good time.

Read also: Any of the other REH books DelRey has been producing of late.

Cover: It’s okay. It’s no Frazetta (though I will admit that his pix don’t look terribly like the Conan in my mind’s eye, but they certainly have style. And hott chicks. Seriously, Frazetta could draw some foxy ladies.) I’m not all that excited by the illustrations in this volume.

Gingerly stepping over it, the thief thrust against the door, which this time slid aside, revealing the interior of the dome. Shevatas cried out; instead of utter darkness he had come into a crimson light that throbbed and pulsed almost beyond the endurance of mortal eyes. It came from a gigantic red jewel high up in the vaulted arch of the dome. Shevatas gaped, inured though he was to the sight of riches. The treasure was there, heaped in staggering profusion–piles of diamonds, sapphires, rubies, turquoises, opals, emeralds; ziggurats of jade, jet, and lapis-lazuli; pyramids of gold wedges; teocallis of silver ingots; jewel-hilted swords in cloth-of-gold sheaths; golden helmets with colored horsehair crests, or black and scarlet plumes; silver-scaled corselets; gem-crusted harness worn by warrior-kings three thousand years in their tombs; goblets carven of single jewels; skulls plated with gold, with moonstones for eyes; necklaces of human teeth set with jewels. The ivory floor was covered inches deep with gold dust that sparkled and shimmered under the crimson glow with a million scintillant lights. The thief stood in a wonderland of magic and splendor, treading stars under his sandaled feet.
But his eyes were focused on the dais of crystal which rose in the midst of the shimmering array, directly under the red jewel, and on which should be lying the moldering bones, turning to dust with the crawling of the centuries. And as Shevatas looked, the blood drained from his dark features; his marrow turned to ice, and the skin of his back crawled and wrinkled with horror, while his lips worked soundlessly. But suddenly he found his voice in one awful scream that rang hideously under the arching dome. Then again the silence of the ages lay among the ruins of mysterious Kuthchemes.
(“Black Colossus”)

3 Comments

  1. Al Harron said,

    Wow, “Anvil of Crom” at your wedding? I doff my horned helm to you. (I’d try and play “Theology & Civilization” at my wedding if I thought I could get away with it!) Schultz’ drawings aren’t Frazetta, true, but then, Frazetta’s one of a kind. I think Gary Gianni’s illustrations for the second in the series, The Bloody Crown of Conan, are truly excellent though.

    The main problem with CoCtC is that it has an awful lot of the mediocre/pulpy stories in them, like “The Devil in Iron” and “Iron Shadows in the Moon”: it gets better in the later volumes.

    Finally: “The Stacks My Destination” is a simply awesome title. Bester rules.

    • Schatzi said,

      Dude, go for it! “Theology & Civilization” is lovely (I think “The Leaving – The Search” could also work for incidental music)! It’s your wedding, too!

      I haven’t checked out the second volume, but I cannot wait to do so. And while you’re right about the chaff mixed in with the wheat here, I think the comprehensiveness of the volumes make them well-suited to academia as well as pleasure readers, and I appreciate that versatility.

      Finally, thanks! I don’t think anyone’s ever mentioned catching on to that. I thought it had a nice ring to it myself …

  2. Al Harron said,

    In a way, TCoC gets most of the lesser stuff out of the way, leaving the later volumes to be almost wall-to-wall awesome, which is good. It’s infinitely better than the Fantasy Masterworks approach, which arranged the stories in a “chronological order”. This means that not only do some of the stories seem repetitive when put back-to-back (ie all the thief tales), but the first volume has all but one of the mediocre stories, while the second volume is almost completely comprised of the best.

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