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Best of Robert E. Howard's Canon

Best of Robert E. Howard's Canon  

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Hi there!


So far, I've read a dozen of Conan stories, and I was wondering which one is your favourite... :umnik:


I've found the list of the stories written by Howard in this wiki.


As one cannot give more than 20 choices for one question when it comes to poll, I had to ask two times the same question. Please pick your three favourite stories and, if you want to, tell us what you liked in them. It could be interesting to share which story you liked the less, and why.


In each case, the use of spoilers could be a good idea.

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Hola NQD,


"Frost Giant's Daughter"

My favorite Conan short story, the tale begins with a weary Conan trying to find his bearings after being the last left standing in a massive battle. As he stumbles across the blood stained snow he hears the maniacal laughing and taunting of a slender white succubus luring him deeper into the mountains. To Conan's delight there is a trap waiting of 2 axe wielding Giants. After making quick work of the frost giant brethren Conan chases the daughter further into the white void, where she... well I don't want to ruin it, but its a great tale of gigantic mirth and existential horror. 



"The Tower of the Elephant" 

This is a great exploit of a young, cocky Conan dared to steal a jewel; so he does. In his attempt he runs into a famous Nemedian thief, together they face a great labyrinth, that leads to the death of Taurus and a battle with a giant spider; not to mention the "elephant",  it cements the barbarians place in a cosmic void incapable of empathy



"Red Nails"

Deserves it's on thread.

Edited by Oldjimmi
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I've finally managed to read the third tome of the Bragelonne edition of Conan. That fine edition contains all the novels of Conan written by REH, in the order of publication, and following Louinet (a French Conan scholar) it's as close of the original work as it can be.


As @Ol' Grumpy and @Rhell pointed it out, it's quite difficult to establish a top three of these novels, but here's some thoughts about three novels I really enjoyed.




I really liked Xuthal of the Dust. Sure, the novel is flawed. The Conan girl*, Natala, isn't much more than the icing on the cake, une potiche, as she would be called in French. Her most frequent line is "Oooh, Conan" (with an afraid, whining tone). Yes, the inhabitants of Xuthal aren't very noticeable opponents, and it seemed curious to me that so much of these dream-people attack Conan on sight. It would have been better in my opinion that they just don't care about his presence. Yeah, the kinky action comes a little out of the blue, as Thalis herself does, but it's not beyond suspension of disbelief, I think, and the rivalry between the two girls to get Conan attention is a way to make the story move forward.


But anyway, that novel is epic.

It features an antique nation, gifted with advanced technology, that has been living as recluse for ages. As they have found the means to fulfil very easily every and each of their desires, they are now weak and live meaningless, hedonist lives. It made me think about a mind-blowing novel by Richard Matheson, When the waker sleeps (1950), although this story is entirely different. I think that this description of the people of Xuthal already shows ideas that will be more explicitly be told by REH years later (in Beyond the Black River or in The Red Nails, for instance).

As often in REH work, the story seems to be a parenthesis worthy to be told in the routine of the barbarian (his mercenary/plunderer/pirate life), but this time what happened just before (the defeat of Almuric) matters, because this backstory explains why Natala who isn't an adventurer is sticking with Conan and why they are in such a difficult situation when the story begins. As they aren't really out of trouble at the end of the story, this contributes to the impression that Conan is living outside the stories told by REH, that he's not only a character summoned for a story meant to be sold, but that the novels are part of a greater, yet untold and maybe unthought story.

I really enjoyed its setting: a lost, dying city in the desert isn't only an exotic background (I've come to think that I like such destinations much more than Aquilonia or even the Border in REH's work, even when they are only pasteboard decors, caricatures rather than believable constructions), it's also a thrilling place with so much narrative potential! And REH exploited it quite well with those dead-seeming people, a place that seems both inhabited and deserted, and its slithering shadow. I loved it.

What's more, that story features one of the rare antagonists that are a real threat to Conan.


Thog is an ancient god/demon/thing/abomination preying on the city, something quite close to Lovecraft's stuff, something that Conan couldn't really manage to beat, and without the prompt aid of Natala and the enchanted vine of Xuthal, the barbarian would have died from his wounds. Compare Thog with the ridiculous Thaug from A Witch Shall Be Born (its miniature is far more convincing than the monster in the novel). They clearly aren't playing on the same level. As a matter of fact, there aren't much enemies playing on the same level as Thog.

And, finally, Natala is maybe not the potiche she seemed at first sight. She did more than being taken captive, moaning, and getting spanked by Conan.


Sure, REH, Conan and the reader make fun of her. Sure, she isn't a strong character, she's a follower and a pretty face/whatever alabaster, smoothy part you like. BUT: she warned Conan of a danger he didn't see (or want to see). And besides of smelling danger kicker than Conan (which is quite surprising), she saved him. That's something that Valeria never came close to do, that Zelata could only do in a cryptic way, and Bêlit managed to do something like that only post mortem. That, coming from a damsel in distress, was great.


Well, maybe that's enough comment for one day. I'll come back for some thoughts about my two other picks another day.


Thanks for reading. If you want to comment and share your thoughts about Xuthal of the Dusk (or any novel to your liking), it will be most welcome.


Have fun reading REH! It's what matters the most, in the end.


*often similar to a Bond girl, don't you think?

Edited by Not Quite Dead
Added spoilers
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