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The God in the Bowl (Conan "SotM")


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#1 Kortoso

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Posted 03 November 2006 - 06:25 PM

This month, we'll be looking at the REH Conan story "The God in the Bowl". It's actually the third story that Howard wrote, and Conan seems to appear fresh to civilization.

It's not my favorite story; not much happens here physically. But a tremendous mystery develops, culminating in a surprise ending. And there's an interesting bit of combat as well.

#2 elegos7

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Posted 04 November 2006 - 02:38 PM

It is one of my favourite Conan stories, not because of the action, but because of the mythology that is behind the story. I find the idea of ancient serpent gods especially enthralling.

"Kallian Publico believed that it contained the diadem of the giant-kings, of the people who dwelt in that dark land before the ancestors of the Stygians came there. He showed me a design carved on the lid, which he swore was the shape of the diadem which legend tells us the monster-kings wore. "

"Ancient gods and queer mummies have come up the caravan roads before, but who loves the priest of Ibis so well in Stygia, where they still worship the arch-demon Set who coils among the tombs in the darkness? The god Ibis has fought Set since the first dawn of the earth..."

"This Bowl is too old for a human world ? it is a relic of the time when Set walked the earth in the form of a man! The race which sprang from his loins laid the bones of their kings away in such cases as these..."

"The thought of Set was like a nightmare, and the children of Set who once ruled the earth and who now sleep in their nighted caverns far below the black pyramids."

It is a pity this story was not accepted by Weird Tales, Howard might have dwelt more into the history of Stygia (including Set and the Giant Kings) in subsequent stories. Dale Rippke has some very interesting theories on this subject (see http://www.rehupa.co...ppke_stygia.htm and his book Hyborian Heresies), but only Howard knew what he really intended with these topics.
At least, this way the mistery remains and we can keep speculating on it.

#3 Taranaich

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Posted 04 November 2006 - 04:06 PM

A very interesting change of pace. I quite enjoyed it simply by virtue of it being different to other Conan yarns: no action until the last act, a thorough exploration of young Conan dealing with "civilized" folk, and more a murder mystery than an adventure tale.

I'll post more when I think of it.

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#4 Guest_Tu for Kull_*

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Posted 04 November 2006 - 04:56 PM

A very interesting change of pace. I quite enjoyed it simply by virtue of it being different to other Conan yarns: no action until the last act, a thorough exploration of young Conan dealing with "civilized" folk, and more a murder mystery than an adventure tale.

I'll post more when I think of it.


Greetings!
Got to agree with you on that.I think it speaks volumes on REH as a writer.He can take a character and write a yarn that was not according to type(i.e. what one,knowingly or not expects) and turn it to a murder mystery,with a touch of the super natural to wrap it up.Still it contains,IMHO, some of my favorite lines:

Demetrio looked at barbarian.
"You understand what he said?" asked the Inquisitor. "What have you to say?"
"That any man who touches me will quickly be greeting his ancestors in hell," the Cimmerian ground between his powerful teeth,his eyes glinting quick flames of dangerous anger.
"Why did you come here,if not to kill this man?' pursued Demetrio.
"I came to steal." sullenly answered the other.
"To steal what? rapped the Inquisitor.
"Food," the reply came after an instant's hesitation.
"That's a lie!" snapped Demetrio."You knew there was no food here.Don't lie to me.Tell me the truth or-"
The Cimmerian laid his hand on his sword hilt,and the gesture was as fraught with mence as the lifting of a tiger's lip to bare his fangs.
"Save your bullying for the fools who fear you." he growled,blue fires smoldering in his eyes."I'm no city-bred Nemedian to cringe before your hired dogs.I've killed better men than you for less than this."

And for action:

He struck with no more warning than a striking cobra;his sword flashed in the candle light.Aztrias shrieked and his head flew from his shoulders in a shower of blood,the features frozen in a white mask of horror.Catlike Conan wheeled and thrust murderously for Demetrio's groin.The Inquisitor's instinctive recoil barely deflected the point which sank into his thigh,glancing from the bone and ploughed out through the outer side of the leg.Demetrio went to his knee with a groan,unnerved and nauseated with agony.
Conan did not pause.The bill which Dionus flung up saved the perfect's skull from the whistling blade which turned slightly as it cut though the shaft,and sheared his ear cleanly from his head.The blinding speed of the barbarian paralyzed the senses of the police and made their actions futile gestures.Caught flat-footed and dazed by his quickness and ferocity,half of them would have been down before they had a chance to fight back,except that Posthumo,more by luck than skill,threw his arms around the Cimmerian,pinioning his sword arm.Conan's left hand leaped to the guard's head,and Posthumo fell away and writhed shrieking on the floor,clutching a gaping red socket where an eye had been.

Tu

Edited by Tu for Kull, 04 November 2006 - 05:38 PM.


#5 Kortoso

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Posted 04 November 2006 - 06:53 PM

There's also some interesting costume detail for those interested in such things.

The late Kallian Publico is described as wearing a "rich robe" as well as a "purple tunic". This brings to mind the costume of ancient Rome, with the tunica and toga of the upper class. It's reinforced with Enaro, the charioteer, who raises the sleeve of his tunic to show the brand on his shoulder, meaning a short-sleeved tunic, like those worn in ancient Rome...

A quick puzzler: how would they know when midnight was without clocks? ;)

#6 Taranaich

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Posted 04 November 2006 - 07:34 PM

There's also some interesting costume detail for those interested in such things.

The late Kallian Publico is described as wearing a "rich robe" as well as a "purple tunic". This brings to mind the costume of ancient Rome, with the tunica and toga of the upper class. It's reinforced with Enaro, the charioteer, who raises the sleeve of his tunic to show the brand on his shoulder, meaning a short-sleeved tunic, like those worn in ancient Rome...


I wonder if the tunics worn by different Hyborian peoples would have different hem patterns, much like the ancient Greeks.

A quick puzzler: how would they know when midnight was without clocks? ;)


I don't see why Nemedia couldn't have had clocks, seeing as the ancient Greeks had clockwork mechanisms and clocks as we know them were around in the High Middle Ages. Apart from that, Nemedia could have had a number of timekeeping devices, perhaps hourglasses, water clocks, candle clocks, or even more elaborate devices we haven't thought of. I'd like to imagine some vast Heath Robinson-esque contraption involving silver balls, bellows and small mammals in wheels.

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#7 budgie

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Posted 04 November 2006 - 09:19 PM


There's also some interesting costume detail for those interested in such things.

The late Kallian Publico is described as wearing a "rich robe" as well as a "purple tunic". This brings to mind the costume of ancient Rome, with the tunica and toga of the upper class. It's reinforced with Enaro, the charioteer, who raises the sleeve of his tunic to show the brand on his shoulder, meaning a short-sleeved tunic, like those worn in ancient Rome...


I wonder if the tunics worn by different Hyborian peoples would have different hem patterns, much like the ancient Greeks.

A quick puzzler: how would they know when midnight was without clocks? ;)


I don't see why Nemedia couldn't have had clocks, seeing as the ancient Greeks had clockwork mechanisms and clocks as we know them were around in the High Middle Ages. Apart from that, Nemedia could have had a number of timekeeping devices, perhaps hourglasses, water clocks, candle clocks, or even more elaborate devices we haven't thought of. I'd like to imagine some vast Heath Robinson-esque contraption involving silver balls, bellows and small mammals in wheels.


Not forgetting the position of the moon and stars if theyre visible..

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#8 grim cimmerian

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Posted 05 November 2006 - 08:10 PM

A quick puzzler: how would they know when midnight was without clocks? ;)



I don't see why Nemedia couldn't have had clocks, seeing as the ancient Greeks had clockwork mechanisms and clocks as we know them were around in the High Middle Ages. Apart from that, Nemedia could have had a number of timekeeping devices, perhaps hourglasses, water clocks, candle clocks, or even more elaborate devices we haven't thought of. I'd like to imagine some vast Heath Robinson-esque contraption involving silver balls, bellows and small mammals in wheels.


I think ancients would have been much more familiar with the night sky than we are in general today, so a guard outdoors could presumably know the approximate time. perhaps the guard knows the length of time that his rounds require and can keep an accurate account from them. Perhaps the town watch calls out the hour or changes gurads at regular intervals so people could judge time by that. Others could be using various water clocks , hourglasses and such that taranaich mentioned.

I finished an extensive summary and review of god in the bowl on my thread. It is one of my favorites because it is a detective mystery and an bloody conan fantasy story all in one. perfect.
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#9 Kieran

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Posted 08 November 2006 - 02:19 PM

This is one of my personal favourites. It's a bit different from the norm as it's more a detective story with the focus more on the police than Conan himself. I find the charcater of Demetrio interesting. Despite the fact he's obviously corrupt, he does believe in justice in his own way and he seems quite eager to prove Conan's innocence even though he knows it would be simpler just to blame him. I imagine Howard felt the same way and that's why he lets him off relatively easily from Conan's brutal attack. The character's attitude to justice actually reminds me of Little Bill in Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven.

It's also interesting to see how naive Conan is. He approaches the watchman thinking him a fellow thief, while as in later tales he'd make sure who he was before approaching him and he seems outraged when the nobleman won't clear him, obviously expecting the same sense of honour in the civilized man as in a barbarian. There is one part where Conan seems indecisive as to how to handle the policemen - should he attack or give them a chance to clear him? Such indecision isn't really found in Conan later on.

Then we have the finale with all the bullying policemen getting their just deserts and then Conan's confrontation with the daughter of Set, probably the creepiest thing by Howard that I've read. There's a real sense of Conan and the policemen being caught in something much greater than they are and its fun to see how quickly the policemn forget their feud with Conan and scarper when the scretary is scared to death.

All in all, Howard at his best.

Edited by Kieran, 11 November 2006 - 05:06 PM.

Contemplate this on the Tree of Woe.

#10 Winterghost

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Posted 10 November 2006 - 04:27 AM

I love this story. After rereading it today, I picked up my Dark Horse trade and paged through it. They really stuck to REh's action in the end fight.

To what god was this temple dedicated to?

I love how everyone was so willing to throw Conan to the gallows-- or stake-- even when it was decided he was innocent. Gave me a chuckle.

Snakes in a Temple! We've got snakes in the other Story of the Month thread too! Howard sure did like those slithering things. Yuck! ;)

#11 PainBrush

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Posted 10 November 2006 - 04:52 AM

I love how everyone was so willing to throw Conan to the gallows-- or stake-- even when it was decided he was innocent.

I haven't read this one again since probably the beginning of the year- but I do remember this detail - innocent of the murder or not , Conan was doing a B.&E. of a temple ! & it was mentioned that offence alone by their laws was worthy of death or life in the mines or something . The only thing I didn't like of this story was the snake having a human head , even a 'human-like' or 'cruelly-evil human-like eyes' or 'primordial look of intelligence beyond a mere snake' or something would have been much better , still pretty creepy though .

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#12 Winterghost

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Posted 10 November 2006 - 05:16 AM


I love how everyone was so willing to throw Conan to the gallows-- or stake-- even when it was decided he was innocent.

I haven't read this one again since probably the beginning of the year- but I do remember this detail - innocent of the murder or not , Conan was doing a B.&E. of a temple ! & it was mentioned that offence alone by their laws was worthy of death or life in the mines or something . The only thing I didn't like of this story was the snake having a human head , even a 'human-like' or 'cruelly-evil human-like eyes' or 'primordial look of intelligence beyond a mere snake' or something would have been much better , still pretty creepy though .


10 years in the mines for B&E. Different types of death penalty pending on class you killed.

#13 Almuric

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Posted 10 November 2006 - 06:50 AM

Not my favorite story, but I do like the climax and the Thoth-Amon mention. My favorite adaptation was the Marvel one, with the Barry Windsor-Smith art. He really made the man-serpent creature look both beautiful and frightening all at once.
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Turlogh shook his head. "Not so long as the race lasts."


--- The Dark Man, by Robert E. Howard

#14 deuce

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Posted 10 November 2006 - 07:18 AM

Not my favorite story, but I do like the climax and the Thoth-Amon mention. My favorite adaptation was the Marvel one, with the Barry Windsor-Smith art. He really made the man-serpent creature look both beautiful and frightening all at once.



Right with ya on that, Almuric. I first read it in the paperback collection. You could almost feel that nauseating, irresistible COMPULSION. One of Barry's best early efforts. Nord's "tiki-head" version didn't even come close.

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#15 Mike_The_Barbarian

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Posted 10 November 2006 - 08:48 PM

Although it was last year that I read this - and all my Conan stories - this one was quite memrable to me.

For some reason, this is one of the main stories I think of when thinking about Conans adventures. I always think of him stealing, and I thought the setting for this story was absolutely wonderful.

However, I don't remember the snake having a human head... :huh:
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#16 PainBrush

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Posted 11 November 2006 - 06:36 PM

10 years in the mines for B&E. Different types of death penalty pending on class you killed.

Aha , I knew it was something like that .

However, I don't remember the snake having a human head... :huh:

Yeah , ( I just jumped to the last page just now ) - everyones gone & ran in terror except Conan & he sees over the top of a screen a 'god-like' but emotionless marble-like face that Conan had never seen the likes of before in the 'sons of man' , he thinks it must have a perfect body to match the face . When it speaks with it's 'full-lips' one word he doesn't recognise , but realises it means 'come-here' - it occurs to him that he's being enchanted or something ( not to mention the being had killed a few folks already ) - he strikes out & lops off the head . The 'body' thrashes around with a bunch of noise behind the screen - so he looks behind & only then does he realise it was a giant snake .

" You have a good point there,...put your helmet on & no-one will notice it ."
" Look for a long time at what pleases you... and longer still at what pains you "
So THIS is civilization ??!??!......

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#17 deuce

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Posted 12 November 2006 - 12:52 AM


10 years in the mines for B&E. Different types of death penalty pending on class you killed.
Aha , I knew it was something like that .

However, I don't remember the snake having a human head... huh.gif
Yeah , ( I just jumped to the last page just now ) - everyones gone & ran in terror except Conan & he sees over the top of a screen a 'god-like' but emotionless marble-like face that Conan had never seen the likes of before in the 'sons of man' , he thinks it must have a perfect body to match the face . When it speaks with it's 'full-lips' one word he doesn't recognise , but realises it means 'come-here' - it occurs to him that he's being enchanted or something ( not to mention the being had killed a few folks already ) - he strikes out & lops off the head . The 'body' thrashes around with a bunch of noise behind the screen - so he looks behind & only then does he realise it was a giant snake .

...and then he runs like hell. And keeps running. I think in that moment, he realized that, if not for that split-second/last-minute sword-blow, he would have been MEAT. A lamb to the slaughter. He felt that inhuman, sorcerous COMPULSION wrapping itself around his soul. He would have just been one in a long line of gratuitous "tidbits" to enter the maw of this... thing from out of the black eons. He stared into the gaping abyss of deep time and realized..."men have not always been ruled by men". A very Lovecraftian moment. I think this was the first time in our very young Conan's life that he had ever faced such a thing. I think THAT is why Conan ran... and kept running.

Edited by deuce, 01 February 2014 - 08:33 AM.

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#18 Serpentis

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 12:50 PM

I just read this story last night. For some reason I felt sorry for the Giant Snake once Conan cut it's head off... not sure why though :D . This wasn't one of my favorite ones, I prefer more action. Still, it was a good read and I did enjoy it.

#19 Winterghost

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 03:31 PM

Was there anything in the wording that caused you to feel sympathy? Personally, I'm with Conan on this one; don't wait, just cuts its head off! I have a big fear of snakes that has developed over the years.

Not much action, but well written, and when it's a good story you don't have to have alot of fighting. Heck, if it's well written you could have a great story with nothing but Conan having "pillow talk" with one of his ladies.

But each to his own, and I know the action is what draws the masses.

Serpentis... isn't that one of the bad guys from GI Joe? Was he the guy with the metal head?

#20 deuce

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 04:54 PM

Was there anything in the wording that caused you to feel sympathy? Personally, I'm with Conan on this one; don't wait, just cuts its head off! I have a big fear of snakes that has developed over the years.

Not much action, but well written, and when it's a good story you don't have to have alot of fighting. Heck, if it's well written you could have a great story with nothing but Conan having "pillow talk" with one of his ladies.

But each to his own, and I know the action is what draws the masses.

Serpentis... isn't that one of the bad guys from GI Joe? Was he the guy with the metal head?



I'm with you on that one, WG! I felt the opposite of sympathy. If ya want, check out my post on Howard's snake phobia on the REH board. :)

Edited by deuce, 29 November 2006 - 04:55 PM.

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