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The Scarlet Citadel (SotM for January)


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#41 Lichlord Doom

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 04:38 PM

My favorite part of this tale was Conan's exploration of the dark and almost otherworldly-seeming dungeon in which he is trapped. The intelligence in the eyes of the giant snake, the once-human creatures trapped so long they have lost their humanity, and the surprise of Conan finding a helpful wizard trapped by those living plants. It was all very cinematic! When the invisible ghost / spirit brushed Conan's head as he neared the pit... that was an excellent way to show that this was not going to be Conan's prime avenue of escape. In the end, he escaped the only way he could: through the way he was brought in, after slaying the jailer with the help of the liberated wizard, who was to become even more helpful by the end of the entire tale.

I could picture this whole tale as a story arc within a Conan movie, comic, or video game... so cinematic is the best way to describe it, really; it expertly combines the primal with the supernatural, at every turn. It reminded me a little of Oliver Stone's Conan the Barbarian script, before the changes by Millius, what with the mutant-like creatures and epic battles! It was certainly one of the greatest of REH's Conan tales. :)
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#42 deuce

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 04:46 PM

My favorite part of this tale was Conan's exploration of the dark and almost otherworldly-seeming dungeon in which he is trapped. The intelligence in the eyes of the giant snake, the once-human creatures trapped so long they have lost their humanity, and the surprise of Conan finding a helpful wizard trapped by those living plants. It was all very cinematic! When the invisible ghost / spirit brushed Conan's head as he neared the pit... that was an excellent way to show that this was not going to be Conan's prime avenue of escape. In the end, he escaped the only way he could: through the way he was brought in, after slaying the jailer with the help of the liberated wizard, who was to become even more helpful by the end of the entire tale.

I could picture this whole tale as a story arc within a Conan movie, comic, or video game... so cinematic is the best way to describe it, really; it expertly combines the primal with the supernatural, at every turn. It reminded me a little of Oliver Stone's Conan the Barbarian script, before the changes by Millius, what with the mutant-like creatures and epic battles! It was certainly one of the greatest of REH's Conan tales. :)



Totally agree, Lichlord. REH packed more into 30 pages than a lot of today's fantasy writers do into 300. I've also thought that this would make a great screenplay.

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#43 Crom's bells

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 04:55 PM

Totally agree, Lichlord. REH packed more into 30 pages than a lot of today's fantasy writers do into 300. I've also thought that this would make a great screenplay.


True, it wasn't a very long tale, that's why it's so good. He just packs it all in, without dilly dallying and beating around the bush. He understands that a good story does not have to be unnecessarily long and overarching with words, to make the tangible taste of battle last in the reader's mind.

Edited by Crom's bells, 04 August 2009 - 04:56 PM.


#44 theagenes

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Posted 28 August 2009 - 07:49 PM

In regard to Deuce's idea about Conan's flying steed being a dragon, I have to say I always pictured something more like a demonic flying creature, though a pterasaur of some sort would make since too. But, earlier today i was looking at the short synopsis of TSC in the appendices of the Delrey volume and saw that REH himself refers to the creature as "a bird or a dragon." Since the finished text specifically eliminates the bird possiblity, perhaps REH intended for the creature to be a dragon after all. Now you can certainly make the argument that when REH is speaking of "dragons" in a Hyborian context he is usually talking about prehistoric saurians of some sort, rather than your typical "medieval" type dragon. But, that said, TSC is certainly one of the most "medieval" of the Conan tales, so maybe Deuce is really on to something here.
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#45 deuce

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Posted 28 August 2009 - 10:04 PM

In regard to Deuce's idea about Conan's flying steed being a dragon, I have to say I always pictured something more like a demonic flying creature, though a pterasaur of some sort would make since too. But, earlier today i was looking at the short synopsis of TSC in the appendices of the Delrey volume and saw that REH himself refers to the creature as "a bird or a dragon." Since the finished text specifically eliminates the bird possiblity, perhaps REH intended for the creature to be a dragon after all.


Hey Theagenes! Another interesting topic. Glad to see that you're considering my hypothesis. :D I'll try and get some of the most relevant info together into this post.

"Real dragons" (the term I'll use for the authentic beasts of legend, as opposed to "dino-dragons") appear in REH's fiction almost from the very start; namely Wolfshead. Here's the pertinent passage:

In the beginning the world was strange, misshapen. Grotesque beasts wandered through its jungles. Driven from another world, ancient demons and fiends came in great numbers and settled upon this newer, younger world. (...) The fiends entered other beasts, reptiles and birds; and long and fiercely waged the age-old battle. But man conquered. The great dragons and serpents were slain and with them the demons.


It goes on to state that werewolves arose the same way. Basically, what we have here are "possessed dinosaurs (or pterosaurs)" ultimately transfigured by the alien entities within them. So, Theagenes, it would appear that Conan's winged steed was, indeed, a "demonic flying creature" according to REH. Good instincts! B)

BTW, such a "possession" is not much different from what Khosatral Khel effected. Also, Clark Ashton Smith used almost exactly the same concept in his tale, The Beast of Averoigne.

Not long after Wolfshead, "real dragons" make another (effigial) appearance in The Shadow Kingdom. Here is REH's description of the "dragon armlet" of Brule:

...a winged dragon coiled thrice, with three horns of ruby on the head.


There is no pterosaur known in Howard's day nor ours that was ever "three horned". The representation would need to be accurate in order to frighten a serpent-man, I'd think. "Horned dragons" are also mentioned in Pool of the Black One, where their occupation seems to have been to guard treasure. Not a very pterosaurian thing to do.

Conan's steed was "neither bat nor bird" and ALSO "either a bird or dragon". It was also known from "half-forgotten legends". Apparently, the beast could also circle in the stratosphere like an SR-71. It also had a "ridged back". I don't think REH was talking about a pterosaur. Regarding "legends", old-school dragons appear to be the only "mythical" creature in ethnically Hyborian heraldry (see "TPotS" and "THotD"), arguing, ironically, for their "real" existence, IMO.

REH mentioned "real dragons" in several poems. Here's a list (with help from Barbara Barrett's invaluable Wordbook)...

Babel
The Ballad of King Geraint
Deeps
Forbidden Magic
Recompense
Serpent
Shadow of Dreams
The Singer in the Mist
The Voices Waken Memory


Hope that helps. :)

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#46 drush9999

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 11:38 PM

I was reading just now that Howard revised this story after it was first published for submission to a British publisher. This is the version in the Del Rey volume.

Does anyone know if there's any major differences between the revised version and the original Weird Tales appearance?
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#47 Lichlord Doom

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Posted 04 September 2009 - 10:32 AM

I've never read Weird Tales (Before my Time!) but I have noticed that various depictions of the main villain of the novel vary. In one illustration, Tsotha Lanti is depicted like this:

Illustration Number 1:
Posted Image

And in another, more surreal illustration, he is depicted looking like this:

Illustration Number 2:
Posted Image

His description from the novel went something like this:
"Men say that a dancing girl of Shadizar slept too near the pre-human ruin on Dagoth Hill and woke in the grip of a black demon; that from that unholy union was spawned an accursed hybrid men call Tsotha-lanti-"

"Tsotha turned toward Conan, and the king noticed uneasily that the wizard's eyes shone in the semi-darkness, and that his teeth resembled the fangs of a wolf, gleaming whitely in the shadows."

The trouble with Illustration Number 1 is that it is the generic Hyborian Age evil wizard/priest look. Nothing about it even remotely matches up with the wicked description from the actual story itself.

So, I'm inclined to go with Illustration Number 2. That's a face that makes Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars look like a nice guy, even in fully crazed Sith mode! Now, here's the really good question:

Was Tsotha Lanti the son of Dagoth, and therefore a demi-god? That would explain his dark powers. In Dungeons and Dragons, a Sorcerer is someone born with magical powers, whereas a Wizard has to study the magical arts to gain power and a priest recieves power from their patron deity. Tsotha was clearly a Sorcerer, so the logical reason why a mortal would be born with magical powers (if you could call it logical) would be for one of their parents to have been a magical or otherworldly being of some kind. This is clearly stated: his father was a "black demon" but the clue that he was born on "Dagoth" hill could be hinting that the demon was the evil god Dagoth, who typically takes on a demonic form when he manifests. (Remember Conan the Destroyer! Bad example, but in this case it makes sense.) Sorcerers in D&D can become Red Dragon Disciples and even transform their bodies into Red Dragons. This reminds me of the following pictures of Dagoth from the Conan comics:

Posted Image

Posted Image

As to Dagoth being a "black demon" just look at these images. Yep, that's Tsotha's father alright... no need for DNA testing here. Besides... yech... who'd want to do DNA tests on these freaks?

Posted Image

Posted Image

Besides! There is evidence that in Shadizar, Dagoth was always looking to have children. For a good example, the graphic novel "Conan and the Horn of Azoth" stated that the maiden who put Dagoth's horn into his head to revive him had to be a virgin. Why? Sacrifice, of coruse! But how would such a "sacrifice" be conducted? Since we never do discover this in the Conan story, let's take a look at H.P. Lovecraft's Dagon. In the movie version of Dagon, a woman is "sacrificed" to Dagon by being thrown into the pit where Dagon dwells. It is earlier stated in the movie that Dagon intends to mate with the women sacrificed to him to produce more of his Deep Ones spawn. Since Dagoth is along the same order as Dagon, we can surmise that the "sacrifice" would have ended with fresh offspring for the demon-god. Clearly, Tsotha Lanti was the result of one such coupling involving dark Dagoth.

So, Pelias must have been incredibly powerful to deal with Tsotha the way he did, since we all know how hard it always was for Dagoth to be defeated. Which leads to an even better question: what the heck was Pelias? I personally think he himself must have had some otherworldly parentage as well.
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#48 MilkManX

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Posted 24 September 2009 - 06:37 PM

I re-read this tale yesterday.

After just recently re-reading HOTD this does feel like the blueprint for that story.

Not that its without its great moments.

The capture of Conan and his adventure in the creepy dungeon are my favorite parts.

The end battle seems to get a bit convoluted until Conan shows up.

I love the Shultz illustrations but the winged creature seemed to Lovecraftian to me and the description in the book leads me more to a Pterodactyl like beast.

Overall I really enjoyed it 7/10. If I have to rate the King stories I would go HOTD>Scarlet>Phoenix.
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#49 Zenobia

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Posted 24 September 2009 - 07:12 PM

So, Pelias must have been incredibly powerful to deal with Tsotha the way he did, since we all know how hard it always was for Dagoth to be defeated. Which leads to an even better question: what the heck was Pelias? I personally think he himself must have had some otherworldly parentage as well.


If I remember correctly, in one place Pelias distincly says that he is no demon like Tsotha, but a human... but I can't verify that right now because I haven't got my copy of the book here, I can check in a few days, or perhaps could someone else try to find that passage :)

Edited by Zenobia, 24 September 2009 - 07:13 PM.

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#50 Rusty Burke

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Posted 24 September 2009 - 07:55 PM

If I remember correctly, in one place Pelias distincly says that he is no demon like Tsotha, but a human... but I can't verify that right now because I haven't got my copy of the book here, I can check in a few days, or perhaps could someone else try to find that passage :)


"Tsotha affects to be above the pleasures of the flesh, but he is half devil. I am human, despite my black arts."
--Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p105

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Posted 25 September 2009 - 01:42 AM

Hi all,


If I remember correctly, in one place Pelias distincly says that he is no demon like Tsotha, but a human... but I can't verify that right now because I haven't got my copy of the book here, I can check in a few days, or perhaps could someone else try to find that passage :)


"Tsotha affects to be above the pleasures of the flesh, but he is half devil. I am human, despite my black arts."
--Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, p105 Rusty


Which,echo's Orastes from HotD,...

Tu

#52 Axerules

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Posted 25 September 2009 - 09:25 PM

Which,echo's Orastes from HotD,...

Tu

Hi Tu!

THotD, Chapter 20: Out of the Dust Shall Acheron Arise
"When we employed the Heart of Ahriman to bring a dead man back to life," Orastes said abruptly, "we did not weigh the consequences of tampering in the black dust of the past. The fault is mine, and the sin. We thought only of our four ambitions, forgetting what ambitions this man might himself have. And we have loosed a demon upon the earth, a fiend inexplicable to common humanity. I have plumbed deep in evil, but there is a limit to which I, or any man of my race and age, can go. My ancestors were clean men, without any demoniacal taint; it is only I who have sunk into the pits, and I can sin only to the extent of my personal individuality. Out behind Xaltotun lie a thousand centuries of black magic and diabolism, an ancient tradition of evil. He is beyond our conception not only because he is a wizard himself, but also because he is the son of a race of wizards".
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#53 Kortoso

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Posted 25 September 2009 - 10:00 PM

Reminds me of BtBR:
"He was a barbarian of a thousand generations of barbarians."
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#54 Zenobia

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Posted 26 September 2009 - 02:23 PM

THotD, Chapter 20: Out of the Dust Shall Acheron Arise
"When we employed the Heart of Ahriman to bring a dead man back to life," Orastes said abruptly, "we did not weigh the consequences of tampering in the black dust of the past. The fault is mine, and the sin. We thought only of our four ambitions, forgetting what ambitions this man might himself have. And we have loosed a demon upon the earth, a fiend inexplicable to common humanity. I have plumbed deep in evil, but there is a limit to which I, or any man of my race and age, can go. My ancestors were clean men, without any demoniacal taint; it is only I who have sunk into the pits, and I can sin only to the extent of my personal individuality. Out behind Xaltotun lie a thousand centuries of black magic and diabolism, an ancient tradition of evil. He is beyond our conception not only because he is a wizard himself, but also because he is the son of a race of wizards".


I just don't get could this be interpreted that Xaltotun is himself of mixed demon-human ancestry, or that Acheronians were a race that entirely stemmed from mixing with supernatural beings, or that ordinary humans could attain the same level with supernatural beings through practicing wizardry during numerous generations...? :D
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#55 Fernando

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Posted 26 September 2009 - 11:48 PM

THotD, Chapter 20: Out of the Dust Shall Acheron Arise
"When we employed the Heart of Ahriman to bring a dead man back to life," Orastes said abruptly, "we did not weigh the consequences of tampering in the black dust of the past. The fault is mine, and the sin. We thought only of our four ambitions, forgetting what ambitions this man might himself have. And we have loosed a demon upon the earth, a fiend inexplicable to common humanity. I have plumbed deep in evil, but there is a limit to which I, or any man of my race and age, can go. My ancestors were clean men, without any demoniacal taint; it is only I who have sunk into the pits, and I can sin only to the extent of my personal individuality. Out behind Xaltotun lie a thousand centuries of black magic and diabolism, an ancient tradition of evil. He is beyond our conception not only because he is a wizard himself, but also because he is the son of a race of wizards".


I just don't get could this be interpreted that Xaltotun is himself of mixed demon-human ancestry, or that Acheronians were a race that entirely stemmed from mixing with supernatural beings, or that ordinary humans could attain the same level with supernatural beings through practicing wizardry during numerous generations...? :D


Welcome to the Forum, Zenobia! :D

There's an interesting discussion about Xaltotun's ancestry (and about all Acheronians' one as well) in "Acheron - The Nightmare Empire", at http://www.conan.com...987 ;)

#56 Zenobia

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Posted 28 September 2009 - 08:56 AM

thank you, I will check it out. :)
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#57 guilalah

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 05:40 PM

While the slaughter yet went on along the river, the fibal act of a grim drama was being played out in the meadowland beyond. Among those who had crossed the barge-bridge before is was destroyed was Thosa, riding like the wind on a gaunt weird-looking steed whose stride no natural horse could match. Ruthlessly riding down friend and foe, he gained the southern bank, and then a glance backward showed him a grim figure on a great black stallion in pursuit. The lashings had already been cut, and the barges were drifting apart, but Conan came recklessly on, leaping his steed from boat to boat as a man might leap from one cake of floating ice to another


WAY DOWN EAST (1920) 14/15
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#58 Kortoso

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 06:40 PM

Some pretty dangerous stunts in that clip, G. :) Howard might well have seen that film, and this might have been his only chance to reference " a man might leap from one cake of floating ice to another".

#59 chris75

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Posted 03 May 2010 - 11:29 PM

I just re-read this, after 20 years. Spoiler Alert: I didn't like the way Conan was saved out of the blue at the last minute from the snake by the avenging black dude, whose brother Conan had killed in a faraway kingdom. Who then drops the keys in a lucky position. The cover by Frazetta seems like the trippiest phallic dream of all time. Journey through the "Hell" is great, ending is one of the funniest moments in all of Conan. Memorable villain, great "last stand" at the beginning. "It took 7 years to train these men, and bags of gold, and there they lie, so much kite' meat...."

#60 monk

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Posted 08 June 2010 - 07:55 AM

I love the scene where Pelias reanimates the jailor...creepy....
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