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The Scarlet Citadel (SotM for January)


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#1 Kortoso

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 02:09 AM

* * * * SPOILER ALERT * * * *


This thread will likely contain revelations of story elements for the REH short story "The Scarlet Citadel" so if you have not read this story and wish to enjoy an element of surprise, please leave this thread and read the story before returning. :)

#2 Kortoso

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 06:24 PM

On beginning a re-reading of this tale, it's interesting how the antagonist Tsotha-Lanti is introduced as flaying the hides of his captives. REH seems driven to outdo himself in the creation of the most viscerally repugnant villian.

The first chapter also illustrates the battle order of the Kothian/Ophirean army as being similar in composition to the Aquilonian army: cavalry in plate and mail, archers and pikemen in "steel caps" and either jerkins or brigantines (REH doesn't seem sure of the difference).

Of course, this is one of REH's many tales that begin in media res, or in the middle of the action, although in this is at the end of the action. ;)

#3 Almuric

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 07:48 AM

This was the second-to-last Conan story I ever read. For whatever reason, I had never come across it before. It feels like a novel in miniature, specifically, like an ancestor of The Hour of the Dragon, with a similar plot. It also has one of my favorite supporting characters, Pelias, a mostly sympathetic but still unsettling wizard. And it has a great, darkly comic ending. One of my favorites. :D
"It is more than a mortal sea. Your hands are red with blood and you follow a red sea-path, yet the fault is not wholly with you. Almighty God, when will the reign of blood cease?"

Turlogh shook his head. "Not so long as the race lasts."


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

#4 Cimmerian Wanderer

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 08:52 AM

The first Conan book I owned, was Conan the Usurper(Ace). Received as a Birthday gift from my father, I was 11 on that day.
A few hours later I finished it. I loved the stories in it, Phoenix on the Sword, most of all. But!!
The Scarlet Citadel was a wonderful story. I loved it!
The imagery Howard evokes in this story is fantastic! He makes you dread those same corridors that Conan traverses.
Imagery is not all either he can make you smell the dank, fetid halls, too!! REH there is none better!
I really liked the wizard Pelias, Anyone who can make an 80' snake turn and run is not someone I want to mess with, hah I screwed up there snakes can't run, let's say it slithered away. Conan seriously thinks of killing the wizard, but decides against it!
Good call by him.
This story has a lot for one so short, Two huge battles, ghostly creatures, a zombie, a freakin' huge snake, large batlike creature.
And not 1, but 2 WIZARDS! Awesome!! Man, you would think this story was a novel. Overall with some of the backstory we get about Conan in this story, and all the action, it makes it one of his best.
I reread it in my Del Rey copy, though. Didn't have that luxury as a kid.

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#5 Taranaich

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 04:11 PM

I fair enjoyed this story, particularly the walk through the Halls of the Scarlet Citadel. It reminded me of one of C.L.Moore's "Black God" stories, I wonder if Howard had been inspired, or inspired Moore herself?

It has a lot of memorable moments too: Conan's stand amid a pile of corpses, his savage (what other word could possibly suffice?) diatribe against the conspirators, his fantastic sucker-punch in the dungeon, the weird Lovecraftian horrors of the dungeon, the innovative siege of Shamar (has anyone come across a similar battle in history? The idea of besieging a town via barges seems quite intriguiing).

But the greatest moment for me was the savage and bloody Conan defenestrating his usurper with authority, a moment that resonates as much as his dispatching of the vulture on the cross, or the funeral pyre of Belit. It was so simple and iconic, it couldn't fail to work as a distillation of Conan's character in a single act. It's one of the scenes that makes Conan, Conan.

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#6 Guest_Tu for Kull_*

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 01:06 AM

Greetings!
"The Scarlet Citadel" the third Conan tale published in REH's lifetime:

'Now he grinned bleakly as the kings reined back a safe distance from the grim iron-clad figure looming amoung the dead. Before the savage blue eyes blazing murderously from beneath the creasted,dented helmet,the boldest shrank.Conan's dark scarred face darker yet with passion;his great sword red to the cross-piece.In the stress all the veneer civilization had faded;it was a barbarian who faced his conquerors.Conan was a Cimmerian by birth,one of those fierce moody hillmen who dwelt in their gloomy,cloudy land in the north.His saga,which had led him to the throne of Aquilonia,was the basis of a whole cycle of hero-tales.'

In one passage,we get Conan,who he is,or what he is.We also get that is much more to be told about him,...
For someone pounding the typewriter,try to make some dough,.....brilliant.

Tu

#7 nabonidus11

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 12:19 AM

The Scarlet Citadel is one of the most magic filled stories in the Conan series. Two wizards making things happen with magic. The confrontation between Pelias and Satha is particularly good. The story is strong and flows fast. Howards concept of sorcery as an arcane science is clear in this story. That precept ties in well with the Cthulhu Mythos feel of the vaults (there is a possible parallel feel in the pits sorcerous pits of The Curious Case of Charles Dexter Ward?).

The Scarlet Citadel was the father of Hour of the Dragon. K.E. Wagner discussed the relationship between the stories in his introduction to the Berkely editions. The Scarlet Citadel is in my mind the better story. I like that REH places background of Conan's adventures in the story. Between The Scarlet Citadel and Hour of the Dragon we get more of the history of Conan and Belit than we do in Queen of the Black Coast. And we learn the name of one of the songs that Rinaldo sang before he died.
'Men are fools, as always," grunted Conan. "If the plague struck all who sinned, then by Crom, there wouldn't be enough left to count the living!..."

#8 deuce

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Posted 20 January 2007 - 09:09 AM

Hey y'all. I went through and annotated my copy of The Coming of Conan (Del Rey) this week, so I'm loaded for bear on this one. I'm also going to comment on the art of Mark Schultz. I've been a fan for a long time, but I feel some of his illustrations are highly misleading.

First page (p.85): in the "Old Ballad" there's a "Shamu's plain" mentioned.
Schultz's illo (p.85): Dave depicts the Kothians in ancient Middle Eastern war-gear (ie, Assyrians) despite the fact that REH describes them as decked out in medieval knightly/cataphract array (p.86).

Aquilonia: REH mentions "steel-clad riders", "war-horses" and "chivalry" (p.85). All these terms contradict the wide-spread notion that Aquilonian warriors were some sort of "Roman legionairies".

Ophir: a country of meadowlands, at least in its eastern regions (p.86).
"Shemitish bowmen": this is their first mention in the Conan yarns (p.86)
Amalrus: the king of Ophir, about Conan's age. In "Iron Shadows" (not written yet), Olivia is said to be the daughter of the king of Ophir. It would appear that Conan banged Amalrus' sis, back in the day. laugh.gif

Conan:"His saga...was the basis of a whole cycle of hero-tales."(p.87)

Koth: apparently, there must be an expensive sword-academy in Koth, with training lasting "seven years".(p.87)
"mail brigandines"(p.87): there are coats of mail, and coats of brigandine. I'm not sure how the two could be combined. Kortoso?

"purple lotus":"Its touch produces temporary paralysis."(p.88)
Stygia: in its southern regions are "ghost-haunted swamps" where the purple lotus can be found.(p.88)
Conan: evidently, the Tigress was "dragon-prowed".(p.88) Note: this was written before "Queen".

Khorshemish: is graced by "minaretted mosques", which are presumably different than its "temples". (p.89)
Schultz's illo (p.90): evocative and accurate. I like it.

Conan:"And so you want to swine my kingdom". (p.90) I've tried to locate "swine" as it's used by REH. No luck. I can only figure he meant it to be some form of "swindle". Kortoso? Rusty?

Namedides: apparently, he could trace his lineage back a thousand years. (p.91)
"wars of the barons"(p.91): Louinet believes that Doyle's The White Company inspired this line. I agree.
Amalrus: has a rebel brother who controls western Ophir (p.91). Wonder if he's sheltering Olivia?
Aquilonia: REH calls it Conan's "adopted culture". (p.91)
Rinaldo: we learn he had been given a tour of the Halls of Horror (p.94). As Nabonidus noted, this inspired The Song of the Pit. I wonder if it was one of Conan's particular favorites?

Satha: according to Howard, this white-scaled monstrosity, at 80', was the biggest snake Conan ever encountered (p.95). Frazetta's iconic rendition got Satha's color wrong.
Conan: in his corsair days, he broke the neck of a python on the Stygian coast (p.95). This points to an untold adventure.
Conan: the unnamed Ku$hite slave claims that he and his brother fought Conan in front of the palace of King Ajaga, in the town/city(?) of Abombi on the Ku$hite coast (p.96). Another lost "corsair" adventure.

Shadizar: we learn that the salacious women of that "City of Wickedness" have "fat lips". They also laugh when attending slave auctions. (p.98)
Hyborian calendar: Conan freed Pelias on the "tenth day of the month Yuluk, of the year of the Gazelle"(p.101). To me, it sounds like this calendar was derived from a Shemite original.

Yothga: the "devil-flower whose seeds drifted down through the black cosmos from Yag the Accursed"(pp.101-102). Is this the "Yag" of Yogah? Perhaps the rulers of Yag dabbled with darksome things like Yothga, so Yogah and his brethren exiled themselves.

Khorshemish: founded three thousand years before (around the time of the fall of Acheron) by King Khossus V. There were ruins of an earlier city (Thurian Age?) on the site when it was founded. Khossus V abandoned Khorshemish and built a new capitol in eastern Koth. (p.102-103) In this yarn, we already see REH deviating from the dates given in the "Hyborian Age" essay.

Tsotha-lanti: conceived near the "pre-human ruins on Dagoth Hill" in a blasphemous union betwixt a "black demon" and a Shadizar dancing-girl (p.103). I wonder if the pre-human ruins were relics of the serpent-men?
Pelias: able to reanimate a corpse without incantations or prior preparation (p.104). A powerful sorceror, indeed.
"lotus-juice": evidently, the recreational pharmaceutical of choice amongst Kothian slaves. (p.104)

Tamar: Conan's (original?) capitol in Aquilonia. A city of "tall spires and gleaming domes". (p.105)
"men-at-arms"(p.105): once again, the fighting men of Aquilonia don't sound very "Roman".
Arpello: "the strongest prince" of the central Aquilonian province of Pellia. (p.106) There seem to be other "central provinces" as well.
Shamar: apparently, only a half-day's hard ride from Khorshemish. (p.106)
Tamar: at minimum, five days' hard riding from Shamar. (p.106)
Aquilonian nobles: have "fiefs"(p.106). No "fiefs" in Imperial Rome. There were fiefs in medieval France and England, however.

Conan:"Oh Crom, Ymir and Set!" (p.106) Conan must have been really pissed to swear by Set.

Conan's "steed": Pelias says "There are creatures, not alone of earth and sea, but of air and the farthest reaches of the skies... Yet to him who holds the Master-words and Signs and the Knowledge...they are not malignant..."(p.106) A "bat-like creature alighted". It possessed "great calm eyes" and a "forty-foot" wing-spread (p.106). Conan "saw it was neither bat nor bird."(p.106-107) Conan mounted its "ridged back" and gripped its "arched neck"(p.107). When this creature soared over the walls of Tamar, its shape was "such as men knew only in half-forgotten legends"(p.110). It then "roared" as it flew away (p.110). Now, what creature, known in legends, has giant wings, a ridged back, a long neck and roars? A creature that is "malignant" when not under sorcerous control? A creature that is "neither bat nor bird"? It sounds to me like Pelias summoned a dragon.

Well, it's late and I'm sure y'all think this post has gone on long enough. smile.gif


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#9 budgie

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Posted 20 January 2007 - 10:40 AM

all good observations Deuce, its been a while since I read that one..

Curious how he describes the Tigress as dragon prowed.. what shape would that be exactly?

The use of swine.. its also a term for pig.. though why someone would want to "pig" somenoes kingdom I dont know!!

Shadizars women.. ha! they had coligen (sp) injections back then... :lol:

Conans steed.. my thoughts were some sort of Pteradon.. maybe a Quezqatlesaurus maybe..

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#10 deuce

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Posted 20 January 2007 - 02:37 PM

Thanks Budgie.
I would imagine "dragon-prowed" would be something similar to a drakkar (viking-ship) prow. Phoenician ships had horse-head prows.
The Aquilonians had legends of pteranodons? We know they had an hour of the night named after dragons. We know that the Dragon was a symbol of the Nemedian kings. Are there pteranodons with ridged backs? I think we can all agree that Schultz's illustration on p.107 (a flying manta-sea urchin) is not what REH described. Cheers. :)

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#11 Taranaich

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Posted 20 January 2007 - 03:38 PM

[quote name='deuce' post='61397' date='Jan 20 2007, 08:09 AM']"mail brigandines"(p.87): there are coats of mail, and coats of brigandine. I'm not sure how the two could be combined.[/quote]

Perhaps brigandine coats "or" mail coats? Koth definitely seems a rather Byzantine culture, with many Eastern influences in a Western Medieval kingdom.

[quote]Amalrus: has a rebel brother who controls western Ophir (p.91). Wonder if he's sheltering Octavia?[/quote]It would be interesting to compare the notes on Ophir in Citadel and The Hour of the Dragon. After Amalrus' demise, does the rebel brother assume command of all Ophir? What is Pallantides' connection with Ophir? What role does Octavia play in this?

[quote]Hyborian calendar: Conan freed Pelias on the "tenth day of the month Yuluk, of the year of the Gazelle"(p.101). To me, it sounds like this calendar was derived from a Shemite original.[quote]

It would be interesting theorising about Hyborian calendars: are they linear or cyclical? Lunar or Solar? Or combinations of both? The (presumably) Aquilonian date does seem Persian.

[quote]Yothga: the "devil-flower whose seeds drifted down through the black cosmos from Yag the Accursed"(pp.101-102). Is this the "Yag" of Yogah? Perhaps the rulers of Yag dabbled with darksome things like Yothga, so Yogah and his brethren exiled themselves.[/quote]

All of Howard's eldritch beasties seem connected in some manner. Yag, Yogah, and Yothga seem to indicate a shared origin. This is similar to the Lovecraftian toad-like beings Thog, Thaug, the unnamed beast under the Citadel and Clark Ashton Smith's Tsathoggua: could they be members of the same race of demonic beings?

[quote]Tsotha-lanti: conceived near the "pre-human ruins on Dagoth Hill" in a blasphemous union betwixt a "black demon" and a Shadizar dancing-girl (p.103). I wonder if the pre-human ruins were relics of the serpent-men?[/quote]It certainly seems possible: Shamar near the Ophirean border is reckoned to be as old as Atlantis. Where Dagoth Hill is situated is anothe question: usually it's assumed to be Koth, but I think it could also be Shadizar, given its reputation for sorcery. Another possibility is that the pre-human ruins were Acheronian.

[quote]Conan's "steed": Pelias says "There are creatures, not alone of earth and sea, but of air and the farthest reaches of the skies... Yet to him who holds the Master-words and Signs and the Knowledge...they are not malignant..."(p.106) A "bat-like creature alighted". It possessed "great calm eyes" and a "forty-foot" wing-spread (p.106). Conan "saw it was neither bat nor bird."(p.106-107) Conan mounted its "ridged back" and gripped its "arched neck"(p.107). When this creature soared over the walls of Tamar, its shape was "such as men knew only in half-forgotten legends"(p.110). It then "roared" as it flew away (p.110). Now, what creature, known in legends, has giant wings, a ridged back, a long neck and roars? A creature that is "malignant" when not under sorcerous control? A creature that is "neither bat nor bird"? It sounds to me like Pelias summoned a dragon.[/quote]

A dragon is a very interesting possibility, but I generally agree with the consensus that it was a pterosaur. If it was a dragon as is normally depicted in Western culture, then surely its saurian qualities would have been mentioned as opposed to avian: "neither bat nor lizard" as opposed to "neither bat nor bird". We also know of pterosaurs with 40-foot wingspans and greater, although whether it could carry a big Cimmerian lad for a few hours is unlikely.

The "half-forgotten legends" could refer to the ancient wars between the Serpent Men and the dinosaurs recounted in The Shadow Kingdom, or perhaps references to surviving pterosaurs of the Black Kingdoms, since we know there are apparently carnivorous Stegosaurs roaming about in Darfar. However, it could easily be a completely other species entirely that has chiropteran and avian qualities, evocative of both "real" pterosaurs and "mythical" dragons to make an unholy marriage of legend and ancient truth.

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#12 Kortoso

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Posted 20 January 2007 - 06:37 PM

...
"mail brigandines"(p.87): there are coats of mail, and coats of brigandine. I'm not sure how the two could be combined. Kortoso?
...
Conan:"And so you want to swine my kingdom". (p.90) I've tried to locate "swine" as it's used by REH. No luck. I can only figure he meant it to be some form of "swindle". Kortoso? Rusty?
...

Great work, Deuce! Ah, but I've been summoned...

A brigantine. This is, technically speaking, a garment of cloth or leather with metal plates atteched underneath. REH seems to confuse this with a leather vest or jerkin, so we can assume that we was using a reference that was primarily visual. Some Victorian-era work about historical costume, perhaps? This combination of leather and mail was - in Hour of the Dragon - seen as the badge of a mercenary. Here is what we're probably intended to visualize:
MRL Brigantine

In terms of "swine" I assume that it means either to treat the country as one would treat a pig, say stringing it up and gutting it; or behaving like a pig, rooting around and destroying at will. There's no connection between swine and swindle that I can uncover.

#13 deuce

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 04:38 AM

Here are the rest of my annotations for The Scarlet Citadel...

"the battle of Shamu" (p.107): apparently where the first battle took place,"on Shamu's plain". Can't tell if "Shamu" is a river, a god, or what?
Trocero:"had besieged Tamar fifteen years before". (p.108)

"Conan's girls": at least seven of them, by my reckoning. They resided in "the pleasure-palace". (p.109)

Pellians: seemed to prefer arbalests to bows. (p.109)
Arpello: wore a jupon with jagged sleeves over a burnished steel breastplate (p.109). Not exactly the normal apparel of Roman nobility.

"spahis": light Kothian cavalry. (p.111)
Shemites:"born with bows in their hands, not to be matched by Aquilonian archers." (p.111)
Bossonians: had waged war with the Picts (a rare early mention) for a thousand years. (p.114)
"the Shemitish bow": had a longer range than the Bossonian longbow. (p.114)

Poitainian knights: their customary hand-weapon seems to have been "two-handed swords". (p.116)

Tsotha-lanti: employed shimmering globes that, upon impact, seared "the very sands with a flash of hellish fire." (p.118)
Pelias: not just a necromancer, but a gifted shape-shifter as well. (p.118)
"murrain"(p.118): just noted this word (it means "plague") to demonstrate REH's frequent use of archaisms.
Schultz's illo (p.118): Tsotha is drawn without his full beard. (see p.113)

That's about it. Taranaich, I still think it was a dragon. :) Also, the Acheronians weren't pre-human, they were Hyborians. Howard himself said so. I'm afraid that Dale's whole massive "pre-humans=Elder Race=Acheronians" theory is built upon sand (and The Ashes of Angels). I'll be starting a new post about it soon.
BTW, Taranaich, where is the "Shamar-Atlantis" reference?

Edited by deuce, 20 March 2009 - 04:28 PM.

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#14 Kortoso

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 07:55 PM

Light Kothian cavalry, spahis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spahis

Sipahi (Ottoman Turkish: سپاهی; also transliterated as Spahia or Spahiu in albanian, Spahi, Sepahi, and Spakh) was the name of an Ottoman cavalry corps. In the form of "Spahi" it was the title given to several cavalry units serving in the French and Italian colonial armies during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The name ultimately derives from the Persian سپاه (sep?h, meaning "army") and has the same root as the English term "sepoy".


There's a cool picture on the Wikipedia site.

#15 deuce

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Posted 22 January 2007 - 12:06 AM

Light Kothian cavalry, spahis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spahis

Sipahi (Ottoman Turkish: سپاهی; also transliterated as Spahia or Spahiu in albanian, Spahi, Sepahi, and Spakh) was the name of an Ottoman cavalry corps. In the form of "Spahi" it was the title given to several cavalry units serving in the French and Italian colonial armies during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The name ultimately derives from the Persian سپاه (sep?h, meaning "army") and has the same root as the English term "sepoy".


There's a cool picture on the Wikipedia site.



Yeah, Kortoso. I first ran into the term in Stone's Glossary, then later, reading about the French Foreign Legion.

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#16 Kortoso

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Posted 22 January 2007 - 10:12 PM

We also get one the few clues about Cimmerian costume from this tale:

...in many guises and conditions--a skin-clad barbarian; a mercenary swordsman in horned helmet and scale-mail corselet...



#17 deuce

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Posted 22 January 2007 - 11:02 PM

We also get one the few clues about Cimmerian costume from this tale:

...in many guises and conditions--a skin-clad barbarian; a mercenary swordsman in horned helmet and scale-mail corselet...



Hey Kortoso! I almost mentioned that, but there's another reference to a "panther-skin loincloth" in some other yarn, so I passed. Howard had Cururuc in The Lost Race wearing skins, too. It's kinda funny, since now the opinion is that weaving was highly developed at an early period amongst the various Indo-European tribes. I've always wondered if MacPherson, whom we know REH read, had an influence on that. His Scots ran around in hides because they "knew not the loom". Of course, there's always the ERB/Tarzan-influence.

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#18 Kortoso

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Posted 23 January 2007 - 12:20 AM

We also get one the few clues about Cimmerian costume from this tale:

...in many guises and conditions--a skin-clad barbarian; a mercenary swordsman in horned helmet and scale-mail corselet...



Hey Kortoso! I almost mentioned that, but there's another reference to a "panther-skin loincloth" in some other yarn, so I passed. Howard had Cururuc in The Lost Race wearing skins, too. It's kinda funny, since now the opinion is that weaving was highly developed at an early period amongst the various Indo-European tribes. I've always wondered if MacPherson, whom we know REH read, had an influence on that. His Scots ran around in hides because they "knew not the loom". Of course, there's always the ERB/Tarzan-influence.

MacPherson? Elle or James? ;)

#19 deuce

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 10:44 PM

All right. Since no one has posted on here in a few days, I'm gonna stir the pot. :) As I've said, I believe that Conan's flying steed in "Citadel" is a dragon. Not a pteranodon, not a "survival of forgotten ages" (at least in the sense of "known 'dinosaurs' "). I'd like to know y'all's reasons why no-one thinks said flying beast is a dragon. Howard mentions dragons throughout the Conan saga (and in other yarns), in various ways. Does your disbelief stem from the fact that dragons are "mythical"? So are vampires and werewolves, yet Howard depicts them as real in his yarns (including mentions in the Conan tales). So, I'd like to hear your reasoning on the subject, my fellow Hyborian scholars.
DEUCE :)

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#20 Kortoso

Kortoso

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Posted 25 January 2007 - 11:56 PM

Don't know. I'm not an experienced cryptozoologist. In my mind REH just offered up a nightmarish winged creature/deus-ex-machina, and classifying it as dragon or dinosaur doesn't add much to it. I just didn't like the drawing in the book; the face should have been left out and suggested, rather than revealed.