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The Vale Of Lost Women; Conan "SotM" for October


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#61 VoragoExcarnator

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Posted 21 February 2008 - 03:58 AM

I question this. Are Cimmerians and Nordheimers racially stronger, more dexterous and more durable than Hyborians because of their sub-human/ape heritage? It's certainly a plausible theory but I would never have thought of it and I've never heard it before. I was always of the opinion that it was upbringing and environment that made Conan what he is (and civilized men what they are).


Conan is a son of a blacksmith and born on the battlefield. Who cares what his father did? Who cares what condition he was born under? This is Lamarckism pure and simple.


Yeah I guess. I always thought it was the barbarian lifestyle rather than the barbarian genes that made Conan who he is, but maybe it is Lamarckism, who knows?

#62 Taranaich

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Posted 21 February 2008 - 08:41 PM

I question this. Are Cimmerians and Nordheimers racially stronger, more dexterous and more durable than Hyborians because of their sub-human/ape heritage? It's certainly a plausible theory but I would never have thought of it and I've never heard it before. I was always of the opinion that it was upbringing and environment that made Conan what he is (and civilized men what they are).


Well, there's this from Valley of the Worm, a non-Conan but still Hyborian age tale: "If I told you his full strength, you would brand me a liar. But there is no man on earth today strong enough to bend the bow Niord handled with ease. The longest arrow-flight on record is that of a Turkish archer who sent a shaft 482 yards. There was not a stripling in my tribe who could not have bettered that flight." So we can gather that even an adolescent AEsir, with an ordinary non-composite bow, could beat the longest arrow flight ever recorded. To me, this indicates the idea of Nordheimers at least being genetically stronger is possible enough: there are other insights for Cimmerian and Nordic durability, but none as conclusive as this.

I think here we see one benefit of diversity: you can show a person of a race of ethnicity without that person being a stand-in for a whole group of people. Without some of the comments in Phoenix on the Sword I think we all might be tempted to ascribe Conan's nature to his Cimmerian heritage, since he is the only one we see in the tales. However, it's made quite clear that Conan is more Aesir than Cimmerian in his habits. If we saw more Cimmerians, we would get a greater contrast between Conan and his fellows, without the need for Trocero's comments.


Very true: in fact, the very little we do know of Cimmerians apart from Conan does seem like he's an acorn very far from the tree.

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#63 deuce

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Posted 21 February 2008 - 11:53 PM

I question this. Are Cimmerians and Nordheimers racially stronger, more dexterous and more durable than Hyborians because of their sub-human/ape heritage? It's certainly a plausible theory but I would never have thought of it and I've never heard it before. I was always of the opinion that it was upbringing and environment that made Conan what he is (and civilized men what they are).


Well, there's this from Valley of the Worm, a non-Conan but still Hyborian age tale: "If I told you his full strength, you would brand me a liar. But there is no man on earth today strong enough to bend the bow Niord handled with ease. The longest arrow-flight on record is that of a Turkish archer who sent a shaft 482 yards. There was not a stripling in my tribe who could not have bettered that flight." So we can gather that even an adolescent AEsir, with an ordinary non-composite bow, could beat the longest arrow flight ever recorded. To me, this indicates the idea of Nordheimers at least being genetically stronger is possible enough: there are other insights for Cimmerian and Nordic durability, but none as conclusive as this.


To me, nothing drives the point home harder than the fact that REH seemingly felt driven to "reboot" his Atlanteans/Cro-Mags. They were already "barbarians". Still, he apparently felt it necessary to start them back at "apish" square one in order to give them that primordial vigor. Don't forget that the (initially) hard-chargin' Hyborians and Hyrkanians came from a similar origin, just earlier and less extreme.

My two lunas. :)

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#64 guilalah

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Posted 14 November 2010 - 07:36 PM

I noticed that Conan sits cross-legged in this tale, as he also does in 'Red Nails' ... while in 'People of the Black Circle' we're told Conan never sits cross legged. Chronological implications?

I'll also post on to the Chronology thread -- I've changed from putting VotLW post QotBC, to putting it after TPotBO.

Conan's attitude towards retaining Livia seems midway between his attitudes towards Yasmina and Belissa -- again perhaps arguing for a mid-later placement for VotLW.

#65 deuce

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Posted 19 November 2011 - 10:39 AM

He responds to this situation with extreme violence, massacring the entire village to rescue the one white girl - surely he could have used his brain to strike a deal with Bajujh or try and avoid so much collateral damage by getting her out by some other means?

And which part of "barbarian" do you need help understanding? Posted Image


"Extreme violence" (in the most extreme fashion) had already occurred. Why Conan didn't use sweet reason to cajole Bajujh? I just don't know. :rolleyes:

ERB fans: How much of this is lifted from Tarzan? (ie, the white boy saving the day, etc.)


Very little, when all's added up. Tarzan harrassed the killers of his foster-mother, but Muviro and the Waziri (African chapter) were some of my childhood heroes. Capable of flying a zeppelin AND kicking old-school barbarian-style a$$.

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#66 Boot

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 07:08 AM

One of my favorite examples of Howard's writing is displayed in Vale of Lost Women. First off, I like how the story starts off not from Conan's point of view, as is usual, but from a female perspective--from the eyes of the frightened captive Livia. Not only do I think it's a fresh element in the series of stories, but it's an interesting writer's technique to highlight aspects of Conan for the reader. We see him from the outside, the way Livia does, instead of from between Conan's own thoughts. This reminds me of Ian Fleming's novel, The Spy Who Loved Me, the only James Bond novel not written from Bond's perspective (but from a woman's POV, just like this story).

Remember the set-up for the story. Conan traveled the Black Kingdoms (presumably distraught after the death of Belit) and found a tribe that accepted him as a warrior. In short time, Conan became chieftain of that tribe.

Livia, the girl in the story, is a young Ophirian. Her brother was granted dispensation by the Stygian king to study sorcerery in Kheshatta. As their caravan approached, Kushites attacked the city and took Livia and her brother captive with the intent of ransoming the Ophirians back to the Stygians. But intrigue among the Kushites developed as one chieftain sprang and took the captives for himself. He took Livia and her brother deeper into the Black Kingdoms where that tribe was set upon by yet a third tribe--the Bakalas, who currently hold her captive.

This is about where the story begins. The girl is in a hut. It's night time. She's about to go completely insane because, that morning, her brother was taken to the village square and hacked to pieces by Bakala warriors. The parts left of him were fed to the jackals, and Livia was made to watch.

Livia has no hope. She thinks that she will die--and die not quickly, but horribly, as did her brother.

Outside, the tribe seems to be preparing a feast. Later, her prediction came true. A chieftain of another tribe appeared, leading several warriors. They were welcomed by Bajujh, the Bakalan chief. There was feasting and dancing until people started collapsing.

Looking out of the crack of her hut, Livia spied something unexpected. The leader of the guest tribe was a white man. Now, we know this is Conan, and seeing him through another character's eyes is quite interesting. Conan feats and enjoys the festivities with Bajujh, then retires to his hut.

This is when Livia sneaks out of her hut and crawls into Conan's. She's just part the way in when a massive hand grabs her by the hair and jerks her inside.

She starts to plead with Conan, telling him her sad tale, but the barbarian seems to be unmoved by her delimma. I'm sure he's seen this type of thing all the time.

She gets frustrated and goes off on Conan.

Check out what Conan says in reply. It cracks me up.



Words failing her, she lifted her eyes to the scowling face of the stranger. A mad fury swept over her; she lifted her fists and beat futilely on his mighty breast, which he heeded no more than the buzzing of a fly."How can you stand there like a dumb brute?" she screamed in a ghastly whisper. "Are you but a beast like these others? Mitra, once I thought there was honor in men. Now I know each has his price. You - what do you know of honor - or of mercy or decency? You are a barbarian like these others - only your skin is white; your soul is black as theirs. You care naught that a man of your own color has been foully done to death by these black dogs - that a white woman is their slave! Very well." She fell back from him, panting, transfigured by her passion. "I will give you a price," she raved, tearing away her tunic from her ivory breasts. "Am I not fair? Am I not more desirable than these soot-colored wenches? Am I not a worthy reward for blood-letting? Is not a fair-skinned virgin a priceworth slaying for? Kill that black dog Bajujh! Let me see his cursed head roll in the bloody dust! Kill him! Kill him!" She beat her clenched fists together in the agony of her intensity. "Then take me and do as you wish with me. I will be your slave!"

He did not speak for an instant, but stood like a giant brooding figure of slaughter and destruction, fingering his hilt. "You speak as if you were free to give yourself at your pleasure," he said, "as if the gift of your body had power to swing kingdoms. Why should I kill Bajujh to obtain you? Women are cheap as plantains in this land, and their willingness or unwillingness matters as little. You value yourself too highly. If I wanted you, I wouldn't have to fight Bajujh to take you. He would rather give you to me than to fight me."




Livia gasped. All the fire went out of her, the hut reeled dizzily before her eyes. She staggered and sank in a crumpled heap on an angareb. Dazed bitterness crushed her soul as the realization of her utter helplessness was thrust brutally upon her. The human mind clings unconsciously to familiar values and ideas, even among surroundings and conditions alien and unrelated to those environs to which such values and ideas are adapted. In spite of all Livia had experienced, she had still instinctively supposed a woman's consent the pivotal point of such a game as she proposed to play. She was stunned by the realization that nothing hinged upon her at all. She could not move men as pawns in a game; she herself wasthe helpless pawn.






How friggin' cool is that! I about had bubbles in my nose from the Coke I was drinking when I read Conan say, "You speak....as if the gift of your body had power to swing kingdoms." And, when he goes on, "If I wanted you, I wouldn't have to fight Bajujh to take you. He would rather give you to me than fight me."

That's just priceless!

Look what Howard has done here. Not only is he spinning a pretty gripping Sword & Sorcery yarn, but he's making commentary about how women use their sexuality to manipulate men. "She could not move men as pawns in a game." We're talking an attempt at being Lady MacBeth, here! The character is so used to getting her way by batting her eyelashes that, in her current situation, it never dawned on her that offering up her virginity would be prized and more than enough to get a man to do what she wanted.

This is just brilliant.

It's a great example of why I think Howard is a fantastic writer. Good stories are like that. They tell a good tale, but they also have something to "say".

This is extremely good stuff.

#67 Libaax

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 09:29 AM

This was the last story of Conan i read for the first time few days ago. I thought it was a minor, mid level story because of the whole Tarzan feel is a weakness. The supernatural monster at the end was the least creepy,dangerous i have read by REH in Conan story.

The strengths was how i wasnt troubled by the fact Conan was saving a white girl from the blacks. He was leading another black tribe and he wasnt fighting a race war to save some girl. I like how he dealt with Livia like Boot quote in the post above me. She vastly misjudged Conan and overrated the power of her body,sex.

I smiled at Conan philosophy of using her as a bonus while he planned to kill the leader of that other tribe anyway. The fact he said in the end she wasnt a fierce way to survive his lifestyle anyway. She was a tame civilized girl comment which made me think directly there is the fierce Belìt coming in your future :)

#68 Boot

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 05:22 PM

She was a tame civilized girl comment which made me think directly there is the fierce Belìt coming in your future :)


Depends on which timelines you subscribe to. In deCamp's timeline, Belit is already dead, and the reason Conan is the chief of the unnamed tribe is that he wandered the Black Kingdoms after setting the Tigress aflame. Distraut, he was accepted by a tribe as a warrior, and in short order, became that tribe's chief.

#69 Libaax

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 06:21 PM


She was a tame civilized girl comment which made me think directly there is the fierce Belìt coming in your future :)


Depends on which timelines you subscribe to. In deCamp's timeline, Belit is already dead, and the reason Conan is the chief of the unnamed tribe is that he wandered the Black Kingdoms after setting the Tigress aflame. Distraut, he was accepted by a tribe as a warrior, and in short order, became that tribe's chief.



DeCamp timeline is nothing i would know. Conan isnt a Saga like the paperback pastiche era to me. I dont worry about chronology just like way REH wrote it. Doesnt matter if he met Belit before or after this story. I reacted the fact he did meet the woman that he described.

#70 Boot

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 01:50 AM

DeCamp timeline is nothing i would know. Conan isnt a Saga like the paperback pastiche era to me. I dont worry about chronology just like way REH wrote it. Doesnt matter if he met Belit before or after this story. I reacted the fact he did meet the woman that he described.


I understand. I've become like you. For years, the "completist" in me wanted to know the timeline. Then, when I discovered that there were multiple, disagreeing timelines, I started to put together my own. And, during that exercise, I realized that it didn't matter. The famous quote where REH says something to the effect that he wrote the stories out of order, as if sitting down to drink with the barbarian while he recounts episodes of his life. One never does that in chronological order.

So, I really don't care about the order as much anymore, and I care less and less about what does and does not support canon. I read Turtledove's book and loved it (Conan of Venarium), but I see, for many, that the book turns people off because it breaks canon in many places. I say, "So what."

I also like what L. Sprague de Camp said about the stories and the parts that collide--he presents it as if the Hyborian Age were a real part of history, and Conan is a real mythical figure. But, it was so long ago that the are bound to be discrepentcie--just like there are with many real-world myth (like King Arthur).

So, I try to read each story on its own merits and enjoy it on that level.

I am reading through the old Bantam series right now, though. So, maybe that's influencing me to think in chronological terms at the moment.





EDIT: There is a couple of neat perks I get from reading stories in an order, though. First off, certain things "make sense". For example, in the Offutt trilogy, Conan breaks the tip off his sword. If you read the book out of "order", then this just seems like some sword. But, if you read it not long after you do the short story The Thing In the Crypt, the reader realizes that this sword is the very same that Conan took from the old crypt. And, in breaking the tip off the blade, serves as a reason the ancient sword doesn't show up in later stories.

I think that's kinda neat.

The same holds for reading recurring characters. The're rare in Conan tales, but it does happen when Conan will see a familiar face in a story. That continuity is pleasing to read.

Lastly, sometimes Conan's mood or point of view is broadened when you read things in an "order". Sometimes, that's just me reading things in between the lines that aren't there. But, nevertheless, it's pleasant to see a broader character with the depth of the previous stories bringing all that weight to whatever short story you happen to be reading.

So, while I'm not a chronology junky anymore, I do derive at least a little enjoyment from reading things in a perceived order.

Edited by Boot, 27 February 2012 - 03:38 AM.


#71 Ironhand

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 07:02 AM

Concerning whether Belit is in Conan's future or past at the time of VoLW, it seems pretty obvious that the events of QotBC is where Conan is first introduced to the Black Kingdoms. Therefore any other story of Conan in the Black Kingdoms happens after QotBC.
"Did you deem yourself strong, because you were able to twist the heads off civilized folk, poor weaklings with muscles like rotten string? Hell! Break the neck of a wild Cimmerian bull before you call yourself strong. I did that, before I was a full-grown man...!" - Conan, in "Shadows in Zamboula", by Robert E. Howard
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#72 Libaax

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 04:31 PM

Concerning whether Belit is in Conan's future or past at the time of VoLW, it seems pretty obvious that the events of QotBC is where Conan is first introduced to the Black Kingdoms. Therefore any other story of Conan in the Black Kingdoms happens after QotBC.


Sure if you have read all the stories, i have 5,6 stories left to read. For all i know there is another story that references that this story is the first time he is in the black kingdoms in his career, life.

I go only after what REH has written. When he clearly writes this is younger Conan theif or not etc

What is pretty obvious to fans isnt agreed on often by the fans. Easier to say with Queen of the black coast being the first in black kingdoms than other things.

Edited by Libaax, 27 February 2012 - 04:32 PM.


#73 GreenGaul

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Posted 27 August 2012 - 03:07 AM

It seems to me that Howard's primary purpose in this story is to contrast modern sensibilities with the brutal realities of life red in tooth and talon. In the story Livia is used to represent modern, western sensibilities out of touch with the exigencies of Conan's existence close to the pulsing heart of primitive being.

What jarred me most was not the sex for services bargaining but the ruthless slaughter of the unarmed villagers. A stark reminder of the vast distances between our current morality and that of the barbarian.

Edited by GreenGaul, 27 August 2012 - 03:07 AM.

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#74 Hawkbrother

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Posted 27 August 2012 - 05:19 PM

"Ruthless slaughter of the unarmed." I think our modern civilization has provided plenty examples of that-Holocaust, gulags,Cambodia.terrorism,etc. More deaths than any "barbarian " culture was able to bring about.

#75 Tex

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Posted 27 August 2012 - 07:36 PM

"Ruthless slaughter of the unarmed." I think our modern civilization has provided plenty examples of that-Holocaust, gulags,Cambodia.terrorism,etc. More deaths than any "barbarian " culture was able to bring about.


Good point, Hawkbrother!

This is something Howard pointed out in his letters to Lovecraft.

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#76 constantine

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Posted 21 September 2012 - 03:43 PM

The more I think of it the more obvious it becomes that Howard placed an otherwise out of place Ophirean noble girl in the story just to create the ''threat'' of miscegenation. Why the hell would Livia follow her brother in Stygia where Theteles was supposed to study sorcerous arts. It wasn't exactly a touristic excursion.

For that matter, even the fact that a known noble family of a Mitra-worshipping Hyborian kingdom sends its members in Stygia to learn and study magic seems rather dubious.
Who knows, these may have been some of the reasons REH decided not to submit the story for publication.

It would be much better if the threatened female was a royal Stygian (just like Thalis) and Conan decided to screw Bajujh simply because he lusted for the girl. In short, a reaction based on the primal instincts of a barbarian.

Still, the tale has many of the Howardian ingredients that make a good, brutal pulp story. All in one wild night...

Edited by constantine, 21 September 2012 - 03:45 PM.


#77 deuce

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Posted 11 October 2012 - 08:54 AM

The more I think of it the more obvious it becomes that Howard placed an otherwise out of place Ophirean noble girl in the story just to create the ''threat'' of miscegenation. Why the hell would Livia follow her brother in Stygia where Theteles was supposed to study sorcerous arts. It wasn't exactly a touristic excursion.

For that matter, even the fact that a known noble family of a Mitra-worshipping Hyborian kingdom sends its members in Stygia to learn and study magic seems rather dubious.
Who knows, these may have been some of the reasons REH decided not to submit the story for publication.

It would be much better if the threatened female was a royal Stygian (just like Thalis) and Conan decided to screw Bajujh simply because he lusted for the girl. In short, a reaction based on the primal instincts of a barbarian.

Still, the tale has many of the Howardian ingredients that make a good, brutal pulp story. All in one wild night...


I'm not sure where this myth/legend started that REH did not submit "Vale" to Weird Tales. He certainly did (as he did TGitB).

An "ivory-skinned" Stygian woman would've been no more genetically related to Conan than the Hyborian Livia.

As I've stated before, "Vale" is, essentially, a "gangster" story. Conan would've killed Bajujh even if Bajujh was a fat Nordheimr chieftain.

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#78 deuce

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Posted 11 October 2012 - 09:22 AM

What jarred me most was not the sex for services bargaining but the ruthless slaughter of the unarmed villagers. A stark reminder of the vast distances between our current morality and that of the barbarian.


I keep reading/seeing this sympathy for the "villagers". Every single one of them was culpable in the absolutely sadistic and public torture of Livia's brother.

Howard had read of such practices in sub-Saharan Africa, Check out this link for accounts similar to what REH would've read:

http://en.wikipedia....ice#West_Africa

...and this one:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adandozan


So... PLEASE.

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#79 Taranaich

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 02:48 AM

I'm not sure where this myth/legend started that REH did not submit "Vale" to Weird Tales. He certainly did (as he did TGitB).


This is something which bothers me, since Patrice Louinet says this in "Hyborian Genesis":

Not surprisingly, the story failed to sell. If Howard was trying to discreetly infuse some of his growing interest in Western lore into the Conan stories, he was perhaps too subtle: it is impossible to detect the source without having access to peripheral documents. The powerful story of Cynthia Anne and John Parker was lost between the unconvincing supernatural threat and Livia’s penchant for nakedness. As to the racial overtones of the story, while the violent
ethnocentricism of the tale is understandable when we recognize its origin in the nineteenth-century Anglo-Saxon settler viewpoint, with the blacks standing in for Indians, it makes for unsettling reading for the modern audience. At any rate, Howard’s first foray into the American Southwest version of the Hyborian Age was a failure, and it would be another year before he made another attempt.

The Vale of Lost Women was probably rejected by Wright, though no records survive regarding its submission.


If there's no records surviving regarding its submission, then how do we know Howard sent it in? It's a reasonable possibility considering Conan was one of the more reliable series, but as far as I can tell there isn't a "smoking gun" to confirm it. Thus there is the possibility that Howard just gave up on it without sending it to Wright at all.

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#80 deuce

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 11:14 PM

A probable source for "Bajujh" (De Camp made it cognate with "juju" :rolleyes: ):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abuja

Almost certain source for "Bakalah":

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bakala

The Central African Republic: http://www.bbc.co.uk...africa-13150040

All of these probable inspirations point to locating Bakalah approximately where Rippke and myself placed it.

BTW, here's a video everyone should be aware of:



Disturbing news from the Central African Republic (right next door to the DRC):

http://humanrightsho...ticles/229.html

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