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#21 deuce

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Posted 15 January 2008 - 01:41 AM

The Devil in Iron (from the Del Rey edition)

~ Chapter I ~

the Yuetshi: A race of fishermen who had "dwelt in their rude fishing-huts along the southern shore of the Sea of Vilayet since time immemorial". They were "broadly built, with long apish arms", "lean loins and thin bandy legs". They wielded saw-edged, crescent-bladed knives. (p.321)

Xapur: One of "the myriad isles which dotted the great inland sea" of the Vilayet. It lies in the southern reaches of the Inland Sea. Its name means "the Fortified". Which Hyborian Age tongue the name comes from is not said. Turanian, perhaps? The ruins on its summit are "remnants of some prehistoric kingdom, lost and forgotten before the conquering Hyborians had ridden southward". (p.321) The description seems to be referring to local perceptions and traditions about Xapur. The inference at least could be that "conquering Hyborians" had once ridden through the region of the southern Vilayet. Ancestors of the Iranistanis or the Afghulis, perhaps? The ruins atop the precipitous isle were "built of the peculiar iron-like green stone found only on the islands of the Vilayet." Was the "green stone" found in a natural state (in the age of Conan) or were all specimens the remnants of worked stone? Some of the ashlars (stone blocks) comprising the ruins weighed at least a ton. The island had not been visited by the Yuetshi (nor any one else?) "for a century". (p.322)

Khosatral Khel: When discovered by the Yuetshi fisherman, his body lay "on a golden block". "He was clad in a sort of skirt and a shagreen girdle. His black hair, which fell in a square mane to his massive shoulders, was confined about his temples by a narrow gold band." His skin was "dark" and his eyes, when opened, were "dark" and "magnetic". (p.322)

the Yuetshi "star-metal" knife: It had "a jeweled pommel, shagreen-bound hilt, and a broad crescent blade." It was made much like the common Yuetshi knives except "it lacked the serrated edge, and was made with infinitely greater skill." (p.322) In case you're wondering what "shagreen" is, as I did when I first read this yarn (about 14yrs old), here's a link:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shagreen
I inherited an authentic katana (since stolen :angry: ) from my grandmother. Its hilt was bound with shark-skin shagreen.

All for now...

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#22 Axerules

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Posted 16 January 2008 - 06:52 AM

The inference at least could be that "conquering Hyborians" had once ridden through the region of the southern Vilayet. Ancestors of the Iranistanis or the Afghulis, perhaps?


In The Hyborian Age, there's also a reference to Hyborian "conquerors" near the Vilayet:

"...now a tribe skirts the southern end of the great inland sea - Vilayet - and establishes the kingdom of Turan on the southwestern shore. Between the inland sea and the eastern borders of the native kingdoms lie vast expanses of steppes and in the extreme north and extreme south, deserts. The non-Hyrkanian dwellers of these territories are scattered and pastoral, unclassified in the north, Shemitish in the south, aboriginal, with a thin strain of Hyborian blood from wandering conquerors."


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#23 Axerules

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Posted 18 January 2008 - 07:43 PM

A word about titles : the Seldjuks like Malik Shah/Melikşah and the Khw?razm Shahs retained older Persian titles, the Hyrkanians who founded Turan could have done the same, keeping a pre-existing nomenclature.
The Khan title is Mongol as well as Turk, AFAIK. Agha is Ottoman and also a Persian word. This title in Turan could be a reminiscence from people living previously west of the Vilayet, and yes, they may hail from Iranistan...if not, whence did the "Hyborian conquerors" who left a drip of blood among natives of the aera came from ? :huh:
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#24 Slokes

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Posted 09 June 2009 - 07:07 PM

Howard scholars, which came first, "The Devil In Iron" or "Iron Shadows Of The Moon"?

They are very close in structure and theme, enough so that it seems like Howard was using the one as a basis for building the other. I also wonder if Howard was consciously setting up a link between the two, suggesting as he does a certain unworldly quality to these islands of the Vilayet Sea, that feature: "peculiar ironlike green stone found only on the islands of Vilayet".

I like the more wide-open "Iron Shadows" better, but I must admit "Devil In Iron" has wonderful things going for it. The haunted quality of reborn Xapur, where "everything is dim and musty" in the words of the Dagonian woman Conan meets, Yateli. The place has a great lost vibe to it, like the Overlook Hotel in "The Shining", except these are real people, not spirits, who have materialized in this desolate place, and they are not cruel or threatening in nature, just very yawny and confused. It's a kind of reverse haunted house, where they are less rather than more powerful than the humans who visit them. (One does seem to carry some threat, the one that waylays Octavia when she makes landfall, but we never see him again unless he's the one "mouthing" at the door who Conan eludes).

The other terrific thing about the story, beyond the great final line of Conan's already mentioned, is the metaphysical quality of the story, how it ties into Howard's theater of cruelty that constitutes the living world. Conan learns of Khosatral Khel's origin as a "tolling of triumph over the ordered laws of a sane planet." The final image of Conan triumphant is characteristically framed in futility: "The wild hetman stood like a statue for a space, dimly grasping
something of the cosmic tragedy of the fitful ephemera called mankind and the hooded shapes of darkness which prey upon it." One can argue this is hardly the first time Conan has dealt with such an otherworldly presence, yet it packs a punch that the more beneficient figure of Yag Kosha does not.

There are other strengths in "Devil In Iron", like the depth of anthropological detail we get on a minor group of people called Yuetshi, which speak to how well thought out this world of Howard's was, before anyone else began thinking about it. The encounters between Conan and Khostatral Khel carry sharp notes of dread and triumph, respectively. Jehungir Agha is not your garden-variety Conan villain but an able and brave adversary who seems more malevolent than truly evil.

On the debit side, I'll second Blanor's comment about the convoluted set up, where Octavia is told of the island set-up as if she is to be a participant in the baiting, not just setting, of the trap, is then sold off to a sleazeball named Jelal Khan, and just happens to escape...to the very island where Conan is looking for her. It's Howard's ornate expositional style, though, and maybe not a big deal.

The real stretch is the part where a cornered Conan finds himself "ensorcelled" by a disembodied voice that lays out all of Khostatral Khel's secrets. It is if he is overhearing Khel himself telling Octavia in the next room. But if Khel does know about such things as the mystery knife that can be used to kill him, why does he leave it lying on the floor where it fell? (Maybe he can't touch it, let alone pick it up, but one of his underlings certainly could). If it's not Khel speaking, who is, and why? It's kind of a lazy deus ex machina in a story that otherwise comes across as very well thought out, if a bit second-hand (or maybe it's "Iron Shadows Of The Moon" that's second-hand, I'm looking forward to finding out!)

#25 Slokes

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 08:33 PM

Howard scholars, which came first, "The Devil In Iron" or "Iron Shadows Of The Moon"?


Never mind; I found the answer in Patrice Louinet's "Hyborian Genesis Part II", an afterword to the Del Ray Howard collection "Bloody Crown of Conan":

"The Devil in Iron", completed circa October 1933, was a somewhat half-baked effort from a Howard who had not written a Conan story in six months, drawing from the earlier Conan story, "Iron Shadows in the Moon"...


I was under the apparently false impression that people with an opinion tended to regard "Devil In Iron" as superior. I would concur "Shadows" is better, though I'd prefer to call "Devil In Iron" three-quarters-baked. There's a lot of spine-tingling suspense there, and a spirit-raising payoff.

Edited by Slokes, 18 June 2009 - 08:34 PM.


#26 Libaax

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 12:53 AM

I think Shadows seem better mostly because it was more original in that it was written earlier. I read Conan in the complete tales edition by Gollanz where the stories are in the published order so when i read Iron Shadows it was new but when i read Devil in Iron later the same day it was like i have read this before. Even if you read Devil in Iron before you know for a fact like you posted which was written first and which was a "half baked effort "

Personally i remember it more fondly after reading both the depth of anthropological detail,Conan and Khostatral Khel,the haunted quality Xapur which i really liked. Just like i liked Xuthal of the Dusk i liked the doomed culture thing.

Will be interesting to re-read them and compare them afterwards which are stronger after the second read.

#27 Slokes

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Posted 19 June 2009 - 07:33 PM

Personally i remember it more fondly after reading both the depth of anthropological detail,Conan and Khostatral Khel,the haunted quality Xapur which i really liked.


Yes, "Devil In Iron" is derivative, but has a lot going for it, like the elements you point out.

#28 MilkManX

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Posted 21 July 2009 - 07:35 PM

I really enjoyed this one. The pacing was really on fire and I felt like I couldnt turn the pages fast enough.

I loved the fact that the Devil in Iron ends up being what it is after Conan uses the knife on it.(very Lovecraftian)
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#29 Slokes

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Posted 24 July 2009 - 09:23 PM

I really enjoyed this one. The pacing was really on fire and I felt like I couldnt turn the pages fast enough.

I loved the fact that the Devil in Iron ends up being what it is after Conan uses the knife on it.(very Lovecraftian)


One of the best elements of the story to me as well. The fact that this creature could exist even though it consisted entirely of iron was a hard leap of faith to take initially, but by the time the story is over the element of baroque fantasy feels entirely natural. I don't always embrace Howard's nods in the direction of Lovecraft (i.e. "The Black Stone"), but here he presents a faint hint of Cthultu quite nicely.

#30 guilalah

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Posted 07 January 2010 - 10:53 PM

"Above him, vine-festooned branches reached out toward the battlements. He went up a great tree like a cat, and reaching a point above the parapet, he gripped a thick limb with both hands, swung back and forth at arm's length until he had gained momentum, and then let go and catapulted through the air, landing catlike on the battlements. Crouching there, he stared down into the streets of a city."


Douglass Fairbanks Sr., as D'Artangan in 'The Iron Mask', tries something similar (6:00-6:50), though without the preperatory swinging.


"Of all the talking pictures I've really enjoyed, I can name them quickly: Thunderbolt -- In Old Arizona -- The Letter -- The Terror. To a lesser extent I enjoyed Tong War, and of the part talkies I got a big kick out of The Iron Mask and Show Boat."
Robert E Howard to Harold Preece, late 1929
cited http://www.rehupa.co...m#The Iron Mask

-----------

One thing I like about 'The Devil in Iron': the fact that Conan spends so much time running from and hiding from Kosastral Khel makes Khel very menacing. (Though it's not that Conan is greatly afraid -- Conan's searching the city to rescue Octavia, so it's reasonable that Conan, if possible, doesn't wish to be discovered).

#31 matsellah

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 12:42 AM

On the Octavia situation of arriving on Xapur after the whole discussion about the island. Howard does try to tell us the level of depravity of Jehel Khan. That is all Octavia is thinking about, her destiny if she is captured and returned to Jehel, and wanting to get as far away as possible, thus not hesitating about swimming to the island. Sure it is coincidence but the adviser did say it was an island close by and she had good reason to keep moving.

Also, there are two references (that I remember) that imply Octavia is a big girl. Howard describes her as big when Conan is carrying her and the adviser notes her substantial form compared to the 'dolls' of Agha's harem.

I think Octavia had some junk in the trunk! Posted Image


On Octavia's arrival on Xapur, it's easy to see how readers would have some obvious consternation with this. She demonstrated some integrity in her initial protests, which lends her intelligence. But, as with all of Howard's contrivances, you have to have something that ties them all together. Some overlay that injects itself into every story.

For me, that comes from The Phoenix on the Sword. It's the words of Epemitreus, himself. "I have marked you well, Conan of Cimmeria..."

Conan's destiny was arranged even before he was born. And the Gods gambled on his twists of fate.

TPotS was the first Howard story I read. I consider that fortuitous, because thereafter every turn of event was readily explained.

---

And yes, Howard describing Octavia as a 'big girl' was (for me) another highlight. She was outside of his normal damsel descriptions and that makes her memorable. In my mind's eye, she was Anna Nicole Smith in her younger years, Charlize Theron with a fuller figure. Kate Upton!. With fire in her eyes and curves galore.
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"Damned degenerates!" ~ Conan 'Xuthal Of The Dusk'

#32 constantine

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 12:12 AM

Quote

For an instant the future fate of kingdoms that hinged on this gay-clad barbarian hung in the balance

Is Howard suggesting that if Conan did flee that he would never be the man we know he turned out to be? I think so.


I think that ''the future fate of kingdoms'' had to do with the success of the Turanians' ambush against Conan which, of course, would have been lethal for the Cimmerian. If the ambush had succeeded, Conan would not be able to achieve the immense and glorious victories he was bound to, especially as king. In the tale, this was the point when the frustrated and unsuspecting kozak was about to descent the stairs that led to the island plateau. Had he done so, he would be at the mercy of the Turanian archers (i.e. he was f@%#ed...). But fate intervened when he saw a strand of silk from Octavia's garment and decided to to remain and track her probable captor and the story went on.

This is an interesting tale and Conan, now a hetman of kozaks, is in a different than usual outfit. He is also armed with a scimitar rather than his standard broadsword. In my mind, it would be more unusual and therefore more appealing if Xapur had been in a huge swamp (say, bordering the Zaporoska) which, of course, would have been a different terrain in the city's prime (millennia before Conan, that is). It would also have been more preferable to me, if Conan had been riding a swift horse and was further armed with a bow (thus, the story would be closer to the steppe background). That might explain his deadly archery in the QotBC. Although he states that he learnt it among the Hyrkanians, fighting as a kozak would be a good way to become an archer for someone who disdains the use of bows.

I still like the tale, though. The Lovecraftian touch plays its part I suppose, not to mention REH's own prose.

#33 deuce

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 06:51 AM

Personally i remember it more fondly after reading both the depth of anthropological detail,Conan and Khostatral Khel,the haunted quality Xapur which i really liked.


Yes, "Devil In Iron" is derivative, but has a lot going for it, like the elements you point out.


For me, "Devil" has always been more about the parts than the sum. Several things just don't quite click (IMO), but there are numerous cool things about the yarn. Like some other readers, I prefer ISitM.

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#34 Taranaich

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 01:18 PM

I think that ''the future fate of kingdoms'' had to do with the success of the Turanians' ambush against Conan which, of course, would have been lethal for the Cimmerian. If the ambush had succeeded, Conan would not be able to achieve the immense and glorious victories he was bound to, especially as king. In the tale, this was the point when the frustrated and unsuspecting kozak was about to descent the stairs that led to the island plateau. Had he done so, he would be at the mercy of the Turanian archers (i.e. he was f@%#ed...). But fate intervened when he saw a strand of silk from Octavia's garment and decided to to remain and track her probable captor and the story went on.


Not to mention if Conan never stuck around and found the Yuetshi knife, who on earth could possibly stop Khosatral Khel? The devil was rebuilding his capital: it would only be a matter of time before he sought vengeance against the Yuetshi, and looked beyond to Turan, the Golden Kingdoms, and beyond. If he could rebuild a city and its denizens within the space of a night, how long would it take for him to rebuild his lost empire? Yateli's ghost was tangible enough: what about the armies of Dagonia? Conan arrived just in time to stop Khosatral Khel from going any further: any later may have been too late.

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#35 Libaax

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 04:56 PM


Personally i remember it more fondly after reading both the depth of anthropological detail,Conan and Khostatral Khel,the haunted quality Xapur which i really liked.


Yes, "Devil In Iron" is derivative, but has a lot going for it, like the elements you point out.


For me, "Devil" has always been more about the parts than the sum. Several things just don't quite click (IMO), but there are numerous cool things about the yarn. Like some other readers, I prefer ISitM.


I will re-read both soon and right now i cant actually remember which i prefered. I respected Devil In Iron some time later when i get past the derivative nature.

#36 constantine

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 12:29 AM

Not to mention if Conan never stuck around and found the Yuetshi knife, who on earth could possibly stop Khosatral Khel? The devil was rebuilding his capital: it would only be a matter of time before he sought vengeance against the Yuetshi, and looked beyond to Turan, the Golden Kingdoms, and beyond. If he could rebuild a city and its denizens within the space of a night, how long would it take for him to rebuild his lost empire? Yateli's ghost was tangible enough: what about the armies of Dagonia? Conan arrived just in time to stop Khosatral Khel from going any further: any later may have been too late.


This might be the case, but I have the impression that the re-emergence of a Dagonian ralm under Khosatral Khel is not really an issue or major threat. Dagonia or Xapur is not described as an extensive empire of the past. Come to think of it, Howard's most formidable demons like Thog, Thaug, Ollum Onga or Khosatral Khel don't have imperial ambitions. In fact, in the tale it is mentioned that the Yuetshi were enslaved by Khel and his followers because they migrated in the vicinity of Xapur and not due to distant Dagonian campaigns. Conan (or Amalric in the case of Ollum Onga) thrashes those demons because they put his favorite damsels in distress (more or less)...

#37 Rockamobile

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 03:25 AM

I think that ''the future fate of kingdoms'' had to do with the success of the Turanians' ambush against Conan which, of course, would have been lethal for the Cimmerian. If the ambush had succeeded, Conan would not be able to achieve the immense and glorious victories he was bound to, especially as king. In the tale, this was the point when the frustrated and unsuspecting kozak was about to descent the stairs that led to the island plateau. Had he done so, he would be at the mercy of the Turanian archers (i.e. he was f@%#ed...). But fate intervened when he saw a strand of silk from Octavia's garment and decided to to remain and track her probable captor and the story went on.


Not to mention if Conan never stuck around and found the Yuetshi knife, who on earth could possibly stop Khosatral Khel? The devil was rebuilding his capital: it would only be a matter of time before he sought vengeance against the Yuetshi, and looked beyond to Turan, the Golden Kingdoms, and beyond. If he could rebuild a city and its denizens within the space of a night, how long would it take for him to rebuild his lost empire? Yateli's ghost was tangible enough: what about the armies of Dagonia? Conan arrived just in time to stop Khosatral Khel from going any further: any later may have been too late.


Khosatral Khel wouldn't remained content to just revive his kingdom . Very likely he would have tried to conquer everything in his path .With the power to resurrect the dead and the City with it, can you imagine the army he would have been able to summon up ? And other then that dagger, he has no other vulnerability , at least none was mentioned . If Conan had not had access to that dagger there is no way he could have stopped him or even survived .

Edited by Rockamobile, 31 January 2012 - 03:33 AM.


#38 constantine

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 08:09 AM

Khosatral Khel wouldn't remained content to just revive his kingdom . Very likely he would have tried to conquer everything in his path .With the power to resurrect the dead and the City with it, can you imagine the army he would have been able to summon up ? And other then that dagger, he has no other vulnerability , at least none was mentioned . If Conan had not had access to that dagger there is no way he could have stopped him or even survived .


Why do you have to stick with worn-out cliches? If Khosatral Khel wanted to take the path of conquest he would have done so in the past. As I commented in my last post REH's demons are not bent on dominating the world, like the typical human power-junkies. Khosatral Khel used his magic to keep the enslaved Yuetshi at bay and when that failed his dominion went down with a bang. Dagonia is not described as a vast empire, so its divine/demonic ruler apparently had no interest in trampling the world and neither the power.

#39 Rockamobile

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 03:02 AM

Khosatral Khel wouldn't remained content to just revive his kingdom . Very likely he would have tried to conquer everything in his path .With the power to resurrect the dead and the City with it, can you imagine the army he would have been able to summon up ? And other then that dagger, he has no other vulnerability , at least none was mentioned . If Conan had not had access to that dagger there is no way he could have stopped him or even survived .


Why do you have to stick with worn-out cliches? If Khosatral Khel wanted to take the path of conquest he would have done so in the past. As I commented in my last post REH's demons are not bent on dominating the world, like the typical human power-junkies. Khosatral Khel used his magic to keep the enslaved Yuetshi at bay and when that failed his dominion went down with a bang. Dagonia is not described as a vast empire, so its divine/demonic ruler apparently had no interest in trampling the world and neither the power.


He was out circulation for centuries, Maybe he's time the rethink his old mode operations. I was just speculating thats all. Your right though, I do have a tendency go into cliche mode. :)

Edited by Rockamobile, 06 February 2012 - 03:03 AM.


#40 GreenGaul

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 04:42 PM

For collecting purposes and general interest, I have been compiling a list of the various printings/publications of the 21 original (completed) Howard Conan stories. So far, I show from five to nine publications of each story, and for The Devil in Iron the number is seven


Sounds like The Devil in Iron lands somewhere in the middle. I'd be curious to see which tales were at the edges of the distribution, the most and least popular (to publishers at least).

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