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The Devil In Iron


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#1 Kortoso

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 12:11 AM

Conan on the loose on the shores of the Vilayet Sea!

I am going to take this chance to pose a geographical question: fresh, brackish or salty, yon Vilayet Sea? What say ye, eh?

The Yuetshi are taken from the prehistoric Yuezhi people, IMHO.


#2 yimsha

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 12:17 AM

more your scottish loch, judging by the geography.


Not one I read many times until I got the fantasy masterworks volume. Particularly enjoy him lurking aboot in the mud at the beginning and kicking the snot out of the mustachioed popinjay.

Edited by yimsha, 13 December 2007 - 12:18 AM.

'who dies first?'

#3 timeless

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 02:35 AM

Good question, Kortoso. I always assumed it was salt, like the Black Sea. But the Black Sea gets salt water from the Mediterranean through the Bosporus, so...

Good question.
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Is but a dream within a dream. - Edgar Allen Poe

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#4 blanor

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 06:21 AM

I always equated it to the Caspian Sea, which is salty (a little research led me to the fact that it has a salinity of 1.2%, about one third the salinity of the oceans).

#5 Almuric

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 06:26 AM

One of my personal favorites. Khosatral Khel is one of the strangest of all the Conan villains, with a Lovecraftian edge. And the final line is a delight too.

"I'll burn Khawazrim for a torch to light your way to my tent."

What woman could resist a come-on like that? :lol:
"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

#6 yimsha

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 10:40 AM

One of my personal favorites. Khosatral Khel is one of the strangest of all the Conan villains, with a Lovecraftian edge. And the final line is a delight too.

"I'll burn Khawazrim for a torch to light your way to my tent."

What woman could resist a come-on like that? :lol:


:lol: :lol: :lol: david niven, cary grant, eat your heart out.
'who dies first?'

#7 Kortoso

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 06:09 PM

I always equated it to the Caspian Sea, which is salty (a little research led me to the fact that it has a salinity of 1.2%, about one third the salinity of the oceans).


That would put you in the brackish camp. Wipe your shoes before you come in the house. ;)

Reeds (or reedlike plants) are capable of thriving in both fresh and brackish waters.

#8 blanor

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Posted 16 December 2007 - 08:39 AM

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:

Weird Tales, August 1934
Gnome, Conan the Barbarian, 1954
Lancer, Conan the Wanderer, 1968 (also Ace, Sphere- multiple printings)
Grant, The Devil in Iron, 1976 (reprinted by Grosset & Dunlap, 1978)
Berkley, The People of the Black Circle, 1977 (PB, HB, and Science Fiction Book Club printings)
Millenium, The Conan Chronicles 1, August 2000 (also Centenary Edition, 2006)
Wandering Star, Conan of Cimmeria 1, 2002 (published by Del Rey in US)

Notes on this list:
I don't want to get into a big LSDC thing, but I do include the DeCamp-edited versions of the stories in my lists. Like him or not/read him or not, but to ignore DeCamp's influence on Conan takes a huge chunk out of the historical record.
With that said, I believe that a comic version of a Conan tale should be noted separately, not quite a legitimate publication of a story.
I don't think that separate entries of the various Lancer version publishers and printings are called for, but the Berkley/SFBC and Wandering Star/Del Rey publications are a slightly different issue. I chose to use broad strokes in my initial list (e.g. the Del Reys are essentially Wandering Star reprints).

As always, comments are welcomed.

#9 Kortoso

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Posted 16 December 2007 - 06:46 PM

Did you have some comments on the story?

#10 Guest_Tu for Kull_*

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Posted 18 December 2007 - 08:12 PM

Greetings!

The fisherman loosened the knife in its scabbard.The gesture was instinctive,for what he feared was nothing a knife could slay,not even the saw-edged crescent blade blade of the Yuetshi that could disemblowel a man with an upward stroke.Neither man nor beast threatened him in the solitude which brooded over the castellated isle of Xapur.



REH grabs you in three sentences!Danger at the outset, fills the air.Question arise and wonder how it will all play out.
I wish I could write like that! :D

Tu

#11 Kortoso

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Posted 18 December 2007 - 10:31 PM

"I do not war on water rats!" he snorted.

Pure gold. ;)

OK, I'll get serious:

Conan admired the scaly torso, thick as his thigh and obviously of great length, and he reached out and laid a curious hand on the thing. And as he did so, his heart nearly stopped. An icy chill congealed the blood in his veins and lifted the short hair on his scalp. Under his hand there was not the smooth, brittle surface of glass or metal or stone, but the yielding, fibrous mass of a living thing. He felt cold, sluggish life flowing under his fingers.



#12 blanor

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Posted 19 December 2007 - 04:38 AM

It's a good story, with good prose and our favorite elements: a giant snake, a lost city, a powerful monster with an Achilles heel, a love interest.

One big problem, tho': Octavia's arrival on the island of Xapur is so unnecessarily convoluted and illogical that it detracts from the entire tale.

Octavia hears the entire plan to lure Conan to Xapur with her as bait, complete with a detailed description of the island. She hates her captors, as well as the prospect of meeting up with Conan. "I will die first!," she says. Then, after helping set the trap at a meeting with Conan, she escapes, and not a little escape, either. She scales walls, steals a horse, rides all night, abandons the "foundered steed," wades through a "morass," then swims "a broad expanse of water," and makes her way to . . . Xapur!, the one place in the wide world she should most avoid. Howard explains, "she knew of no better course than to hide on the island. She knew that most of the islands off that marshy coast were uninhabited," EXCEPT, given her knowledge of the plan and the description of the island, she should have instantly recognized that precisely the opposite was true.

Unbelivable? Yes! Unnecessary? Absolutely! What would be wrong with the bad guys dragging her to the island per the plan, giving Conan another opportunity to save her? Or alternatively, she could have escaped in the vicinity of the island and could not have had a choice concerning a place to seek shelter.

#13 Kortoso

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Posted 19 December 2007 - 06:47 PM

Amen, as my father would say "head for the roundhouse, Nellie, they'll never corner you there!"



#14 Guest_Tu for Kull_*

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Posted 19 December 2007 - 08:45 PM

Greetings!
Ok,how would you get Conan on Xapur? If not a broad,then what,.... treasure? What the hell else did he care about at this time? :blink:

Tu ("Maybe not now,but soon and for the rest of your life.")

#15 blanor

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Posted 20 December 2007 - 01:01 AM

Howard had no shortage of ways to get Conan to islands (the Isle of Iron Statues, the Isle of the Black Ones) or to other out-of-the-way places (Alkmeenon in Jewels of Gwahlur, Xuchotl in Red Nails, Xuthal in The Slithering Shadow, et al), and I'm not complaining about how he got Conan to Xapur, only the big stretch made in getting Octavia to Xapur.

#16 Guest_Tu for Kull_*

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Posted 20 December 2007 - 02:30 AM

Greetings!

Howard had no shortage of ways to get Conan to islands (the Isle of Iron Statues, the Isle of the Black Ones) or to other out-of-the-way places (Alkmeenon in Jewels of Gwahlur, Xuchotl in Red Nails, Xuthal in The Slithering Shadow, et al), and I'm not complaining about how he got Conan to Xapur, only the big stretch made in getting Octavia to Xapur.


Maybe that is why it's call fantasy/fiction,....
blanor,we should quote the story and *maybe* see why this broad did what she did,....


Tu(please)

#17 Strom

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Posted 20 December 2007 - 06:29 AM

This story is one of my favorite Conan stories, especially when I consider it as a horror story, one that frightens Conan like no other story and keeps the reader just as unnerved.

In The Devil in Iron we experience the whole gamut of recognized Conan traits - the panther speed, the barbarian instinct, the fiery passion, etc. etc. And the fear of sorcery and the unknown. Has Conan ever been faced with such fear as he faces in The Devil in Iron? Some examples:

When Conan first spies the green stoned walls he considers fleeing not just the island but a thousand miles. Howard tells us that

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.

Then Conan enters the recently erected ruins. His experience with Yateli is perfectly written. You know something is really wrong with Yateli and Howard uses her to great effect, leaving Conan and the reader in a state of unease. Now the real terror sets in as Conan explores Khosatral Khel's home.

The "soft but weighty thud" of something landing on the floor of the chamber Conan just exited. What the hell was that? Then he finds another body, this time a man. As he investigates how he died, he realizes the man isn't dead just as he hears something coming down the corridor only to hear a shuffling tread stop just outside his door!

That was no human step, nor any beast he had ever encountered.


The beast tries to bust thru the door, uttering

strange, slobbering mouthing that prickled the short hairs on [Conans] scalp.


What's a 'mouthing'? Don't want to know. Conan soon realizes he is deep in the earth - not a good thing. Later Howard tells us that Conan travels down a black & silent corridor , dreading falling to his doom. Finding the snake, Conan touches it, causing his sword to shake in his grasp from fear & revulsion, sweating in fear that he be locked in this room with the giant snake. Later he hears the shuffling tread again.

Numerous encounters that Conan never even sees - just hears. I think it's safe to say Conan is off his game a bit becuase of these encounters.

Then Conan hears the voice through the wall talking about the Abyss. Hypnotized Conan has the vision of the horror faced by Dagonia by Khosatral Khel. Howard really chose an unique & unnerving way to pass on Khel's story, especially when you add in all the other experiences Conan had leading up to that scene. When Conan comes to - that freaky voice is still rambling!

And finally the horror of Khel himself and his mad rush to kill Conan and the imagery of both the blood soaked Khosatral Khel after ripping and smashing the Agha's men and the indescribable natural form of Khel, that Howard leaves to our imagination, after Conan smashes home the Yuetshi blade to the hilt!

Xapur is a true "house of horrors". I think this is a masterful Conan tale that fits seamlessly in Lovecraft's established brand of horror and Howard's repeated (especially in this story) mantra of civilization as the source of evil.

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! :D

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#18 blanor

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 10:38 PM

The last post on this was 10 days ago? Crom! If you want to talk games or toys or movies or comic books, they're all over it. Original Howard has obviously been marginalized.

#19 Axerules

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Posted 01 January 2008 - 01:58 AM

First, happy New Year everyone !

Don't worry Blanor.

[quote name='Strom' post='78895' date='Dec 20 2007, 06:29 AM']This story is one of my favorite Conan stories, especially when I consider it as a horror story, one that frightens Conan like no other story and keeps the reader just as unnerved.[/quote]
About Devil as an ? horror tale ?: REH?s semi-omniscient narrator voice spends some time following the steps of the chick (plus the Turanian?s) and not only Conan?s. We all know the brawny Cimmerian will not die, even if he can experience fear, like you outlined it very well. The others have not this privil?ge. So we still have thrills and can also be worried about Olivia?s fate.

[quote name='Strom'][quote name='REH']For an instant the future fate of kingdoms that hinged on this gay-clad barbarian hung in the balance[/quote]
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.[/quote]It could be for another reason. REH talked about Conan's impulse to leave the East. IMO it has more to do with Conan's future decisive influence upon the fate of some kingdoms in this corner of the world (Vendhya and the Devi come to my mind).

[quote name='Strom']Xapur is a true "house of horrors". I think this is a masterful Conan tale that fits seamlessly in Lovecraft's established brand of horror...[/quote]QFT.

[quote name='Strom']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! :D[/quote]Those were certainly the references Strom had in mind : she was a ? tall handsome girl, whose yellow hair, clear eyes and fair skin identified her as a pure-blooded member of her race. Her scanty silk tunic, girded at the waist, displayed the marvelous contours of her magnificent figure. Her fine eyes flashed with resentment and her red lips were sulky, but submission had been taught her during her captivity. ? Ghaznavi talked about her ? vitality and substantial figure?.
Yes, you?re right my friend, Octavia was far from being a skinny pretty little thing !


A few other interesting (IMO) details:

Who were the Dagonians ? The Dagonian girl Yateli was ?undoubtedly a member of a white race, though her skin was very dark. Her square-cut hair was black as midnight, her only garment was a wisp of silk about her supple hips.?, the man laying in dreams was ? dark and lean, clad only in a silk loin-cloth, with a shaven head and cruel features?
They?re ? white ?, but no Hyborians, since Xapur?s ruins were ? remnants of some prehistoric kingdom, lost and forgotten before the conquering Hyborians had ridden southward. None knew who reared those stones, though dim legends lingered among the Yuetshi which half intelligibly suggested a connection of immeasurable antiquity between the fishers and the unknown island kingdom. ? They were a ? primitive people inhabiting the isles of Dagonia ?.
Khosatral gave them "culture and civilization".
Any thoughts about their origins, someone ?

"Khawarizm" : another name used by REH that has his counterpart in real history. Each time I read this name I think about images of Mongol hordes and have reminders of Gengis Khan words to the ruler of Khwarezm in The Secret history of the Mongols (did REH read or knew it, perhaps through H. Lamb?s Gengis Khan ?). Temujin words were: "Say ye unto the Khwarezmians that I am the sovereign of the sunrise, and (he is) the sovereign of the sunset."
In Central Asia, the real Khwarezm/Khoresm/Khwarizm/Khwarazm was ruled by a Seldjuk/Persian dinasty before 1220 and the Mongol invasion.
I still have to get HL?s Cossack Adventures, I would like to know if they?re some borrowings from those books in Devil or in other depictions of REH's kozakis (and because I've also heard they were a pleasant read).


BTW, Almuric already did it but I can't resist to quote it again: [quote name='REH']I'll burn Khawazrim for a torch to light your way to my tent.[/quote]
An incredible line of dialogue, very true.
One of those cruel episodes of Conan's life we'll only hear about and which will remain offstage, like his pirate years with B?lit when he "made Stygians howl". His most villainous moments are, like in this powerful sentence, often hinted, foreseen or talked about, but seldom described in the stories...

Edited by Axerules, 15 January 2008 - 01:50 AM.

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#20 Taranaich

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Posted 07 January 2008 - 06:21 AM

I had planned on writing a big lengthy critique before posting, but to my horror Strom appears to have said everything I planned on saying! :lol:

This is also one of my favourite Conan tales: if Howard rewrote Octavia's arrival on the island and added a bit more scope (say, Khosatral Khel's resurrected army launching an attack on Turan, forcing Conan to work with Jehungir Agha to take it down) I think it could even be one of the top Conan tales. Then again, the claustrophobic nature of the tale in a "House on Haunted Hill" vibe seems to add to its horror tale vibe. Indeed, I think it's even more successful than the Halls of Hell in The Scarlet Citadel: most of the nasties he encounters are Lovecraftian in nature, but when revealed too fully they cease being truly scary and more curious. However, the never-identified thing that shuffles after Conan is scarier than any of the denizens of Tsotha-Lanti's due to it's unknowable nature. Interesting that both Xapur and the Citadel feature giant snakes... standard or extra for evil fiends?

Khosatral Khel is easily my favourite Conan villain: the frightful sense of menace and ancient power is palpable, especially in his stalking of Conan and the eerie introduction before the big reveal. There's something inherently disturbing about animate statues; sentient ones even more so, and maleficent ones the worst of all. His inscrutability and "close-to-human-but-something's-really-not-right" adds tremendously to his horror, much like the disconcerted feeling on gets with Yateli. But Conan waking from the vision and hearing the voice still talking... spine-tingly-dingling.

I also particularly liked the seeming invincibility of Khel: unlike most of Conan's foes, there's a real feeling of futility against it, and you wonder just how the hell Conan's going to get out alive, let alone defeat the thing. The dude's made of freaking iron after all. I confess that I was a bit saddened that it only took a Green Yuetshi Knife of Infinity +1 to kill him, he was just so impressive a concept I thought he deserved a bit more. It's a shame Conan left the awesome weapon in Khosatral's gut, it would've made a pretty luna in Shushan. I've noticed that a few magical items seem to have "fallen to earth" in the Conan stories: the Heart of Ahriman and this knife are both alleged to have come to earth in meteor form. Perhaps it's something to do with Yag? I've considered pursuing Hyborian Cosmology because of this.

Finally, I have to make a note of Conan's Indiana Jones moment:

Then he found something else to make him wonder. Among the furs on the dais was a gorgeous spotted skin, whose predominant hue was golden. It was not a clever copy, but the skin of an actual beast. And that beast, Conan knew, had been extinct for at least a thousand years; it was the great golden leopard which figures so prominently in Hyborian legendry, and which the ancient artists delighted to portray in pigments and marble.


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