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The Hour Of The Dragon: the ONLY Howard Conan Novel


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#81 timeless

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 07:04 PM

Excellent annotations from Deuce, as always. I cut and paste them into a file for future reference.

I was reminded of Agincourt when I read about the punishing Bossonian archers.

Re: lions in Nemedia...mountain lions? Cougars? Not savannah lions, I assume.
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream. - Edgar Allen Poe

It's the olden lure, it's the golden lure, it's the lure of the timeless things. - Robert Service

For the myth is the foundation of life; it is the timeless schema, the pious formula into which life flows when it reproduces its traits out of the unconscious. - Thomas Mann

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. - Norman Maclean

#82 deuce

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Posted 26 April 2008 - 07:46 PM

Re: lions in Nemedia...mountain lions? Cougars? Not savannah lions, I assume.


I'm pretty sure that the squire (and REH) meant an actual "lion". There are tigers, leopards and the mysterious "Hyborian panther" inhabiting the Pictish Wilderness. Lions were still present in the Balkans into the time of the Roman Empire. The lions that the Nemedians hunted might've been "European/Persian" lions, or maybe even Cave Lions. Here's a link:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion

BTW, my buddy, Spiel, and his family used to raise lions and tigers. They even bred a liger. Truly awesome critters.

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#83 Buxom Sorceress

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Posted 27 April 2008 - 12:40 AM

BTW, my buddy, Spiel, and his family used to raise lions and tigers. They even bred a liger. Truly awesome critters.

i just looked up liger on google...

"A liger is the offspring of a lion and a tigress. It is bigger than either parent, 10 - 12 ft in length - making it the biggest hybrid cat" B)
see some wonderful photos here...

http://www.restorati....com/liger.html

i am amazed ! [ i adore the big cats]

thanks very much.
[ i had never heard of a liger ]
--
hey, Conan should ride a liger into battle...cool...
----
thanks for all the posts and info in here. :)

#84 deuce

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Posted 27 April 2008 - 02:32 AM

A read through Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces (highly recommended BTW) yields many insights regarding this novel.

Campbell's insight was that important myths from around the world which have survived for thousands of years, all share a fundamental structure. This fundamental structure contains a number of stages, which include:

  • A call to adventure, which the hero has to accept or decline
  • A road of trials, regarding which the hero succeeds or fails
  • Achieving the goal or "boon", which often results in important self-knowledge
  • A return to the ordinary world, again as to which the hero can succeed or fail
  • Applying the boon, in which what the hero has gained can be used to improve the world


REH gives us such obvious hints of the Hero's Descent into the Underworld as, okay, Conan as executioner, oarsman on a funeral barge, along which river? the Styx of course... Get it? ;)

Also I think that we have Xenobia, Albiona and Zelata as Maiden, Mother and Crone, don't we?


Hey Kortoso! Very astute observations. B) Whether REH consciously planned such a "heroic structure" for "Dragon" is another question. Not saying he DIDN'T, but just as he was a master of poetry due to his exposure to poetry since childhood, it's possible that he just "instinctively" followed the ancient, classic model. "Instinctive" because of his voracious reading of classic hero-tales. And what a great yarn he created doing so! :D

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#85 deuce

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Posted 27 April 2008 - 03:00 AM

I agree, Tu for Kull. One of my (many) favourite things in HotD is the way Howard describes the Nemedian mobilization for war, in that's it's so disturbingly realistic, how Tarascus spins it into a "liberation" of Aquilonia from a brutal foreigner, whipping the people into a frenzy, as the more astute observers wryly comment on Amalric's place in all this:

Such a wave of enthusiasm and rejoicing as swept the land is frequently the signal for a war of conquest. So no one was surprized when it was announced that King Tarascus had declared the truce made by the late king with their western neighbors void, and was gathering his hosts to invade Aquilonia. His reason was candid; his motives, loudly proclaimed, gilded his actions with something of the glamour of a crusade. He espoused the cause of Valerius, "rightful heir to the throne"; he came, he proclaimed, not as an enemy of Aquilonia, but as a friend, to free the people from the tyranny of a usurper and a foreigner.


Indeed, I feel a short chapter could have been made of this, with two Nemedian nobles getting ready for the invasion talking about recent events: much like Howard's skirting of important events in Black Colossus and A Witch Shall be Born, this could have done with a little more expansion. I don't think it would've hurt the pace too badly, but ultimately even as plot exposition it works great.


It is "disturbingly realistic". The wacky thing is all the parallels to the coming war in '39:

Here we have a short, dark-haired man with backing from the rich and advisors with occult links to his country's ancient past. Times are bad, and the people mutter against the government. He has his political rivals assassinated, works the people into a nationalistic frenzy, promises to end the threat of "barbarism" and invades a neighboring country on a trumped-up charge (Poland and France have to be conflated here). After a "lightning victory" over a demoralized foe, the "leader" installs a puppet government. Few realize that there is a secret plan to make things the way they "ought to/used to be". However, "barbarians" from the West who had fought his folk before (Hessians, anyone? ;) ) are not properly figured into the equation.

Not an exact fit, and NOT saying REH was Nostradamus or anything. Just goes to show that Howard was a more astute observer of people and the world than many give him credit for.

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#86 godzilladude

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Posted 12 June 2008 - 06:40 PM

"The Hour of the Dragon" was first published in Weird Tales, starting in late 1935. As is oft told via REH's correspondence, he had cut a deal with a British publisher for the novel, but then the publisher had gone into receivership, and he was stuck with the story. So, he turned it around and sold it to Weird Tales, and that was that.

L. Sprague de Camp always had a problem with the title of the story, as he saw no "dragon" to the story. LSDC cut the contract in the 1960s with Lancer for the CPI edition, using the title "Conan the Conqueror".

In 1977, Glenn Lord contracted with Berkley to publish "The Hour of the Dragon", separate and apart from CPI's Lancer edition. But in the Berkley edition, for the first time there is a verse heading that goes at the front of the story:

The Lion banner sways and falls in the horror haunted gloom;
A scarlet Dragon rustles by, borne on winds of doom.
In heaps the shining horsemen lie, where the thrusting lances break,
And deep in the haunted mountains the lost, black gods awake.
Dead hands grope in the shadows, the stars turn pale with fright,
For this is the Dragon?s Hour, the triumph of Fear and Night.


Well, that explains the title :D I had always assumed it was just in a different draft, and for whatever reason REH had taken it out of the final draft, though it certainly fits VERY well, to me.

And now to the present: While sorting and filing away scans of the REH typescripts the other day (yes, I have a very exciting life :rolleyes: ), I came across what is an original page (not a carbon). It certainly appears to be the original first page to the final draft of the story. It includes REH's full address and the word count, a typical practice with his final drafts. The page includes the title of the story, as well as the verse noted above, the story itself apparently starting on the next page. It also has typed on it "NORTH AMERICAN RIGHTS RESERVED". Hmmmmm. That last bit is NOT typical of REH final drafts, as he had to always sell his rights to the various pulps, and didn't retain anything. So, I would assume this was the original first page to the final draft, the one sent to the UK. Once it got returned, he obviously couldn't use that same cover page when he sent it to Weird Tales, and would have had to craft up a new one. For whatever reason, the poem didn't get sent in. He obviously just took this page and tossed it in the Trunk. There is no way that REH sent the poem in and Farnsworth Wright (the editor of Weird Tales) took it out, Farnsworth loved REH's poetry, loved to have them for intros.

These typescripts are from Glenn Lord, he acquiring them in the 1960s, and so he would have seen this in his dig through the stacks, and he decided it should be included in HIS publication of the story.

Me, I could see REH getting the typescript back from England, sighing hard, as it had to be a big, big disappointment, and just pulling the cover page off and sending the rest to WT, to hell with a cover page. That'd explain well why the poem didn't get included, to me. Or else he removed it intentionally. Personally, I vote for the pissed off reaction.

Which of course raises a couple interesting questions. Like, if a "definitive" text of REH's is suppose to be as close as possible to what REH wanted the final form to look like, then should this poem be included? Shouldn't it instead just go in a poetry collection? Now me, I like it at the start of the story. But then personal taste isn't suppose to be the driver in defining definitive text. LSDC was big on his own personal tastes, ya know. The bottom line, it wasn't what REH sent in, it wasn't what was first published, should it be included?

I dunno, I like it there. But those of us who do editing and publishing get to eat our own rules on occasion, with some crow.

Bit of history for the day.

#87 Guest_Tu for Kull_*

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 04:23 PM

Greetings!
godzilladude,excellent,thanks!
Musings,if I may;
de Camp:in the introduction of Ace paperback 'Conan the Conqueror' he states:

[quote]When it was reprinted as a book.the name was changed to Conan the Conqueror.I have kept the latter title because, while "The Hour of the Dragon" is intriguing,it has practically nothing to do with the narrative.[/quote]

To which Patrice Louinet answered in Hyborian Genesis Part II;

[quote]Whoever had the idea of retitling Howard's novel Conan the Conqueror had evidently not understood its theme:Conan is anything but a conqueror by nature.If Conan's kingship has to be envisioned as a conclusion of sorts to his life,then the lesson is one entirely different from what has been suggested for years:Conan the King has much less freedom and power(to act as he wants) than Conan the Cimmerian.[/quote]

1) The poem
is left out,replaced by de Camps intro.
2)In chapter 2,'A Black Wind Blows',it is the year of the Dragon.
3) The golden banner of Nemedia is a scarlet dragon,same chapter,...
4)In the chapter 'Drums of Peril",Tiberias;[quote]The man ducked his head and his teeth chattered as he volubly assured his captor of his loyalty,staring up stupidly at the banner that floted above him,the golden serpent of the old dynasty.[/quote]
This may be quibbling but serpents and dragons have been linked in the past.But everyone -knows- drogons are warm-blooded. :P
5)'The Road to Acheron'[quote]Tarascus was fighting with drawn sword under the scarlet dragon,[/quote]
[quote]It was the torn remnant of a scalet banner,and the sun struck dazzlingly on the golden scales of a serpent that writhed thereon.[/quote]
[quote]A roar went up as Almaric was hurled from the saddle,snapping the lance that impaled him,and the Nemedians gave way as a barrier bursts under the surging impact of a tidal wave.They rode for the river in a blind stampede that swept plain like a whirlwind.The hour of the Dragon had passed.[/quote]

Thanks Mr. de Camp!

Tu (where did I put that claymore?!?) :D

#88 Axerules

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Posted 15 June 2008 - 01:26 AM

Thank you Paul. :)
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Posted 15 June 2008 - 01:59 AM

Greetings!

Thank you Paul. :)


Well said,.....



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#90 Baron of Tor

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 05:34 PM

When I first read HOTD eleven or so years ago, and it was my first foray into reading Conan stories, I was struck by how different the written Conan was from what had led me there, the movies. Then I was suddenly angry. The filmmakers had missed SO MUCH, about Conan and his rich world.

The Hyborian setting is as important to HOTD as Conan himself, in my opinion. He travels through five different realms -- King in Aquilonia, prisoner in Nemedia, fugitive in Aquilonia, then to Poitain (which you can't consider separate from Aquilonia, technically), then onto his quest through Zingara, to Argos and then haunted Stygia. The novel was intended as Conan's introduction to readers in Britain, so not only does it touch on everything Conan has been up to his kingship (where he relates his dream to Pallantides in the tent prior to the Battle of Valkia), but it's kind of a travelogue through the different realms of Hyboria with its different peoples, characteristics, histories, and such. Hyboria is definitely a rich and intriguing setting. Maybe not as laboriously detailed as Middle Earth, but none the lesser for it.

HOTD is also the closest to following Campbell's "hero's journey" structure. Some have called it episodic, citing that HOTD was serialized for Weird Tales, but it was originally intended as a novel so it originally wasn't crafted to be seriealized. And whether HOTD is truly episodic or not, I don't see that as a weakness in its storytelling at all. I personally don't believe it's episodic. The biggest gap in time is between when Conan finally possesses the Heart of Ahriman to the next chapter, where the villains gather in conclave to discuss the current situation in Aquilonia. Late in the book. I can't gauge exactly how much time has passed, it seems to me at least a season's worth. But up to that point, the story's flow is pretty non-stop. Xaltotun resurrected, Nemedia taken over, Aquilonia invaded, Conan imprisoned and escaped, rides back to Tarantia, river boat to Poitain, etc. It's always moving, and moving with him. How is that episodic?

As someone who enjoys reading and studying history, particularly medieval and ancient history, I really like how the Conan stories in general and HOTD in particular are modelled on our own history in Hyboria's people and places. Aquilonia in particular has a definite medieval flavor to it. Although there are estates of an ancient character (the character of Septimus in his villa), the Roman names, the presence of slaves, and the pantheon of deities as opposed having one god (Mitra is the major god in Aquilonia/Nemedia, but there are other deities who are invoked from time to time), otherwise Aquilonia may as well be France/England with its knights, archers, and pikemen, counts and barons. Poitain in particular seems molded on how Aquitaine of Richard the Lionheart is described in history and fiction-- a beautiful land with chivalrous yet hardy knights steeped in traditions of courtly love. And the way in which the two major battles in HOTD are described-- Valkia and the Valley of the Lions-- definitely evoke Poitiers, Crecy, and Agincourt. Howard did his reading, digested what he read, and put it back out into his fiction. Check out Arthur Conan Doyle's Sir Nigel books about an English mercenary venturing through France of the Hundred Years War. You can see the similarities. Since HOTD was originally intended for British readers who would've already been familiar with the Conan Doyle stories, Howard seems to have wanted to tap into that vein for his own work. For this, what he wrote seems almost like historical fiction, but with a strong element of sorcery/horror added to the mix.

The horror element is strongly represented in the scenes with the man-eating ghouls of the forest, the man-eating ape in Tarascus's dungeon, and all the business in the Stygian pyramid (there's even a vampire lady in there). The sorcerory is represented by Xaltotun, in my opinion Conan's most formidable adversary as far as what powers he possesses. Xaltotun is said to be of an elder race in an empire that spanned most of the current realms, embodies such evil that, to paraphrase Orastes, men living in Conan's time can't even begin to conceive. He is brought into a world-- specifically, Nemedia and Aquilonia-- that resembles Western Europe in the High Middle Ages, with elements of ancient Rome thrown in there. Xaltotun wants to literally turn back the clock, ultimately reshape a world he does not know. Literally a demon from the past that has to be overcome. It's never bothered me that Xaltotun didn't notice he was missing the Heart of Ahriman, because it's explained in the story how when he enters the sleep of the Black Lotus, he is out of the world. The thief who stole the Heart told Tarascus that Xaltotun had it well hidden, but there's no putting of a Zamorian thief, right? And Xaltotun's supreme pride and arrogance is established in the first scene-- "My knowledge of sorcery, greater than the sum of knowledge of all other men". Xaltotun doesn't think there is anyone living now who is capable of finding the Heart where he had it hid in his tower, and even so, who would have the knowledge to use it for his undoing. The weakest part about Xaltotun, for me, is how he is dispatched. I wish that had been played up more. And it always bothered me that Zelata the witch woman from the border mountains of western Aquilonia made it all the way east across the kingdom to be present at the end with Hadrathus. Minor quibbles though. The Roy Thomas comic book adaptation, which I enjoyed, puts Conan on the hill actively engaging Xaltotun before the final Aquilonian onslaught against the Nemedians. Actually, he just runs Xaltotun through. Which is a step in the right direction, at least for me.

The other villains in HOTD are strong, unique, well-sketched characters, and all of them are necessary. It take the four of them -- Amalric, Valerius, Tarascus, and Orastes-- in addition to Xaltotun, to bring Conan down initially. But the fact they had to reach all the way back into the past for the key to Conan's undoing marks the conspirators as lesser men, and monumentally unscrupulous and amoral to boot. What I like the most about HOTD is that Howard is not afraid to stray away from Conan's storyline progression to focus on his adversaries. They are just as interesting for me, and they are given ample room to stretch out in HOTD. Hell, the first characters we meet in the story are the villains. And the final quarter of the book is told from their perspective, this futile search for Conan's army through the increasingly hostile and difficult Aquilonian countryside. That section of the book reads more like the chronicle of a campaign in the Hundred Years War than any mere sword and sorcery fiction, and as a history buff I enjoyed that immensely.

Just some thoughts off the cuff. More later if I have time. Needless to say, HOTD is my favorite Conan and the one I've studied the most in depth. Hence, my signature below --

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#91 Taranaich

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 10:24 PM

When I first read HOTD eleven or so years ago, and it was my first foray into reading Conan stories, I was struck by how different the written Conan was from what had led me there, the movies. Then I was suddenly angry. The filmmakers had missed SO MUCH, about Conan and his rich world.


*nods sadly* I only watched the Conan film after I had read the books, and though I had prepared myself to zone out REH and enjoy it on its own merits, the promise of what could have been was always strong.

Your thoughts about the setting are pretty solid. Something else I noticed about HotD is that four locations are only explored here: Poitain, Zingara, Argos and Stygia. We also see much more of Aquilonia than in the previous tales, and a little bit of Nemedia too. Which is very cool, and even in introducing a new audience to Conan, Howard still offers something new for Conan veterans.

I'd say the Hyborian Age is about on a similar level of detail as Middle-earth, or at least Lord of the Rings: obviously Middle-earth has a lot more written about it, but I'd say the three Del Rays and LOTR have a similar amount of "stuff" in it, save in languages.

Great observations on history, btw.

It's never bothered me that Xaltotun didn't notice he was missing the Heart of Ahriman, because it's explained in the story how when he enters the sleep of the Black Lotus, he is out of the world. The thief who stole the Heart told Tarascus that Xaltotun had it well hidden, but there's no putting of a Zamorian thief, right?


I think the fact that the thief was Zamorian was a great little extra detail for Howard fans: novices would just take it at face value that Zamorian thieves must have been good from the first chapter (when they stole Xaltie's sarcophagus), but anyone who's read Black Colossus would know all about Zamorian thieves. :D

The weakest part about Xaltotun, for me, is how he is dispatched. I wish that had been played up more. And it always bothered me that Zelata the witch woman from the border mountains of western Aquilonia made it all the way east across the kingdom to be present at the end with Hadrathus. Minor quibbles though.


On first reading I was also a bit underwhelmed: I was used to Conan being the Big Damn Hero and taking out the Big Bad Dude at the end from Black Colossus and Scarlet Citadel. However, after a few more reads, I changed my mind - now, I find it much more satisfying, and think it's the best possible ending. Xaltotun was, as you say, a demon, a force of nature: he wasn't just a supremely powerful sorcerer like Thugra Khotan, or a half-demon like Tsotha-Lanti, he was a sorcerer of a thousand generations of sorcerers. Conan was a man: a damned bastard of a man, but just a man. He couldn't cut down Xaltotun any more than he could cut down a storm. That's why Hadrathus had to do it: only another sorcerer could defeat him, even a relatively humble one like the priest of Asura (I personally think Zelata "helped" Hadrathus at the King's Altar). I just got the feeling that Xaltotun was something completely beyond Conan's capabilities, indeed any mortal: you had to fight fire with fire in this case.

I can see Conan maybe wielding the Heart of Ahriman against Xaltotun, but somehow this would seem hollow to me, like having Aragorn fight Sauron at the Black Gates... and win.

Besides, this wasn't Conan's fight: Xaltotun was a tool used by Tarascus to take Aquilonia - a tool that became a hurricane, but that would be a battle between wizards. Conan's fight was with Tarascus, Valerius and Amalric.

The Roy Thomas comic book adaptation, which I enjoyed, puts Conan on the hill actively engaging Xaltotun before the final Aquilonian onslaught against the Nemedians. Actually, he just runs Xaltotun through. Which is a step in the right direction, at least for me.


I didn't like it at all (as you could see above), but I guess it was necessary for the comic adaptation. It wouldn't be *right* for the comic Conan to not defeat the Big Evil at the end. However, I thought it was overkill for him to kill Amalric too - can't Pallantides have his moment to shine?

Come to think of it, that's another strength of HotD that makes it stand out: Conan needs help. He needs Pallantides to organise the battle and cover up his paralysis, Zenobia to kill the Gray Ape and escape, Zelata to defeat that last soldier and guide him. Hadrathus, Servius, Trocero, Publio, the Corsairs... Conan needs a whole host of friends and allies. Conan rarely needed anyone, let alone so many people: this is because the stakes are so much higher than a single life, but the future of the whole Hyborian Age.

This is why the final victory had to be a team effort: having Conan do all the work and hog all the glory completely undermines the fact that Conan couldn't have done any of this without them, particularly Hadrathus, Pallantides and Zelata. Letting the others have a hand in the victory acknowledges this, and makes the characters more than just bit-players and supporting characters for Conan. Likewise, it also makes the villains more than just the list of heads for Conan to cut off.

I guess it's the same for other Howard characters like Valeria: wouldn't it have been lame if Conan killed Tascela, and Valeria just killed a bunch of nameless mooks? If Conan killed Amalrus instead of Prospero? If Balthus protected the woman settlers while Conan saw off the Picts?

Sometimes it's better that Conan doesn't do all the work. In my opinion, at least. :)

Robert E. Howard, 1906 - 2006

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#92 Prosercunus

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 12:53 AM

I am about 1/3 through Hour Of The Dragon for the first time ever.... I absolutely love this story it is probably my top 3 so far, the way Conan kills and fights his opponents brings an actual smile to my face, I even laughed at some parts (am I sick?) I never usually react that way to a book.
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Posted 20 June 2008 - 03:25 AM

Greetings!
Taranaish,Baron,great stuff!

Bravo!!!

I'd say the Hyborian Age is about on a similar level of detail as Middle-earth, or at least Lord of the Rings: obviously Middle-earth has a lot more written about it, but I'd say the three Del Rays and LOTR have a similar amount of "stuff" in it, save in languages.

Agreed,

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It's never bothered me that Xaltotun didn't notice he was missing the Heart of Ahriman, because it's explained in the story how when he enters the sleep of the Black Lotus, he is out of the world. The thief who stole the Heart told Tarascus that Xaltotun had it well hidden, but there's no putting of a Zamorian thief, right?


I think the fact that the thief was Zamorian was a great little extra detail for Howard fans: novices would just take it at face value that Zamorian thieves must have been good from the first chapter (when they stole Xaltie's sarcophagus), but anyone who's read Black Colossus would know all about Zamorian thieves. :D

;)
Also remember that it was not something hecould use.After Aquiliona and Conan fell what was he or the 'gang of four' afraid of?being flushed with victory makes ones b***s bigger than they should be.So it came from with in,the fear of Xaltotun.With no knowledge of what the heart actually was,......damn Orastes! :P

The weakest part about Xaltotun, for me, is how he is dispatched. I wish that had been played up more. And it always bothered me that Zelata the witch woman from the border mountains of western Aquilonia made it all the way east across the kingdom to be present at the end with Hadrathus. Minor quibbles though.


Not on a few thousand re-reads,........for me.
In the chapter: Out of the Dust shall Acheron rise Again,
Winter passes,spring comes,that is 6 months

It came like a murmurous ind drifting up from the south,waking men sunk in apathy of despair.Yet how it came none could truly say.Some spoke of a strange old women who came down from the mountains with her hair flowing in the wind,and a great gray wolf following like a dog.

Aquilonia's strength was in the west and north,most of the country(central) itself was subdued.I think the old broad did alright!
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On first reading I was also a bit underwhelmed: I was used to Conan being the Big Damn Hero and taking out the Big Bad Dude at the end from Black Colossus and Scarlet Citadel. However, after a few more reads, I changed my mind - now, I find it much more satisfying, and think it's the best possible ending. Xaltotun was, as you say, a demon, a force of nature: he wasn't just a supremely powerful sorcerer like Thugra Khotan, or a half-demon like Tsotha-Lanti, he was a sorcerer of a thousand generations of sorcerers. Conan was a man: a damned bastard of a man, but just a man. He couldn't cut down Xaltotun any more than he could cut down a storm. That's why Hadrathus had to do it: only another sorcerer could defeat him, even a relatively humble one like the priest of Asura (I personally think Zelata "helped" Hadrathus at the King's Altar). I just got the feeling that Xaltotun was something completely beyond Conan's capabilities, indeed any mortal: you had to fight fire with fire in this case.

Well he could of and did,but not this time!Zelata,did help,why would she be there?
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I can see Conan maybe wielding the Heart of Ahriman against Xaltotun, but somehow this would seem hollow to me, like having Aragorn fight Sauron at the Black Gates... and win.

Jackson filmed that,... :blink: ,good thing it was not part of ROTK,....
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Besides, this wasn't Conan's fight: Xaltotun was a tool used by Tarascus to take Aquilonia - a tool that became a hurricane, but that would be a battle between wizards. Conan's fight was with Tarascus, Valerius and Amalric.

Oh,no,....Xaltotun was Conan's problem,his main one,the boys were the tools,....
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Come to think of it, that's another strength of HotD that makes it stand out: Conan needs help. He needs Pallantides to organise the battle and cover up his paralysis, Zenobia to kill the Gray Ape and escape, Zelata to defeat that last soldier and guide him. Hadrathus, Servius, Trocero, Publio, the Corsairs... Conan needs a whole host of friends and allies. Conan rarely needed anyone, let alone so many people: this is because the stakes are so much higher than a single life, but the future of the whole Hyborian Age.

He gets 'help' in most of the stories,willing or not.How did he become king?By walking into the throne room and asking?Simplistic,I know,... :D


I guess it's the same for other Howard characters like Valeria: wouldn't it have been lame if Conan killed Tascela, and Valeria just killed a bunch of nameless mooks? If Conan killed Amalrus instead of Prospero? If Balthus protected the woman settlers while Conan saw off the Picts?

See you answered your own question!

Tu

#94 deuce

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 03:59 AM

"The Hour of the Dragon" was first published in Weird Tales, starting in late 1935. As is oft told via REH's correspondence, he had cut a deal with a British publisher for the novel, but then the publisher had gone into receivership, and he was stuck with the story. So, he turned it around and sold it to Weird Tales, and that was that.


Hey Paul! Just wanted to add to the "Thank you!" chorus. :D

L. Sprague de Camp always had a problem with the title of the story, as he saw no "dragon" to the story. LSDC cut the contract in the 1960s with Lancer for the CPI edition, using the title "Conan the Conqueror".


As many have pointed out, there was PLENTY of reason for REH's title-choice. Far less for LSdC's.

In 1977, Glenn Lord contracted with Berkley to publish "The Hour of the Dragon", separate and apart from CPI's Lancer edition. But in the Berkley edition, for the first time there is a verse heading that goes at the front of the story:

The Lion banner sways and falls in the horror haunted gloom;
A scarlet Dragon rustles by, borne on winds of doom.
In heaps the shining horsemen lie, where the thrusting lances break,
And deep in the haunted mountains the lost, black gods awake.
Dead hands grope in the shadows, the stars turn pale with fright,
For this is the Dragon's Hour, the triumph of Fear and Night.


Well, that explains the title :D I had always assumed it was just in a different draft, and for whatever reason REH had taken it out of the final draft, though it certainly fits VERY well, to me.
And now to the present: While sorting and filing away scans of the REH typescripts the other day (yes, I have a very exciting life :rolleyes: ), I came across what is an original page (not a carbon). It certainly appears to be the original first page to the final draft of the story. It includes REH's full address and the word count, a typical practice with his final drafts. The page includes the title of the story, as well as the verse noted above, the story itself apparently starting on the next page. It also has typed on it "NORTH AMERICAN RIGHTS RESERVED". Hmmmmm. That last bit is NOT typical of REH final drafts, as he had to always sell his rights to the various pulps, and didn't retain anything. So, I would assume this was the original first page to the final draft, the one sent to the UK. Once it got returned, he obviously couldn't use that same cover page when he sent it to Weird Tales, and would have had to craft up a new one. For whatever reason, the poem didn't get sent in. He obviously just took this page and tossed it in the Trunk. There is no way that REH sent the poem in and Farnsworth Wright (the editor of Weird Tales) took it out, Farnsworth loved REH's poetry, loved to have them for intros.

These typescripts are from Glenn Lord, he acquiring them in the 1960s, and so he would have seen this in his dig through the stacks, and he decided it should be included in HIS publication of the story.
Me, I could see REH getting the typescript back from England, sighing hard, as it had to be a big, big disappointment, and just pulling the cover page off and sending the rest to WT, to hell with a cover page. That'd explain well why the poem didn't get included, to me. Or else he removed it intentionally. Personally, I vote for the pissed off reaction.


Your theory sounds right on to me. "Black moods" and all.

Which of course raises a couple interesting questions. Like, if a "definitive" text of REH's is suppose to be as close as possible to what REH wanted the final form to look like, then should this poem be included? Shouldn't it instead just go in a poetry collection? Now me, I like it at the start of the story. But then personal taste isn't suppose to be the driver in defining definitive text. LSDC was big on his own personal tastes, ya know. The bottom line, it wasn't what REH sent in, it wasn't what was first published, should it be included?
I dunno, I like it there. But those of us who do editing and publishing get to eat our own rules on occasion, with some crow.
Bit of history for the day.


Well, if your theory's correct (and I'd say it is), the "WT" version is the "consolation prize" version. The one he sent to Archer is how REH actually seems to have "intended" it to be published. The "poem-less" version is just a sad twist of fate, probably. The poem definitely strengthens the "Dragon" imagery in the novel.

BTW, thanks for jump-starting the discussion on this fine Robert E. Howard yarn. :D

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#95 Taranaich

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 04:07 PM

Hey Tu, good stuff!

Jackson filmed that,... :blink: ,good thing it was not part of ROTK,....


To be honest, I actually think that would've worked out alright in Jackson's version. The writers had already taken so many liberties with the screenplay, that I felt it would've been more fitting for Sauron to come out and crush them to make the whole "Frodo's the only hope" concept more blatant. He could pummel Aragorn and the gang into submission, ready to land the killing blow, only to turn around when he "senses" the ring and go "oooooh carumba". Better than the cartoonish Big Eye in the Sky thing anyway, that really bugged me. But I digress...

Oh,no,....Xaltotun was Conan's problem,his main one,the boys were the tools,....


What I was meaning was that Xaltotun wasn't specifically Conan's problem: he was the entire planet's problem. Conan was needed to command the army, since that's what he does best: Hadrathus was more suited to the magic stuff. Everyone had a job to do: Conan to deal with the army, Hadrathus/Zelata Xaltotun.

He gets 'help' in most of the stories,willing or not.How did he become king?By walking into the throne room and asking?Simplistic,I know,... :D


Touche. ;) Still, this is by far the most help he's gotten in any of the stories (probably by virtue of it being the longest).

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#96 Baron of Tor

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 05:29 PM

Hail Taranaich,

Agree with your thoughts. Regarding Roy Thomas's HOTD, I also was not pleased to see Conan bump off my namesake because in the book Prospero does it I believe.

In HOTD more than other stories, Conan relies on others for help. No man, however strong or fast or clever, can do it all by himself, and he has many helpers along the way, all interesting characters in themselves. Think of the risk Zenobia took in arranging that whole escape. No wonder Conan wanted to make her queen at the end because look at how brave and resourceful-- drugging the guards, taking the keys, getting him a blade without which he probably would've been fodder for the gray ape, etc. Pastiches aside, I don't think Conan's vow at HOTD's end regarding Zenobia was idle.

Zelata and her wolf also come to Conan's aid. Without the wolf, a Nemedian man at arms might've wounded or killed Conan in that fight. It doesn't bother me in the least to see the hero stumble now and then. That's realistic. No matter how good you are, each fight can go either way on the whim of chance. Same thing with Conan's later fight against Tiberias's rogues in Messantia on the wharf. He is knocked unconscious in that one and then shanghaied aboard the Venturer, which then leads to him liberating the galley slaves and taking over the ship (nice way to repay the Argosseans btw! ;) ).

Regarding facing the Big Bad Dude at the end, it's a convention I'm used to in my heroic fiction, going back to when I first watched Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone in Robin Hood. On second thoughts, there is no real way for Conan to take down Xaltotun satisfactorily, that was the job of another (Hadrathus) whose skills and knowledge were up to the task. After all, you wouldn't expect Hadrathus to lead the charge through the Nemedian host, take down and capture Tarascus, and put the enemy to rout. But just cutting Xaltotun down after all the buildup that went into the wizard would've been anticlimactic. Conan taking down Tarascus was "the big duel" in that one, I guess.

I'm not sure about how Aragorn vs Sauron in ROTK would've played out. I watched that bit on the extended edition DVD set, looked interesting, but I don't know. Would take it either way. The only problem I had with ROTK aside from making Gimli into a complete stooge was the use of the Green Ghost army. In the book if I recall, the ghosts just scared the pirates off their ships, allowing Aragorn to rally some soldiers and bring them upriver on the pirates' ships to Minas Tirith in the nick of time. Much better in my opinion. We don't even get to see the ghosts in the book. The heroes just run through the caves and when they get out, they know there's something behind them but they dare not look. Also, ROTK left out the fact that Elrond's sons and the other rangers, the Dunedin, accompanied Aragorn to Minas Tirith. That would've been bad-ass seeing that host attacking the orc army. And the Gondorians in the city were too-easily swept aside, for all the armor they were wearing. As well-equipped as they were, each Gondorian could've taken any number of orcs, at least until exhaustion sets in. Then the orcs would've overwhelmed them. There was one character completely left out, Prince Imrahil and his knights, don't know why. Back to Howard.

You've hit on another reason that HOTD is my favorite, because the stakes are highest. The future of the whole world is in the balance. The royal conspirators had no idea what forces they were unleashing with Xaltotun, and when Orastes started to, well, we know what happened to him. HOTD is an epic clash of kingdom against kingdom, and past against present. The idea of what Acheron was, and the prospect of what would happen if Acheron returned are well-described even from the first chapter. Conan's struggle isn't just a personal one for survival or some bauble of treasure (not to denigrate the other stories whose scale are smaller, they are great in their own way). Now, his actions affect thousands, and failure in his quest isn't just death for him but for nations. Whereas in previous stories Conan is the '30s style anti-heroic hardboiled freebooter (I definitely see the post WWI pessimism and Great Depression mindset in some of Howard's writing), maybe with a chivalric streak to him, in this story he transitions to the role of warrior-king. Much different than anything before, even the other stories (Scarlet Citadel, Phoenix) where he's already king.

Any thoughts on why Conan went into the Tower to save Albiona? Besides Howard needing some reason for Conan to get to Tarantia so he could encounter Hadrathus, that is... Conan's chivalry to women is well-known, but given the dangers involved, that seems a bit extreme.

Also, and again this is not stated, or perhaps even intended by Howard, but it struck me that Amalric is the name used for the Baron of Tor in HOTD and also for the mercenary chief in "Black Colossus" (another favorite). That Amalric was also Nemedian. Same character, perhaps? I don't see why not. In medieval Europe, any knights who journeyed to practice their fighting skills in foreign lands were held in high esteem when they returned home. Who's to say Amalric, before he was baron of Tor, didn't take some retainers and a mercenary company out of Nemedia to learn the art of war in other countries?

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#97 Taranaich

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 12:27 AM

Agree with your thoughts. Regarding Roy Thomas's HOTD, I also was not pleased to see Conan bump off my namesake because in the book Prospero does it I believe.


I thought it was Pallantides: I don't have a copy near me, though...

In HOTD more than other stories, Conan relies on others for help. No man, however strong or fast or clever, can do it all by himself, and he has many helpers along the way, all interesting characters in themselves. Think of the risk Zenobia took in arranging that whole escape. No wonder Conan wanted to make her queen at the end because look at how brave and resourceful-- drugging the guards, taking the keys, getting him a blade without which he probably would've been fodder for the gray ape, etc. Pastiches aside, I don't think Conan's vow at HOTD's end regarding Zenobia was idle.


She may only appear in two chapters, but Zenobia is still one of Howard's most fascinating female characters for the exact reasons you describe. I also think Conan would've kept his word to Zenobia: the whole story was a grim reminder to Conan of what would happen to Aquilonia without him, and that he'd need to start a dynasty to keep Aquilonia in order. I can't think of a more fitting Queen to Conan than the female who did so much for him for so much risk to herself. I would've loved Howard to write a little more on Zenobia, interweave her a little more into the narrative.

Without the wolf, a Nemedian man at arms might've wounded or killed Conan in that fight. It doesn't bother me in the least to see the hero stumble now and then. That's realistic. No matter how good you are, each fight can go either way on the whim of chance.


Here's a quibble/critique I had about that: Howard should've replaced the Nemedian Men-at-Arms with adventurers. We already had Conan meet an adventurer earlier, and although he surprised and dispatched him quickly, much was made of how dangerous a foe they were. I would've capitalised on this by having Zelata assailed by four grizzled, veteran adventurers: the threat to Conan would be even more enhanced than just Men-at-Arms. Probably a minor quibble though.

Agree on the LOTR things too.

Any thoughts on why Conan went into the Tower to save Albiona? Besides Howard needing some reason for Conan to get to Tarantia so he could encounter Hadrathus, that is... Conan's chivalry to women is well-known, but given the dangers involved, that seems a bit extreme.


I think it must have been something to do with the War of the Barons: the barons & counts loyal to Conan are really, really loyal. Though she was to be executed for defying Valerius' advances, Conan specifically speaks of her loyalty. Maybe she had some vital role in Conan's usurpation, or refused to betray him to Namedides: maybe she committed her forces and resources to Conan's campaign. Whatever it was, her loyalty to Conan must have been sufficient for him to owe her a mad jailbreak.

Though it's likely she was just a macguffin for Conan to get to Tarantia, it's nice to think there was some deeper meaning. :)

Also, and again this is not stated, or perhaps even intended by Howard, but it struck me that Amalric is the name used for the Baron of Tor in HOTD and also for the mercenary chief in "Black Colossus" (another favorite). That Amalric was also Nemedian. Same character, perhaps? I don't see why not. In medieval Europe, any knights who journeyed to practice their fighting skills in foreign lands were held in high esteem when they returned home. Who's to say Amalric, before he was baron of Tor, didn't take some retainers and a mercenary company out of Nemedia to learn the art of war in other countries?


The general consensus seems to be that they weren't the same person, but you never know. I have to admit, it would be strange for BC Amalric to agree to resurrecting a sorcerer given his experience with Natohk. Plus, Amalric seems to be one of those names Howard liked to use.

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#98 Kortoso

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 04:34 PM

Looking at this from the Monomyth point of view, there are often three female initiatresses in these myths: the virgin, matron and crone.
Virgin: Zenobia ("He has never glanced at me, and probably never will.")
Matron: Albiona?
Crone: Zelata no doubt

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Posted 21 June 2008 - 06:12 PM

Greetings!

Hail Taranaich,
And hail the Baron of Tor!
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Agree with your thoughts. Regarding Roy Thomas's HOTD, I also was not pleased to see Conan bump off my namesake because in the book Prospero does it I believe.

Can't answer the former but the latter was Pallantides.

In HOTD more than other stories, Conan relies on others for help. No man, however strong or fast or clever, can do it all by himself, and he has many helpers along the way, all interesting characters in themselves.

And a better story.
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Think of the risk Zenobia took in arranging that whole escape. No wonder Conan wanted to make her queen at the end because look at how brave and resourceful-- drugging the guards, taking the keys, getting him a blade without which he probably would've been fodder for the gray ape, etc. Pastiches aside, I don't think Conan's vow at HOTD's end regarding Zenobia was idle.

Neither do I,when Conan makes a vow,if we can call it that,he keeps it.
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Zelata and her wolf also come to Conan's aid. Without the wolf, a Nemedian man at arms might've wounded or killed Conan in that fight. It doesn't bother me in the least to see the hero stumble now and then. That's realistic. No matter how good you are, each fight can go either way on the whim of chance. Same thing with Conan's later fight against Tiberias's rogues in Messantia on the wharf. He is knocked unconscious in that one and then shanghaied aboard the Venturer, which then leads to him liberating the galley slaves and taking over the ship (nice way to repay the Argosseans btw! ;) ).

:D Well said.
To me,Zelata is a major player in the tale.In 'The Rending of the Veil' she does more that that:

You thrust your head in the dragon's jaws.Best to seek refuge abroad.The heart is gone from your kingdom.

Dragon again de Camp,...
Later in 'Swords of the South'

But this is madness! protested Trocero. The maunderings of a heretical priest,the mumblings of a mad witch-women.

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I'm not sure about how Aragorn vs Sauron in ROTK would've played out. I watched that bit on the extended edition DVD set, looked interesting, but I don't know. Would take it either way. The only problem I had with ROTK aside from making Gimli into a complete stooge was the use of the Green Ghost army. In the book if I recall, the ghosts just scared the pirates off their ships, allowing Aragorn to rally some soldiers and bring them upriver on the pirates' ships to Minas Tirith in the nick of time. Much better in my opinion. We don't even get to see the ghosts in the book. The heroes just run through the caves and when they get out, they know there's something behind them but they dare not look. Also, ROTK left out the fact that Elrond's sons and the other rangers, the Dunedin, accompanied Aragorn to Minas Tirith. That would've been bad-ass seeing that host attacking the orc army. And the Gondorians in the city were too-easily swept aside, for all the armor they were wearing. As well-equipped as they were, each Gondorian could've taken any number of orcs, at least until exhaustion sets in. Then the orcs would've overwhelmed them. There was one character completely left out, Prince Imrahil and his knights, don't know why. Back to Howard.

Another thread,... ;)
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You've hit on another reason that HOTD is my favorite, because the stakes are highest. The future of the whole world is in the balance. The royal conspirators had no idea what forces they were unleashing with Xaltotun, and when Orastes started to, well, we know what happened to him. HOTD is an epic clash of kingdom against kingdom, and past against present. The idea of what Acheron was, and the prospect of what would happen if Acheron returned are well-described even from the first chapter.

Exactly.Or if the Stygians retained the heart:
'The Hall of the Dead'

By the lore of the dead we shall enslave the living!Aye kings and generals and wizards of eld shall be our helpers and our slaves.Who shall stand before us?

Either way,if the 'bad guys' have the heart it's FUBAR!
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Any thoughts on why Conan went into the Tower to save Albiona? Besides Howard needing some reason for Conan to get to Tarantia so he could encounter Hadrathus, that is... Conan's chivalry to women is well-known, but given the dangers involved, that seems a bit extreme.

Plot device,maybe,....
Yet,Conan is a loyal barbarian,Think of 'The People of the Black Circle',he could have slipped away with the Devi,he did not.'Iron Shadows in the Moon' he was just trying to get away,yet he saw Shah Amurath;

[...] -you,who fed my comrades to the vultures,who tore them between wild horses,blinded and mained and mutilated them - ai,you dog, you filthy dog!

--------------------------------------------------------------


Also, and again this is not stated, or perhaps even intended by Howard, but it struck me that Amalric is the name used for the Baron of Tor in HOTD and also for the mercenary chief in "Black Colossus" (another favorite). That Amalric was also Nemedian. Same character, perhaps? I don't see why not. In medieval Europe, any knights who journeyed to practice their fighting skills in foreign lands were held in high esteem when they returned home. Who's to say Amalric, before he was baron of Tor, didn't take some retainers and a mercenary company out of Nemedia to learn the art of war in other countries?

Interesting,wondered that meself,....

Baron of Tor


Tu

#100 korak

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Posted 22 June 2008 - 02:09 AM

As many have pointed out, there was PLENTY of reason for REH's title-choice. Far less for LSdC's.



I think that was a very simple matter for the most part-- all Conan books used to have to have the name Conan in the title. All the Gnome Press books did, all the Lancers did, all the Tors did....just like Tarzan books or Gor books.

Nowadays we are used to seeing more subtle variations of that, such as Conan: Hour of the Dragon, etc. Just take the example of the Del Rey book that contains Hour of the Dragon. What is it?

The Hour of the Dragon and Other Tales

NNEEHH!!

The Bloody Crown of Conan

And the Wandering Star edition was called

Conan of Cimmeria vol. II

Both highly original, you gotta admit! ;)

But back in the day, a series like that had to either a title that started with Conan The Something or Conan of Something, etc. Or in some cases, The Something of Conan. Oddly enough it still does apparently.