Two possibilities that I do not like to acknowledge as they would contradict this chronology:
Conan has a chance to read the books of Skelos aboard The Wastrel in The Pool of the Black One. Making The Pool of the Black One before The Devil in Iron if you believe those moldy tomes are the iron-bound books of Skelos.
“Into the west, unknown of man,
Ships have sailed since the world began.
Read, if you dare, what Skelos wrote,
With dead hands fumbling his silken coat;
And follow the ships through the wind-blown wrack –
Follow the ships that come not back."
- The Pool of the Black One
“The men murmured, though they did not let their murmurings reach the ears of their implacable master, who tramped the poop day and night in gloomy majesty, or pored over ancient charts and time-yellowed maps, reading in tomes that were crumbling masses of worm-eaten parchment. At times he talked to Sancha, wildly it seemed to her, of lost continents, and fabulous isles dreaming unguessed amidst the blue foam of nameless gulfs, where horned dragons guarded treasures gathered by pre-human kings, long, long ago.” - The Pool of the Black One
“Zaporavo had his reasons for wishing to go alone. He desired to learn if this island were indeed that mentioned in the mysterious Book of Skelos, whereon, nameless sages aver, strange monsters guard crypts filled with hieroglyph-carven gold.” - The Pool of the Black One
“Recognition stirred in his mind. This snake was evidently meant to represent one of those grim monsters of the marsh which in past ages had haunted the reedy edges of Vilayet’s southern shores. But, like the golden leopard, they had been extinct for hundreds of years. Conan had seen rude images of them, in miniature, among the idol-huts of the Yuetshi, and there was a description of them in the Book of Skelos, which drew on prehistoric sources.”– The Devil in Iron
Argument for: never is it mentioned anywhere in the stories where Conan had seen the book of Skelos, this may provide that opportunity. The book of Skelos that Conan viewed showed cryptozoological beasts in sort of a bestiary. From the inferences in Pool Zaporavo definitely read the book of Skelos and he talks of dragons and says the book mentions strange monsters.
Argument against: It is a big supposition that the parchment tomes aboard The Wastrel were the books of Skelos or copies of them, that Conan would be able to read them at all if they were in whatever language that they were written in (he may have just looked at the pictures), that Conan if he did read or understand them or even guessed at their content would not have tried to secure whatever treasure Zaporavo was after for himself after dispatching him (that is his sole purpose taking over the ship in following him), that Howard would have left out Conan reading the books in the story if that is what they really are, and that Conan would not have mentioned it elsewhere. Plus all of the evidence for placing The Devil in Iron and The Pool of the Black One where I have would be contradictory.
“When Conan saw Zaporavo stalk alone into the woodland, he felt that the chance he had watched for had come. He had eaten no fruit, nor joined in the horse-play of his mates; all his faculties were occupied with watching the buccaneer chief. Accustomed to Zaporavo’s moods, his men were not particularly surprised that their captain should choose to explore an unknown and probably hostile isle alone. They turned to their own amusement, and did not notice Conan when he glided like a stalking panther after the chieftain.
Conan did not underrate his dominance of the crew. But he had not gained the right, through battle and foray, to challenge the captain to a duel to the death. In these empty seas there had been no opportunity for him to prove himself according to Freebooter law. The crew would stand solidly against him if he attacked the chieftain openly. But he knew that if he killed Zaporavo without their knowledge, the leaderless crew would not be likely to be swayed by loyalty to a dead man. IN such wolf-packs only the living counted.
So he followed Zaporavo with sword in hand and eagerness in his heart…” – The Pool of the Black One
When confronted Zaporavo does not attempt to persuade Conan in getting the treasure together to betray him at a later date and does not mention it at all. It seems that Conan is unaware of it also and the reason both men fight is for dominance of the ship and crew that is implied.
“’Dog, why do you follow me?’ ‘Are you mad, to ask?’ laughed Conan, coming swiftly toward his erstwhile chief.” – The Pool of the Black One
“‘What now?’ faltered the girl. ‘The plunder of the seas!’ he laughed.” – The Pool of the Black One
“We’re bound for waters where the seaports are fat, and the merchant ships are crammed with plunder!” – The Pool of the Black One
I think Zaporavo somehow got a peek at the books of Skelos and then searched out moldering tomes and maps to correspond with what he had seen and left on a fool’s errand to find a treasure without the source of such legendry at hand to reference, and that the mystery of where Conan saw the books of Skelos is still a mystery because he didn’t see them on The Wastrel.
The second possibility that forced me to change my lineup is the question of where Conan got the red silk breeks in The Servants of Bit-Yakin.
“His only garment was a pair of short red silk breeks, and his sandals were slung to his back, out of his way, as were his sword and dagger.” - The Servants of Bit-Yakin
Breeks is the Scottish term for breeches meaning knee-length pants.
Conan is always described as wearing silk breeks or silk breeches in all of his pirate tales. He is wearing them shortly after a stint with The Red Brotherhood on the Vilayet Sea in The Devil in Iron. He is wearing them after a stint with the Barachans prior to The Servants of Bit-Yakin. He is wearing them again after being a Barachan pirate when he boards The Wastrel in The Pool of the Black One. He is wearing them after being sunk as a Zingaran Buccaneer before and during Red Nails. And he is wearing them when he resumes piracy at the end of The Black Stranger. The only time he is not wearing them is when he is in armor at the beginning and during his adventures with the Black Corsairs during Queen of the Black Coast (possibly showing his naivety, as a man in armor who goes overboard will surely drown before he can remove it), and when he is stripped of his armor then shanghaied aboard The Venturer in The Hour of the Dragon.
Originally I had intended this outline in its simplistic form before adding the unfinished tales and the non-published in Howard’ lifetime stories to appear like this:
1. The Tower of the Elephant
2. Rogues in the House
4. Black Colossus
6. A Witch Shall be Born
7. The Man-Eaters of Zamboula
3. Queen of the Black Coast
10. Xuthal of the Dusk
13. The Servants of Bit-Yakin
5. Iron Shadows in the Moon
8. The Devil in Iron
9. People of the Black Circle
11. The Pool of the Black One
12. Red Nails
14. Beyond the Black River
15. The Phoenix on the Sword
16. The Scarlet Citadel
17. The Hour of the Dragon
With the other stories added:
The Frost-Giant's Daughter: armor
The God in the Bowl: loin-cloth
1. The Tower of the Elephant: loin-cloth, tunic
The Nestor Synopsis: ?
2. Rogues in the House: loin-cloth
The Yaralet Fragment: loin-cloth
4.Black Colossus: armor
6. A Witch Shall be Born: armor
7. The Man-Eaters of Zamboula: loin-cloth
3.Queen of the Black Coast: armor
The Shumballa Typescripts: armor
The Tombalku Typescripts: ?
The Vale of Lost Women: leopard loin-cloth
13. The Servants of Bit-Yakin: red silk breeks
10. Xuthal of the Dusk: loin-cloth
5. Iron Shadows in the Moon: loin-cloth
8. The Devil in Iron: red silk breeks
9. People of the Black Circle: Hillman garb
11. The Pool of the Black One: red silk breeks
12. Red Nails: silk breeks
14. Beyond the Black River: silk breeks
The Black Stranger:loin-cloth, white silk breeks
Wolves Beyond the Border Typescripts: ?
15. The Phoenix on the Sword: armor
16. The Scarlet Citadel: armor
17. The Hour of the Dragon: armor, leather breeks and tunic, disguises
But I could not figure out where he would have gotten the silk breeks associated with piracy (not corsairs) prior to any mention of piracy. Making the first mention of piracy in The Servants of Bit-Yakin when it says he was late of the Barachan Isles. I did not think that his time as a Barachan pirate was prior to his time as a pirate on the Vilayet Sea. He has silk breeks after Iron Shadows in the Moon at the start of The Devil in Iron but is not wearing them in People of the Black Circle wearing hillman garb. I did not think that The Servants of Bit-Yakin came after Red Nails because of the reasons I have specified. I also think that he did make it to the coast with Valeria without losing her on the way to go to be sidetracked on another adventure, making a name for himself as one of the greatest scourges of the sea (the other being Valeria, plus whatever other notable pirates), he definitely was not recognized as such at the beginning of The Pool of the Black One. Maybe it is the romantic in me but I imagine he had quite a time during his exploits with Valeria as a captain of the Barachan pirates.
“Who of all the sea-folk had not heard the wild, bloody tales told of Conan, the wild rover who had once been a captain of the Barachan pirates, and one of the greatest scourges of the sea? A score of ballads celebrated his ferocious and audacious exploits.”- The Black Stranger
I wanted to keep the tales in the black countries mostly together (excluding Red Nails) even though in the stories themselves he travels back to Hyborian nations at the beginning of several of them. The question for me then came down to when was he a Barachan pirate? We know that he was at the start of The Pool of the Black One. But when did this period of piracy start? So I surmised that he was a Barachan pirate after returning from the far east in People of the Black Circle. Hearing of the Jewels of Gwahlur a fabled treasure that “outshone the hoard of the Turanian kings” (which he could compare having raided Turan for years) and “would make its possessor the richest man in the world” he makes up his mind to forego piracy for the moment and plunge into the jungles in search of them. After losing them “for ever from the sight of man” he returns to resume his piracy among the Barachans prior to The Pool of the Black Ones.
“Equally nebulous were the tales of the Teeth of Gwahlur, the treasure of Alkmeenon. But these misty legends had been enough to bring Conan to Keshan, over vast distances of plain, river-laced jungle, and mountains.” – The Servants of Bit-Yakin
He had found Keshan, which in itself was considered mythical by many northern and western nations, and he had heard enough to confirm the rumors of the treasure that men called the Teeth of Gwahlur.
If you care not at all where he got the red silk breeks or think he kept them from the Vilayet and was wearing them under the hillman garb from People of the Black Circle, I stick by my first line up as plausible. I obviously didn’t think that was the case however. Imagine my chagrin that I felt forced to change the order because of one word, “breeks”.
Edited by Amra_the_Lion, 14 January 2011 - 07:31 AM.