Monday, March 14, 2011

17. Ace Conan #1.4 "The God in the Bowl" by Robert E. Howard

From Hyborean Apocrypha

Continuing on westward on the Corinthian road after having dealt with Sovartus, Conan has made his way to Nemedia. He tries to replicate his life of thievery that he thrived on in Zamora. Thing's don't work out too well as he breaks into a museum, is caught and is framed for murder. Conan protests his innocence, and states he was hungry and looking for food. The inspector is smarter than that and deduces that the brawny barbarian was payed to break in. His employer throws him under the wheel and Conan incensed with such disloyalty turns on him and the charge of murder is now earned. While this is going on a creature of some horrible lineage escapes from the stonewear vessel it was kept in and goes on a killing spree. It transpires that this vessel was intend as a gift to the priest of Mitra, but that it had been left for safe keeping in the Museum. The owner of said museum, overwhelmed by greed had broken the bronze bands securing the lid and let loss the creature. Conan eventually escapes to continue his adventures in Nemedia, while earning the ire of the high priest of Set in the process. This is the first time that Conan's path has crossed with Thoth Amon, but it won't be the last.

Review -

This is another Robert E. Howard Original story. A Very short one at that, even by Howard's Standards, at a scant 24 pages, but it packs A LOT of punch into those pages. It's no doubt been tampered with by DeCamp but I'm not enough of an REH scholar to identify the alterations. It's also an odd one chronologically, The common assumption these days is that this is a very very early Conan story, he's naive of civilization and trusting of people he shouldn't be. In the bulk of new chronologies it's set as either the first or second Conan story. However in the process of adding in the Pastiches that placement becomes difficult. It's simply not possible to work in a side trip from his wanderings in Brythunia and Corinthia and have him make it to Numalia and then back to Zamora for "Tower of the Elephant" and still include the other novels.. It could be done, but It just dosen't work really well.

The easiest way to make the nearly feral attitude of Conan into the over all chronology at this point, Is that, he's shown repeatedly lying to the authorities. So its easy to simply assume that he's just lying about more than the reader is lead to believe. It dosen't require us to do anything but read a slightly different motivation from Howard's words. This approach may not work with the unaltered text, but it does work with this version. The Character of Nemedia is also clearly very very different from that of the places where Conan has been so far, and if he's really new in town, he may simply not be aware of how all the peices fall any more than he was of Zamora way back in "Tower of the Elephant". Numalia seems to be a very regimented society, with little corruption and an insatiable appetite for "Justice". I can easily imagine Dionus, Posthumo and Demetrio dressed in S.S. Uniforms and spitting "Ve Huf Veys uf meking joo Tulk" fulling intending to do it, Conan seems to be in a bit over his head, and it's no wonder he dosen't intend to stick around. Zamora may be corrupt and dangerous, but its safer for a man like him.

Up next, Conan the Warlord by Leonard Carpenter (I can feel the bile rising in my throat as I type this)


David J. West said...

I've seen people disaparge this one before saying its too slow, not enough action etc-but I have always really liked it. Howards prose, pacing and suspense is fantastic and it did always seem to me to be at least earlier in his career rather than say toward Red Nails or even A Witch Shall Be Born.

Lagomorph Rex said...

Oh absolutely, It definitely comes early in his career, But I've never really understood the fascination with putting it early. I've always, long before reading any of the pastiches, just chalked Conan's attitude up to him lying and not doing it very well, it dosen't seem to be something that comes natural to him..

David J. West said...

Agreed, he has an honest soul. He might be a reaver or a pirate-but if he sticks the blade in you, its to your face not in the back.