Thursday, May 26, 2011

Conan the Villain?

First let me say, I've never heard of this guy before. The only reason I came across this, it is because it was on the TOR website.

In regards to Conan, Willingham was being coy on the genesis of the villains in Mysterly River. (Villains that panel interviewer Heidi MacDonald of The Beat called, “truly chilling.”) Without giving too much away about the plot of the book, Willingham explained that the idea for the Mysterly River villains came from watching the Conan television show. Here was a barbarian—all muscle and anima and reaction in his movie appearances—who was now actively seeking out problems in order to rectify them. Willingham compared that to what he spoke of as the true essence of a villain: someone who thinks they know the best way to do something, and wants to enforce it on everyone around them. While Conan didn’t seem villainous, Willingham recognized how short a stone’s throw that approach was to the villains in Mysterly River.

So Apparently, Conan in "Conan the Adventurer" is actually not such a good guy after all.. even though he goes around helping people. Because Helping People is apparently the stuff of wretchedness and villainy. I'm not really sure I follow his reasoning. The story of "Adventurer" is not connected to the movies.. so it's really unfair to compare Arnold's Conan to Ralf's Conan. It's not even fair to come Arnold's Conan The Barbarian, to Arnold's Conan The Destroyer, or Arnold's Lord Kalidor. All of them are vaguely similar characters, ostensibly all are supposed to be the same character.. even if thats barely supported in the scripts.

I'm guessing he is trying to make a point about "The Road to hell being paved in good intentions" which is something I've remarked on that is ripe for vast tracts of exposition on in Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. Having some one who "Thinks they know whats best" come in and re-arrange the furniture to their liking. Thing is, sometimes some people do know whats best regardless of what the masses think. This kind of smacks of anti-elitism. "How dare those WHO workers come in and tell us we should dig our cesspits downstream from the drinking water! Who do they think they are?!"

Or being that I'm only 5 episodes into Conan the Adventurer maybe I just am missing something, but I have a really hard time seeing Ralf Moeller as a villain. He certainly never came across that way in Gladiator, or even The Viking Sagas.

I could see the man getting this impression of Conan, if say he'd only read "Vale of Lost Women". But Certainly not from the TV Series..

It seems kind of an odd thing to say really.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Conan The Adventurer, Episode 5

From Hyborean Apocrypha

"The Siege of Ahl Sohn-Bar"

After the departure of Volkar the rest of the crew continues on its way. Passing through a town They get into an brief altercation with one Baiyu or Axechotl. He knows that Conan's wanted by Hissar Zhul, and wants him to leave before the soldiers get there. This is diffused quickly however, as neither him nor Conan really want to fight. But before long it turns out Baiyu might have been in the right or it, as Hissar Zhul's men attack the town. They escape, and they seem to have quickly replaced the missing Volkar with a new, if less agreeable companion.

Observing from his magic pool, Hissar Zhul observes the companions ride into the haunted city of Ahl Sohn-Bar, a place that makes even the skin of Hissar Zhul creep. He decides to have his soldiers surround the place, but let the evil within do his work for him. Soldiers are expensive and he dosen't wish to lose any. This caution seems to be well founded as the companions rescue a girl from a Slime/tentacle monster.

Conan feels this is an evil omen, but realizes he's trapped in the city upon seeing Hissar Zhul's men. So while the companions wait it out in the city, the General of the besieging forces meets with the headman. He explains that they can get rid of Conan, or he will burn the city to get the barbarian. The villagers decide it best to kill the barbarian themselves and attack him and the companions. But villagers armed with pitchforks are little use against road hardened fighters like Conan's companions. They manage to overwhelm Zzeben and Baiyu through numbers, and Othli runs to get Conan.

Conan manages to convince the headman to let his companions free, And turns the villagers against him by saying he sided with Hissar Zhul's men. While this is going on the slime monster has returned and is menacing the girl once more. Conan decides this time it must be destroyed and leaps into action. He rescues the girl again, but the slime monster grows larger. It begins to attack Hissar Zhul's army too, leading to them losing many men. Their general opts to flee the beast leaving it up to Conan to stop it. He finally slays the one monster, but then it becomes obvious that the girl is herself one of the slime monsters who has been pretending to be human. Baiyu and Zzeben come to this conclusion and rescue Conan from the poisoned sleep the creature has put him in. They burn the house the new slime monster is in and then decide to leave. Baiyu now fits in among the group marvelously, quickly falling into the banter between them and decides to journey with them for a while.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

20. Tor Conan # 7, Conan the Victorious by Robert Jordan. Part 5

Chapters 19 - 24

Despite all the differences, this strange new city reminds Conan more and more of Sultanpoor. The same smells, the same filth, the same poverty. The same ease of access to places off limits. He has a score to settle. After making sure his companions are safely hidden away he sets out into the Vhendyhan night. He climbs a smooth jointed wall, no hard feat for the man who scaled the Elephant Tower, and before long has found that which he seeks.

A scuffle breaks out in this elevated chamber, between Guards alerted through sorcery and the mighty Barbarian. Deciding he dosen't want to stick around to fight all these men, Conan opts for escape. During this Naipal's magic mirror is broken, and one of his magic daggers stolen, Leaving the sorcerer to wonder if that was the true reason for Conan's visit. He seems to still be under the misapprehension that Conan is out for him specifically, rather than simply tangentially connected through happenstance. The powerful are often paranoid this way.

After his escape from the governor's tower, Conan returns to his friends. They set off the next day to the forest looking for a hidden city. This is where Conan has been told he will find the antidote for the poison coursing through his body. After hours of riding they come upon the city. Conan works his way inside, leaving his companions outside hidden in the forest. After some time he comes across an unexpected site. The Herbalist from his group, but younger. He sneaks up behind the man, and acquires the knowledge from him that he was in fact cured of the poison in Sultanapoor and the herbalist had lied to him to get his help. This dosen't endear the barbarian to the other man.

What follows next the Barbarian is some what at a loss to explain. In an extremely short period of time after finding the now younger herbalist, that man and Naipal are both dead. Killed by the demon they had both sought to control. The Demon itself slain by incantations laid on it by the sorcerers previously. Leaving Conan the only one standing in the ruins. Not poisoned, still alive, he decides its best to take the rest of his companions and head home with the next westward caravan.

Some months later, on the road west Conan is approached by a Turanian. He's a special investigator of sorts. Sent to Vhendya to see if the assassination in Turan had been connected to that far land. His findings that they were connected clear the Barbarian of any wrong doing, and he tells Conan that he should visit the house of Perfumed Doves when he arrives back in Sultanpoor, the headquarters of the Turanian military and present them with a parchment he is about to be given. Conan isn't sure whether he will or not, but the man insists he read the parchment before making up his mind. And with that the story ends.

Review -

Well that was certainly the best of the three Robert Jordan Conan's I've read so far. While it did begin to drag after they left Sultanpoor, and didn't really pick up again until they got to Vendhya, it wasn't completely pointless like the others. It had a real reason for Conan to travel that far. It referenced several preceding stories, and also sets up a few that are to come after.

It was very interesting to see things like the Harbour Chains of Sultanapoor. Since those and other items throughout the book are things which Jordan would re-use later in his Wheel of Time series. Though once again the long travel sequence in which very little happens is also something that got carried over into the wheel of time books. Jordan's strength seems to be in doing scenes, but moving between the scenes is his weakness.

This book is a bit shorter than normal, and it's page count is filled up with the L. Sprague DeCamp essay "Conan the indestructible" which is where he tried to explain away the continuity problems presented by the two movie novelizations. Effectively writing them off as being "Alternate tellings of the myth, as recorded on some badly preserved clay tablets in the British Museum". Effectively making them Apocrypha, of the Apocrypha. I think thats the best way to look at them, and will continue to do such.

Up next, Conan the Unconquered by Robert Jordan.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

20. Tor Conan # 7, Conan the Victorious by Robert Jordan. Part 4

chapters 13 - 18

Conan has wasted no time in making acquaintances on the caravan journey. He is enjoying the company of several of these when he is approached by a man who is in the employ of Naipal. Naipal who is tired of the Barbarian ruining his plans. Naipal who wants the Barbarian and his compatriots dead. Conan is explaining to one of these acquaintances that when it comes to wizards and demons, they aren't truly as thick as fleas on a dog.. He simply has bad luck in the matter. This I would say is something of an understatement.

Later that night Naipal's underlings put his demand into action. They lay a trap for the Cimmerian but only manage to slay several of his fellow smugglers. Conan himself winkles out the trap and dosen't make himself easy to find. He manages to escape several close calls and wait out the night. The next day he regroups with whats left of the smugglers and goes back to his Khitan employer. Revenge will be meted out now, against the two men responsible, but for now he must bide his time.

Following the failures of his underlings to slay the barbarian. Naipal is thrown into a fit of rage which leads him to brashly take oaths with a demon in order to find out where the Caravan will rest. The Barbarian is getting too close. To close to ruining his plans. He cannot accept the risk of Conan making it to vendhya lest all his plans come to naught. He will try his own luck and set a trap of his own for the Barbarian.

The stage is being set for the showdown. The Caravan has just rolled into town. The town which Naipal has laid his traps. The Great city of Gwandikian. Larger than Sultanapoor and Agraphur combined. Sprawling out along the valley floor on the far slopes of the Himeylian mountains.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

20. Tor Conan # 7, Conan the Victorious by Robert Jordan. Part 3

Chapters 8-12

We find our adventurers having walked far to the south and east, away from the ruin of their ship on the banks of the Zaporaska. After several days of walking they chance apon an elongated caravan. Hundreds of merchants with their Turanian guards, along with a troop of 800 Vendhyan lancers sent to escort Karin Singh from Turan. Conan hails the Turanian captain escorting the merchants to ask if they have need of 8 more swords. The Captain replies in the negative, but will ask around to see if any of the merchants need extra help, but for the moment cannot let them come any closer to the main group.

Within a few hours they are approached by a Khitan merchant. He sells whatever comes his way and business hasn't been all that swift. But he does have need for a few swords to protect his two nieces who travel with him. So for a small fee he will hire on the westerners. One of the men with Conan, Hordo remarks that he hopes Conan won't get them involved with a wizard this time, As Conan has a bad habit of getting on the wrong side of wizards. Conan remarks he has no intention of coming within a league of a wizard and the group then goes to join the caravan.

Little known to Conan that another thousand miles to the east, he already is on the wrong side of a wizard. Deep in the heart of Vendhya, Naipal is watching as his plans come to fruition. He has deftly hidden himself from the Black Seers of Yimsha. He has manipulated anyone who might be useful to his plots. He's currently enjoying the first fruits of his labours, but not for long. Urgent matters come to his attention that must be dealt with cause him to ignore his dancers and serving girls. He has a child to sacrifice. Though the act fills him with loathing, he decides it is an act of mercy to spare the waif of its life of poverty and filth.

The leagues which desperate Conan from Naipal are ever dwindling. The Caravan winds on, ever eastward and southwards through the Golden Kingdoms and then into Vendhya, This is the best route to avoid the hillmen of Ghulistan. The Many small kingdoms having been carved out of a fallen Vendhyan empire over 1000 years ago are now themselves decaying into ruin, though they still boast many splendours. There like hitherto unseen by the Cimmerian. Doubtless he will see greater sights as he gets closer to Vendhya.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

20. Tor Conan # 7, Conan the Victorious by Robert Jordan. Part 2

chapters 5 - 8

In the previous encounter with the Vendyhan assassin, Conan took a glancing blow from the mans pushdagger. He thought nothing of it at the time, but over time the wound began to throb. poison. The ships captain and conan recruit an herbalist who is able to stem the tide of the poison in his system, but not cure it. The man is not familiar with the herbs of Vendhya, exclaiming to Conan that only one of their leaches could know the cure.

So now with added purpose, our intrepid crew get underway to leave Sultanapoor and head south. First they must get past the massive man made breakwaters of The Mole, Stone towers flank the mouth of the harbour and control the giant chain which can close the harbour's two shipping lanes to all comers*.

Chains which have just gone up, preventing them from leaving the harbour. Conan leads a small group to take over one of the towers and let the chain down. After a small skirmish they succeed in lowering the harbour chains and the smugglers ship departs. Now to make the journey south towards the Zaporaska river, where they were to deliver the chests belonging to the assassin who attacked Conan.

After several days of hugging the coast to try and avoid pirates, the ship makes its way to the mouth of the Zaporaska. They hear metal strike stone on the beach and a fire spring up. These are the vendhyans they are supposed to meet. Conan feels its an ambush but knows he needs to find the antidote to the poison. They go ashore and bring with them the chests the assassin had paid them to bring south. Sure to Conan's feelings however, the Vendhyans attack upon seeing the seals on the chests had been broken. The skirmish dosen't take long to run its course, but ends with their ship being burnt. Now stranded in a strange land, all they can do is press forward.

* If you have read Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series far enough to reach the City of Tar Valon, You will notice many similarities between it and Sultanpoor's description in this book. Especially the Chain, which features prominently here, and forms the basis of a large scale battle in the 10th or 11th wheel of time book.

Monday, May 2, 2011

20. Tor Conan # 7, Conan the Victorious by Robert Jordan. Part 1

Prologue, Chapters 1-4

In distant Vendyha, a man named Naipal watches the city of Ayodha at night. He is the court wizard of King Bandharkar and tonight his plans either come to fruition, or crumble to dust. Tonight he will make compact with Masrock, a powerful demon. When his plans come to their apex, all of Vendhya will kneel at his feet. Especially those fools, the Black Seers, of mt. Yimsha who viewed him as unworthy.

Far to the west, in the Turanian city Sultanapoor Conan strides through the multicultural babel that is the city market. This is now the furthest east he has traveled. Over the two months that he has been here so far, he has found employment guarding a smugglers ship. It pays well, and gives him plenty of time to carouse with the locals. This however sometimes works against him, especially when those locals are also coveted by guard captains. So once again, Conan has found himself on the wrong side of some puffed up guardsman.

This problem is quickly made worse by being conflated with an attempt on King Yildiz's life. This is apparently a Vendyhan plot, they hired a northland giant to kill a prince or maybe a general, so the rumours go. Conan hearing these words decides the time has come to arrange a hasty exit. He stops by the home of a man who can help him get out of town. While he's there he pieces together a few more bits of information about whats happened, and a bit about Vendhya too.

While Conan is fleeing, A Turanian soldier is being debriefed by his superior. A spymaster of no small skill, Lord Khalid, has plans for his apprentice. Jelal the erstwhile merchant who is also a master spy for Turan. He explains some of what has happened, that it was a prince who was killed and that the Vendhyans were responsible. He's not sure if the northman had anything to do with it or not. He sends Jelal to Vendhya to get what information he can.

Conan makes his way to his boss's hideout, explains he had nothing to do with the murder and aims to get as far away from the city as possible. The ship is bound for a town at the mouth of the Zaporaska River to the south. While they are loading up, Conan becomes curious about one of the chests they are moving. He opens it and is nearly skewered by a dagger wielding Vehndyan. He overpowers the man, but seeing defeat the man kills himself. This obviously has something to do with the assassination he's been blamed for. For now though, all he can do is load up the ship and get going.