Conan: The Tower of the Elephant

So, Conan. Having had a slow Sunday today, I got around to reading another story, this time one depicting a much younger Conan.

THE PLOT: While in decadent Zamora, Conan, a young barbarian from the far north, learns of the Elephant’s Heart, a massive gem with mystical powers that is in the possession of the sorceror Yara. On a whim, Conan decides to steal the gem, and teams up with the King of Thieves, also after the same target. But after braving many dangers in the pursuit of the gem, Conan finds a deeper mystery than he set out to find.

INTERESTING POINTS: This story also contains a dungeon… of sorts. A tower, complete with traps, guards, fierce beasts and treasure at the end. This one could very easily be turned into a dungeon for a role-playing game (and apparently, it has been), particularly if you are focussing on roguish stories of heists and burglaries.

This story also features some very direct interactions between Conan and the… otherworldly phenomena that supposedly puts Conan in connection with the universe of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories. This is in some way the turning point of the story, but in many ways I miss some sort of foreshadowing. Of course it is difficult to achieve in a very short story.

MY VERDICT: The Tower of the Elephant is not quite as enjoyable as the previous two stories. I’m not sure whether I can mirror him in Terry Pratchett’s Cohen the (ancient) barbarian, a very obvious pastiche of the old Conan, but I have so far preferred the older Conan. In some ways, I feel like there’s something interesting about the domesticated barbarian who is king that is absent from the young barbarian – the king contains an inner conflict I have liked.

That is not to say that this is a bad story. though. It’s well written, and it is quite exciting. But I hope he can nuance young Conan a little in the other stories with young him.

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