Conan the Barbarian

Conan the Barbarian
Illustration of Conan by Mark Schultz
First appearanceWeird Tales (December 1932)
Created byRobert E. Howard
Portrayed byArnold Schwarzenegger (Film)
Michael Donovan (Animation)
Phil Hayes (Animation)
Ralf Möller (Live-Action television)
Jason Momoa (Film)

Conan the Barbarian (also known as Conan the Cimmerian) is a fictional sword and sorcery hero who originated in pulp fiction magazines and has since been adapted to books, comics, several films (including Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer), television programs (cartoon and live-action), video games, role-playing games, and other media. The character was created by writer Robert E. Howard in 1932 in a series of fantasy stories published in Weird Tales magazine.

Publication history

Conan the Barbarian was created by Robert E. Howard in a series of fantasy stories published in Weird Tales in 1932.[1] For months, Howard had been in search of a new character to market to the burgeoning pulp outlets of the early 1930s. In October 1931, he submitted the short story "People of the Dark" to Clayton Publications' new magazine, Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror (June 1932). "People of the Dark" is a remembrance story of "past lives", and in its first-person narrative the protagonist describes one of his previous incarnations; Conan is a black-haired barbarian hero who swears by a deity called Crom. Some Howard scholars believe this Conan to be a forerunner of the more famous character.[2]

In February 1932, Howard vacationed at a border town on the lower Rio Grande. During this trip, he further conceived the character of Conan and also wrote the poem "Cimmeria", much of which echoes specific passages in Plutarch's Lives.[3][4] According to some scholars, Howard's conception of Conan and the Hyborian Age may have originated in Thomas Bulfinch's The Outline of Mythology (1913) which inspired Howard to "coalesce into a coherent whole his literary aspirations and the strong physical, autobiographical elements underlying the creation of Conan".[2]

Having digested these prior influences after he returned from his trip, Howard rewrote a rejected story, "By This Axe I Rule!" (May 1929), replacing his existing character Kull of Atlantis with his new hero, and retitling it "The Phoenix on the Sword". Howard also wrote "The Frost-Giant's Daughter", inspired by the Greek myth of Daphne,[citation needed] and submitted both stories to Weird Tales magazine. Although "The Frost-Giant's Daughter" was rejected, the magazine accepted "The Phoenix on the Sword" after it received the requested polishing.[2]

"The Phoenix on the Sword" appeared in Weird Tales cover-dated December 1932. Editor Farnsworth Wright subsequently prompted Howard to write an 8,000-word essay for personal use detailing "the Hyborian Age", the fictional setting for Conan. Using this essay as his guideline, Howard began plotting "The Tower of the Elephant", a new Conan story that was the first to truly integrate his new conception of the Hyborian world.[2]

The publication and success of "The Tower of the Elephant" spurred Howard to write many more Conan stories for Weird Tales. By the time of Howard's suicide in 1936, he had written 21 complete stories, 17 of which had been published, as well as a number of unfinished fragments.[2]

Following Howard's death, the copyright of the Conan stories passed through several hands. There is a report of a Miss Merriman who was helping Doctor Howard clean up Robert's papers finding a written will. She handed it to Dr. Howard and it was never seen again. As such, Dr. Howard then inherited all of Robert's writings and books. As he aged, Dr. Howard moved to Ranger to help his friend Dr. Kuykendall at his clinic. He passed in 1944 while living at the clinic and he left all his worldly goods to Dr. Kuykendall for his kindness. To be sure, Dr. Kuykendall was ignorant of publishing and had no idea of the potential value of the writings he inherited and basically trusted the Howard's old agent Otis Adelbert Kline to guide him. As this was just going into the WWII years the market was poor for this type of fiction so it netted him little except for the release of the 1946 Arkham House book Skull-Face & Others.

However, the Conan stories were so dynamic that they were never destined to be too long out of print. In 1950, 14 years after the last Conan tale appeared in Weird Tales, a returning G.I. Marty Greenberg, started Gnome Press Publishing to preserve some of the great stories from the pulps and introduce new SF writing by such as Asimov, Heinlein and de Camp. Between 1950 to 1957 Gnome published all of the 17 original Weird Tales stories plus extra found and edited by de Camp, and unsold eastern tales that de Camp converted to Conan tales plus one story submitted by Swedish writer Bjorn Nyberg. After that, it was but another 8 years until paperback versions appeared courtesy of Lancer Books, a deal brokered by L. Sprague de Camp. The Lancers ran from 1965 to 1973 when Lancer went bankrupt for some rather strange reasons, leaving the final Conan paperback unpublished, although a cover proof had been created. De Camp with the help of Lin Carter had completed a number of drafts, synopses, and created new stories to add to Conan's adventures. The bankruptcy kept the rights to the stories in legal limbo for four years when Prestige Books acquired the assets from the auction. Of note were the highly successful images of Conan by fantasy artist Frank Frazetta on most of the Lancer covers.

In the meantime as of January 1974 Sphere Books in the UK started printing the series of 12 books. The latest printings of the Sphere books found to date by Mr. Scotty Henderson, a Howard scholar and researcher, is September 1989 with the various books managing print runs of 8 to 13 printings.

Shortly Prestige approached Ace books to print and distribute the books as they did not have the resources. Just prior to that, Glenn Lord, who had become the estate agent for the Howard heirs found a loophole in the contracts and hired Karl Edward Wagner to edit a series of original pure Howard books via publisher Berkley Books. They issued three volumes using the earliest published form of the texts from Weird Tales,[citation needed] but by this time Conan Properties Inc. had been formed and to put it mildly, de Camp, one of the stake holders in CPI was very unhappy about this as he wanted his edited versions published. He made no commission off the Berkley books. These books would have sold well if continued but in order to gain control again, de Camp and the CPI lawyer made some deal to have Ace books buy out Prestige books and the rights were acquired by CPI from Ace, while Ace were guaranteed a very lucrative printing and distribution contract. Part of the deal also was that Berkley stop publishing their books. Glenn Lord, the copyright holders, de Camp, and lawyer Mr. Bronfmann were the board of CPI. Mr. Lord conceded probably due to the fact that the 12 books in the Ace lineup represented a better deal for the heirs than the Berkley deal at the end of the day. After that the Ace editions continued well into the 1990's before the printing contract ran out. The latest printing to date found by Mr. Scotty Henderson was May 1994 with at least two books, Conan and Conan the Freebooter having 22 printings. Chances are there may have been no cutoff in the printing contract, just market conditions dictating that the print runs had decreased to the point that it wasn't worth do more as by that time they were marketing pastiches by other writers.

In 2000, the British publisher Gollancz Science Fiction issued a two-volume, complete edition of Howard's Conan stories as part of its Fantasy Masterworks imprint, which included several stories that had never seen print in their original form. The Gollancz edition mostly used the versions of the stories as published in Weird Tales.[5]

The two volumes were combined and the stories resorted into chronological order as The Complete Chronicles of Conan: Centenary Edition (Gollancz Science Fiction, 2006; edited and with an Afterword by Steve Jones).

In 2003, another British publisher, Wandering Star Books,[6] made an effort both to restore Howard's original manuscripts and to provide a more scholarly and historical view of the Conan stories. It published hardcover editions in England, which were republished in the United States by the Del Rey imprint of Ballantine Books. The first book, Conan of Cimmeria: Volume One (1932–1933) (2003; published in the US as The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian) includes Howard's notes on his fictional setting, as well as letters and poems concerning the genesis of his ideas. This was followed by Conan of Cimmeria: Volume Two (1934) (2004; published in the US as The Bloody Crown of Conan) and Conan of Cimmeria: Volume Three (1935–1936) (2005; published in the US as The Conquering Sword of Conan). These three volumes combined include all of the original, unedited Conan stories.

Other Languages
български: Конан
čeština: Barbar Conan
français: Conan le Barbare
한국어: 야만인 코난
Bahasa Indonesia: Conan sang Barbar
қазақша: Конан
lietuvių: Konanas
Nederlands: Conan de Barbaar
日本語: 英雄コナン
norsk: Conan
português: Conan
română: Conan Barbarul
русский: Конан
slovenčina: Barbar Conan
slovenščina: Konan Barbar
српски / srpski: Конан Симеријанац
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Konan Simerijanac
svenska: Conan
Türkçe: Conan
中文: 蛮王柯南