The Tower of the Elephant

"The Tower of the Elephant"
Savagesword24 07.jpg
An interior panel of "The Tower of the Elephant" comic adaptation by Roy Thomas featuring the art of John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala. The original short story was written by Robert E. Howard and first appeared in a 1933 issue of Weird Tales magazine.
AuthorRobert E. Howard
Original title"The Tower of the Elephant"
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
SeriesConan the Cimmerian
Genre(s)Fantasy
Published inWeird Tales
Publication typePulp
PublisherRural Publishing Corporation
Publication dateMarch 1933
Preceded by"The Scarlet Citadel"
Followed by"Black Colossus"

"The Tower of the Elephant" is one of the original short stories starring the fictional sword and sorcery hero Conan the Cimmerian, written by American author Robert E. Howard. It's set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age and concerns Conan infiltrating a perilous tower in order to steal a fabled gem from an evil sorcerer named Yara. Due to its unique insights into the Hyborian world and atypical science fiction elements, the story is considered a classic of Conan lore and is often cited by Howard scholars as one of his best tales.[1]

Plot summary

The story is set in the Zamorian city of Arenjun[2] (also known as the "City of Thieves").[3] A young Conan is drinking at a rowdy tavern, when he overhears a Kothic rogue describe a fabulous jewel known as the "Heart of the Elephant". It's kept within a tower by an evil sorcerer named Yara. Once, Yara frightened the King of Zamora after he transformed a prince into a spider and crushed the boy with his foot. When Conan interrogates the rogue for more information, insults are traded and a fight ensues. Suddenly, a candle is knocked over and the tavern is plunged into darkness. However, Conan's sword finds his nemesis in the dark, and he escapes into the moonlit streets. (The Kothian's death saves a damsel, his intended victim, from her eventual kidnapping and slavery.)

After crossing a crocodile-infested river, Conan ventures into Yara's garden to steal the jewel and immediately encounters Taurus of Nemedia (known as the "Prince of Thieves") who has a similar appearance. Taurus, who is wily, fat, but amazingly agile, is impressed by Conan's daring and they agree to work together as allies. After battling lions in the tower gardens, the thieves slowly ascend Yara's spire. Upon reaching the top, Taurus enters a treasure vault and is killed by the venomous bite of a giant spider. After a desperate battle, Conan crushes the spider with a chest of gems. Conan hastens on in search of his greatest prize, the Heart.

Continuing into the tower, he discovers a strange "trans-cosmic being" with the body of a man and the oversized head of an elephant. The creature, named Yag-kosha, is a blind and tortured prisoner of Yara.

Yag-kosha reveals to Conan the pre-cataclysmic saga of his alien people, their arrival on Earth, and how he taught Yara the art of magic, only to have his own apprentice betray him. At Yag-kosha's request, Conan grabs the fabled jewel, mercifully kills the elephant-like being, extracts the heart from his corpse, and, as instructed, drips its blood over the Heart of the Elephant. Conan uses the supernatural powers of his blood-infused relic to shrink Yara and draw him into the jewel. Inside the jewel appears a revived Yag-kosha, with his limbs and wings restored, relentlessly pursuing Yara as the Heart vanishes.

Obeying Yag-kosha's instructions, Conan leaves immediately and emerges empty-handed from the tower at dawn, just as it collapses behind him. He has nothing after his night's work except for his sword, loin-cloth, and sandals.

Other Languages
العربية: برج الفيل
русский: Башня Слона
українська: Вежа слона