Conan chronologies have been prepared by a variety of people from the 1930s onward to provide a timeline into which to fit the numerous Conan the Barbarian stories by Robert E. Howard and later writers. This article covers the major schemes that have been advanced over the years.
Several factors impact the differences in chronologies. First, the earliest (Miller/Clark) chronology overlooked some internal evidence in the stories then known that might otherwise have influenced its story placement. Second, internal evidence in subsequently discovered stories contrary to its scheme was ignored, with these tales either simply incorporated into the existing scheme or (in at least one instance) rewritten to fit it. Third, while most later stories by other hands were written in accord with the Miller/Clark chronology (and incorporated into revised versions), a few disregarded it, some (such as the movie adaptations) even contradicting material in the original Howard stories. These factors are discussed in the sections on the various major chronologies that follow.
Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology
A Probable Outline of Conan's Career (1936), completed during Howard's lifetime by P. Schuyler Miller and John D. Clark. Howard, who reviewed it in draft and made a few corrections, stated it followed his vision of Conan's career "pretty closely." The version subsequently published in the Howard fanzine The Hyborian Age (1938) incorporated Howard's corrections. The chronology was revised over the years by Miller, Clark and L. Sprague de Camp to take into account additional Conan material, including previously unpublished stories by Howard and newly written stories by others. These revised versions of the chronology guided the order in which the stories were arranged when they were compiled into book form in the early series published by Gnome Press (1950–1957), Lancer/Ace (1966–1977), and Bantam (1978–1982), and text from the chronology was used in these series to bridge gaps between the stories. Notable among the subsequent versions was An Informal Biography of Conan the Cimmerian (1952), a revision by Clark and de Camp used to bridge stories in the first hardcover edition of the Conan stories, published by Gnome Press. De Camp's final version of the chronology, Conan the Indestructible (1984), incorporated the first seven volumes of the series of Conan pastiches published by Tor Books.
While the chronology has Howard's general approval in regard to its placement of the stories covered by its earliest published version, such authority is lacking for later versions' placement of stories discovered after Howard's death. Most post-Howard Conan stories were written to conform to it. The chronology has been criticized for missing some in-story chronological indications pointing to a slightly different arrangement (such as "Xuthal of the Dusk" preceding "The Devil in Iron"), for force-fitting posthumously discovered Howard tales into its scheme (e.g. "The Black Stranger," in which Howard has Conan turn pirate between his stints as general and king in Aquilonia, rewritten by de Camp to omit the piratical interlude), and for having Conan wander "all over the Hyborian world in a scattered and illogical pattern, and at a break-neck pace."
Order (earliest and latest forms)
All stories added after the earliest version are indented."
Robert Jordan chronology
A Conan Chronology by Robert Jordan (1987) was the attempt of Conan writer Robert Jordan to create a new Chronology including all Conan material written up to that point, including fifteen of the first sixteen volumes of the series of Conan pastiches published by Tor Books (omitting the eighth, Conan the Valorous). It was first published in Conan the Defiant, by Steve Perry (Tor Books, 1987). It was heavily influenced by the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology, though deviating from it in some respects, and covers more of the Tor series. Jordan seldom provided his reasoning on his departures from the earlier chronology.
William Galen Gray chronology
Timeline of Conan's Journeys (1997, rev. 2004), was fan William Galen Gray's attempt to create "a chronology of all the stories, both Howard and pastiche." It is based on a close reading of all the stories and drawing on the earlier Miller/Clark/de Camp and Jordan chronologies. Where the earlier chronologies differ Gray sometimes adopts one's placement, sometimes the other, and occasionally departs from both, in each case explaining his reasons for the placement. The Gray chronology incorporated all then-published Conan stories, including all the Tor volumes, but treated inconsistently for pastiches whose portrayals of Conan's early life contradict Howard's account of it. Three of these, the movie adaptations Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer and the John M. Roberts novel Conan the Bold, Gray rejected as apocryphal "Legends." The fourth, Harry Turtledove's Conan of Venarium, he accepted.
Joe Marek chronology
Joe Marek's chronology is limited to stories written (or devised) by Howard, though within that context it is essentially a revision of the Miller/Clark/de Camp tradition. Noting the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology's general approval by Howard, he tends to follow it when it does not contradict the internal evidence of the stories or force Conan into what he perceives as a "mad dash" around the Hyborian world within timeframes too rapid to be credible. Marek considers four changes from this chronology as central to his own:
- that "The Frost-Giant's Daughter" is the first Conan tale.
- that the four thief stories ("The Tower of the Elephant", "The Hall of the Dead", "The God in the Bowl" and "Rogues in the House") occur in a direct east to west sequence.
- that "Xuthal Of The Dusk" has to occur before "The Devil In Iron", as the events of the former is referenced by Conan in the later.
- that "The Vale Of Lost Women" occurs later in the series than previously assumed.
Marek provides arguments for his story placements, though he fails to incorporate into his scheme the chronologically wide gap between "Beyond the Black River" and "Wolves Beyond the Border" he admits to be indicated by Howard's version of "The Black Stranger" as he believed doing anything more to filling the hole would require a major reordering of the stories that would take attention away from his four primary changes. Additionally Marek divided his timeline into five parts that would constitute about 250 paperback pages each.
The Coming of Conan
Conan the Barbarian
The Sword of Conan
Conan The Conqueror
Dale Rippke chronology
Dale Rippke established The Darkstorm Conan Chronology (2003), a completely revised chronology, including only those stories written (or devised) by Howard. Completions of Howard works by other hands and post-Howard works are not included. Rippke bases his story placements on the texts as Howard wrote them, which lead him to some of the same conclusions as Marek. Most of his differences with Marek fall in the middle of their respective efforts. The Dark Horse comic series mostly follows this chronology.
|The Hyborian Age, Part One||-||-||01||-||-||-||historical essay, portion covering period before Conan's time|
|Cimmeria (poem)||-||-||02||-||-||poem establishing, describing and meditating on Conan's birthplace; placed before the stories in the collection The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian|
|Conan the Barbarian (2011 novel) (part 1)||-||-||-||-||-||-||film adaptation; chapters 1-11 cover Conan's early life from birth to the eve of Venarium|
|Conan of Venarium||-||-||-||-||-||01||final chapters contradict Howard's account (and all others) of Conan's first entry into the civilized countries - Conan was about 14/15 at the Battle of Venarium per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology|
|Conan the Bold||-||-||-||-||-||A||contradicts Howard's account (and all others) of Conan's first entry into the civilized countries; would go between Conan of Venarium and "Legions of the Dead" if anywhere|
|"Legions of the Dead"||-||-||-||01||01||02|
|Conan the Barbarian (1982 novel)||-||-||-||02||-||A||film adaptation contradicting Howard's account (and all others) of Conan's early life; treated by de Camp as an alternative account|
|"The Thing in the Crypt"||-||-||-||03||02||03|
|Conan the Defiant||-||-||-||-||03||04|
|Conan the Hunter||-||-||-||-||-||05|
|Conan the Indomitable||-||-||-||-||-||06|
|Conan the Free Lance||-||-||-||-||-||07|
|Conan the Formidable||-||-||-||-||-||08|
|"The Tower of the Elephant"||04||03||04||04||04||09|
|Conan and the Sorcerer||-||-||-||11||05||10||Conan's age and internal references in the story fit Jordan's placement; de Camp argues Conan's behavior is too mature for his depicted age and places it later - - Conan was about 17 according to Offutt and 23 according to de Camp, per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology|
|Conan the Mercenary||-||-||-||12||06||11||Conan's age and internal references in the story fit Jordan's placement; de Camp argues Conan's behavior is too mature for his depicted age and places it later|
|Conan: The Sword of Skelos||-||-||-||13||07||12||Conan's age and internal references in the story fit Jordan's placement; de Camp argues Conan's behavior is too mature for his depicted age and places it later|
|Conan the Destroyer||-||-||-||05||08||A||film adaptation; sequel to the 1982 Conan the Barbarian novel and a poor fit chronologically as anything but that, though de Camp and Jordan work it into their schemes regardless|
|Conan the Outcast||-||-||-||-||-||13|
|Conan the Magnificent||-||-||-||06||09||14|
|Conan the Invincible||-||-||-||07||10||15|
|"The Hall of the Dead"||*||04||05||08||11||16||early fragment not published in Howard's lifetime|
|Conan the Fearless||-||-||-||-||12||17|
|"The God in the Bowl"||03||02||06||09||13||18|
|Conan the Warlord||-||-||-||-||14||19|
|"Rogues in the House"||11||05||07||10||16||20|
|Conan the Victorious||-||-||-||14||17||21|
|Conan the Unconquered||-||-||-||15||18||22|
|"The Hand of Nergal"||*||06||08||16||19||23||early fragment not published in Howard's lifetime|
|"The City of Skulls"||-||-||-||17||20||24|
|Conan the Hero||-||-||-||-||-||25|
|"The People of the Summit"||-||-||-||18||21||26|
|"The Curse of the Monolith"||-||-||-||19||22||27|
|Conan the Valiant||-||-||-||-||23||28|
|Conan and the Spider God||-||-||-||20||27||29|
|"The Blood-Stained God"||-||-||-||21||24||30|
|Conan the Valorous||-||-||-||-||-||31|
|"The Frost Giant's Daughter"||02||01||03||22||25||32|
|"The Lair of the Ice Worm"||-||-||-||23||26||33|
|Conan the Relentless||-||-||-||-||-||34|
|Conan the Savage||-||-||-||-||-||35|
|Conan the Defender||-||-||-||24||28||36|
|Conan the Triumphant||-||-||-||25||30||37|
|Conan the Guardian||-||-||-||-||-||38|
|"Queen of the Black Coast" (chapter 1)||06a||09a||10a||26||31||39|
|Conan the Rebel||-||-||-||27||32||40|
|"Queen of the Black Coast" (chapters 2-5)||06b||09b||10b||28||33||41|
|Conan at the Demon's Gate (main narrative)||-||-||-||-||-||42|
|"The Vale of Lost Women"||12||17||19||29||34||43|
|"The Castle of Terror"||-||-||-||30||35||44|
|"The Snout in the Dark"||*||10||11||31||36||45||early fragment not published in Howard's lifetime|
|Conan the Barbarian (2011 novel) (part 2)||-||-||-||-||-||-||film adaptation; chapters 12-33 set in the wake of Conan's piratical career on the Black Coast and subsequent sojourn in the Black Kingdoms|
|Conan the Gladiator||-||-||-||-||-||46|
|Conan and the Emerald Lotus||-||-||-||-||-||47|
|"Hawks Over Shem"||-||-||-||32||37||48|
|"Shadows in the Dark"||-||-||-||35||39||50||Conan was nearly 30 at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology|
|Conan: The Road of Kings||-||-||-||33||29||51|
|Conan the Renegade||-||-||-||-||40||52|
|"Shadows in the Moonlight"||08||07||12||36||41||53|
|Conan of the Red Brotherhood||-||-||-||-||-||54|
|Conan, Scourge of the Bloody Coast||-||-||-||-||-||55|
|Conan the Champion||-||-||-||-||15||56|
|"The Road of the Eagles"||-||-||-||37||42||57|
|"A Witch Shall be Born"||16||12||13||38||43||58||Conan was about 30 at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology|
|"Black Tears"||-||-||-||39||44||59||Conan was about 32 at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology|
|Conan and the Manhunters||-||-||-||-||-||60|
|"Shadows in Zamboula"||20||15||14||40||45||61|
|Conan the Raider||-||-||-||-||46||62|
|"The Star of Khorala"||-||-||-||41||47||63|
|Conan and the Death Lord of Thanza||-||-||-||-||-||64|
|Conan and the Amazon||-||-||-||-||-||65|
|"The Devil in Iron"||13||13||16||42||48||66|
|"The Flame Knife"||-||-||-||43||49||67|
|Conan and the Shaman's Curse||-||-||-||-||-||68|
|"The People of the Black Circle"||14||14||17||44||50||69||Conan was in his early 30s at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology|
|Conan the Marauder||-||-||-||-||51||70|
|Conan and the Mists of Doom||-||-||-||-||-||71|
|"The Slithering Shadow"||09||11||15||45||52||72|
|"Drums of Tombalku"||*||16||18||46||53||73||fragment not published in Howard's lifetime|
|"The Gem in the Tower"||-||-||-||47||54||74||Conan was about 35 at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology|
|Conan and the Grim Grey God||-||-||-||-||-||75|
|"The Pool of the Black One"||10||18||20||48||55||76||Conan was about 37 at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology|
|Conan the Buccaneer||-||-||-||49||56||77||Conan was in his late 30s at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology|
|Conan and the Gods of the Mountain||-||-||-||-||-||79|
|"Jewels of Gwahlur"||17||22||22||51||58||80|
|"The Ivory Goddess"||-||-||-||52||59||81|
|Conan and the Treasure of Python||-||-||-||-||-||82|
|Conan, Lord of the Black River||-||-||-||-||-||83|
|Conan the Rogue||-||-||-||-||-||84|
|"Beyond the Black River"||18||19||23||53||60||85||Conan was about 39 at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology|
|"Moon of Blood"||-||-||-||54||61||86|
|"The Treasure of Tranicos"
"The Black Stranger"
|"Wolves Beyond the Border"||*||23||25||56||63||88||draft not published in Howard's lifetime|
|Conan the Liberator||-||-||-||57||64||89||Conan was in his early 40s at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology|
|"The Phoenix on the Sword"||01||24||26||58||65||90|
|"The Scarlet Citadel"||05||25||27||59||66||91|
|The Hour of the Dragon||15||26||28||60||67||92||Conan was about 45 at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology|
|The Return of Conan||-||-||-||61||68||93|
|Conan the Great||-||-||-||-||-||94||time setting indicated in-piece to be between The Return of Conan and "The Witch of the Mists"|
|"The Witch of the Mists"||-||-||-||62||69||95||Conan was in his late 50s at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology|
|"Black Sphinx of Nebthu"||-||-||-||63||70||96|
|"Red Moon of Zembabwei"||-||-||-||64||71||97|
|"Shadows in the Skull"||-||-||-||65||72||98|
|Conan of the Isles||-||-||-||66||73||99||Conan was in his 60s at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology|
|Conan at the Demon's Gate (frame sequence)||-||-||-||-||-||-||time setting stated in-piece to be six years into the reign of Conan's successor|
|Death-Song of Conan the Cimmerian (poem)||-||-||-||-||-||-||time setting indicated in-piece to occur at Conan's death|
|The Hyborian Age, Part Two||-||-||29||-||-||-||historical essay, portion covering period after Conan's time|
|Notes On Various Peoples of the Hyborian Age||-||-||30||-||-||-|
- Howard, Robert E. Letter to P. S. Miller, March 30, 1936. In Howard, Robert E. The Coming of Conan. Gnome Press, 1953. Online version
- De Camp, L. Sprague. "Conan the Indestructible." In Jordan, Robert. Conan the Victorious. Tor, 1984. Online version
- Marek, Joe. "Some Comments On Chronologies In Regards To The Conan Series." (REHUPA #148 and #149), 1997-1998 Online version
- Rippke, Dale. Article series: "Can Anything Good Come Out of Cimmeria?" (REHUPA #180), "Go East, Young Man…" (REHUPA #181), "Black Flag, Scarlet Skull… Black Flag, Golden Lion…" (REHUPA #182), combined in Rippke, Dale. "The Dark Storm Conan Chronology." Also published in Rippke, Dale. The Hyborian Heresies. Wild Cat Books, October 25, 2004.
- Jordan, Robert. "A Conan Chronology," in Conan the Defiant, Tor Books, 1987.
- Gray, William Galen. "The Conan Timeline."
- "A Probable Outline of Conan's Career," by P. Schuyler Miller and John D. Clark - a transcription of the original 1938 version
- "Conan the Indestructible," by L. Sprague de Camp - the final 1984 version
- "Conan the Indestructible," by L. Sprague de Camp - another transcription of the final 1984 version
- "The Conan Stories in Chronological Order as of 1989," by Curtis M. Scott (based on Robert Jordan's "A Conan Chronology"), from the GURPS Conan sourcebook, Steve Jackson Games, pp. 111–114
- "The Conan Timeline," by William Galen Gray - a transcription of the 1997 version
- "The Conan Timeline," by William Galen Gray - a transcription of the 2000 version
- "Robert E. Howard - Conan," by Joe Marek - a general discussion of the character. Marek's chronology is set forth in the section "Some Comments On Chronologies In Regards To The Conan Series"
- "The Dark Storm Conan Chronology," by Dale Rippke - a transcription of Rippke's chronology
- The Chronicles Of Conan The Cimmerian," by Amra_the_Lion - Determining the chronological order of Howard's Conan Tales