Conan of the Isles

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Conan of the Isles
Conan of the Isles.jpg
Conan of the Isles by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, Lancer Books, 1968
Author L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter
Cover artist John Duillo
Country United States
Language English
Series Conan the Barbarian
Genre Sword and sorcery Fantasy novel
Publisher Lancer Books
Publication date
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 189 pp

Conan of the Isles is a fantasy novel written by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter featuring Robert E. Howard's seminal sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. It was first published October 1968 in paperback by Lancer Books, and reprinted in July 1970, 1972, and May 1973; publication was then taken over by Ace Books, which reprinted the novel in May 1977, May 1979, April 1980, July 1981, April 1982, November 1982, November 1983, June 1984, September 1986, February 1991, and May 1994. The first British edition was published in paperback by Sphere Books in December 1974. a number of times since by various publishers.[1][2] It has also been translated into French, German, Hungarian, Spanish, Russian and Japanese.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

When King Conan is in his mid 60s, the kingdom of Aquilonia is attacked by Red Shadows, sorcerous sendings of unknown origin. To track them to their source and eliminate the threat, the king abdicates in favor of his son Prince Conn and takes ship for the far west with his old comrade Sigurd of Vanaheim. The quest takes them to the islands of Antillia and into conflict with the wizard priests of the dark god Xotli. The book ends with Conan literally sailing off into the sunset: "A few hours later, the great ship, which the folk of Mayapan were to call Quetzlcoatl – meaning 'winged (or feathered) serpent' in their uncouth tongue – lifted anchor. She sailed south and then, skirting the Antillian Isles, into the unknown West. But whither, the ancient chronicle, which endeth here, sayeth not."[3]

Events after Conan of the Isles[edit]

Despite the seemingly definitive ending of the novel, various authors who have written about Conan offer hints as to subsequent events. Robert E. Howard wrote "[Conan] traveled widely, not only before his kingship, but after he was king. He travelled to Khitai and Hyrkania, and to the even less known regions north of the latter and south of the former. He even visited a nameless continent in the western hemisphere, and roamed among the islands adjacent to it. How much of this roaming will get into print, I can not foretell with any accuracy."[4]

Later authors followed up on most of Howard's indications. Björn Nyberg took King Conan to Khitai, Hyrkania and Vendhya in The Return of Conan (Gnome Press, 1957). The last of Conan’s defensive wars followed by the ultimate war of aggression are presented by Leonard Carpenter in Conan the Great (Tor Books, 1990); his answer to whether Conan succeeded or perished in the attempt is a firm "neither." De Camp and Carter recount a couple later aggressive wars, not linked to world conquest, in Conan of Aquilonia (Ace Books, 1977). Conan's roaming among the islands adjacent to the nameless western continent is covered in Conan of the Isles itself, with the continent itself specified as his next destination. Isles indicates that he did indeed reach it, as the book records the name subsequently given his ship in Mayapan (showing that the "ancient chronicle" does say whither he goes, despite of concluding before he gets there).

Some later events in Aquilonia, set during the sixth year of the reign of Conan's son Conn, are presented by Roland J. Green in the prologue and epilogue of Conan at the Demon's Gate, which form a framing story to that novel's main narrative. There is no indication in the framing sequence that Conan has been heard from since his abdication.

De Camp’s final musings on Conan's fate are offered in "Conan the Indestructible," dated May, 1984, the last version of the 1938 Miller/Clark essay "A Probable Outline of Conan's Career" that he had revised and extended over many years: "In the end, Conan sailed off to explore the continents to the west ('Conan of the Isles'). Whether he died there, or whether there is truth in the tale that he strode out of the West to stand at his son's side in a final battle against Aquilonia's foes, will be revealed only to him who looks, as Kull of Valusia once did, into the mystic mirrors of Tuzun Thune."[5] The awareness by the "ancient chronicle" of Conan's adventures in Antillia would seem to support an ultimate return to Aquilonia, and thus de Camp's second alternative. Whether or not there was a "last battle," Carter provides the Cimmerian's final earthly utterances in the poem "Death-Song of Conan the Cimmerian" in Dreams from R'lyeh, Arkham House, 1975.


  1. ^ Conan of the Isles title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  2. ^ a b Laughlin, Charlotte; Daniel J. H. Levack (1983). De Camp: An L. Sprague de Camp Bibliography. San Francisco: Underwood/Miller. pp. 37–38. 
  3. ^ De Camp, L. Sprague; Lin Carter (1968). Conan of the Isles. New York: Lancer Books. p. 189. 
  4. ^ Howard, Robert E. Letter to P. Schuyler Miller, March 10, 1936, in The Coming of Conan, Gnome Press, 1953, pp. 9-12.
  5. ^ De Camp, L. Sprague. "Conan the Indestructible," in Conan the Victorious, Tor Books, 1984.


Preceded by
Conan of Aquilonia
Lancer/Ace Conan series
(chronological order)
Succeeded by
Preceded by
"Shadows in the Skull"
Complete Conan Saga Succeeded by
Conan at the Demon's Gate
(framing sequence)