The Hour of the Dragon

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This article is about a novel. For the protagonist and principal character, see Conan the Barbarian. For the collection that uses this title as its subtitle, see The Conan Chronicles, 2.
"Conan the Conqueror" redirects here. For the cancelled film, see Conan the Destroyer's sequel section.
The Hour of the Dragon
Conan the Conqueror.jpg
first book publication of The Hour of the Dragon as Conan the Conqueror
Author Robert E. Howard
Cover artist John Forte
Country United States
Language English
Series Conan the Barbarian
Genre Sword and sorcery
Publisher Gnome Press
Publication date
1950
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 255 pp
ISBN NA

The Hour of the Dragon, also known as Conan the Conqueror, is a fantasy novel by American writer Robert E. Howard featuring his sword and sorcery hero Conan the Cimmerian. It was one of the last Conan stories published before Howard's suicide although not the last to be written.[1] The novel was first published in serial form in the December, 1935 through April, 1936 issues of the pulp magazine Weird Tales. The first book edition was published by Gnome Press in hardcover in 1950. The Gnome Press edition retitled the story Conan the Conqueror, a title retained by all subsequent editions until 1977, when the original title was restored in an edition issued published by Berkley/Putnam in 1977. The Berkley edition also reverted the text to that of its original Weird Tales publication, discarding later edits. Later editions have generally followed Berkley and published under the original title.

Plot overview[edit]

The plot is a loosely based melange of motifs from previous Conan short stories, most notably "The Scarlet Citadel", with which it shares an almost identical storyline. It takes place when Conan is about forty-five, during his reign as King of Aquilonia, and follows a plot by a group of conspirators to depose him in favor of Valerius, heir to Conan's predecessor Numedides, whom he had slain to gain the throne. To accomplish this they resort to necromancy, resurrecting Xaltotun, an ancient sorcerer from the pre-Hyborian empire of Acheron. With his aid the Aquilonian army is defeated by that of the rival kingdom of Nemedia and occupied. Conan, captured, is slated for execution until the sympathetic slave girl Zenobia risks her life to free him.

Conan's quest to retrieve the Heart of Ahriman in order to defeat the wizard and regain his throne takes him through all the lands of Hyboria.

After his eventual triumph he vows to make Zenobia his queen.

Publication history[edit]

It was Howard's only full length novel about Conan, and is considered by many to be one of his best works.[2] It was originally written for British publisher Dennis Archer and was submitted to him in May 1934. Archer had turned down a collection of works in 1933 but made the suggestion of a novel. However, the publisher went bankrupt before the novel could be printed and it was held by the Official Receiver.[1]

Cover of Weird Tales (December 1935) in which The Hour of the Dragon was first serialized

The story was first published as a five-part serial in Weird Tales between the months of December 1935 to April 1936 (with chapter 20 being misprinted as chapter 21). It was first published in book form in hardcover by Gnome Press in 1950 under the title Conan the Conqueror, a title retained by all later editions until 1977. The first paperback edition was published by Ace Books in 1954. The novel has been reissued a number of times since by various publishers, notably Lancer Books in 1967 and Berkley/Putnam in 1977; the latter, reedited by Karl Edward Wagner, was the first edition to restore the original magazine text and title, under which most subsequent editions have been issued. Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc. published an edition in 1989, with illustrations by Ezra Tucker, as volume XI of their deluxe Conan set.[2] More recently the novel appeared in the collections The Essential Conan (1998), Conan Chronicles Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon (2001) and Conan of Cimmeria: Volume Two (1934) (Del Rey, 2005). It has also been translated into Japanese, Italian, Finnish, French, German, Swedish, Czech, Russian, Sinhalese and Spanish.

Position in the Conan series[edit]

In the hardcover Gnome Press edition of the Conan stories, Conan the Conqueror follows the short stories collected as King Conan; in the paperback Lancer/Ace edition, it follows the short stories collected as Conan the Usurper. In both editions it precedes the Björn Nyberg/L. Sprague de Camp novel The Return of Conan (AKA Conan the Avenger).

Reception[edit]

Reviewing the Gnome Press edition, Groff Conklin found the novel to have "real merit" considered as an imaginative work, but characterized Howard's writing as "only average [and] laden with bombast."[3] L. Sprague de Camp, acknowledging that Howard was "an almost-very-good writer . . . with limiting quirks," praised the novel as "a sanguinary combination of sorcery, skulduggery, and swordplay."[4]

Translations[edit]

Adaptation[edit]

In 1974, the story was adapted by Roy Thomas, Gil Kane and John Buscema in Marvel Comic's Giant-Size Conan #1-4 and Savage Sword of Conan #8, 10. The lead story in Giant-Size Conan #1 was a 25-page chapter from The Hour of the Dragon. The plan was to adapt the novel over the first six issues, but Giant-Size Conan #4 was the last full color chapter. The story was concluded in the black & white magazine Savage Sword of Conan #8 and #10.

A number of audiobook editions exist, including one narrated by Morgan Saletta[6] (2009-2010) released as part of SF Audio's Second Book Challenge; and one narrated by Mark Nelson for LibriVox (2013).[7]

The 1997 film Kull the Conqueror is loosely based on The Hour of the Dragon, replacing Conan with Kull but keeping the basic plot of a barbarian king being removed from his throne by the machinations of an undead sorcerer.

In 2012, Dark Horse begins a new comic series called "Conan the Conqueror"; the first stories are an adaptation of The Hour of the Dragon

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Jones, Stephen; Afterword in The Conan Chronicles, vol. 2; 2001; ISBN 1-85798-747-0
  2. ^ a b Chalker, Jack L.; Mark Owings (1998). The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Bibliographic History, 1923-1998. Westminster, MD and Baltimore: Mirage Press, Ltd. p. 333. 
  3. ^ "Galaxy's Five Star Shelf," Galaxy Science Fiction, January 1951, p.139.
  4. ^ "Book Reviews", Astounding Science Fiction, April 1951, p.137
  5. ^ Herman, Paul (July 12, 2011), The Neverending Hunt: A Bibliography of Robert E. Howard, Wildside Press, ISBN 0809562561 
  6. ^ The Hour of the Dragon, narrated by Morgan Saletta
  7. ^ The Hour of the Dragon, narrated by Mark Nelson at LibriVox

References[edit]

  • Chalker, Jack L.; Mark Owings (1998). The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Bibliographic History, 1923-1998. Westminster, MD and Baltimore: Mirage Press, Ltd. p. 299. 
  • Laughlin, Charlotte; Daniel J. H. Levack (1983). De Camp: An L. Sprague de Camp Bibliography. San Francisco: Underwood/Miller. pp. 110–111. 
Preceded by
King Conan
Gnome series
(chronological order)
Succeeded by
The Return of Conan
Preceded by
Conan the Usurper
Lancer/Ace Conan series
(chronological order)
Succeeded by
Conan the Avenger
Preceded by
The Pool of the Black One
Grant Conan series
(publication order)
Succeeded by
none
Preceded by
none
Berkley Conan series
(publication order)
Succeeded by
The People of the Black Circle
Preceded by
"Shadows in Zamboula"
Original Howard Canon
(publication order)
Succeeded by
"Red Nails"
Preceded by
"The Scarlet Citadel"
Original Howard Canon
(Dale Rippke chronology)
Succeeded by
none
Preceded by
"The Scarlet Citadel"
Complete Conan Saga
(William Galen Gray chronology)
Succeeded by
The Return of Conan