The Vale of Lost Women
|"The Vale of Lost Women"|
|Author||Robert E. Howard|
|Original title||"The Vale of Lost Women"|
|Series||Conan the Cimmerian|
|Publication type||Pulp magazine|
|Publisher||The Magazine of Horror|
"The Vale of Lost Women" is one of the original short stories about Conan the Cimmerian, written by American author Robert E. Howard, but not published during his lifetime. The story was first published in The Magazine of Horror for Spring, 1967, and republished in the collection Conan of Cimmeria (Lancer Books, 1967). It has most recently been republished in the collections The Conan Chronicles Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle (Gollancz, 2000) and Conan of Cimmeria: Volume One (1932-1933) (Del Rey, 2003). It is set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age and details Conan rescuing a female Ophirean captive from the Bamula tribe on the (apparent) condition that he will receive sexual favors in return for this generosity. The story has been criticized for its racialism, sexism and lesbian homophobia.
"The Vale of Lost Women" is another short story which, although included in the official lore of Conan the Cimmerian, was not published until long after the death of Robert E. Howard.
The story begins with Livia, a soft and civilized woman, as a prisoner of the Bakalah jungle tribe, who have captured her and have killed the brother she was traveling with excruciating savage tortures. Conan soon appears as the leader of Bamulas, a rival tribe which nonetheless is about to parlay a truce with their rivals. Thinking Conan, being a white man, may feel some kinship with her and assist her, Livia asks him for his help. When Conan balks at her proposal, Livia offers him herself as a sexual reward for rescuing her. Keeping his side of the bargain, Conan and his warriors slay the Bakalah and their brutal chief after engaging with them in an uncivilized revelry which lasts all night and does much to disgust the proper and civilized girl. Then, when Livia sees Conan drenched in blood coming toward the hut she is kept in, figuring he immediately wants to claim his reward, she breaks their agreement and flees into the thick of the jungle to a strange valley with beautiful blossoms, inhabited by strange brownish-skinned women with apparent lesbian inclinations. Glad to have found shelter from the blood-soaked "male brutality" of her Cimmerian pursuer, Livia is so enraptured at the eerie beauty of the women and dazed by the hallucinogen scent of the flowers that she barely notice being led to an altar-like section of the glade, where is to be sacrificed to a moth-like entity. Conan, having pursued her, is soon forced to intervene again on her behalf; after having fought and driven away the demon, Conan jokingly scolds her for having fled, saying he never had the intention to force her into having sex, which in his view would have been as damnable an action as raping her, and that he will soon let her leave the Black Kingdoms since she's too soft to be a proper partner for a Bamula warchief.
Like "The Frost-Giant's Daughter," the plot is minimal and overshadowed by Howard's prose; nevertheless, the story is memorable. The entire tale is told from Livia's point-of-view, and there is again a dream-like quality to much of it. Also, the creature from the stars which attacks Livia in the strange valley was intended to be from the Cthulhu mythos of H. P. Lovecraft, an intellectual correspondent of Howard.
Marvel Comics' 1970s Conan the Barbarian comic spent a very long time detailing and adding to Conan's adventures on the Black Coast, with "Queen of the Black Coast"'s Bêlit appearing in #58 and having her story resolved in #100. Conan joins the Bamulas in #101, with the "Vale of Lost Women" finally adapted in #104. The next issue adapted L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter's "Castle of Terror," with #106 and #107 adapting The Snout in the Dark, originally only a draft by Conan's creator Robert E. Howard.
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