Black Colossus

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"Black Colossus"
Black Colossus WT.jpg
Cover of Weird Tales, July 1933.
Art by Margaret Brundage
AuthorRobert E. Howard
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
SeriesConan the Cimmerian
Genre(s)Fantasy
Published inWeird Tales
Publication typePulp magazine
PublisherRural Publishing Corporation
Publication dateJuly 1933
Preceded by"The Tower of the Elephant"
Followed by"The Slithering Shadow"

"Black Colossus" is one of the original short stories starring the fictional sword and sorcery hero Conan the Cimmerian, written by American author Robert E. Howard and first published in Weird Tales magazine, June 1933.[1] Howard earned $130 for the sale of this story.[2]

It's set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age, and concerns Conan leading a demoralized army from Khoraja against an evil sorcerer named Natohk, "the Veiled One."

This story formed part of the basis for the later Conan novel, The Hour of the Dragon.

Plot overview[edit]

An ancient wizard, Thugra Khotan, is accidentally released from his 3,000 year imprisonment by a Zamorian thief named Shevatas (he doesn't survive the experience). Suddenly, Thugra remembers his dreams of world domination. He assumes the alias Natohk (the Veiled One), assembles an army of desert tribesmen, and ventures out to conquer the Hyborian nations. However, the tiny kingdom of Khoraja - with a mixed Hyborian-Shemite population, culture, and religion - stands in his way. The country is now ruled by Queen Yasmela, sister of the king, who is himself a prisoner in neighboring Ophir. In fear of Natohk's invasion, but primarily terrified by the ancient wizard's immense lusts,Yasmela turns for advice to the long-forgotten god of her ancestors, Mitra. Following Mitra's instructions, Yasmela travel into a nearby village and offers Khoraja's defenses to the first man she meets.

Fatefully, the first man she encounters is Conan the Cimmerian. Conan already has a position in Yasmela's army. Now, he's given absolute control over Khoraja's military, much to the confusion of his more cultured commanders. Soon, Conan demonstrates his knowledge in military tactics. Unfortunately, his efforts are ridiculed by the arrogant officers below him who fall victim to Natohk's sorcery. Meanwhile, Natick has made it clear conquering the world isn't his only agenda: He also desires the beautiful Yasmela for himself.

The story climaxes with a large battle. Conan defeats Natohk's army and the wizard makes a last attempt to capture Yasmela. Conan gives chase and confronts Natohk in the ruins of a Stygian temple.

Themes[edit]

The story marks an important stage in the career of Conan. Due to the direct intervention of Mitra, Conan - who had never hitherto commanded more than a "company of cut-throats" - gets the chance to become a general and emerge victorious from a major battle involving tens of thousands of soldiers while affecting the future of the whole world. Though Conan's career would know many more ups and downs, this was an important step towards him eventually becoming a King - which is hinted in the story itself. Also, Howard and his readers already knew this fact since The Phoenix on the Sword was already published half a year earlier.

At the climax of Leonard Carpenter's Conan the Great - taking place many years later, when Conan has already become the King of Aquilonia - it's revealed that Conan's relationship with Yasmela resulted in the secret birth of a son, which Conan never knew about at the time, and his son eventually became the King of Koth. This revelation has a crucial importance in the plot of Carpenter's book.

The expression "A short life and a merry one", used by the mercenary commander Amalric in the story, is attributed to the Australian bushranger Steve Hart (1859 – 1880).

Publication history[edit]

"Black Colossus" was first published in Weird Tales, June 1933.

A version of the story that was edited by L. Sprague de Camp was first published in the collection Conan the Barbarian (Gnome Press, 1954). It was then republished in several collections entitled Conan the Freebooter (Lancer Books, 1968; Sphere, 1974; Prestige, 1977; Ace, 1981) and The Conan Chronicles Volume 1 (Sphere, 1989).

The original version was first republished in Black Colossus (Grant, 1979). It has more recently been published in the collections The Conan Chronicles Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle (Gollancz, 2000), Conan of Cimmeria: Volume One (1932-1933) (Del Rey, 2003), The Weird Writings of Robert E. Howard Volume 1 (Girasol Collectables, 2006), The Complete Chronicles of Conan (Gollancz, 2006), Valley of the Worm (Wildside Press, 2006) and Three Tales of Conan the Barbarian (Echo Library, 2007).

Adaptations[edit]

The story was adapted in comics form by Roy Thomas, John Buscema, and Alfredo Alcala in 1974, in the B&W Marvel Comics magazine Savage Sword of Conan #2.[1] "Black Colossus" also forms the basis of part of Conan the Barbarian #248 and all of 249. (Conan serves as a mercenary captain for Khoraja, fighting rebels and Natohk's Stygian allies, in #246 and 247.)

The Savage Sword comics adaptation was reprinted in full color in the large sized Marvel Treasury Edition #15 in 1977.

In 2008, the Marvel adaptation was reprinted in black and white in the Savage Sword of Conan trade paperback published by Dark Horse.

In 2009, Timothy Truman and Tomas Giorello adapted the story in Dark Horse Comics' Conan the Cimmerian #8-13.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Publication history of Black Colossus retrieved 23 December 2007
  2. ^ REHupa Fiction Timeline Archived December 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. retrieved 23 December 2007

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"The Tower of the Elephant"
Original Howard Canon
(publication order)
Succeeded by
"The Slithering Shadow"
Preceded by
"Shadows in the Moonlight"
Original Howard Canon
(Dale Rippke chronology)
Succeeded by
"Queen of the Black Coast"
Preceded by
"Hawks over Shem"
Complete Conan Saga
(William Galen Gray chronology)
Succeeded by
"Shadows in the Dark"