Black Colossus

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"Black Colossus"
Weird tales jun1933.jpg
Cover of Weird Tales, July 1933.
Art by Margaret Brundage
Author Robert E. Howard
Country United States
Language English
Series Conan the Cimmerian
Genre(s) Fantasy
Published in Weird Tales
Publication type Pulp magazine
Publisher Rural Publishing Corporation
Publication date July 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 is set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age and concerns Conan leading the demoralized army of 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]

A powerful wizard named Thugra Khotan is awoken from his three-thousand year sleep by an audacious yet unlucky Zamoran thief named Shevatas (he does not survive the experience). Thugra wakes with dreams of world domination. He assumes the name Natohk, the Veiled One, gathers an army of desert tribes and sets 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 presently ruled by the lithesome Yasmela, sister of the king, who is himself a captive of neighboring Ophir. In dread of Natohk's pending invasion, Yasmela turns for advice to the nigh-forgotten god of her ancestors, Mitra, and is told to venture into the streets and hand over the defense of her kingdom to the first man she meets.

Fatefully, the first man she encounters is Conan the Cimmerian. Conan already has a position in her army, but now he is given full command, much to the chagrin of the other more cultured commanders. Conan demonstrates skill in tactics but his efforts are undermined by arrogant officers below him who fall victim to Natohk's magic. Meanwhile, the wizard himself has made it clear conquering the world isn't the only thing on his agenda: He also desires the lovely Yasmela for himself.

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


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 and affecting the future of the whole world. Though Conan's career would know many more ups and downs, this was an important step towards his eventually becoming a King - which is hinted in the story itself, and which Howard and his readers already knew 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 King of Aquilonia - it is revealed that Conan's relationship with Yasmela resulted in the secret birth of a son, which Conan did not know about at the time, and that this son eventually became 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).


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.


  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"