The Pool of the Black One

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"The Pool of the Black One"
Weird tales oct1933.jpg
Cover of Weird Tales, October 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
Publication date October 1933
Preceded by "The Slithering Shadow"
Followed by "Rogues in the House"

"The Pool of the Black One" is one of the original short stories starring the sword and sorcery hero Conan the Cimmerian, written by American author Robert E. Howard. It is set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age and concerns Conan becoming the captain of a pirate vessel and encountering a remote island with a mysterious pool that has powers of transmutation.

First published in Weird Tales in October 1933,[1] the story was republished in the collections The Sword of Conan (Gnome Press, 1952) and Conan the Adventurer (Lancer Books, 1966). It has more recently been published in the collections The Conan Chronicles Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle (2000) and Conan of Cimmeria: Volume One (1932-1933) (Del Rey, 2003).

Plot summary[edit]

"The Pool of the Black One," which appeared in Weird Tales magazine the month after "The Slithering Shadow," is a piratical adventure story and occurs in the Western Sea of the Hyborian Age. The story begins with Conan the Cimmerian adrift at sea, having had to escape from rivals in the Barachan Isles. He clambers aboard The Wastrel, a ship belonging a different pirate order, bitter rivals of the Barachan ones. After a terse conversation with the captain and a brawl with a Zingaran bully, Conan is begrudgingly accepted as a lowly member of the crew and is allowed to remain on board.

The opening panel of the comic adaptation by Roy Thomas featuring the art of John Buscema and Sonny Trinidad, published in The Savage Sword of Conan #23 (1977)

The ship then sails to a mysterious island where the captain hopes to find a legendary treasure and, perhaps, much more. All hands go ashore, including the tyrannical captain and his mistress Sancha. The shore seems deceptively inviting, crew members gorging themselves on sweet fruit - which causes them to fall asleep. While on the island, Conan confronts the captain alone in the jungle and slays him in a grim duel. However, the mysterious kidnapping of Sancha and the disappearance of several crew members compels Conan to plunge deeper into the jungle. Meanwhile, most of the island is revealed to be inhabited by strange tall black humanoids (not black as in kushite or zembabwean, but rather jet black with strange golden-glowing eyes and clawed hands) that capture the crew, use one young crewmember for a strange hypnotical-musical rite which involves having him dance and cavort wildly to the tune of a strange flute-like instrument (which seemingly has the power to 'lay bare the most secret lusts and passions of one's soul') and then dunk some of them in the eponymous pool, which transforms them into shrunken figures. Thousands of such figures placed on shelves at the side of the pool indicate that the black humanoids have been doing this for countless years, and that this accounts for many ships which sailed into the west and never returned.

Conan rescues the remaining captives, including Sancha, and rallies them to fight and remorselessly kill the black humanoids. After a bloody fight, Conan slays the leader of the black humanoids who, before falling dead, triggers by uttering a formula (the only words ever spoken by the taciturn beings) a self-destruct device in the pool. Its glistening sickly verdant fluid erupts then upwards like a geyser and, seemingly broke free of some mystical yoke, starts then to chase after Conan, Sancha and the surviving reavers, who all together scamper wildly towards the Wastrel and manage to raise the anchor and set sail literally seconds before the snake-like mass of fluid manages to touch the ship's hull.

Conan warns the crew about the powers of the greenish fluid, leading the way during the rush for the ship and jumping at the helm as soon as the Wastrel departs; bloodied by the grim fight against the Black Ones and shocked by the supernatural events the surviving crewmembers readily accept Conan as their new leader asserts his authority as captain and he claims Sancha as his prize. The story concludes with the Cimmerian dreaming of raiding seaports and of the future plunder he will acquire.


The story was adapted by Roy Thomas, John Buscema and Sonny Trinidad in Savage Sword of Conan #22 & 23 (Sept-Oct. 1977).


  1. ^ The Pool of the Black One on Project Gutenberg

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"The Slithering Shadow"
Original Howard Canon
(publication order)
Succeeded by
"Rogues in the House"
Preceded by
"The Vale of Lost Women"
Original Howard Canon
(Dale Rippke chronology)
Succeeded by
"Beyond the Black River"
Preceded by
Conan and the Grim Grey God
Complete Conan Saga
(William Galen Gray chronology)
Succeeded by
Conan the Buccaneer