The Pool of the Black One

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This article is about a short story. For the protagonist and principal character, see Conan the Barbarian. For the collection of the same title that contains this story, see The Pool of the Black One (collection).
The opening panel of the comic adaptation of The Pool of the Black One by Roy Thomas featuring the art of John Buscema and Sonny Trinidad.

The original short story was written by Robert E. Howard and first appeared in a 1933 issue of Weird Tales magazine.
"The Pool of the Black One"
Author Robert E. Howard
Original title "The Pool of the Black One"
Country US
Language English
Series Conan the Cimmerian
Genre(s) Fantasy
Published in US
Publication type Pulp magazine
Publisher Weird Tales
Publication date 1933

"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 1933, 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 near the Barachan Isles, clambering aboard a pirate ship christened The Wastrel. 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 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. 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.

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. Conan rescues the remaining captives, including Sancha. 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 asserts his authority as captain and claims Sancha as his prize by warning 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. 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).

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