The Thing in the Crypt

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"The Thing in the Crypt"
Author L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter
Country United States
Language English
Series Conan the Barbarian
Genre(s) Fantasy short story
Published in Conan
Publication type Collection
Publisher Lancer Books
Media type Print (paperback)
Publication date 1967

"The Thing in the Crypt" is a short story written by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter starring the fictional sword and sorcery hero Conan the Cimmerian created by Robert E. Howard. It was based on a draft of a story by Carter with Carter's character Thongor as the protagonist.

Publication history[edit]

Plot summary[edit]

Conan has joined a band of warriors from the northern country of Asgard and takes part in a raid against the Hyperboreans to the east. He is captured and enslaved by them but does not remain a prisoner for long.

Escaping his chains and slaying his captors, he makes his way south, but is pursued by a pack of hungry wolves. Armed only with a broken length of chain, Conan manages to fight them off until he is able to find refuge from the starving wolves in the hills. There he discovers the entrance to a buried crypt and, finding himself in a chamber into which the wolves are strangely unwilling to follow him, Conan lights a fire and soon discovers a grisly occupant.

Enthroned on a square boulder of black stone is the large mummified corpse of a man, apparently a great warrior or chieftain of ancient times. Noticing a great iron sword that lies across the dead man's knees, Conan takes the weapon and claims it for himself. Exulting in his newfound sense of power, he hears the sound of a dry creaking and turns to face the mummy as it begins rising from its throne, standing to its full height, having been raised from the dead by Conan's warcry.

It advances on the young barbarian, but Conan, though frightened of the thing, stands his ground and engages in a desperate battle against the walking corpse. Finding that the wounds he inflicts are not enough to kill a creature that is already dead, he eventually manages to hurl the mummy into the fire, utterly destroying it.

Not wanting to spend the night in the haunted crypt, Conan emerges with his new weapon and, seeing no sign of the wolves, continues on his journey.


The story shares many similarities with a tale from the 14th-century Icelandic Grettis saga.

In the Saga Viking Age hero Grettir Ásmundarson enters the mound of the chieftain Kár the Old. Grettir's objective was the treasure buried with the chieftain and especially a single edged seax, reputed to be a great weapon. Soon after entering the mound the corpse of Kár becomes reanimated and battles Grettir.

The scenes in the story involving Conan's flight from the wolves and his discovery of the crypt, sword and mummy parallel those in the film Conan the Barbarian (1982) directed by John Milius. However, in the film the mummy does not come to life.

Preceded by
"Legions of the Dead"
Complete Conan Saga
(William Galen Gray chronology)
Succeeded by
Conan the Defiant