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
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 by American writers L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, featuring 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.

It was originally published in the 1967 collection Conan.

Plot summary[edit]

Conan has joined a band of warriors from the northern country of Asgard, while taking part in a raid against the Hyperboreans living east of the region. Eventually, Conan is captured and enslaved by the ape-like Hyperboreans. However, he doesn't remain a prisoner for long.

After escaping from his chains and slaying his captors, Conan makes his way south. Soon, Conan is pursued by a pack of hungry wolves. Armed only with a broken length of chain, Conan manages to fight off the starving wolves until he finds refuge near a range of hills. Inside one of the hills, he discovers the entrance to a buried crypt. After hiding within an ancient chamber, which the wolves are strangely unwilling to follow him into, Conan lights himself a fire. Suddenly, he 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 from ancient times. Noticing an iron sword which lies across the dead man's knees, Conan steals the weapon and claims it for himself. Exluted in his new-found sense of power, Conan hears the sound of a dry creaking and turns to face the mummy as it begins rising from its throne, 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 an undead creature, he eventually manages to hurl the mummy into the fire, utterly destroying it.

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

Relationship wiht other works[edit]

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

In the saga Viking Age, 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 comes to life and battles Grettir.

The scenes in the story involving Conan's flight from a pack of wolves while discovering the crypt, sword, and mummy parallel those in the film Conan the Barbarian (1982) directed by John Milius. However, in the film, the mummy never comes to life.

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