The Vale of Lost Women

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"The Vale of Lost Women"
Author Robert E. Howard
Original title "The Vale of Lost Women"
Country US
Language English
Series Conan the Cimmerian
Genre(s) Fantasy
Published in US
Publication type Pulp magazine
Publisher The Magazine of Horror
Publication date 1967

"The Vale of Lost Women" is one of the original short stories about Conan the Cimmerian, written by American author Robert E. Howard, but not published during his lifetime. The story was first published in The Magazine of Horror for Spring, 1967, and republished in the collection Conan of Cimmeria (Lancer Books, 1967). It has most recently been republished in the collections The Conan Chronicles Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle (Gollancz, 2000) and Conan of Cimmeria: Volume One (1932-1933) (Del Rey, 2003). It is set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age and details Conan rescuing a female Ophirean captive from the Bamula tribe on the (apparent) condition that he will receive sexual favors in return for this generosity.

Plot summary[edit]

"The Vale of Lost Women" is another short story which, although included in the official lore of Conan the Cimmerian, was not published until long after the death of Robert E. Howard.

The story begins with Livia, a soft and civilized white woman, being held as a prisoner of the Bakalah jungle tribe, They have captured her and the brother she was traveling with killing him with excruciating savage tortures. Conan soon appears as the leader of Bamulas, a rival tribe, to negotiate a truce allowing a joint attack on Jihiji. Thinking because Conan is white he may feel some kinship with her and assist her against the black tribesmen, Livia asks him for his help. When Conan balks at her proposal, Livia offers herself to him as a sexual reward for rescuing her.

Keeping his side of the bargain, Conan and his warriors carry out a surprise attack on the Bakalah and their brutal chief in the middle of a celebratory feast. The resulting brutal carnage pushes the proper and civilized girl to the breaking point. When Livia sees Conan, drenched in blood coming toward the hut she is kept in carrying the chief's head, she believes he is coming to claim his reward. Terrified, she breaks their agreement by fleeing on horseback into the thick of the jungle.

Hours from the village her horse stumbles and Livia is thrown to the ground. Unharmed she descends into a valley with beautiful blossoms, inhabited by strange brownish-skinned women with apparent lesbian inclinations. Glad to have found shelter from the blood-soaked "male brutality" of her Cimmerian pursuer, Livia is so enraptured at the eerie beauty of the women and dazed by the hallucinogenic scent of the flowers that she barely notices being led to an altar-like section of the glade, where she is to be sacrificed to a bat-like entity, a devil from the Outer Dark.

Conan, having pursued her and hearing her cries, rushes to her rescue fighting and driving away the bat-like creature, Conan tells Livia that he regrets the "foul bargain" he made with her and has no intention of forcing her into having sex, which in his view would have been as damnable an action as raping her. Because he believes she is not tough enough to survive in the Black Kingdoms he tells her he will take her to the Stygian borders where they will send her home to Ophir. Embarrassed by her grateful reaction he tells her she's too soft to be "the proper woman for the war chief of the Bamulas"..

Style[edit]

Like "The Frost-Giant's Daughter," the plot is minimal and overshadowed by Howard's prose; nevertheless, the story is memorable. The entire tale is told from Livia's point of view, and there is again a dream-like quality to much of it. Also, the creature from the stars which attacks Livia in the strange valley was intended to be from the Cthulhu mythos of H. P. Lovecraft, an intellectual correspondent of Howard.

Adaptation[edit]

Marvel Comics' 1970s Conan the Barbarian comic spent a very long time detailing and adding to Conan's adventures on the Black Coast, with "Queen of the Black Coast"'s Bêlit appearing in #58 and having her story resolved in #100. Conan joins the Bamulas in #101, with the "Vale of Lost Women" finally adapted in #104. The next issue adapted L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter's "Castle of Terror," with #106 and #107 adapting The Snout in the Dark, originally only a draft by Conan's creator Robert E. Howard.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"The Hall of the Dead"
Original Howard Canon
(publication order)
Succeeded by
"Wolves Beyond the Border"
Preceded by
"Drums of Tombalku"
Original Howard Canon
(Dale Rippke chronology)
Succeeded by
"The Pool of the Black One"
Preceded by
Conan at the Demon's Gate
Complete Conan Saga
(William Galen Gray chronology)
Succeeded by
"The Castle of Terror"