The Newcomer's Guide to Robert E. Howard

Everything you need to know

Conan and the Myth of the Special Sword

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So what’s the story with the Atlantean Sword?

There isn’t one. Conan didn’t really have a favoured sword.

But Conan the Barbarian

Forget Conan the Barbarian for a minute.

… But in Conan the Adventurer

Forget that too.

… I mean, the live action-

Forget that too!

Ok, then what was Conan’s favourite weapon in the Howard stories?

There was none. Conan’s favourite weapon was the one in his hand in that story, and that varied from location to location. In “The Tower of the Elephant,” it was a simple dagger; in “Queen of the Black Coast” it was an Aquilonian broadsword; in “The People of the Black Circle,” it was a tulwar; in “Beyond the Black River,” it was an axe; in The Hour of the Dragon, goes through a dozen weapons.

The idea of Conan being partnered to a particular weapon subtly ties Conan to other hero/sword combos in history, mythology and myth, to the point where the two are inseparable. Bring up Excalibur, and one immediately thinks of King Arthur; a mention of Stormbringer conjures Elric; Anduril recalls Aragorn, Hrunting evokes Beowulf. There was no such duality in the original Howard stories: there, swords and other weapons were tools to be used, not symbols to be venerated or scrutinized.

The special sword of great power, antiquity or quality is central to the mythology of Conan the Barbarian, as well as in the live action and animated series, but it has no basis in the original stories.

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