Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Episode 04 - Black Colossus (or, You Say Natohk, I say Khotan!)

Cover of Weird Tales, June 1933 by Margaret Brundage

It's time again! We're back to discuss another thrilling tale by Robert E. Howard featuring Conan the Cimmerian! (Download mp3 here.)

Black Colossus is the fourth Conan story, published in Weird Tales in June 1933. (Read the text on WikiSource!)

Some links for today's episode:

01. Zephheroin's EP "Howl" which includes a song titled "Black Colossus" (On Bandcamp.)

02. The REH forum we mention, which includes details and discussion concerning Black Colossus.

03. 90 Years of Margaret Brundage art on the cover of Weird Tales.

04. Nerd Redefined's discussion of Thugra Khotan.

We'll return for more adventure in two weeks with Xuthal of The Dusk (or, The Slithering Shadow). Read it on WikiSource!

Beginning theme: "Sudden Defeat" by Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Ending theme: "Anvil of Crom/Conan The Barbarian Main Theme For Two Guitars" excellently transcribed by Dan and Josh Monacella. Found at Arrangement of  "Anvil of Crom" by Basil Poledouris, from the Conan the Barbarian: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Original Score: (c) 1982 Basil Poledouris; Original Album: (c) 2010 Prometheus Records. Used without permission.

Thanks for listening!

Questions? Comments? Curses? Email us! (thecromcast at gmail dot com)

Follow us on Twitter!

Subscribe to our feed on FeedBurner! Or, check us out on iTunes!


  1. I agree with you guys. You're definitely improving. I also like the artwork, whoever said that.

    1. Thanks Rev! We are happy to have a banjo blessing. Like we say, we're learning and yearning to be better.

      "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"

  2. hey guys!:

    Regarding Dark Agnes -- Ballantine-Del Rey published an extensive 11-volume collection of Howards major works from 2003 to 2011, the final installment of which was "Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures", which pretty much delivers what it promises: both of the completed Dark Agnes stories and the one he didn't finish, as well as Howard's other assorted non-fantasy adventure stuff. (His stories set during the Crusades are great stuff, btw.)
    The editors used the orignal typescripts -- where available -- for the series, and much of the material is in its unabridged/unadulterated form for the first time ever. Highly recommended:

    1. Hey Gary! Jon here. I think I speak for everyone when I say we can't wait to get to Dark Agnes. I will be on the look out for that book at my local used book store!

  3. Great episode!

    Thanks for the shout-outs, unfortunately it only encourages my ramblings.

    I was wondering if you would realize that Khotan = Natohk and you did! That was cool, and your observations about worship of Mitra having Judeo-Christian elements and "the 300" feeling of the story were great. I also liked how you noticed little things that Howard drops about his earlier Conan stories. I really enjoyed listening your discussion.
    And Amalric is a boss. Very Taurus-like character that despite his short appearance feels real and alive.

    This is a third Hyborian Map by REH. It is in the second or third del Rey volume. It shows the location of Khoraja. Kutchemes is located somewhere southeast in the deserts of Shem near the border of Stygia.

    I don't think that Conan stories should be considered really as the benchmark what Howard thought about women. Some other stories and his letters are a better source for what he really thought. He was writing Conan stories for a market and a target audience. You already talked about lesbianism in Conan and in fact in your next episode you get to talk about it (Xuthal of the Dusk). I'm not sure whether it is that story or one other (or both) in which Robert E. Howard put a certain scene specifically to get featured in the cover (and it worked). So, I'm already waiting for your thoughts.

    I think Yasmela had some agency in the story and in the end too. She kinda acknowledges that their thing can happen only once when nobody sees it. Outside she is the princess but now she can act how she wants. I think that Yasmela is a good/ok female character when only viewed in the scope of this story. But that being said, there are going to be some real damsels in the next few stories on your list. I don't really mind it but I'm waiting to hear your thoughts in the upcoming episodes.

    You talked about Conan how behaves differently as a leader and already starts to show "kingly" qualities. I have a other perspective to offer that I read somewhere: Conan is very primal and so one could think him as a (alpha) male [animal]. The mercenary army is like a pack (wolf-pack or ...) and Conan behaves like any male in a pack. He is looking for his own gain, slitting throats and challenging the current pack leader (Amalric) in different ways. But when he becomes the pack leader he has responsibilities and he looks after his pack. I think this applies to his kingship too.

    I think Thugra Khotan was abandoned by the demon as he was weakened by his lust and didn't have his priorities straight.

    I think the title has much to do with the quote from "The Girl in Samarcand" in the beginning of the story. I think that would make Thugra Khotan or what he represents the Black Colossus, this looming threat.

    There exists somewhere a draft of the Black Colossus which is slightly longer where Kutamun is fleshed out a bit more. I consider Prince Kutamun the first Bad Ass From Another Land that Conan faces and beats. So that would mean that Stygia is out of the tournament.

    You already mentioned some destiny stuff. I think you should keep this story, Phoenix on the Sword and religion of Mitra on your mind when you finally get to The Hour of the Dragon. Elements from these stories can provide some interesting discussing regarding Conan's role on a grander scale.

    And about the comics:

    I have overall enjoyed the Dark Horse comic run. There are some really great adaptations of Howard's Conan stories, some of them even better than best of the Marvel-era. But Crom and his devils can take Brian Wood. :) Although his run has gotten some great reviews it goes against everything what I hold dear in Conan. :P

    Keep up the good work!

  4. Hey, if you talk about De Camp and Lin Carter you should think about talking to Robert M. Price. He is a Lovecraft scholar and Lin Carter bequeathed his Thongor series to him. I read the Ace Conan editions in the eighties and they are De Camp, Carter, and Howard.

  5. It kind of sucks catching up on podcasts, but I'm really enjoying your show. At first, I wasn't sure I was going to like the fact that you guys were discussing the stories as you read them for the first time, but your enthusiasm really has me thinking about Conan in new ways for the first time in a long time. I'm really interested in Howard's telling the story out of order, and how everything Conan does leads up to his becoming King - and the way in which he is polite in "Elephant" and does as asked really shows that he is due respect just for that - which reflects his attitude toward his people as King. I'm sure you guys get into this - but as I say, I've got a lot to catch up on.

    A few other things - I was surprised none of you said you came to Conan from D&D, which is a pretty direct route. Also - wondering if your thoughts about Schwarzenegger playing Conan evolved after reading the stories. And most of all - I'm wondering if you get into Solomon Kane - my personal favorite of Howard's characters.

    I guess I'll find out in a month or two... Glad your still doing this cast.