Thursday, February 13, 2014

Episode 16: The People of the Black Circle (or, Conan Heads East!)

Conan had witnessed hundreds of battles in his wild life, but never one like this, wherein four diabolical wills sought to beat down one lesser but equally devilish will that opposed them. But he only faintly sensed the monstrous quality of that hideous struggle. With his back to the wall, driven to bay by his former masters, Khemsa was fighting for his life with all the dark power, all the frightful knowledge they had taught him through long, grim years of neophytism and vassalage.

Time for a new episode! This time around we tackle Howard's The People of the Black Circle. Published in Weird Tales from September through November of 1934, you can now read the story on Project Gutenberg

Download the episode directly here. And while you're waiting for that, check out Dan Adkins' pulptastic cover for Savage Sword of Conan #18. Oh yeah, and SPOILERS... Conan fights wizards!

Our next story will be A Witch Shall Be Born; read it on Project Gutenberg!

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

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


  1. Hey guys!

    I am an Age of Conan MMO player ( would make a great topic for a podcast) and a big REH fan. Your podcast if very informative and entertaining. I have been doing some Conan stories analysis myself ( but listening to you guys going over each story made me notice things and details that I have missed. I am so far into episode 3, but I am hooked.

    I am going to send some new listeners your way! (

    Keep on keeping on!

    1. Slith... Many, many thanks for spreading the word! And thanks for leaving the information for your site. Hopefully some of the traffic here will make its way to your blog!

  2. “Beware of the Master’s transmutations”

    Great episode once again guys.

    If you like the art in the books you should look up the Wandering Star published Conan volumes. They are quite nice, they have the same texts as in the Del Reys and have the art in full color. They are expensive as hell, though. They look like this.

    I never liked how Conan was portrayed in the Weird Tales covers and that is why the cover of PotBC is my favorite of all Conan themed covers WT had.

    We are sons of the East, not the South, and we have knowledge of all the wizards of the East, who are greater than the wizards of the West.

    I like very much of the magic the Seers use, I mean Khemsa combines magic and martial arts. :) There is roughly tree types of magic in the Conan stories. There is the science-magic: growing food out of primal elements; magic based on tricks: tomb-dust and poison needles; and then the 'real' magic. The Master is (or was) quite a badass.

    I had never thought about the similarities between Yara and the Four of the Circle. You criticized how easily the Four were defeated and how in the open the pomegranates were. I don't know if that bothers me that much. I mean they were inside the Master's house in his castle so the pomegranates were already in the heart of darkness so to speak. And yes it is convenient for the story as well :). And to me the Four have always been demonic servants so it makes sense they are somehow bind to this world trough the golden pomegranates.

    The quote about Conan “not ordinary killing women” has been used in discussions to support both views whether Conan kills or does not kill women. My take on this debate is that Conan hesitates to kill women if it can be avoided.

    Turanians are Hyrkanians but not all Hyrkanians are Turanians. The domains inhabited by Hyrkanian tribes stretch from the eastern ocean to the inland sea in the west. The kingdom of Turan is a kingdom established by a Hyrkanian tribe that skirted the southern edge of the inland sea and came to the southwestern shores. It's king, Yezdigerd, is described as the mightiest monarch, so it is very cool (and scary) how little the Master has respect for him.

    I loved the Buddhism discussion and laughed at the notion of evil nirvana. Those were some good thoughts and insights. I also agree with you that Khemsa & Gitara are sympathetic villains and I would also liked to know how exactly Conan and Kerim Shah knew each other.

    I'm already waiting for your next episode. A Witch Shall Be Born is a decent story.

    1. As always, thanks for the notes, Ripa!