Monday, May 19, 2014

Episode 23: Red Nails (Or,"A Gang War in T-Town")

Conan Red Nails: dibujo a carboncillo
Artist unknown
"The city looked very far away across the plain, farther than it had looked from the crag. Valeria's heart hammered until she felt as if it would strangle her. At every step she expected to hear the crashing of the bushes and see another colossal nightmare bearing down upon them. But nothing disturbed the silence of the thickets.
With the first mile between them and the woods, Valeria breathed more easily. Her buoyant self-confidence began to thaw out again. The sun had set and darkness was gathering over the plain, lightened a little by the stars that made stunted ghosts out of the cactus growths.
“No cattle, no plowed fields,” muttered Conan. “How do these people live?”
“Perhaps the cattle are in pens for the night,” suggested Valeria, “and the fields and grazing-pastures are on the other side of the city.”
“Maybe,” he grunted. “I didn't see any from the crag, though.”
The moon came up behind the city, etching walls and towers blackly in the yellow glow. Valeria shivered. Black against the moon the strange city had a somber, sinister look..."

Our tale this week is Red Nails, the last of the original Conan stories written by Robert E. Howard (Read it on Project Gutenberg). It features Valeria, who is easily one of the most interesting secondary characters that we've encountered in a Conan story so far!

Evidently, there was an animated adaptation of this movie that was cancelled at some point during development. We found some test animation on YouTube for you to check out, along with a wallpaper depicting character designs for the film. It seems that they were serious about producing a quality, gritty adaptation of the source material. What do you think?

This is a bittersweet moment, as we have nearly reached the end of the Road of Kings! Don't worry, we're going to keep on bringing you The Cromcast! Listen for our announcement for Season 2 toward the end of this episode!

Our next episode will cover the film "Conan the Barbarian" from 1982. In the next couple of weeks, pop in your copy of the movie, pop some popcorn, immerse yourself in that epic Basil Poledouris score, and settle in for a movie night. Then, join us for a discussion of the film! Let us know what you think of it!

While you're waiting for that episode to drop, be sure to check out Far Fetched Fables and the other District of Wonders podcasts!

We'll see you next time, By Crom!
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. Wow. I'm quite surprised you didn't like this one. :o

    I agree that I wouldn't recommend this to new readers as an introductionary tale but Red Nails is an essential Conan story.

    There are several good dialogue moments I like very much. The exchange between Valeria and Conan about Conan's pirate life. The other is the discussion between the two guards about the end of the feud and how they can't think life after it.

    I think this story fits nicely in to theme of barbarism & civilization. Whereas the Beyond the Black River was about the conflict between barbarism and civilization, this story is civilization decaying and crumbling on it's own.

    There are still more Conan stories left! At least The Black Stranger should be a topic of one episode. It is a pirate themed story, one of the longer stories and almost a sequel to Beyond the Black River.

    I'm interested to listen your take on the Conan 1982 movie. I like it as a movie but dislike it as a Conan movie.

  2. Hey guys!

    First and foremost: Thanks for the shout-out. We here at Far-Fetched Fables appreciate the praise and the product placement. I owe y'all a round or two.
    I've always found the sharp critical divide on this story to be interesting. I fall somewhere in the middle; it ain't great, but it does offer some interesting insight into Howard's views on social decay and what he felt to be the inevitable bad ending to civilizations. (I can't help but think he really needed a hug.)
    As an REH fan and real-life film critic, I look forward to hearing your take on John Milius' film, and am curious as to your thoughts on *shudder* the sequel and *gag* the attempted reboot of 2011.
    I can't wait for Season Two of the Cromcast!

  3. I have to agree with gary and ripa. While this isn't be best Conan story, it's not terrible and does touch on some interesting topics (esp. the decay of civilization, as pointed out above).

    I really like the world building as well. Xuchotil is a really neat setting, that, while it is similar to Xuthal in some respects, is interesting in it's own right. I like imagining a city that is all hallways and rooms. I don't know why the original inhabitants would have designed it like that, but it gives it that touch of weirdness and fantasy because it's difficult to connect with. It also has an interesting history, which is given in an story-appropriate way (versus Queen of the Black Coast, with Conan falling asleep because of a black lotus and dreaming the whole history, which I always felt was very contrived).

    I also liked the disparity between the first chapter and rest of the story. Fighting the dragon was a cool, outdoorsy story and I was ready for more wilderness adventure, but then the story transfers to an urban setting. It's kind of jarring, but also like getting two stories for the price of one.

    I like Howard's description of Valeria because, while she is beautiful, she's not necessarily the classic example of beauty, viz. skinny, defenseless nymph. I imagine her more like Brienne from "A Song of Ice & Fire", but pretty in the face instead of manly. The description of Conan as a stallion is hilarious, but his attraction to her makes him a bit more rounded (attracted because she's pretty but also because of her fighting prowess). I also like that he doesn't necessarily manhandle her like he does other women because he's afraid she'll run him through.

    Kind of related to that, I really like that Howard gives fighting with finesse it's due. I never liked the fact that Conan bests the pirate captain in "Iron Shadows in the Moonlight" because he uses brute strength and the captain fights with finesse. I'm sure part of the reason Howard did it with Valeria is because she's a woman and couldn't match Conan in strength but still had to be his fighting equal, but still. I've always been a fan of speed, accuracy, and finesse over brute strength when fighting and appreciate that Howard spoke well of it.