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"Black Colossus" is one of the original short stories starring the fictional sword and sorcery hero Conan the Cimmerian, written by American author Robert E. Howard and first published in Weird Tales magazine, June 1933.[1] Howard earned $130 for the sale of this story.[2]

"Black Colossus"
Black Colossus WT.jpg
Cover of Weird Tales, July 1933.
Art by Margaret Brundage
AuthorRobert E. Howard
CountryUnited States
SeriesConan the Cimmerian
Published inWeird Tales
Publication typePulp magazine
PublisherRural Publishing Corporation
Publication dateJuly 1933
Preceded by"The Tower of the Elephant"
Followed by"The Slithering Shadow"

It's set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age and concerns Conan leading the demoralized army of Khoraja against an evil sorcerer named Natohk, "the Veiled One."

This story formed part of the basis for the later Conan novel, The Hour of the Dragon.


Plot overviewEdit

An ancient wizard named Thugra Khotan is awoken from his 3,000 year slumber by Shevatas, a Zamoran thief (he doesn't survive the experience). Soon, Thugra remembers his dream of world domination. He assumes the alias of Natohk (The "Veiled One"), assembles an army of desert nomads, and begins his strategy on conquering the Hyborian nations. However, the tiny kingdom of Khoraja - with a mixed Hyborian/Shemite population, culture, and religion - stands in his way. Khoraja is presently ruled by the beautiful Yasmela, sister of the king, who is now a prisoner in neighboring Ophir. In fear of Natohk's potential invasion, Yasmela seeks advice from the long-forgotten god of her ancestors, Mitra. Eventually, Yasmela is told to travel into the streets and offer her kingdom's defenses to the first man she meets.

Fortunately, the first man she encounters is Conan the Cimmerian. Conan already has a position in Yasmela's army. Now, he's given full command over Khoraja's royal military, much to the confusion of his more cultured comrades. Soon, Conan demonstrates his knowledge in military tactics by defeating an entire caravan of bandits. However, Conan's efforts are ridiculed by the arrogant officers below him who fall victim to Natohk's magic. Meanwhile, Natohk has made it clear conquering the world isn't the only goal on his agenda: He also desires Queen Yasmela for himself.

The story climaxes with an epic battle. Conan defeats Natohk's army and the wizard devises a final attempt in capturing Yasmela. Conan goes after Natohk and confronts him near the ruins of a Stygian temple.


The story marks an important stage in the career of Conan. Due to the direct intervention of Mitra, Conan - who had never commanded more than a "company of cut-throats" - is given the opportunity to become a general and emerge victorious from an epic battle involving tens of thousands of soldiers while affecting the future of the whole world. Though Conan's career would know many more ups and downs, this was an important step towards him eventually becoming a King - which is hinted in the story itself, and which Howard and his readers already knew since "The Phoenix on the Sword" was already published half a year earlier.

At the climax of Leonard Carpenter's Conan the Great - taking place many years later, when Conan has already become King of Aquilonia - it's revealed that Conan's relationship with Yasmela resulted in the secret birth of a son, which Conan never never knew about at the time, and his child eventually became the king of Koth. This revelation has a crucial importance in the plot of Carpenter's book.

The expression: "A short life and a merry one", used by the character Amalric in Howard's story, is attributed to the Australian bushranger Steve Hart (1859 – 1880).

Publication historyEdit

"Black Colossus" was first published in Weird Tales, June 1933.

A version of the story that was edited by L. Sprague de Camp was first published in the collection Conan the Barbarian (Gnome Press, 1954). It was then republished in several collections entitled Conan the Freebooter (Lancer Books, 1968; Sphere, 1974; Prestige, 1977; Ace, 1981) and The Conan Chronicles Volume 1 (Sphere, 1989).

The original version was first republished in Black Colossus (Grant, 1979). It has more recently been published in the collections The Conan Chronicles Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle (Gollancz, 2000), Conan of Cimmeria: Volume One (1932-1933) (Del Rey, 2003), The Weird Writings of Robert E. Howard Volume 1 (Girasol Collectables, 2006), The Complete Chronicles of Conan (Gollancz, 2006), Valley of the Worm (Wildside Press, 2006) and Three Tales of Conan the Barbarian (Echo Library, 2007).


The story was adapted in comics form by Roy Thomas, John Buscema, and Alfredo Alcala in 1974, in the B&W Marvel Comics magazine Savage Sword of Conan #2.[1] "Black Colossus" also forms the basis of part of Conan the Barbarian #248 and all of 249. (Conan serves as a mercenary captain for Khoraja, fighting rebels and Natohk's Stygian allies, in #246 and 247.)

The Savage Sword comics adaptation was reprinted in full color in the large sized Marvel Treasury Edition #15 in 1977.

In 2008, the Marvel adaptation was reprinted in black and white in the Savage Sword of Conan trade paperback published by Dark Horse.

In 2009, Timothy Truman and Tomas Giorello adapted the story in Dark Horse Comics' Conan the Cimmerian #8-13.


  1. ^ a b Publication history of Black Colossus retrieved 23 December 2007
  2. ^ REHupa Fiction Timeline Archived December 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine retrieved 23 December 2007

External linksEdit

Preceded by
"The Tower of the Elephant"
Original Howard Canon
(publication order)
Succeeded by
"The Slithering Shadow"
Preceded by
"Shadows in the Moonlight"
Original Howard Canon
(Dale Rippke chronology)
Succeeded by
"Queen of the Black Coast"
Preceded by
"Hawks over Shem"
Complete Conan Saga
(William Galen Gray chronology)
Succeeded by
"Shadows in the Dark"