Conan chronologies

This article covers some of the major Conan chronologies that have been advanced over the years. From the 1930s onward a number of fans and scholars have analyzed the numerous Conan the Barbarian stories by Robert E. Howard and later writers, and attempted to organize them into a chronological timeline.[1]

Going beyond a simple fan activity, these efforts have had a significant impact on the development of the popular conception of the character of Conan as well as economic consequences on the Conan franchise. As Paolo Bertetti observes, the focus on the creation of a character chronology outside the work of the original author begins a "process that tends to transform the character into a social object of inter-individual construction and public debate, rendering it independent of texts in which it was born," and in the case of Conan, this has led to the exploitation of the character for commercial reasons and perhaps encouraged and justified the proliferation of pastiche stories and novels over the years.[2]

A number of factors have prevented the establishment of a consensus on order of the Conan stories, most notably the fact that Howard himself apparently had little more than a general idea of the character's career path and intentionally wrote the stories out of chronological sequence.

Clearly, the stories where Conan is a thief are at the early part of his career and those of King Conan – at the later part. But the middle part – the various tales of his being a pirate, brigand, and mercenary at various locations around the world – are more difficult to arrange in a neat order. While the earliest (Miller/Clark) timeline had at least partial endorsement from Howard, the addition of stories discovered and published after Howard's death in 1936 are more difficult to place. Fragments and synopses that were never completed are even more problematic and some contain what appear to be internal inconsistencies.[3]

Miller/Clark/de Camp chronologyEdit

The essay A Probable Outline of Conan's Career (1936) was completed during Howard's lifetime by P. Schuyler Miller and John D. Clark. Howard, who reviewed it in draft and made a few corrections, stated it followed his vision of Conan's career "pretty closely."[4] The version subsequently published in the Howard fanzine The Hyborian Age (1938) incorporated Howard's corrections. The chronology was revised over the years by Miller, Clark and L. Sprague de Camp to take into account additional Conan material, including previously unpublished stories by Howard and newly written stories by others. These revised versions of the chronology guided the order in which the stories were arranged when they were compiled into book form in the early series published by Gnome Press (1950–1957), Lancer/Ace (1966–1977), and Bantam (1978–1982), and text from the chronology was used in these series to bridge gaps between the stories.

The subsequent versions include An Informal Biography of Conan the Cimmerian (1952), a revision by Clark and de Camp used to bridge stories in the first hardcover edition of the Conan stories, published by Gnome Press. De Camp's final version of the chronology, Conan the Indestructible (1984), incorporated the first seven volumes of the series of Conan pastiches published by Tor Books.[5]

While the chronology has Howard's general approval in regard to its placement of the stories covered by its earliest published version, such authority is lacking for later versions' placement of stories discovered after Howard's death. Most post-Howard Conan stories were written to conform to it. The chronology has been criticized for missing some in-story chronological indications pointing to a slightly different arrangement (such as "Xuthal of the Dusk" preceding "The Devil in Iron"),[6][7] for force-fitting posthumously discovered Howard tales into its scheme (e.g. "The Black Stranger," in which Howard has Conan turn pirate between his stints as general and king in Aquilonia, rewritten by de Camp to omit the piratical interlude),[7] and for having Conan wander "all over the Hyborian world in a scattered and illogical pattern, and at a break-neck pace."[6]

Order (earliest and latest forms)Edit

All stories added after the earliest version are indented.

Robert Jordan chronologyEdit

A Conan Chronology by Robert Jordan (1987) was the attempt of Conan writer Robert Jordan to create a new Chronology including all Conan material written up to that point, including fifteen of the first sixteen volumes of the series of Conan pastiches published by Tor Books (omitting the eighth, Conan the Valorous). It was first published in Conan the Defiant, by Steve Perry (Tor Books, 1987). It was heavily influenced by the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology, though deviating from it in some respects, and covers more of the Tor series. Jordan seldom provided his reasoning on his departures from the earlier chronology.[8]


William Galen Gray chronologyEdit

Timeline of Conan's Journeys (1997, rev. 2004), was William Galen Gray's attempt to create "a chronology of all the stories, both Howard and pastiche." It is based on a close reading of all the stories and drawing on the earlier Miller/Clark/de Camp and Jordan chronologies. Where the earlier chronologies differ Gray sometimes adopts one's placement, sometimes the other, and occasionally departs from both, in each case explaining his reasons for the placement. The Gray chronology incorporated all then-published Conan stories, including all the Tor volumes, but treated inconsistently Tor pastiches whose portrayals of Conan's early life contradict Howard's account of it. Three of these, the movie adaptations Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer and the John M. Roberts novel Conan the Bold, Gray rejected as apocryphal "Legends." The fourth, Harry Turtledove's Conan of Venarium, he accepted.[9][2]



Joe Marek chronologyEdit

Joe Marek's chronology is limited to stories written (or devised) by Howard, though within that context it is essentially a revision of the Miller/Clark/de Camp tradition. Noting the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology's general approval by Howard, he tends to follow it when it does not contradict the internal evidence of the stories or force Conan into what he perceives as a "mad dash" around the Hyborian world within timeframes too rapid to be credible.[7][2] Marek considers four changes from this chronology as central to his own:

  1. that "The Frost-Giant's Daughter" is the first Conan tale.
  2. that the four thief stories ("The Tower of the Elephant", "The Hall of the Dead", "The God in the Bowl" and "Rogues in the House") occur in a direct east to west sequence (note, however, that this is not really a change; while other chronologies may intersperse pastiches in the sequence, all except the Dale Rippke chronology place these stories in the same order).
  3. that "Xuthal Of The Dusk" (a.k.a. "The Slithering Shadow") has to occur before "The Devil In Iron", as the events of the former are referenced by Conan in the later.
  4. that "The Vale Of Lost Women" occurs later in the series than previously assumed.

Marek provides arguments for his story placements, though he fails to incorporate into his scheme the chronologically wide gap between "Beyond the Black River" and "Wolves Beyond the Border" he admits to be indicated by Howard's version of "The Black Stranger" as he believed doing anything more to filling the hole would require a major reordering of the stories that would take attention away from his four primary changes. Additionally Marek divided his timeline into five parts that would constitute about 250 paperback pages each.[6]


Dale Rippke chronologyEdit

In 2003 Dale Rippke published The Darkstorm Conan Chronology, a completely revised chronology, including only those stories written (or devised) by Howard. Completions of Howard works by other hands and post-Howard works are not included. Rippke bases his story placements on the texts as Howard wrote them, which lead him to some of the same conclusions as Marek. Most of his differences with Marek fall in the middle of their respective efforts.[7] This is used as the basis for the Conan Dark Horse comic series, which mostly follows this chronology.[10]


Compared orderEdit

Story REH's
Rippke Marek de Camp Jordan Gray Notes
The Hyborian Age, Part One 01 historical essay, portion covering period before Conan's time
Cimmeria (poem) 02 poem establishing, describing and meditating on Conan's birthplace; placed before the stories in the collection The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian
Conan the Barbarian (2011 novel) (part 1) film adaptation; chapters 1–11 cover Conan's early life from birth to the eve of Venarium
Conan of Venarium 01 final chapters contradict Howard's account (and all others) of Conan's first entry into the civilized countries – Conan was about 14/15 at the Battle of Venarium per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology
Conan the Bold A contradicts Howard's account (and all others) of Conan's first entry into the civilized countries; would go between Conan of Venarium and "Legions of the Dead" if anywhere
"Legions of the Dead" 01 01 02
Conan the Barbarian (1982 novel) 02 A film adaptation contradicting Howard's account (and all others) of Conan's early life; treated by de Camp as an alternative account
"The Thing in the Crypt" 03 02 03
Conan the Defiant 03 04
Conan the Hunter 05
Conan the Indomitable 06
Conan the Free Lance 07
Conan the Formidable 08
"The Tower of the Elephant" 04 03 04 04 04 09
Conan and the Sorcerer 11 05 10 Conan's age and internal references in the story fit Jordan's placement; de Camp argues Conan's behavior is too mature for his depicted age and places it later – – Conan was about 17 according to Offutt and 23 according to de Camp, per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology
Conan the Mercenary 12 06 11 Conan's age and internal references in the story fit Jordan's placement; de Camp argues Conan's behavior is too mature for his depicted age and places it later
Conan: The Sword of Skelos 13 07 12 Conan's age and internal references in the story fit Jordan's placement; de Camp argues Conan's behavior is too mature for his depicted age and places it later
Conan the Destroyer 05 08 A film adaptation; sequel to the 1982 Conan the Barbarian novel and a poor fit chronologically as anything but that, though de Camp and Jordan work it into their schemes regardless
Conan the Outcast 13
Conan the Magnificent 06 09 14
Conan the Invincible 07 10 15
"The Hall of the Dead" * 04 05 08 11 16 early fragment not published in Howard's lifetime
Conan the Fearless 12 17
"The God in the Bowl" 03 02 06 09 13 18
Conan the Warlord 14 19
"Rogues in the House" 11 05 07 10 16 20
Conan the Victorious 14 17 21
Conan the Unconquered 15 18 22
"The Hand of Nergal" * 06 08 16 19 23 early fragment not published in Howard's lifetime
"The City of Skulls" 17 20 24
Conan the Hero 25
"The People of the Summit" 18 21 26
"The Curse of the Monolith" 19 22 27
Conan the Valiant 23 28
Conan and the Spider God 20 27 29
"The Blood-Stained God" 21 24 30
Conan the Valorous 31
"The Frost Giant's Daughter" 02 01 03 22 25 32
"The Lair of the Ice Worm" 23 26 33
Conan the Relentless 34
Conan the Savage 35
Conan the Defender 24 28 36
Conan the Triumphant 25 30 37
Conan the Guardian 38
"Queen of the Black Coast" (chapter 1) 06a 09a 10a 26 31 39
Conan the Rebel 27 32 40
"Queen of the Black Coast" (chapters 2–5) 06b 09b 10b 28 33 41
Conan at the Demon's Gate (main narrative) 42
"The Vale of Lost Women" 12 17 19 29 34 43
"The Castle of Terror" 30 35 44
"The Snout in the Dark" * 10 11 31 36 45 early fragment not published in Howard's lifetime
Conan the Barbarian (2011 novel) (part 2) film adaptation; chapters 12–33 set in the wake of Conan's piratical career on the Black Coast and subsequent sojourn in the Black Kingdoms
Conan the Gladiator 46
Conan and the Emerald Lotus 47
"Hawks Over Shem" 32 37 48
"Black Colossus" 07 08 09 34 38 49
"Shadows in the Dark" 35 39 50 Conan was nearly 30 at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology
Conan: The Road of Kings 33 29 51
Conan the Renegade 40 52
"Shadows in the Moonlight" 08 07 12 36 41 53
Conan of the Red Brotherhood 54
Conan, Scourge of the Bloody Coast 55
Conan the Champion 15 56
"The Road of the Eagles" 37 42 57
"A Witch Shall be Born" 16 12 13 38 43 58 Conan was about 30 at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology
"Black Tears" 39 44 59 Conan was about 32 at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology
Conan and the Manhunters 60
"Shadows in Zamboula" 20 15 14 40 45 61
Conan the Raider 46 62
"The Star of Khorala" 41 47 63
Conan and the Death Lord of Thanza 64
Conan and the Amazon 65
"The Devil in Iron" 13 13 16 42 48 66
"The Flame Knife" 43 49 67
Conan and the Shaman's Curse 68
"The People of the Black Circle" 14 14 17 44 50 69 Conan was in his early 30s at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology
Conan the Marauder 51 70
Conan and the Mists of Doom 71
"The Slithering Shadow" 09 11 15 45 52 72
"Drums of Tombalku" * 16 18 46 53 73 fragment not published in Howard's lifetime
"The Gem in the Tower" 47 54 74 Conan was about 35 at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology
Conan and the Grim Grey God 75
"The Pool of the Black One" 10 18 20 48 55 76 Conan was about 37 at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology
Conan the Buccaneer 49 56 77 Conan was in his late 30s at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology
"Red Nails" 21 21 21 50 57 78
Conan and the Gods of the Mountain 79
"Jewels of Gwahlur" 17 22 22 51 58 80
"The Ivory Goddess" 52 59 81
Conan and the Treasure of Python 82
Conan, Lord of the Black River 83
Conan the Rogue 84
"Beyond the Black River" 18 19 23 53 60 85 Conan was about 39 at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology
"Moon of Blood" 54 61 86
"The Treasure of Tranicos"
"The Black Stranger"
19 20 24 55 62 87
"Wolves Beyond the Border" * 23 25 56 63 88 draft not published in Howard's lifetime
Conan the Liberator 57 64 89 Conan was in his early 40s at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology
"The Phoenix on the Sword" 01 24 26 58 65 90
"The Scarlet Citadel" 05 25 27 59 66 91
The Hour of the Dragon 15 26 28 60 67 92 Conan was about 45 at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology
The Return of Conan 61 68 93
Conan the Great 94 time setting indicated in-piece to be between The Return of Conan and "The Witch of the Mists"
"The Witch of the Mists" 62 69 95 Conan was in his late 50s at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology
"Black Sphinx of Nebthu" 63 70 96
"Red Moon of Zembabwei" 64 71 97
"Shadows in the Skull" 65 72 98
Conan of the Isles 66 73 99 Conan was in his 60s at this time per the Miller/Clark/de Camp chronology
Conan at the Demon's Gate (frame sequence) time setting stated in-piece to be six years after Conan's abdication from the Aquilonian throne and into the reign of his successor
Death-Song of Conan the Cimmerian (poem) time setting indicated in-piece to occur at Conan's death
The Hyborian Age, Part Two 29 historical essay, portion covering period after Conan's time
Notes On Various Peoples of the Hyborian Age 30
Letters 31


  1. ^ Nielsen, Leon (2015). Robert E. Howard: A Collector's Descriptive Bibliography of American and British Hardcover, Paperback, Magazine, Special and Amateur Editions, with a Biography. McFarland & Co. pp. 88–90. ISBN 9781476604244. Retrieved May 12, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Bertetti, Paolo (2014). "Conan the Barbarian: Transmedia Adventures of a Pulp Hero". Transmedia Archaeology: Storytelling in the Borderlines of Science Fiction. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 15–38. ISBN 9781137434371. Retrieved May 12, 2020.
  3. ^ Shanks, Jeffrey. "Introduction" in The Hyborian Age: Facsimile Edition. Skelos Press, 2015 [1938], p. x.
  4. ^ Howard, Robert E. Letter to P. S. Miller, March 30, 1936. In Howard, Robert E. The Coming of Conan. Gnome Press, 1953. Online version
  5. ^ De Camp, L. Sprague. "Conan the Indestructible." In Jordan, Robert. Conan the Victorious. Tor, 1984. Online version Archived May 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b c Marek, Joe. "Some Comments On Chronologies In Regards To The Conan Series." (REHUPA No. 148 and #149), 1997–1998 Online version
  7. ^ a b c d Rippke, Dale. Article series: "Can Anything Good Come Out of Cimmeria?" (REHUPA #180), "Go East, Young Man…" (REHUPA #181), "Black Flag, Scarlet Skull… Black Flag, Golden Lion…" (REHUPA #182), combined in Rippke, Dale. "The Dark Storm Conan Chronology." Also published in Rippke, Dale. The Hyborian Heresies. Wild Cat Books, October 25, 2004.
  8. ^ Jordan, Robert. "A Conan Chronology," in Conan the Defiant, Tor Books, 1987.
  9. ^ Gray, William Galen. "The Conan Timeline."
  10. ^ Busiek, Kurt. "Introduction" in The Colossal Conan. Dark Horse Books, November 2013.