Open main menu

"Queen of the Black Coast" is one of the original short stories about Conan the Cimmerian, written by American author Robert E. Howard and first published in Weird Tales magazine c. May 1934. It's set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age and concerns Conan becoming a notorious pirate and plundering the coastal villages of Kush alongside Bêlit, a head-strong femme fatale.

"Queen of the Black Coast"
Weird Tales 1934-05 - Queen of the Black Coast.jpg
Cover for Weird Tales, May 1934.
Art by Margaret Brundage
AuthorRobert E. Howard
CountryUnited States
SeriesConan the Cimmerian
Published inWeird Tales
Publication typePulp magazine
PublisherRural Publishing Corporation
Publication dateMay 1934
Preceded by"Shadows in the Moonlight"
Followed by"The Devil in Iron"

Due to its epic scope and atypical romance, the story is considered an undisputed classic of Conan lore and is often cited by Howard scholars as one of his most famous tales.[1]

Howard earned $115 for the sale of this story to Weird Tales[2] and it is now in the public domain.[3]


Plot summaryEdit

The story begins in an Argos port where Conan forcefully demands passage aboard a sail barge, the Argus, which is casting off for southern waters to trade beads, silks, sugar and brass-hilted swords to the black kings of Kush. At first, the captain of the barge objects to his demand to travel without paying for the passage, and Conan threatens him and the crew with his drawn sword. But eventually the captain agrees to let Conan stay on board, since "It would be useful to have a fighting man on the voyage" and gradually Conan and the captain, named Tito, become quite friendly. The captain is soon informed that Conan is fleeing the civil authorities of Argos due to a court dispute in which Conan refused to betray the whereabouts of a casual friend to a magistrate and instead drew his sword and killed the magistrate - whereupon he had to swiftly flee. It is emphasized that at this moment Conan was a complete land-lubber, with no previous experience or knowledge of the sea.

Upon reaching the pirate-infested waters of Kush, their trade ship is attacked by the infamous reavers led by Bêlit, the Queen of the Black Coast. Bêlit and her ebony-skinned warriors slaughter the crew of the Argus, who are no match for the ferocious pirates. Conan tries to rally the crew after the captain was killed, and when the fight becomes clearly hopeless he manages to jump aboard the pirate ship, intending to sell his life dearly. Conan kills many of the pirates, fully expecting to be overwhelmed and killed - whereupon Bêlit suddenly orders her crew to step back and spare Conan, being impressed with the Cimmerian's courage and ferocity (and being sexually attracted to him, as she immediately and forthrightly declares). Bêlit offers Conan the chance to sail with her, be her chosen mate, and help lead her fierce warriors. Oddly smitten by this fiery woman, Conan agrees and, for a time, they raid the Black Coast together brutally pillaging coastal towns and instilling fear into the superstitious natives.

Soon, the Hyborian legends begin that the she-devil of the sea, Bêlit, has found a mate, Conan, an iron man whose wrath is that of a wounded lion. Survivors of butchered Stygian ships curse the name of Bêlit and her Cimmerian warrior with fierce blue eyes.

Sailing up the poisonous waters of the river Zarkheba, Bêlit and Conan encounter ancient ruins in which is found a lost treasure, a winged monstrosity and skulking hyenas that were once men. Despite the bizarre murders of their crew and the various horrors lurking in the jungle, Bêlit and Conan still find time for a thorough theological discussion, comparing Conan's grim god Crom with Bêlit's more ambiguous Semite deities - all of which they discuss in between continuing their sexual romance which is alluded to by Howard as having sadomasochistic undertones. In a moment of passion, Bêlit promises that even death could not keep her from Conan's side, a promise which she must keep far sooner than she expects.

Despite her intense love for Conan, Bêlit is soon captivated by a cursed jeweled necklace found among the lost treasure which seemingly instills the wearer with a mix of madness and monomania. In such a twisted mental state, Bêlit issues faulty orders. Given the constant bizarre dangers and her own madness, her crew is soon decimated and Bêlit herself is hanged by the winged monster. Driven to rage and now alone, Conan confronts her supernatural murderer. He is on the verge of being slain when the spirit of Bêlit intervenes. Conan slays the winged horror and leaves the ruins in Bêlit's ship with her corpse.

The story closes with Conan giving Bêlit a Viking funeral - setting on fire the ship, with her surrounded by all her treasures - and reflecting upon his loss.


Everett F. Bleiler described "Queen of the Black Coast" as "probably the best of the Conan stories, perhaps because it is the only one based on another emotion than lust, greed, or hatred."[4]

Publication historyEdit

"Queen of the Black Coast" was republished in the November 1948 issue of Avon Fantasy Reader.

The story was first published in the May 1934 issue of Weird Tales magazine. It was republished in the collections The Coming of Conan (Gnome Press, 1953) and Conan of Cimmeria (Lancer Books, 1969). It has most recently been republished in the collections The Conan Chronicles Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle (Gollancz, 2000) and Conan of Cimmeria: Volume One (1932-1933) (Del Rey, 2003).


The story was adapted and expanded by Roy Thomas, Mike Ploog and John Buscema in Conan the Barbarian (Marvel) issues #57, #58 and #100, which were first published in the mid to late 1970s.

Petri Hiltunen made his own graphic novel adaptation in 1991. It has only been published in Finland.

A role-playing game adaptation for GURPS named Conan and the Queen of the Black Coast was published by Steve Jackson Games in 1989.[5]

The concept of the woman who dies, but returns to help Conan in battle, was used in the 1982 movie Conan the Barbarian.

The Dark Horse Comics series Conan the Barbarian (2012-2014) by writer Brian Wood and artist Becky Cloonan uses Queen of the Black Coast as the basis for the first three issues. The death of Bêlit is told in issues 22-25.


  1. ^ Patrice Louinet. Hyborian Genesis: Part 1, pages 445, 446 and 447, The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian; 2003, Del Rey.
  2. ^ REHupa Fiction Timeline Archived December 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 1 December 2007
  3. ^ The Robert-E-Howard: Electronic Amateur Press Association Archived March 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, The Copyright and Ownership Status of the Works and Words of Robert E. Howard by Paul Herman, retrieved 1 December 2007
  4. ^ Bleiler, The Guide to Supernatural Fiction, Kent State University Press, 1983, p.260
  5. ^ Page for Conan and the Queen of the Black Coast on the SJ Games website, retrieved March 3, 2011

External linksEdit

Preceded by
"Shadows in the Moonlight"
Original Howard Canon
(publication order)
Succeeded by
"The Devil in Iron"
Preceded by
"Black Colossus"
Original Howard Canon
(Dale Rippke chronology)
Succeeded by
"The Snout in the Dark"
Preceded by
Conan the Guardian
Complete Conan Saga
(William Galen Gray chronology
(Part 1)
Succeeded by
Conan the Rebel
Preceded by
Conan the Rebel
Complete Conan Saga
(William Galen Gray chronology
(Part 2)
Succeeded by
Conan at the Demon's Gate