Shadows in Zamboula
"Shadows in Zamboula" is a fantasy short story by American writer Robert E. Howard, one of his original stories about Conan the Cimmerian, first published in Weird Tales in November 1935. Its original title was "The Man-Eaters of Zamboula".
|"Shadows in Zamboula"|
|Author||Robert E. Howard|
|Original title||"The Man-Eaters of Zamboula"|
|Series||Conan the Cimmerian|
|Published in||Weird Tales|
|Publication type||Pulp magazine|
|Publication date||November, 1935|
|Preceded by||"Beyond the Black River"|
|Followed by||The Hour of the Dragon|
The story takes place over the course of a night in the desert city of Zamboula, with political intrigue amidst streets filled with roaming cannibals. This story also introduced a fearsome strangler named Baal-Pteor, who one of the few humans in the Conan stories to be a physical challenge for the main character himself.
By present-day sensibilities, the story is seriously marred by including a vicious racial stereotype - blacks as cannibals - though Howard strove to lessen this by making it clear that the cannibals in Zamboula are only the specific blacks from Darfar, other blacks being untainted.
Despite the warning he received in a suq by an elderly nomad, Conan spends the night at a cheap tavern in Zamboula, owned by Aram Baksh. As night falls, a black cannibal from Dafar enters his chamber, by means of a trap door, to drag Conan away and feast on him. All of the Darfarian slaves in the city are cannibals who roam the streets at night. Since the cannibals only prey on travelers, the inhabitants of the city tolerate this and stay locked securely in their homes, while nomads and beggars make sure to spend the night at a comfortable distance from Zamboula. Even worse, Aram Baksh has made a deal with the cannibals - he provides them with "fresh meat" and profits from the belongings of his ill-fated guests at the inn. This night, however, the unfortunate cannibal attempts to prey on a fully aware Conan and pays with his life. Realizing his room is actually a trap, Conan escapes into the Zamboulan streets where he encounters both a naked woman and her deranged fiancé. Soon, Conan rescues her from an attack by the cannibals. The woman tells him how she tried to secure her finance's unending affection via a love potion, which instead made a raving lunatic of him. After promising Conan "a reward" in return for his assistance, the two attempt to murder a high priest responsible for the lover's insanity.
The woman is captured in their attempt, and forced - via hypnotism - to dance before the high priest until she is exhausted. Conan, after defeating - quite literally - a strangler named Baal-Pteor at his own game, rescues the woman and kills the corrupt priest. Right before Conan could claim his payment, the woman reveals herself as Nafertari, mistress of the satrap of Zamboula, Jungir Khan (the insane lover). Taking the antidote to Jungir, Nafertari promises Conan a position in her council and vast wealth.
Conan, however, leaves the city and reveals to the reader how he had recognized the two almost immediately. He takes his revenge on Aram Baksh, by cutting out Baksh's tongue and slicing off his beard. Soon, Conan renders him mute and unrecognizable. Eventually, he turns Baksh over to the hungry cannibals so they can devour him (one of the most profound displays of Conan's ironic sense of humor). After dealing with Aram Baksh, Conan leaves the city with gold and a magic ring which started the night's intrigues (Conan had stolen it from the insane Jungir during their first encounter), with the intent of selling his prize to another interested party.
The story was republished in the collections Conan the Barbarian (Gnome Press, 1954) and Conan the Wanderer (Lancer Books, 1968). It has more recently been published in the collections The Conan Chronicles Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle (Gollancz, 2000) as "Shadows in Zamboula" and in Conan of Cimmeria: Volume Three (1935-1936) (Del Rey, 2005) under its original title, "The Man-Eaters of Zamboula."
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Conan the Barbarian at AmratheLion.com
- Conan.com: The Official Website
- Shadows in Zamboula public domain audiobook at LibriVox
- Shadows in Zamboula title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
"Beyond the Black River"
| Original Howard Canon
The Hour of the Dragon
"The People of the Black Circle"
| Original Howard Canon
(Dale Rippke chronology)
"Drums of Tombalku"
Conan and the Manhunters
| Complete Conan Saga
(William Galen Gray chronology)
Conan the Raider