Queen of the Black Coast

"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.

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]

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

Plot summary

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 fascistic magistrate (although no actual political reference is hinted in Howard's story) 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.

Reception

The use of poetic descriptions throughout the tale is quite strong, and on par with Howard's "The Frost-Giant's Daughter". However, the narrative is often criticized by Howard scholars for not having the flow of the better Conan yarns. Largely, this is because Howard was aiming for an epic feel, something to which the story is eminently suited. Plot-point by plot-point, "Queen of the Black Coast" comes closest of any of the Conan stories to achieving the quality of "legend" as the story is filled with classic moments: the dead Bêlit hanging by her necklace from a yardarm; Bêlit's Viking funeral in a flaming ship as Conan moodily looks on; the ghostly spirit of Bêlit returning to protect her lover. Howard also begins each chapter with excerpts from The Song of Bêlit, a poem presumably written by Hyborian Age minstrels to honor her memory.

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 history

Avon Fantasy Reader (1948-11-23) cover
"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).

Adaptation

The story was adapted and expanded by Roy Thomas, Mike Ploog and John Buscema in Conan the Barbarian #57, #58 and #100.

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

A roleplaying adventure adaptation, authored by Robert Traynor for the GURPS roleplaying system, 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 newly launched Conan the Barbarian series from Dark Horse Comics 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.

Notes

  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 links

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
Bêlit (Robert E. Howard)

Bêlit is a character appearing in the fictional universe of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian. She is a pirate queen who has a romantic relationship with Conan. She appears in Howard's Conan novelette Queen of the Black Coast, first published in Weird Tales 23 5 (May 1934). She was selected as the fourth greatest pirate by Wired magazine's Geekdad blog.

Conan (comics)

Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard was first adapted into comics in 1952 in Mexico. Marvel Comics began publishing Conan comics with the series Conan the Barbarian in 1970. Dark Horse Comics published Conan from 2003 to 2018.

Conan the Barbarian will be returning to Marvel Comics sometime in 2019.

Conan at the Demon's Gate

Conan at the Demon's Gate is a fantasy novel by American writer Roland Green, featuring Robert E. Howard's sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. It was first published in trade paperback by Tor Books in November 1994; a regular paperback edition followed from the same publisher in August 1996.

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 attempted to create a chronological timeline into which the numerous Conan the Barbarian stories by Robert E. Howard and later writers could be placed.

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 of 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.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.

Conan the Barbarian

Conan the Barbarian (also known as Conan the Cimmerian) is a fictional sword and sorcery hero who originated in pulp fiction magazines and has since been adapted to books, comics, several films (including Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer), television programs (cartoon and live-action), video games, role-playing games, and other media. The character was created by writer Robert E. Howard in 1932 in a series of fantasy stories published in Weird Tales magazine.

Conan the Barbarian (2011 collection)

Conan the Barbarian is a collection of six fantasy short stories written by Robert E. Howard featuring his seminal sword and sorcery hero of the same name, first published in paperback by Del Rey/Ballantine Books in July 2011 as a tie-in with the movie of the same title. The stories originally appeared in the 1930s in the fantasy magazine Weird Tales. An earlier collection with the same title but different contents was issued in hardcover by Gnome Press in 1955.Contents:

"The Phoenix on the Sword"

"The People of the Black Circle"

"The Tower of the Elephant"

"Queen of the Black Coast"

"Red Nails"

"Rogues in the House"

Conan the Guardian

Conan the Guardian is a fantasy novel by American writer Roland Green, featuring Robert E. Howard's sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. It was first published in paperback by Tor Books in January 1991, and reprinted in October 1997 and August 2000.

Conan the Rebel

Conan the Rebel is a fantasy novel written by Poul Anderson featuring Robert E. Howard's sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. It was first published in paperback by Bantam Books in July 1980. It was reprinted once by Bantam (1981) and twice by Ace Books (1988, 1991). The first hardcover edition was published by Tor Books in 2001; a trade paperback followed from the same publisher in 2003. The first British edition was published by Sphere Books in 1988.

Crom (fictional deity)

Crom is a fictional deity in Robert E. Howard's fantasy tales of the Hyborian Age. He is recognized by the lead character Conan, and his proto-Celtic Cimmerian people.

The name Crom is probably derived from the ancient Celtic deity Crom Cruach or Crom Dubh.

GURPS Conan

GURPS Conan is a sourcebook and a series of solo adventures for GURPS.

Jewels of Gwahlur (collection)

Jewels of Gwahlur is a 1979 collection of two fantasy short stories written by Robert E. Howard featuring his sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. The book was published in 1979 by Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc. as volume VIII of their deluxe Conan set. The title story originally appeared in the magazine Weird Tales. "The Snout in the Dark" is the original fragment of a story that Howard never completed. It first appeared, completed by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, in the collection Conan of Cimmeria.

Queen of the Black Coast (collection)

Queen of the Black Coast is a 1978 collection of two fantasy short stories written by Robert E. Howard featuring his sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. The book was published in 1978 by Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc. as volume VII of their deluxe Conan set. The title story originally appeared in the magazine Weird Tales. "The Vale of Lost Women" first appeared in The Magazine of Horror.

Rogues in the House (collection)

Rogues in the House is a 1976 collection of two fantasy short stories written by Robert E. Howard featuring his sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. The book was published in 1976 by Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc. as volume VI of their deluxe Conan set. The title story originally appeared in the magazine Weird Tales. "The Frost–Giant's Daughter" is the original version of the story that first appeared, edited by L. Sprague de Camp, in the magazine Fantasy Fiction.

Shadows in the Moonlight (story)

"Shadows in the Moonlight" 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 in April 1934. Howard originally named his story "Iron Shadows in the Moon". It's set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age and concerns Conan escaping to a remote island in the Vilayet Sea where he encounters the Red Brotherhood, a skulking creature, and mysterious iron statues.

The story was republished in the collections Conan the Barbarian (Gnome Press, 1954) and Conan the Freebooter (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) and Conan of Cimmeria: Volume One (1932-1933) (Del Rey, 2003).

The Coming of Conan

The Coming of Conan is a collection of eight fantasy short stories by American writer Robert E. Howard, featuring his sword and sorcery heroes Kull and Conan the Barbarian, together with the first part of his pseudo-history of the "Hyborian Age" in which the Conan tales were set. It was first published in hardcover in the United States by Gnome Press in 1953 and by Boardman Books in the United Kingdom in 1954. The stories originally appeared in the 1930s in the fantasy magazine Weird Tales. The collection never saw publication in paperback; instead, its component stories were split up and distributed among other "Kull" and "Conan" collections.

The Complete Chronicles of Conan

The Complete Chronicles of Conan: Centenary Edition is a collection of fantasy short stories written by Robert E. Howard featuring his sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. The book was published in 2006 by Gollancz and is an omnibus of their earlier collections The Conan Chronicles, Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle and The Conan Chronicles, Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon, though the stories are rearranged. The collection is edited by Stephen Jones and was issued to celebrate the centenary of Howard's birth. Most of the stories originally appeared in the magazines The Phantagraph, Weird Tales, Super-Science Fiction, Magazine of Horror, Fantasy Fiction, Fantasy Magazine and The Howard Collector.

The Conan Chronicles

The Conan Chronicles is a 1989 omnibus collection of three fantasy collections by American writers Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, featuring Howard's seminal sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian, published by Sphere Books. The component collections had originally been published by Lancer Books in 1967, 1968 and 1969, and later reissued by Ace Books. The omnibus collection was followed by The Conan Chronicles 2.

The Conan Chronicles, 1

The Conan Chronicles: Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle is a collection of fantasy short stories written by Robert E. Howard featuring his sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. The book was published in 2000 by Gollancz as eighth volume of their Fantasy Masterworks series. The book, edited by Stephen Jones, presents the stories in their internal chronological order. Most of the stories originally appeared in the magazines The Phantagraph, Weird Tales, Super-Science Fiction, Magazine of Horror and Fantasy Fiction.

The Devil in Iron

"The Devil in Iron" is one of the original stories by Robert E. Howard about Conan the Cimmerian, first published in Weird Tales in August 1934. Howard earned $115 for the publication of this story.The plot concerns the resurrection of a mythical demon due to the theft of a sacred dagger, and an unrelated trap that lures Conan to the island fortress roamed by the demon. Due to its plot loopholes and borrowed elements from "Iron Shadows in the Moon", some Howard scholars claim this story is the weakest of the early Conan tales.

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