“Crom! She’s alive!”
In about an hour I will be joining the guys from THE CROMCAST for a discussion of Robert E. Howard’s classic Conan story “The Jewels of Gwahlur”.
The story was first published in the March 1934 issue of WEIRD TALES; it has been reprinted many times since and has been adapted into comics twice over the years.
THE CROMCAST is a regular podcast featuring “the works of Robert E. Howard, his pop culture legacy, and other weird fiction.”
Already at the site you can listen to the Cromcast Crew’s discussion of classic Conan tales like “People of the Black Circle,” “The Devil in Iron,” and “Queen of Black Coast,” among others.
As a lifelong fan of Howard’s work (his CONAN and KULL stories are my favorites) I’m looking forward to joining Luke, Josh, and Jon as we discuss one of the last Conan stories written during REH’s 5-year period of chronicling the Cimmerian’s adventures.
Based on my own research (which may be incomplete), “Jewels” was either the 14th or 15th Conan story that Howard wrote, and there would only be a handful of others after this, including his only Conan novel HOUR OF THE DRAGON.
Howard’s original title for the story was “The Servants of Bit-Yakin”, a reference to the subhuman ghouls who inhabit the bowels of a ruined city in remote Keshan.
The story isn’t usually considered among Howard’s “top” Conan tales, but by this time Howard really knew what he was doing. Conan wasn’t a new idea anymore, and neither was the Hyborian Age with all its mysteries, monsters, and magicians.
“Jewels of Gwahlur” may be a tad light on the swordplay, but there is plenty to love about this tale which thrives on the powerful images created by Howard’s prose. There is so much skullduggery going on here that the plot becomes a huge “who’s fooling who?” gambit wherein several factions attempt to steal a cache of alien jewels from a lost “holy city” venerated by the Keshans.
This is a tale of Conan post-Belit, when he was roaming the black kingdoms of the southern world and drowning his grief in tribal wars and savage cultures. In “Jewels” he is basically working a “long con” on the rulers of Keshan. But so are two or three other factions, everybody out to locate and steal the legendary jewels right out from under the priests who guard them.
The tribes of Hyboria’s southern jungles are remarkably similar to those of the far north where Conan was raised. It’s no surprise that he navigates this treacherous and primal world with expert skill and feels right at home among the jungle tribes, since he is from a similar wilderness. The only thing missing in Keshan, Kush, Punt, and Zembabwei are the ice and snow of Conan’s native Cimmeria. He is a barbarian among savage kingdoms who are as warlike, superstitious, and primeval as his own homeland, if not moreso.
The holy jewels of the story are so precious they are about to spark a war among the jungle kingdoms, but Conan’s only goal is to grab them first and escape. Yet the presence of a beautiful young slave-girl from Corinthia, who is being used as a pawn by her captors, is a complication the Cimmerian didn’t anticipate. Could there be a Hyborian romance churning at the center of this caper?
A fantastic lost city; a hoard of jewels; a lost race of brutish cannibals; ruthless tribesmen; underground rivers; scheming priests and conniving politicians. “The Jewels of Gwahlur” has all this and more.
I will be sure to post here when the “Jewels of Gwahlur” podcast goes live. Until then visit THE CROMCAST site and listen to previous shows.