Monday, July 07, 2014

Conan: The Hour of the Dragon (Addendum): The Platypus Reads Part CCLXX

A thought occurred to me while going over my previous reviews of Robert E. Howard's Conan stories: "how does The Hour of the Dragon show Conan's continuing moral evolution?".  Howard's first story, The Phoenix on the Sword, depicts Conan as an enlightened monarch who has delivered the people of Aquilonia from oppression.  As Howard transitions in the stories that follow to discuss Conan's younger years, his hero becomes increasingly selfish, violent, and lustful.  This "Conan the Reaver" was meant to sell, but it also created a plausible moral trajectory for the character.  By the time we get to The Valley of Lost Women, we see that Conan does have moral compunctions that grow out of his primitive "warrior's code."  As Howard pushed on to writing longer Conan stories, this moral germ began to grow.  In The People of the Black Circle we see Conan feeling a genuine sense of responsibility for the tribesmen he governs.  He has learned moderation and is beginning his transformation into a leader capable of governing an Empire.  The Hour of the Dragon brings Conan back full circle to The Phoenix on the Sword.  We see Conan absorbed with the just ruling of his people.  Even more significant for the character's moral development, we see him twice offered an opportunity to return to his former life either as the builder of a new empire with the aid of the Poitainians or as a return to Amra of the black corsairs.  In both cases, Conan's sense of duty and the proper bounds of rule cause him to reject the temptations of the past and stay true to his quest to rescue his people from foreign domination.  The book ends with a final acceptance of duty over personal autonomy when Conan vows to marry Zenobia.

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