Cover of Weird Tales magazine 1935
Shadows in Zamboula is a classic Robert E. Howard tale of Conan the Barbarian. I read it to get my head in the right space for crafting a “Sword and Sorcery” short story, and I wasn’t disappointed. Howard’s Conan is the best version of the character ever, even after eighty or so years.
The tale was first published in 1935, and I accessed it as a free eBook through The Gutenberg Project (yes, the original cover of “Weird Tales” in which the story appeared is provocative by today’s standards).
Howard’s popular barbarian is lured into trouble once again by a beautiful woman, that is after being nearly captured and consumed by cannibals. His adversaries are black Africans (as we’d understand them today), and relative to the mid-1930s, the description of them might be considered racist (in the 21st century). That aside, the story is high adventure all the way. The swordplay is at its finest, and at the end, Conan outsmarts as well as outfights both his enemies and his supposed allies.
© Sue Vincent
It had finally come, the first real snow of winter. Robert Jeffries knew she would come with it, as she had ever since they’d met ten years ago. He had only been fifteen then. He’d gotten into another argument with Mom and stormed out the door and into the snow. He wasn’t thinking and he was over a mile from their cabin, with the town a three-hour walk away, when he realized he wasn’t going to make it back.
His feet and hands were numb. He was trembling. The sun was low on the western horizon. The worst thing was that he was lost. He’d stumbled, falling off the path, gotten turned around, disoriented. If he couldn’t make it back home by dark, he was going to die.
“Man-child, what brings you out into my Father’s domain so ill prepared?”
Robert had been hanging onto the trunk of a tree so he wouldn’t collapse in the snow. He looked toward the voice. If she had a place nearby, he was saved.
Then he saw her.
If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter, old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.
The snow muffled everything around Gary, making it seem as if the world around him were slowly disappearing, becoming inaudible and invisible, except for the white.
He hadn’t planned on walking this far away from the road. He’d driven up to the mountains on an impulse. Bored and disgusted with the “sameness” of each day of his life, he craved something different. He saw the online weather report about snow in the mountains, just a short drive from where he worked, got up and left.
His co-workers will get along fine without him for an afternoon. It’s not like he really adds very much to the team. Probably not even his boss will miss him.
Fortunately, he had a pair of snow boots and a heavy coat in the trunk of his car. The snow on the ground was already up to his ankles and getting deeper. It was like walking on magic. He didn’t even notice the effort it took to move one foot ahead of the other.
The trees were getting more numerous, but their natural flocking rendered them silent sentinels in a land of snow and ice, like ancient Frost Giants. Now all he needed was Aesir, beautiful, naked Aesir, the Frost Giant’s daughter, for a companion.