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Conan’s Mating Standards
A Survey of the Fictional Barbarian’s Leading Ladies, Love Interests and Estrogenic Impedimenta


Originally published as Conan’s Dance Card, updated with new entries

As a masculine character—indeed the most masculine character in fiction—Conan is often seen through his interaction with a wide range of women, from objectified sexual property to haughty royals, and often through their very eyes—female portals into the masculine soul. Below is a brief guide to these female characters provided for a fellow author.

V.J. Waks and I were discussing our next book review, trying to nail down which Tarzan titles we had. Victoria was quizzing me about Edgar Rice Burroughs’ depictions of Jane as I had read all 24 volumes to her two or three. She suggested we stick with major franchises that have been made into film and substitute Conan for Tarzan until we both acquire the same Tarzan volume.

Having only experienced Conan through the movies, Victoria began quizzing me about the leading ladies in the series. I began rattling them off: the goddess he tries to rape, the captive white girl he blackmails into having sex with him in return for murdering his black allies and freeing her, the slave girl who could dance, the slave girl who was drunk, the slave girl who was bait, the slave girl who could not act…

Reminding myself that I was speaking with a woman who has given talks to women’s studies groups and noting a long pause on the Left Coast end of the line, I said, “Belit, The Queen of the Black Coast, her.”

Victoria than suggested, “You know, kiddo, I could use some context. How does Belit fit in with the other women in Conan’s life?”

I personally have no idea why Conan is so easily swayed by women even though he rarely wakes up next to one, or why I still read his adventures. But I do know that if I want to continue impressing Victoria with my massive intellectual capacity and maybe even land that “Good job kiddo” phone call after this feat of erudite bibliography she just suggested, I better make like a man of action and get crackin’.

The stories are listed in the order in which they were written: with the babe [a note in brackets if she was a viewpoint character], and her occupation, followed by my scholarly commentary.

1. The Phoenix on the Sword: no babe, even though he’s King, which totally sucks.

2. The Frost Giant’s Daughter: Atali, divine temptress, in an overprotective sibling yarn that could have happened in West Virginia.

3. The God in the Bowl: no babe, even though he is a young criminal—Yo that can’t be right yo!

4. The Tower of the Elephant: no babe yet, possibly explaining his antisocial behavior.

5. The Scarlet Citadel: “Soft white hands that caressed him, red lips that had been pressed to his, dainty white bosoms that quivered to his hot, fierce kisses, [their skin] white as ivory and pink as young petals…” So did Robert E. Howard describe Conan’s harem as Conan sat in the dungeon of the sorcerer, a sorcerer who had promised to skin Conan’s slave girls alive and use their skin for the pages of his necromantic books.

6. Queen of the Black Coast: Belit, pirate queen—definitely not gay.

7. Black Colossus: Yasmela [viewpoint character], sovereign princess of a small kingdom beleaguered by a militant desert prophet in need of a berserk sword for hire.

8. Iron Shadows in the Moon: Olivia, contested sexual property.

9. Xuthal of the Dusk: Natala, contested, adorable, much lusted after—even by another woman—and thoroughly helpless sexual property [Victoria, I find this story offensive to my strong feminist sensibilities].

10. The Pool of the Black One: Sancha [viewpoint character], pirate captain’s sexual property [not for long with Conan the murder-for-sex specialist and future regicide among the crew] who discreetly sunbathes on the deck in front of the crew and has no idea why they fist fight all the time

11. Rogues in the House: nameless ‘wench’ and soon-to-be common law widow to a punk who turned Conan over to the authorities

12. The Vale of Lost Women: Livia, white slave to a savage black tribe which Conan promises to betray and slaughter if…

13. The Devil in Iron: Octavia of the ‘resilient flesh,’ slave girl bait for Conan, whose numerous enemies have somehow stumbled upon his fatal weakness, and an unnamed, drug addicted girl.

14. The Servants of Bit-Yakin: Muriela, dancing girl, who needs to choose her male associates more carefully.

15. Beyond the Black River: no babe, just lots of hated enemies to slaughter.

16. The Black Stranger: Belesa [viewpoint character], daughter of a count hiding in exile and not a love interest, as there are too many hated enemies to kill for a homicidal savage to take time out for the softer things in life.

17. The Man-Eaters of Zamboula: Zabibi [viewpoint character], a naked, evasive girl being pursued by cannibals down a dark alley, and since her clothes are already off, Conan has no need to inquire as to her name, just naming her ‘girl’ and offering to pile more corpses at her feet for such considerations as one might only guess…

18. Red Nails: Valeria [viewpoint character], mercenary and murderess who despises Conan but could use a human juicing machine following her around in hopes of—Yo this dude is like a one-eyed dog in a meat market! Don't any of these ancient white dudes have any game? Yo, Dude's dating strategy consists of killing people! No wonder this planet is so messed up.

19. The People of the Black Circle: Yasmina Devi [viewpoint character], princess abducted by Conan for ransom—in his defense, this can be loosely interpreted as a date if you are a drunk Albanian soccer hooligan.

20. The Hour of the Dragon: Zenobia, slave girl war-groupie, promoted to Queen by Conan the regicide usurping bachelor—kind of sweet, don’t you think?

21. A Witch Shall Be Born: Taramis [viewpoint character], Queen of a small kingdom beleaguered by sorcery and betrayal in need of a captain of the guard tough enough to survive a crucifixion and still turn her enemies into dog meat.

22. Untitled Synopsis: an anonymous girl whom Conan was drinking with after a gem heist.

23. Untitled Fragment: a naked, delirious girl on a battlefield, whom Conan decides to put out of her misery with his sword until she, “whimpered like a child in pain.”

24. Tananda: a cruel aristocrat and Diana, a slave girl who was in, “need of learning by means of a slipper…”

In retrospect, Conan does not come off as much of a ladies’ man. The high class women seem to slip through his grasp like Jessica Alba avoiding a love scene with Johnny Trejo in Machete. Conan pretty much needs slut-easy dating arrangements to avoid paying for sex outright with coin or through murder. His only romantic relationship is with Belit, and she was clearly a criminal psychopath. Honestly Victoria, if Belit and Conan move in next door, I suggest you short-sell.

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