The Conan and Robert E. Howard Website


An Introduction to the Conan Chronologies
by Edward A. Waterman


The first chronology or biographical history of Robert E. Howard's fictional character, Conan the Cimmerian, was written by two Howard fans, P. S. Miller and John D. Clark. Miller sent a rough draft of their essay to Robert E. Howard shortly before his death in 1936. Flattered that someone would be "so interested in Conan as to work out an outline of his career," Howard then reviewed the essay, made some small corrections, and praised Miller's efforts stating that the timeline followed his visualization of Conan's career "pretty closely." Miller and Clark made the corrections indicated by Howard, added an additional Conan tale, and titled their creation "A Probable Outline of Conan's Career." It was first published in a fan magazine named The Hyborian Age in 1938. Among other things, the chronology attempted to set out the sequence of the Conan stories according to the character's age.

The essay was next published in parts between 1952 and 1954 for the Gnome Press books featuring Conan and edited by John D. Clark and L. Sprague de Camp: The Sword of Conan, 1952; King Conan, 1953; The Coming of Conan, 1953; and Conan the Barbarian, 1954 . Here, the essay was re-titled "An Informal Biography of Conan the Cimmerian" and excerpts were used as a bridge before and between each of the stories.

It is interesting to note that "A Probable Outline of Conan's Career" was not published again in its original form until 35 years after the initial publication of the essay in The Hyborian Age. In this printing, which occurred in Marvel's Savage Tales #2 in 1973, the original title was used, or rather, restored. The last time that this essay was printed in its original form was in Marvel's Savage Sword of Conan #16, published in 1977.

After this, the essay was somewhat emended (and even later, considerably altered) by L. Sprague de Camp, and retitled again "An Informal Biography of Conan the Cimmerian", with de Camp's name added as a co-author along with Miller and Clark. Excerpts from this appear as the introductory matter before the stories in the Ace series of Conan books, and can also be found in The Blade of Conan published by Ace Books in 1979.

The essay was again "rewritten" by L. Sprague de Camp and re-titled, "Conan the Indestructible", published in Conan the Raider by Tor Books in 1986. This was an ongoing essay that included the Bantam and Tor Books' Conan pastiches, and forever altered the Conan chronology by adding the storyline of the movies Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer as an "official" alternate account of Conan's early history. It is interesting to note that merely a casual read of the essay will reveal that L. Sprague de Camp blatantly plagiarized Miller and Clark's work, yet he nonetheless unceremoniously dropped Miller's and Clark's names from the byline, completely and without mention, and took full credit for the essay himself.

With the advent of nearly 50 new Conan pastiches published by Tor Books, the Conan chronology took on its most recent form. Instead of a prose style, it was organized in a table-like format, re-written and updated by Conan pasticher, Robert Jordan, to include all the Tor novels and using excerpts from the previous chronological essays. Jordan couldn't decide where some stories should be placed within the chronology, so he placed a few stories in more than one location, giving alternate times for when they occurred. This essay was titled, "A Conan Chronology by Robert Jordan", and can be found in the book, Conan the Defiant by Steve Perry, Tor Books, 1987. This essay was later used for the basis of a Conan chronology published in the GURPS Conan Sourcebook, in 1989, for a role playing game based on the Conan character. Although not an "official" chronology, the GURPS version is the most recent Conan chronology published to date.

Two recent Conan character chronologies that have only been published on the internet merit attention and praise. The first is essentially an updated extension of the Robert Jordan chronology by William Galen Gray that includes all of the Conan pastiches to date. The second is a new look at the chronology itself by Dale Rippke that is an excellent example of continuing scholarship and interest concerning the ficitonal life of Robert E. Howard's literary character, Conan the Cimmerian.

Presented here at The Barbarian Keep are the most important versions of the chronologies, in-depth examinations of the literary issues surrounding the chronologies, and historical documents that show the evolution of thought about the Conan character chronology in general. Enjoy, by Crom!


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