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Conan The Barbarian Intro Narrative Essay

Conan the Barbarian (Universal Studios, 1982) is a feature length film based on the character Conan created by Robert E. Howard.

Directed by: John Milius.Written by: John Milius, and Oliver Stone
Thief. Warrior. Gladiator. King.(taglines)

Conan's Father[edit]

  • Fire and wind come from the sky, from the gods of the sky, but Crom is your god. Crom, and he lives in the earth. Once giants lived in the earth, Conan, and in the darkness of chaos they fooled Crom, and they took from him the enigma of steel. Crom was angered, and the earth shook, and fire and wind struck down these giants, and threw their bodies into the waters. But in their rage, the gods forgot the secret of steel, and left it on the battlefield. We, who found it, are just men: not gods, not giants, just men. And the secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle, Conan, you must learn its discipline. For no one, no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts... This you can trust. [points to his sword]
    • Conan's father explaining to him the mystery of steel.

Conan[edit]

  • Crom! I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that today, two stood against many. That's what's important! Valor pleases you, Crom; so grant me this one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to hell with you!
  • He is strong. If I die I have to go before him, and he will ask me "What is the riddle of steel?" And if I don't know it he will cast me out of Valhalla and laugh at me! That's Crom - strong in his mountain!
    • to Subotai about Crom, his god
  • For us, there is no spring. Just the wind that smells fresh before the storm.
    • This line is in the extended version of the film.
  • Does it always smell like this? How does the wind ever get in here?
  • CROM!!!
  • (When asked, "What is best in life?") To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!

The Witch[edit]

  • There's warmth and fire... Do you not wish to warm yourself, by my fire?
  • They said you'd come... From the North, a man of great strength... A conqueror. A man who would some day be king by his own hands. One who would crush the snakes of the earth.
  • There is a price, barbarian!

King Osric[edit]

  • There comes a time, thief, when the jewels cease to sparkle, when the gold loses its luster, when the throne room becomes a prison, and all that is left is a father's love for his child.
  • What daring! What outrageousness! What insolence! What arrogance! ... I salute you.
  • She follows him as a slave. Seeking the truth of her soul. As if I, could not give it to her.

Subotai[edit]

  • He is Conan, the Cimmerian. He won't cry. So I cry for him.
  • Civilization...ancient and wicked.
  • (When a beggar says to Conan and Subotai "A pittance to protect you from evil?") I am evil! (laughing)
  • You're too big to be a thief!

Akiro the Wizard/Narrator[edit]

  • Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis, and the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of. And unto this, Conan, destined to wear the jeweled crown of Aquilonia upon a troubled brow. It is I, his chronicler, who alone can tell thee of his saga. Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!
  • He did not care anymore. Life and death - the same. Only that the crowd would be there to greet him with howls of lust and fury. He began to realize his sense of worth. He mattered. In time, his victories could not easily be counted. He was taken to the east, a great prize, where the war masters would teach him the deepest secrets. Language and writing were also made available, the poetry of Kitai, the philosophy of Sung; and he also came to know the pleasures of women, when he was bred to the finest stock. But always, there remained the discipline of steel.
  • All manner of pleasures and diversions were indulged. Wealth can be wonderful, but you know - success can test one's mettle as surely as the strongest adversary.
  • I'm a wizard, mind you. This place is kept by powerful gods and spirits of kings. Harm my flesh and you will have to deal with the dead!
  • The children of Doom. Doom's children. They told my lord the way to the Mountain of Power. They told him to throw down his sword and return to the earth. Hah! Time enough for the earth in the grave.
  • So, did Conan return the wayward daughter of King Osric to her home. And having no further concern, he and his companions sought adventure in the West. Many wars and feuds did Conan fight. Honor and fear were heaped upon his name and, in time, he became a king by his own hand. And this story shall also be told.

Thulsa Doom[edit]

  • Where is the Eye of the Serpent? Rexor said that you gave it to a girl; probably for a mere night's pleasure. Such a loss. People have no grasp of what they do.
  • Infidel defilers. They shall all drown in lakes of blood. Now they will know why they are afraid of the dark. Now they will learn why they fear the night.
  • Purging is at last at hand! The Day of Doom is here! All that is evil, all their allies; your parents, your leaders, those who would call themselves your judges; those who have lied and corrupted the Earth - they shall all be cleansed! You, my children, are the water that will wash away all that has gone before. In your hand, you hold my light, the gleam in the eye of Set. This flame will burn away the darkness, burn you the way to paradise!
  • [his last words] My child, you have come to me, my son. For who now is your father if it is not me? I am the well spring, from which you flow. When I am gone, you will have never been. What would your world be, without me? My son.

Valeria[edit]

  • Do you want to live forever?
  • I have never had so much as now. All my life I've been alone. Many times I faced my death with no one to know. I would look into the huts and the tents of others in the coldest dark and I would see figures holding each other in the night, but I always passed by. You and I, we have warmth. That's so hard to find in this world. Please, let someone else pass by in the night.
  • All the gods, they cannot sever us. If I were dead and you were still fighting for life, I'd come back from the darkness. Back from the pit of hell to fight at your side.
  • To the hellfires with Thulsa Doom. He's evil; a sorcerer who can summon demons. His followers' only purpose is to die in his service... Thousands of them.

Dialogue[edit]

Khitan General: My fear is that my sons will never understand me... Hao! Dai ye! We won again! [Cheers] This is good. But what is best in life?
Khitan Warrior: The open steppe, a fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, and the wind in your hair.
Khitan General: Wrong! Conan, what is best in life?
Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!
Khitan General: [Cheers]...That is good.
(Note that this is actually a paraphrased quote from Genghis Khan)

The Witch: They said you'd come... From the North, a man of great strength... A conqueror. A man who would some day be king by his own hands. One who would crush the snakes of the earth.
Conan: Snakes? Did you say snakes?
The Witch:... What is it you seek?
Conan: A standard. A symbol. Perhaps on a shield. Two snakes coming together... Facing each other! But they're one.
The Witch: With... With a sun and a moon below. Black Sun. Black Moon.
Conan: Yes...
The Witch:... There is a price, barbarian!

Subotai: Food. Food! I have not eaten for days.
Conan: And who says you will?
Subotai: Give me food so I have strength when the wolves come. Let me die not in hunger, but in combat.
Conan: Who are you?
Subotai: I am Subotai - thief and archer. I am Hyrkanian, of the great order of Krelath.
Conan: So what are you doing here?
Subotai: [Holds up chains] Dinner for wolves. [They both laugh]

Thulsa Doom: You broke into my house, stole my property, murdered my servants, and my PETS! And that is what grieves me the most! You killed my snake. Thorgrim is beside himself with grief! He raised that snake from the time it was born.
Conan: You killed my mother! You killed my father, you killed my people! You took my father's sword!
Thulsa Doom: Ah. It must have been when I was younger. There was a time, boy, when I searched for steel, when steel meant more to me than gold or jewels.
Conan: The riddle... of steel?
Thulsa Doom: Yes! You know what it is, don't you, boy? Shall I tell you? It's the least I can do. Steel isn't strong boy, flesh is stronger! Look around you. There, on the rocks; that beautiful girl. [Points to a teenaged girl on a nearby cliff] Come to me, my child... [Beckons to her]
[The acolyte plunges from the rock to her death.]
Thulsa Doom: THAT is strength, boy! THAT is power! The strength and power of flesh! What is steel, compared to the hand that wields it? Look at the strength in your body, the desire in your heart, I gave you this! Such a waste... Contemplate this on the Tree of Woe. Crucify him!

Conan: Crom laughs at your four winds. Laughs from his mountain
Subotai: Ha, my god is stronger--he is the everlasting sky. Your god lives underneath it.

Valeria: Two fools that laugh at death. [to Conan and Subotai]
Valeria: Do you know what horrors lie behind that wall? [to Conan]
Conan: No.
Valeria: Then you go first.

Taglines[edit]

  • Thief. Warrior. Gladiator. King.
  • He conquered an empire with his sword. She conquered HIM with her bare hands.

Major Cast[edit]

Arnold Schwarzenegger — Conan
James Earl Jones — Thulsa Doom
Max von Sydow — King Osric
Sandahl Bergman — Valeria
Cassandra Gava — The Witch
Gerry Lopez — Subotai
Mako — Akiro the Wizard/Narrator

Notes[edit]

  1. History, Fiction, and Germany: Writing the Nineteenth-Century Nation, Wayne State University Press, ISBN 0814332005, p. 109

External links[edit]

Given the mythic nature of Conan The Barbarian's eponymous musclebound hero it is perhaps not surprising that the film itself has generated a greater than average mythology. There is the story, for example, of toy company Mattel who were intending to market a range of Conan action figures until they saw the blood-soaked final product and opted out. By then, however, they were lumbered with several hundred thousand effigies of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Desperate to recoup some money, Mattel revamped the dolls and came up with a very different kind of icon: He-Man.

Then there's the one about how Schwarzenegger and Conan producer Dino De Laurentiis first met. At the time the Italian was trying to cast the lead of Flash Gordon and believed that the then largely unknown bodybuilder might be just the man for the job. As Schwarzenegger biographer Nigel Andrews later wrote, "The meeting is said to have lasted one minute 40 seconds. According to Arnold, Dino had time only to comment, 'You have an accent! I cannot use you for Flash-a Gordon! Nah! Flash-a Gordon has no accent!' Arnold retorted, 'I have an accent? I can't even understand you!'" De Laurentiis, however, is not a man to bear a grudge — at least not when doing so might stand in the way of making money — and had few problems with the casting of Arnold as the decidedly un-American Conan.

Ironically, Sam J Jones, who was eventually cast as Flash Gordon, had his entire part dubbed by another actor. The original Depression-era Conan comic had been written by Robert E. Howard who, like Schwarzenegger, transformed himself through bodybuilding from skinny pup into an adult hulk before blowing his brains out at the age of 30. By then, however, Conan's rampaging his way through ancient lands, beating to a pulp as many people as he could get his hands on, had captured the public's imagination.

And who better to put him there than John Milius, who had already proved his empathy for myth with films like Dillinger (1973) and The Wind And The Lion (1975) But, after showing initial interest, Milius disappeared to make his surf epic Big Wednesday (1978). For a while Conan co-writer Oliver Stone was in the frame to direct. Other names considered included completed work on Big Wednesday, the director re-attached himself to the project. Filming eventually began in January 1981.

But the shoot would prove to be a difficult one, in part due to the number of stunts involved but also because, as De Laurentiis had feared years before, Schwarzenegger's accent rendered some passages of dialogue virtually incomprehensible. Ultimately, many of the actor's lines were redubbed or cut completely. Moreover, while the Austrian Oak's swordplay proved Ralph Bakshi, Ridley Scott and Hal Needham who directed Schwarzenegger in The Villain. "I read the script," recalls Needham, "I didn't understand it. I said, 'Shit Arnold, I can't do this.' Big mistake. 'Cos I haven't been asked back to do anything else."

Needham's loss would prove to be Milius' gain when, having impressive, his foes tended to be less so, in particular a giant snake that, even in pre-CGI times, couldn't have looked less realistic if it had "Made in Taiwan" stamped across its scales. Yet, the seriousness with which Milius took proceedings — a good indication of which is his prefacing the whole shebang with a quote from Nietszche — elevated the enterprise far beyond both its pulp origins and technical limitations. The result, which finds Schwarzenegger tracking down the snake cult leader who killed his parents, may at times border on camp but it is never tongue-in-cheek. In fact, the director had originally planned on making a film, "As serious as Star Wars," and, even if he never quite achieved those lofty heights, the end product remains a truly epic piece of action-heavy myth-making. Indeed, seen today, Conan eerily resembles such epics as El Cid (1961), Ben-Hur (1959) or virtually any other vintage Charlton Heston movie you'd care to mention — a similarity that is by no means coincidental.

"I told Arnold, 'look at Charlton Heston,'" says Milius. '"He's always bigger than life. And if you look at his career he was very smart in picking things to play that way. In The Greatest Story Ever Told he's John The Baptist — and he plays him like Conan!'"

Still immensely popular 40 years on, Conan was always going to be a natural for the big screen.

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