“Iron Shadows in the Moon” is one of the original short stories starring Conan. First published in Weird Tales magazine in April 1934, but then under the name “Shadows in the Moonlight”. Howard originally named his story “Iron Shadows in the Moon”. Howard got $120.

The story is set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age and concerns Conan escaping to a remote island in the Vilayet Sea where he encounters the Red Brotherhood, a skulking creature, and mysterious iron statues.

Alternate title:


Plot summary

Olivia, having fled from her captivity in the city of Akif, is finally cornered near a marsh on the edge of the Vilayet Sea. Olivia’s pursuer and former master is a sadistic rogue named Shah Amurath. Suddenly, before Amurath can lay his hands on Olivia, a figure rises from the reeds. The newcomer has witnessed all his friends betrayed and treacherously cut down to a man before escaping into the marshes. There, he has hidden out for so long he is nearly mad. The newcomer quickly kills Amurath, as he and Olivia climb aboard a raft while deciding to lie low for a while. Only then does the stranger identify himself: Conan the Cimmerian.

The couple sail towards a dark and apparently deserted island, where they spend the night sleeping near ancient ruins decorated with remarkably lifelike statues. Olivia has a bizarre dream where she witnesses a tribe of men being transformed into the statues by a vengeful god, and is convinced they will come to life in the moonlight. Conan is less than convinced by Olivia’s fears; he’s more concerned by whatever it is lurking in the jungle, lobbing giant boulders down at the two fugitives.

Eventually, a pirate ship arrives on the island. Leaving Olivia hidden in the foliage, Conan challenges their captain, an old rival. He slays the pirate captain, but is knocked unconscious by a stone from another pirate’s sling. The pirates capture Conan and drag him to the ruins, where they discuss his fate, before passing out drunk. Meanwhile, Olivia narrowly escapes from a dark figure which pursues her close to the ruins.

Olivia sneaks past the drunken pirates and frees Conan. Soon, Conan slays the dark figure pursuing Olivia, a giant ape, which had also been hurling the boulders at them. As Conan recovers from his battle with the ape, he hears the beginning of a horrific slaughter back at the ruins.

The two quickly head back to the deserted pirate ship. As Conan prepares the ship to sail, a band of bruised and bewildered pirates appear while asking for his aid in leaving the “devil island”. Conan challenges the pirates and they accept him as their new captain. At the end, Olivia begs Conan to allow her to stay with him and he, laughing, accepts, saying he will make her into a “Queen of the Blue Sea”.

Published in

The L. Sprague de Camp edited version of this story appears in the following places:


Sources and links

Wikipedia, Howard Works.