Back in 1999 when I ran the Conan.no website I posted several screenplays made by Steve (Ironhand) Block and Brian Bevel. I’m presenting them again here.
by Steve Block
These scripts were originally conceived as a protest against what the audiovisual media have done to REH’s Conan an attempt to show what a Conan screenplay oughtta be, that it is NOT impossible to adhere to REH’s original concept in a screenplay.
The 4 screenplays are intended to give the lie to the slander that Conan spent half his youth in slavery, by (1) showing a youth of Conan that does not conflict with REH’s original Conan bio, and (2) showing that only a strong family life, and the extended support of an entire village/tribal structure, could have produced the Conan we know and love.
In “The Birth of Conan”‘ I have taken some liberties with the “born on a battlefield” idea; Conan is born in the middle of a Vanir raid on his village. I use this opportunity to show what Cimmerians are made of what kind of stock Conan comes from.
Robert E. Howard wrote very little about the economy or tribal structure of Conan’s tribe, or Cimmerians in general, except to suggest, by his physical description of Cimmeria, that their life was very harsh, and to suggest, in a brief reference to the sack of Venarium, that Cimmerians were usually a disunited mob of quarrelsome tribes and clans.
This wasn’t enough when it came to writing a series of plays about Conan’s childhood. In order to depict Conan’s childhood experiences in any detail, I found it necessary to go in to some detail concerning the economy, ecology, and sociopolitical background of Conan’s village/tribe/clan/religion. I hope REH purists will forgive me for making these interpolations, but if I had skipped them, I wouldn’t have been able to do the job. If anyone can spot places where I could have adhered closer to REH’s line without sacrificing story detail or color or logic, I welcome suggestions (but reserve the right to ignore them).
Conan’s (grand)father is a blacksmith. This implies a heavy capital investment in heavy, bulky equipment which is not easy to transport, especially the continuous transportation of a nomadic lifestyle. Especially since Cimmeria, as described by Howard, does not lend itself to a mounted nomadic lifestyle a la plains-dwelling Mongols. Yet, in one place, Howard mentions “the area claimed and roved over by Conan’s clan”, implying at least a semi-nomadic existence. I have imagined that Conan’s tribe did, in fact, lead a semi-nomadic life. Their staple food source is herds of goats, supplemented by scratch agriculture and extensive hunting and trapping. Don’t think, that because a majority of Conan’s fellows herd goats, they are wimpy pastoralists. Scottish Highlanders herded sheep, when they weren’t occupied waging a centuries-long war against the armed might of England and their own lowland cousins. Afghan warriors raise goats for a living, but for entertainment, they drove the British Empire, and the Soviet Army, out of their country. These two examples, plus the American Indians, formed the model for my concept of Conan’s Cimmerian brothers, who, when not fighting the Vanir, the Hyperboreans, the Picts, and other Cimmerians, get to practice their martial skills against the starving wolves, panthers, and cave lions that would like to prey on their flocks.
During the winter, Conan’s tribe resides in the Winter Village, sturdy log cabins located amongst the foothills overlooking an alpine valley. In the dead of winter, the goats live in the village with the people, subsisting on stored fodder. In spring, the goats move down to the valley to graze on new grass; a few of the goatherds move down with them, and dwell in teepees, but most of the goatherds, especially heads of families, stay in the village and commute daily. As summer approaches, the flocks, and all the goatherds, migrate by easy stages to the High, or Summer pastures, high up on the mountainside, just below the treeline. They stay there throughout the heat of the summer, while the valley recovers from the spring grazing, moving from place to place along the mountainside, and setting up large teepees as the Summer, or High Village. The bulk of the populace lives in the High Village during this time, excepting pregnant women, the sick, and the very old. These, plus certain craftsmen who would have trouble moving heavy equipment up the mountain, stay in the Winter Village during the summer, and protect it from animal and human vandalism. During this part of the year, boys who are not occupied tending goats serve as couriers and gophers, carrying messages and small quantities of important supplies up and down, and back and forth. When Fall comes, the flocks move back down to the valley, where a new crop of grass has sprung up. As Fall turns to Winter, everybody moves back to the Winter Village.
The words of the Voiceover in the Prologue are taken from The Hyborian Age by Robert E. Howard.
The Towel of the Elephant
Unlike most of the other satires, which are satires of pastiches, not of REH’s Conan, this may appear to be a direct satire of Tower of the Elephant. However, it is in reality a satire of the Keller Klonan show. The use of towels was inspired by a post by Barry Fletcher, whom I envision as an REH fan who types with white-hot passion, despite hands like hams and fingers the size of bananas. But the reverent treatment of legendary towels, and the introduction of the new character, Savann, satirize Keller. The treatment of Conan himself is designed to show that even in a satire, a properly depicted Conan is more like the real Conan than Keller’s Klonan.
King Clonan: Clown of Iron
King Clonan: Clown of Iron is a parody of Milius’ first script for King Conan: Crown of Iron, which was ultimately rejected by the Warschawski brothers, for obvious reasons. In this parody I satirize Milius’ pitiful version of Conan, whom I have renamed Clonan, by plunking down my version of the real Conan right into the story, for purposes of contrast and comparison.
Conan the Retired
This was inspired by some discussions on the Cimmerian aging process, and what kind of attitude Conan had.
Conan the big, dumb barbarian
This one was inspired by one of my interminable arguments with Lord Allsop about Conan’s exercise program.
Who pisseth on my saddle
This is the first of my Keller parodies. People on the Keller message board were so mysified by the show that I actually had to explain what was wrong with the scene as Keller presented it.
This vignette was, I think, the very first script I ever wrote. It was in response to the KEG Klonan the Adventurer episode called “THE CHILD”. In this ep, Klonan and his merry band rescue a pregnant woman who promptly delivers unto them a child, then dies. It turns out that the baby is a prophesied redeemer who was destined to save the world. Klonan and his friends keep the child alive at great trouble and inconvenience (without milk!), and finally (reluctantly!!!!!!!!)turn it over to a group of monks headed up by Sister Red Sonya the war nun (You think I’m joking?), who will take proper care of it and make sure it fulfills its destiny. Various posters to the Keller Message Board identified the child as Crom, Mitra, a premature Jesus, or Max Keller.
The Snow Devil
A couple of years ago I transcribed REH’s Frost Giant’s Daughter into a screenplay. It was sort of in reaction to Milius’ cribbing of scenes from REH’s Conan stories for his movies. Like Tu (remember Tu?) I wanted to show that an REH story made a perfectly good basis for a screenplay; it was not necessary to change Conan beyond recoginition.
I re-wrote the narrative to provide clear stage directions and omit the “mind-reading” effect. But I copied REH’s dialog slavishly, changing only one single word throughout the play. I leave as a challenge to the reader to see if he can find my one-word change in the dialog.
“Conan” ©Copyright, Conan Properties, Inc. “Conan The Mighty” ©Copyright 1996, William Galen Gray.