Conan of Venarium  
Conan of Venarium.jpg
Author Harry Turtledove
Editor Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Cover artist Julie Bell
Language English
Series Conan the Barbarian
Genre(s) Fantasy
Publisher Tor
Publication date 2003

Conan of Venarium (Tor, 2003) is a fantasy novel written by Harry Turtledove and edited by Teresa Nielsen Hayden, featuring Robert E. Howard's seminal sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian.

The story is set in Conan's youth, not long after his people, the Cimmerians, were conquered by Aquilonia. The Aquilonians establish the outpost of Venarium. The novel then describes the events leading up to the fall of Venarium and Conan's important role in bringing about that crucial victory. While these events are referenced in Howard's canon, Turltedove's novel does not strictly maintain continuity with Howard's tales.

Plot summary[]

An Aquilonian army marches across the border of Bossonia into southern Cimmeria under the command of one Count Stercus. We soon learn that, although an able commander and warrior, Stercus has fallen from favor with King Numedides for his lecherous ways involving adolescents back in Aquilonia. His banishment to the frontier is, apparently, part of his penance.

Word of the invasion passes through Cimmeria as the army continues to press north, building forts each evening where they camp. Eventually Stercus is satisfied with his advance and calls a halt.

The last fort constructed is called Venarium.

We are introduced to a 12-year-old boy named Conan, living with his family in a village called Duthil, located north of Venarium, about a day's travel by foot. Conan's family consists of his father, Mordec the blacksmith and his mother, Verina. Conan’s mother has been sick for as long as Conan can remember with tuberculosis.

Duthil is a good sized village, sporting a smith, a miller, a weaver, a tanner and other cottage industry. A number of farmers and herdsmen use Duthil as a hub for commerce and a source of additional labour at harvest. At least 2 homes in Duthil have more than one room.

Word of the invasion soon reaches Duthil. Mordec and Balarg, the two leading Elders, determine how to best continue spreading the word to other villages. We also hear, at this time, that Conan bears more than a passing affection for Balarg's daughter, Tarla, who is near his age.

Before long, the men of a handful of Clans are gathering to repel the invading Aquilonians. Mordec readies himself to join them. He and Conan come to blows over Conan's insistence that he is old enough to join in the battle.

The Clans surround the fort and mount a fierce attack but are scattered by a charge of Aquilonian cavalry as they are about to breach the gate. The Cimmerians break and run, many of them being ridden down and killed. A number of men from Duthil survive with various wounds. Mordec, one of the last Cimmerians to leave the battle, is the last villager from Duthil to return home. He and his Clansmen resignedly accept that, for the time being, they must live as conquered subjects of Aquilonia.

A squad of Aquilonian soldiers soon arrives at Duthil commanded by Captian Treviranus. Mordec translates the Captain's decrees into Cimmerian. He will treat the Cimmerians fairly but informs them that every Aquilonian harmed by a Cimmerian will result in ten Cimmerians being harmed in return. Treviraus even goes so far as to warn them to ward their youth against the impure interests of Count Stercus, his commander in Venarium. The squad constructs a small walled compound a stone’s throw from the village as a garrison.

Settlers begin arriving shortly thereafter and establish homesteads in the country around Venarium and south to the Bossonian border.

We see Conan grow up under the shackles of his youth, his domestic situation, and the enmity he bears the occupying soldiers and settlers.

The occupation lasts approximately two years.

That summer, two score Cimmerian Clans rise against the invaders and the horde sweeps south, utterly destroying Venarium, driving the last surviving settlers and the remnants of the defeated Aquilonian army ahead of them into Bossonia. A number of Cimmerians cross into Bossonia to teach the Aquilonians a hard lesson about ever considering another invasion. More than one band pushes south through Bossonia, raiding into Gunderland. Conan’s raiding party even pushes far enough south to enter Aquilonia itself, but is wiped out, soon thereafter, to a single man; Conan is the sole survivor.

Continuing south through Aquilonia, intent on travelling to the capital, Tarantia, Conan takes a contract as a teamster, despite never having driven a horse and wagon. He delivers the wagon load of onions, as promised, and then steals the wagon to head south and east toward other Hyborian lands.

Conan is 14 years old at the end of the story.

See also[]

  • Conan of Venarium at the Conan Wiki.
  • "Barbarians at the Gate" (Conan the Adventurer issue 1, published 1994), written by Roy Thomas, an alternate imagining of the Battle of Venarium. Turtledove's version appears to be based on Howard's works alone, and ignored this earlier interpretation of the same battle.
  • Give Me Back My Legions!, Turtledove's recreation of the historical Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, the same battle on which Howard appears to have based the battle of Venarium.
  • "The Boring Beast", Turtledove's parody of Robert E. Howard's writings.