Monday, 15 October 2012

‘The Slithering Shadow’ – Robert E. Howard

So, after having a little moan (yesterday) about how the makers of ‘Conan’ stayed well away from Howard’s original tales, I thought it would be only fair to follow that up with a little look at one of those very tales. You know, in the whole spirit of ‘You see? I was right!’ or ‘Actually, they had a point…’
I’ve already covered a few ‘Conan’ tales here and there, on the blog, so this time round I took the step of, well… opening up one of my collections and pretty much picking a random tale that I’d never read before. The lucky tale turned out to be ‘The Slithering Shadow’, a pulp tale of a seemingly deserted city and the nameless horror that lurks in its depths.

Before I talk about whether ‘The Slithering Shadow’ could be filmed; a few words about the story itself… I really enjoyed the read but it did remind me why I always cherry pick a story at a time here rather than going through the whole collection (I’ve only ever done that once, never again…)
While there is a lot to be said for ‘The Slithering Shadow’, it does run very much along the same lines as a lot of the other ‘Conan’ stories that I’ve read (which isn’t all of them to be fair). Conan and a female companion (usually a different one to the previous story) battle hordes of faceless soldiery and at least one evil monster in a foreboding setting. Conan wins through, although sometimes at great cost, and continues his journey to the next big fight. In the case of ‘The Slithering Shadow’, the formula proves to be a winning one (albeit the same one). The setting is intriguing enough to make you want to step inside the gates of Xuthal and see what waits. Conan facing off against the Xuthal guards makes for some tense reading while the creature Thog may not have a great name but does bring a real sense of cosmic terror to the climax of the plot. There is without a doubt plenty to enjoy here; I’m glad that I picked it up even if it wasn’t necessarily offering anything new. I wonder if Moorcock's 'Dreaming City' of Imrryr was inspired by Xuthal, there's enough there to suggest a link of some sort.

The real question though is whether this short story is ‘filmworthy’ or not. ‘The Slithering Shadow’ is only thirty five pages long so probably wouldn’t make for an entire film (although if they ever did a ‘Conan’ TV show…) but I reckon there is plenty enough here to make for a twenty minute, or even half hour, sequence in a film. Great setting, loads of action and a ‘toad creature from hell’; definitely worthy of a moment in film and I’m still left a little perplexed why moments like this didn’t make the cut. Is there a ‘rights’ issue or something going on? I don’t know…

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