7 Nov 2016

HIGH FANTASY RULES - Conan The Barbarian (1982)

Film genres have formulas and rules, but how well do High Fantasy films follow their formula?

Conan the Barbarian (1982) is a Sword & Sorcery film and as such was adult and mostly low magic fantasy.

The following analysis may contain spoilers for


RULE #1 - The Secondary World.

"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!" ~ Narrator (Akiro).

1a.  Type:  Faux-past with fantastical elements.
1b.  Faux-medieval - Much earlier.
1c.  Panoramic landscapes - Mostly deserts.
1d.  Impossible buildings and landmarks - Yes, belonging to the cult of Set
1e.  Archaic spelling/strange names - Yes, deliberately so.  Robert E Howard used a lot of archaic names slightly changed.
1f.  Hyper-real - Yes.

RULE #2 - There may be sex and nudity.

"I'm afraid." ~ Conan the Swordman.
"Afraid to bare yourself?  Why?  You're so big and well-grown.You should be proud of your body.  How can you reach emptiness without knowing your own body?" ~ Priest of Set.
"Could we talk over there where the others cannot see?" ~ Conan the Swordsman.
"Why, yes, brother. Of course." ~ Priest of Set.

Conan the Barbarian is an adult film and so includes sex and nudity.

2a.  Nudity
i.  Female Nudity - A topless girl is given to Conan the Swordsman.  There is some suggested nudity of the Witch character.  Valeria appears topless.  A topless girl sacrificed in the Tower of the Serpent.  A few topless women in the orgy scene in Thulsa Doom's temple.  So mostly sex and religion based female nudity.
ii.  Male Nudity - Suggested nudity of Conan the Swordsman.
2b.  Sex
i.  Death - The topless woman Conan the Swordsman is given presumably survives as she was sent to breed with him.  Sex is shown between Conan the Swordsman and the Witch, during which she turns into a monster and tries to kill Conan.  Valeria has sex with Conan the Swordsman and is killed later in the film.
ii.  Random Sex - The Witch was a random sexual encounter.
ii. Relationship Sex - Conan the Swordsman and Valeria have sex, but that happens in the middle of the film.
iii.  Rape - While Conan the Swordsman still a gladiator a topless woman is forced into Conan the Swordsman's cage for breeding purposes.  Although Conan the Swordsman is nicer about it that you'd expect, it's still clear that this isn't consensual sex.  The victim doesn't fight and is less afraid of Conan the Swordsman that she is initially and doesn't fight which is this film's version of "only rape at first" and although Conan the Swordsman has seemed previous to this to be little more than a caged animal at the time, he's begun being educated, including learning the philosophy of Sung and is reading as the scene begins. Those who bring the woman (and stay to watch the act) are the ones the film places most of the blame on.

RULE #3 - Characters.

"I am Subotai! Thief and archer! I am Hyrkanian... the great order of Kerlait!" ~ Subotai.

3a.  The Hero - Conan the Warrior.
3b.  The Hero's Parents - Killed in opening scenes, of course.

3c - 3i.  The Party of Adventurers - Roles are less defined in this film than in more traditional High Fantasy - most of the main characters act as, and call themselves, thieves but are often also skilled warriors.
3c.  The Mentor - Conan the Warrior has a few mentors when he is taken away to be trained as a gladiator.  None are named or shown to die.
3d.  The Heroine - Valeria who starts a relationship with Conan  the Warrior.
3e.  A Warrior - Conan the Warrior and most of the others are this, but none compare to Conan the Swordsman.
3f.  A Warrior Woman - Valeria, a warrior woman/thief.
3g.  A User of Magic - Akiro the wizard.
3h.  A Thief - Subotai, although also an archer and able to fight.
3i.  A pet or other animal - NA.

3j.  King - King Osric
3k.  The Hag - The Witch, beautiful until she turns into a monster.  Some prophetic ability.  Has sex with the hero, which isn't usual.

3l.  The Dark Lord - Thulsa Doom, the high priest of the cult of Set.
3m.  An evil female
i. Female Henchman - NA
ii. Member of Harem - The Princess, who has fallen under Thulsa Doom's spell, is a completely willing example.  Possibly not part of a harem, but she sits scantly clad at Doom's feet while he watches the orgy.  When abandoned by Doom, she helps Conan the Warrior.
iii.  Dark Lord's Daughter - NA
3n.  Male Henchmen - Rexor, a second-in-command/high priest.  Thorgrim, who raises snakes.  Both are large powerful looking men.
3o.  Minions - The priests and "The Children of Doom" (worshippers of Set.)

3o - 3q.  An Evil Person.
3o.  Grand Vizier - NA.
3p.  Evil relative - NA.
3q.  The Priest - Perhaps Rexor, as the head of a temple in the King Osric's city, but the king doesn't like him.

RULE #4 - Races & Cultures.

"Thulsa Doom. I've chafed for years at this demi-god.  Snakes in my beautiful city.  To the west,  Nemedia, Aquilonia.  To the south, Koth, Stygia.  Snakes! Everywhere these evil towers.  You alone have stood up to their guards." ~ King Osric.

4a.  Homogeneous Races - Only humans appear in this film (although Thulsa Doom could be a serpent person of some sort.)

4b.  Races - Only humans appear in this film  
4d.  Societies - A few societies, mostly tribal or towns and small kingdoms.
4e.  Homogeneous Culture - Mostly.
4f.  Rival cultures - Not mentioned.

RULE #5 - Magic & Monsters

"I pray to the Four Winds. And you?"  ~ Subotai.
"To Crom.  But I seldom pray to him.  He doesn't listen." ~ Conan the Wanderer.

5a.  Magical Past - The wizard claims that giants once lived at one location, it's suggested that the gods may have been more active previously.
5b.  Low Magic Present - Some minor users of magics and cults.
5c.  Magical laws - None seem present.
5d.  Good vs Evil - No clear delimitation.
5e.  Gendered - Not explicitly.
5f.  Hereditary - Not stated.
5g.  Spells & Powers
i.  Healing - Akiro does work at healing Conan the Wanderer.
ii.  Remote Viewing - Doesn't seem to happen.
iii.  Obfuscation - Doesn't seem to happen.
iv.  Shape changing - Thulsa Doom turns into a snake.
v.  Necromancy - Doesn't seem to happen, although they do stop Conan the Wanderer's spirit from being taken.
5k.  Items of Magic - None shown.
5l.  Artifacts of Great Power - None shown.
5m.  Religion - Many religions aren't really shown to do much, however the Cult of Set has a giant snake and all the powers Thulsa Doom bring to the party.
5n.  Mythical creatures 
i.  Dragon - NA.
ii.  Unicorns - NA.
iii.  Griffins, Rocs, Sphinx - NA.
iv.  Giant Things - A giant snake.
v.  Supernatural Creatures -  Spirits come to take Conan's soul when he is dying.
vi.  Raised creatures - NA.
vii.  Nameless Beast - NA.


RULE #6 - The Quest

"I remember days like this when my father took me to the forest... and we ate wild blueberries.
More than 20 years ago.  I was just a boy of four or five.  The leaves were so dark and green then.  The grass smelled sweet with the spring wind." ~ Conan the Adventurer.

6a.  The Artifact - No artifacts.
6b.  Destroy the Dark Lord - At about the halfway point in the film, King Osric asks them to bring his daughter back from Thulsa Doom, setting the group off to kill him.
6c.  Save the Heroine - At about the halfway point in the film, King Osric asks them to bring his daughter, the Princess, back from Thulsa Doom, although the Princess isn't the heroine.
6d.  Unite the races/Raise an army - Doesn't happen.
6e.  Prophecy - The witch says that Conan the Adventurer's coming was prophesied and that he would one day become king by his own hand.  While the narrator has already said that he becomes king by his own hand later in life, it does not relate to his current quest.  She does mention that he'll crush the snakes of the Earth.
6f.  Other events:
i.  Win a Contest - NA.
ii.  Stop an Execution - NA.
iii.  Stop a Wedding - NA.
6g.  The Hero's Journey - See below.

RULE #7 - The Hero's Journey: Departure

"Conan, what is best in life?" ~ Mongol General.
"To crush your enemies, see them driven before you... and to hear the lamentation of their women." ~ Conan the Cimmerian.

7a.  Secret Origin
i.  The Chosen One - Not chosen, just survived 
ii.  Orphaned - Yes, explicitedly orphaned on-screen.
iii.  Revenge - Sees his parents killed.
7b.  Ordinary World
i.  From Earth - No.
ii.  Peaceful Lands - Mostly remote and snow covered, but the memories Conan the Cimmerian shares of it are of a nice peaceful place.
7c.  Initial Tests - Slavery and training as a gladiator until an adult.
7d.  The Call to Adventure - No direct call, he's just set free by his owner.
7e.  Refusal of the Call - Doesn't really happen.
7f.  Supernatural Aid
i.  Meeting with the Mentor - Taken to be trained.
ii.  A supernatural guide - Akiro, perhaps.
iii.  May be given a magic item or artifact - Not an explicitedly magic item, but Conan the Cimmerian thinks the sword he finds is the god Crom's.
iv.  The Party will begin to form - Conan teams up with Subotai, then Valeria and later Akiro.
7g.  Crossing the Threshold - Gaining Crom's sword.
7h.  Belly of the Whale - Chased by the wolves.

RULE #8 - The Hero's Journey: Initiation

"The spirits here ask a heavy toll." ~ Akiro
"Then I will pay them." ~ Valeria.

8a.  The Road of Trials - Chased by wolves/meeting the witch.
8b.  The Vision Quest - Finding Crom's sword.  Without the vision or the quest.
8c.  The Meeting with the Goddess - Valeria.
8d.  Lure away from Journey - Valeria does try to convince him not to face Thulsa Doom, but: vengeance.
8e.  A Greater Power - Conan the Avenger tries to kill Thulsa Doom but is captured and tied to the Tree of Woe.
8f.  The Ordeal - Apotheosis/Death - The nearly dies while tied to the tree.
8g.  The Ordeal - Descent into the underworld - Doesn't happen, but spirits to come to claim Conan's soul and are fought off.
8h.  The Ultimate Boon - Not really.

RULE #9 - The Hero's Journey: Return.

"Do you want to live forever?" ~ Valeria.

9a.  Refusal of the Return - Not really.
9b.  The Magic FlightNot really.
9c.  Rescue from Without - Valeria returns from the dead to save Conan the Conqueror.
9d.  The Crossing of the Return Threshold - Doesn't return home, just walks away from the temple.
9e.  Master of Two Worlds - Yes.
9f.  Freedom to Live - Yes.

RULE #10 - Sequels/Remakes/Adaptations

"In time, he became a king by his own hand.  This story shall also be told."  ~ Narrator (Akiro).

10a.  Adaptation - Based on the Robert E Howard's Conan and Kull stories and the Marvel comics.
10b.  Sequels - A sequel, and a spin-off of sorts and a long rumoured further sequel (that sometimes became other films, like Kull the Conqueror.)
10c.  Remakes - A new film with the same name based on the character, not a direct remake.

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