[Tower of the Elephant] Visitors from Space?

"Crom, count the dead." Discuss the Conan campaign setting (based on the Hyborian Age Conan the Barbarian, created by Robert E. Howard) as it relates to pen & paper RPGs, here.
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Havard
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[Tower of the Elephant] Visitors from Space?

Post by Havard » Mon Dec 07, 2015 10:42 am

The dude in the Tower of the Elephant was probably from outer space or some other dimension. Are there other mentions in REH's Conan or the Pastiches of visitors from other planets? Given the connection between the Hyborean Age and the Cthulhu mythos, should the galaxy be Lovecraftian in nature?

How would you use this in a Conan RPG campaign?

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Re: Visitors from Space?

Post by rabindranath72 » Mon Dec 07, 2015 3:11 pm

Howard mentions the "Outer Dark" in a few tales. Whether that's "physical" cosmos or a metaphysical dimension, it's hard to say, although creatures like Yogah of Yag (the Elephant-thing) and the "demonic plant" Yothga (in the dungeon of Tsotha-Lanti) seem to suggest a mixture of the two ideas (actually both are said to come from Yag.)

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Re: Visitors from Space?

Post by ripvanwormer » Mon Dec 07, 2015 11:51 pm

The Tower of the Elephant by Robert E. Howard wrote:"Oh man, listen," said the strange being. "I am foul and monstrous to you, am I not? Nay, do not answer; I know. But you would seem as strange to me, could I see you. There are many worlds besides this earth, and life takes many shapes. I am neither god nor demon, but flesh and blood like yourself, though the substance differ in part, and the form be cast in different mold.

"I am very old, oh man of the waste countries; long and long ago I came to this planet with others of my world, from the green planet Yag, which circles for ever in the outer fringe of this universe. We swept through space on mighty wings that drove us through the cosmos quicker than light, because we had warred with the kings of Yag and were defeated and outcast. But we could never return, for on earth our wings withered from our shoulders. Here we abode apart from earthly life. We fought the strange and terrible forms of life which then walked the earth, so that we became feared, and were not molested in the dim jungles of the east, where we had our abode.
"Now for the great magic, the mighty magic, such as earth has not seen before, and shall not see again, through a million million of millenniums. By my life-blood I conjure it, by blood born on the green breast of Yag, dreaming far-poised in the great blue vastness of Space.

"Take your sword, man, and cut out my heart; then squeeze it so that the blood will flow over the red stone. Then go you down these stairs and enter the ebony chamber where Yara sits wrapped in lotus-dreams of evil. Speak his name and he will awaken. Then lay this gem before him, and say, 'Yag-kosha gives you a last gift and a last enchantment.' Then get you from the tower quickly; fear not, your way shall be made clear. The life of man is not the life of Yag, nor is human death the death of Yag. Let me be free of this cage of broken blind flesh, and I will once more be Yogah of Yag, morning-crowned and shining, with wings to fly, and feet to dance, and eyes to see, and hands to break."
I think Yag-kosha is indicating a planet in the same universe as Earth (it "circles forever on the outer fringes of this universe"). He keeps referring to planets and space, and traveling through space, so it seems like a science-fictional view of planets and the universe to me as opposed to something like Michael Moorcock's Multiverse. You could interpret Yag as some sort of other dimension or plane of existence that sort of overlaps Conan's universe on the very edge, but I'm pretty sure that Howard had in mind an alien world in the same plane/dimension/universe that Conan was native to. I did a little research to find out when scientists first devised a clear distinction between "universe" and "galaxy," and it looks like astronomers were still referring to galaxies as "island universes" as late as 1922, at least until Hubble proved the island universe theory to be true in 1923; I'm not sure when the name "galaxy" became preferred. Google N-Gram Viewer has the popularity of the phrase "island universe" declining sharply in 1932, bottoming in 1935, and gaining a brief upsurge in 1937 before declining forever, but it's possible that Howard meant "the outer fringes of this galaxy." Early Doctor Who stories often confused "galaxy" and "universe." The phrase can be considered poetic/hyperbolic in any case; Yag-kosha just meant Yag was far away.

Yag-kosha's race seems similar in some ways to Lovecraft's Great Race of Yith, which appeared in "The Shadow Out of Time" published three years after "The Tower of the Elephant." The flying polyps in that story "come through space from immeasurably distant universes," and I'm certain in this case the word "universes" should be understood as what we'd call galaxies now. The Great Race looks very different from the race of Yag, but the Great Race looks different as it projects its minds into different bodies, so you could maybe interpret Yag-kosha as part of an exiled community of Yithians. The mind transference of the Great Race seems to be mechanical in nature, while Yag-kosha makes use of what Conan interprets as magic, but it's possible the gem in the story is actually a complex alien machine. The exact mechanics of how Yag-kosha's abilities work and how the Great Race's abilities work are different (a Yithian's body wouldn't disappear after its mind was transferred out of it, as Yag-kosha's body disappeared), but I think it could be fudged, especially if Yag-kosha had other forms of technology available than the Yithian standard.

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Re: Visitors from Space?

Post by rabindranath72 » Tue Dec 08, 2015 8:49 am

The Yothga plant is mentioned as coming from Yag (through its seeds) and that it has its roots in Hell, though I don't think this word has any religious connotation.
I take the stance that Conan's world is effectively part of the Cthulhu mythos, so all the creatures are effectively aliens, which may also "live" in other (higher) dimensions.

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Re: Visitors from Space?

Post by Havard » Tue Dec 08, 2015 10:28 am

rabindranath72 wrote:The Yothga plant is mentioned as coming from Yag (through its seeds) and that it has its roots in Hell, though I don't think this word has any religious connotation.
I take the stance that Conan's world is effectively part of the Cthulhu mythos, so all the creatures are effectively aliens, which may also "live" in other (higher) dimensions.
I could be wrong about this, but I'm getting the impression that the Cthulhu Mythos uses planets and dimensions more or less interchangeably?

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Re: Visitors from Space?

Post by ripvanwormer » Tue Dec 08, 2015 11:42 am

Later writers sometimes reinterpret Lovecraftian planets as other dimensions or planes of existence (Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Bruce Cordell), but I think there's a clear distinction in Lovecraft's writing between planets like Yuggoth and Yith and otherplanar places like the Dreamlands and the realms beyond the gate of the silver key.

Obviously, you should interpret things in whatever way you prefer.

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Re: Visitors from Space?

Post by night_druid » Tue Dec 08, 2015 12:42 pm

Eh, even today I'm not entirely sure people who don't have a passion for astronomy have a firm grasp on what terms such as planet, solar system, galaxy, and universe really mean. I see them still get confused a lot in games, shows, and film. I think the one that gets confused the most is "galaxy"; I don't think many people truly understand what a galaxy really is, or how big it one (particularly ours) is. For some, it translates to "big star cluster".
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Re: Visitors from Space?

Post by rabindranath72 » Tue Dec 08, 2015 1:10 pm

Havard wrote:
rabindranath72 wrote:The Yothga plant is mentioned as coming from Yag (through its seeds) and that it has its roots in Hell, though I don't think this word has any religious connotation.
I take the stance that Conan's world is effectively part of the Cthulhu mythos, so all the creatures are effectively aliens, which may also "live" in other (higher) dimensions.
I could be wrong about this, but I'm getting the impression that the Cthulhu Mythos uses planets and dimensions more or less interchangeably?

-Havard
Lovecraft's vision seem to definitely be more "scientific" (or what passed as science back in the day!), see for example "Dreams in the Witch House" where he goes on a tangent trying to associate the idea of the mathematical concept of high-dimensional spaces to something which has a "physical" meaning. Obviously when he writes about the Dreamlands, as rip says, things get somewhat less "precise" (for lack of a better term.)

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Re: Visitors from Space?

Post by Big Mac » Thu Dec 17, 2015 11:47 pm

Havard wrote:The dude in the Tower of the Elephant was probably from outer space or some other dimension. Are there other mentions in REH's Conan or the Pastiches of visitors from other planets? Given the connection between the Hyborean Age and the Cthulhu mythos, should the galaxy be Lovecraftian in nature?

How would you use this in a Conan RPG campaign?
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Re: Visitors from Space?

Post by rabindranath72 » Fri Dec 18, 2015 8:36 am

Big Mac wrote:
Havard wrote:The dude in the Tower of the Elephant was probably from outer space or some other dimension. Are there other mentions in REH's Conan or the Pastiches of visitors from other planets? Given the connection between the Hyborean Age and the Cthulhu mythos, should the galaxy be Lovecraftian in nature?

How would you use this in a Conan RPG campaign?
Hyperboreanspace. :twisted:
You mean Hyborianjammer? ;)

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Re: Visitors from Space?

Post by BlackBat242 » Sat Dec 19, 2015 4:52 am

rabindranath72 wrote: You mean Hyborianjammer? ;)
Thanks sooo much for the mental image of Arnie as a rasta-Conan, with dreadlocks, singing a reggae hymn to Crom... "We be jammin' on the battlefield, what you be doin' up dere? If yu don' he'p us, den go smoke some ganga!".
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Re: Visitors from Space?

Post by Hugin » Sat Dec 19, 2015 7:43 pm

BlackBat242 wrote:
rabindranath72 wrote: You mean Hyborianjammer? ;)
Thanks sooo much for the mental image of Arnie as a rasta-Conan, with dreadlocks, singing a reggae hymn to Crom... "We be jammin' on the battlefield, what you be doin' up dere? If yu don' he'p us, den go smoke some ganga!".
Hahaha!!! :lol: That was awesome. *wipes a tear*

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