Thursday, 8 December 2011

Hyborian Musings: The Conan Calendar

I've been wrestling with dates in regards to the Encyclopedia. "Three thousand years before the time of Conan," "nine hundred years before Conan's time," and whatnot.  While correct enough, it also seemed a bit clumsy and redundant.  But what could replace it?  Initially I was wanting to knock out a hard timeline, where every major event of the Hyborian Age was listed and put in context, like this one for the Cthulhu Mythos, or this for Tolkien's mythos.  My initial thought for the reckoning was using the Cataclysm: after all, what more profound and earth-shattering event could one choose for the timeline than the one which rocked the foundations of the earth?  Unfortunately, "The Hyborian Age" has proven immensely difficult to work with due to later stories' contradictions.  Published stories take precedents over private notes, true, but so much Hyborian history is found in the essay, one wonders what to do with it.

Then it hit me: I was using the wrong reckoning.  Instead of using the cataclysm, why not use the one element which is most constantly used as a marker between events of the Hyborian past and present?

My proposal is to organise everything around Conan.  Of course, I thought, it's so simple!  We could even include the traditional B.C. to serve as the "ancient time," and the succeeding period starting with A:

B.C. = Before Conan
A.C. = After Conan

The next question is shrinking it down: what time in Conan's life should serve as the reckoning?  The traditional Gregorian calendar immediately made me think of using Conan's birth, but many cultures use the start of a ruler's reign.  Conan is clearly one of the most important historical figures of the Hyborian Age, if not quite the religious figure Jesus turned out to be, but in any case, it's the perfect marriage of accessibility and simplicity.  So perhaps...

B.C. =  Before (the reign of) Conan
A.C. = Age of Conan

Using this system, we can then say (for example):

  • 10,000 BC Birth of Akivasha
  • 3,000 BC   Fall of Acheron
                      Fall of Kuthchemes
                      Foundation of Khorshemish
  • 1,500 BC   Death of Epemitreus the Sage
  • 1,000 BC   Bossonian Marches first established
  • 900 BC      Death of Epeus of Aquilonia
                      Gazali migrate from Koth
  • 500 BC      First of five-hundred-year period of intermittent war between Aquilonia and Nemedia
  • 300 BC      Yara captures and enslaves Yogah
  • 100 BC      Bloody Tranicos disappears
  • 40 BC        Birth of Conan
  • 26 BC        Battle of Venarium
  • 23 BC        Disappearance of Yara and destruction of the Elephant's Tower
  • 10 BC        War of the Barons in Aquilonia
  • 0 AC          Age of Conan begins
  • 5 AC          Aquilonian-Nemedian War
  • 500 AC      Pictish Empire destroys Aquilonia

By Crom, I think this could work.

18 comments:

  1. The only problem I see with this system is the confusion between Before Christ and Before Conan. Although, I like this system very much.

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    Replies
    1. How about...
      BCC for "before Conan crowned" and
      ACC for "after Conan crowned"

      Delete
  2. ... Drat, I didn't think that through. I was so caught up in the whole BC correlation that I didn't even stop to think that people might get it confused with the original BC! Oh, dear.

    Still, I think using Conan's reign is the most sound overall: perhaps a different set of initials (BAC/AC, BRC/RC, something like that?)

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  3. Yes, changing the initials should do it.
    Conan's reign as reference is smart.

    I see you decided to use year zero as well.
    The BC/AD system has it too but CE/BCE doesn't.
    So 1 BCE is followed by 1 CE, I think. I could be making this up.
    But not that it really matters if zero is used or not. :)

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  4. questions: are you going to include atlantis and Kull's time as well as say bran mak morn in roman times?They do, for all intents and purposes,exist in the same universe right?wasnt cormac(mac art) and wulfere in kings of night too(my memory is shaky i gotta reread it, but doesnt kull kill wullfere in it)? would their stories count in a time,,ine as well.there are some large gaps but i would think they would count.If thats the case should you really center it around the catyclysm(s),and not so much conan, as it kinda makes him too christlike? (as wsnt there oa catyclysm at the end of the hyborian age too?)how far can you go with this? food for a thought cheers!-Mario

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  5. Thank you very much for your efforts on the Encyclopedia, Al. This is exactly the kind of compilation and research what Howard's fans lack of for decades.

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  6. I see you decided to use year zero as well.
    The BC/AD system has it too but CE/BCE doesn't.
    So 1 BCE is followed by 1 CE, I think. I could be making this up.
    But not that it really matters if zero is used or not. :)


    Since I'm aiming for accessibility, I'm likely going to be using 0 just since BC/AD uses it.

    are you going to include atlantis and Kull's time as well as say bran mak morn in roman times?They do, for all intents and purposes,exist in the same universe right?

    Short answer: yes.

    Long answer: I'll only be including the elements as they specifically pertain to the Hyborian Age. The references to the kingdoms in "The Hyborian Age," "The Tower of the Elephant" and others will, therefore, be included. However, elements specific to the Kull stories I'm currently not using for a number of reasons, though mostly because they would justify their own Encyclopedia Thurica. I had planned on using the Kull stories, but it dawned on me that there really is so much material in them that I couldn't do them justice. Maybe somewhere down the line there will be a combined Hyborian/Thurian encyclopedia, or even an Encyclopedia Howardica that includes everything from every Howard story, but I think a Hyborian encyclopedia is ambitious enough!

    My ideal encyclopedia would include every element of weird fiction Howard wrote: Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, Kirowan, all of it. That would include fictional elements of historical adventures like Nagdragore and Black Cathay, too.

    wasnt cormac(mac art) and wulfere in kings of night too(my memory is shaky i gotta reread it, but doesnt kull kill wullfere in it)?

    The Cormac in KotN is definitely not Cormac Mac Art, and the giant Dane Kull kills isn't Wulfhere, though I can't account for pastiches/adaptations that might give that impression.

    .If thats the case should you really center it around the catyclysm(s),and not so much conan, as it kinda makes him too christlike?

    Therein lies the problem: we don't know exactly when the Cataclysm was in relation to Conan. Could've been 90,000 years, could've been 20,000 years. It's the same problem with dating Conan relative to modern times: popular convention goes that he lived 10,000 BC (and Jeff Shanks has put forward convincing ideas that Howard may have intended this himself), but Kull being dated 100,000 BC means there's a 90,000 year gap between Kull & Conan if that's the case, which seems pretty massive.

    The only precise indicator we have in the Hyborian stories is Conan himself. While the Christlike connotations aren't ideal, I liken it more to the Chinese and Japanese eras.

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  7. cool thanks for clearing that up.sounds like a fun project. I gotta recheck my baen edition bran mak morn and see if the dane had a name at all.I think it was my own faulty assumption,how far apart in time did cormac exist from bran mak morn about 5 or 600 yrs maybe?-mario

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  8. Thank you very much for your efforts on the Encyclopedia, Al. This is exactly the kind of compilation and research what Howard's fans lack of for decades.

    That's precisely why I'm doing it.

    how far apart in time did cormac exist from bran mak morn about 5 or 600 yrs maybe?-mario

    Not that much: Bran Mak Morn seems to be in the region of 100-300 AD, while Cormac Mac Art definitely roved in the region of 490 AD going by "Tigers of the Sea." So about 200 years, more or less.

    A timeline of Howard's characters would be neat.

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  9. Hero of the Federation8 December 2011 at 18:57

    Service guarantees citizenship.

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  10. I don't think there should be a timeline for the Thurian Age. There is no map, even though I'm sure an enterprising fan could go about making one.

    My point is that I think the Thurian Age should be treated the same way Howard treated the eastern hemisphere of the Hyborian Age: vague. He left it mostly alone for various reasons, from the fact that the people of the western hemisphere didn't know very much about it to the simple idea that the readers' imagination could fill in gaps that words and facts might fall short on.

    The Thurian Age being buried so deep in time carries the same vagueness and mystery. It might be possible to organize a lot of information out of what is contained within the Kull stories, but timelines and maps are probably too much for that particular era.

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  11. I don't think there should be a timeline for the Thurian Age. There is no map, even though I'm sure an enterprising fan could go about making one.

    Deuce Richardson made the best attempt in the absence of a Howard map, in my opinion. That said, I wouldn't be doing a Thurian timeline within the context of the encyclopedia: it's for the Hyborian Age, after all, and since Deuce is the Thurian scholar, he'd be far better suited to such an endeavour.

    I'll be discussing maps in an upcoming post, specifically inspirations and ideas, and what to do with the maps Howard provided.

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  12. Um, Al, I think there is a typo. Akivasha is the first entry, but dated 1,000 BC. The Fall of Acheron is dated at 3,000 BC is the second entry.
    Otherwise, this is a cool time line. Are you planning on trying to place all of the stories within the chronology?

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  13. Good eye, James: I meant to put the comma after the first zero (making it 10,000 BC) which was when Akivasha was alive. You can see why it's a bit problematic!

    Regarding chronology, I'm really shying away from it. I might do it in much broader terms of "career" rather than going by a strict chronology, using only the stories we know take place in a certain point in Conan's life. For instance, we know that the thief stories all take place in roughly the same time period, as do the king stories. As such, I think it might be better organizing them into a sort of "career" system, with a bit of leeway in what order the stories take place. Something like this:

    Thief career (we know TTotE takes place when Conan's around 17, and the reference to his thieving in other kingdoms suggests the other thief takes also take place in that time period)

    Mercenary career (we know at least some mercenary work predates QotBC, which is both the earliest written and likely earliest chronological pirate story)

    Pirate career (QotBC, naturally)

    Bandit career (Conan's time among the Zuagir/Afghuli/Kozaks seems to take place after the earlier mercenary/pirate stories)

    Adventurer career (referring to the adventures in the Black Kingdoms which mention his previous careers)

    Border Runner career (which we know take place shortly before Conan becomes king)

    King career (obvious)

    This way, we can allow a bit of overlap: some mercenary/pirate stories might take place after the first adventurer stories, for example.

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  14. Thanks. I think the "career" approach is a wonderful idea.

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  15. This is an awesome start.
    I don't see anything wrong with using Conan as the reference point for the timeline since everything we know about the Hyborian age Howard wrote in relation to Conan (even in the few stories where he isn't the main character). In fact, I think you could do a reading of the stories with Conan as the embodiment of the forces of history, driving time and change forward through action. Maybe that's pushing it, but I dig the timeline.

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  16. "Since I'm aiming for accessibility, I'm likely going to be using 0 just since BC/AD uses it."

    No, it doesn't. It would make no sense, zero as an ordinal when counting along from an event. "In the zeroeth year of..." vs "In the first year of..."

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  17. This is great using a historian's point of view, but what about the chronology of the Hyborians themselves? What about the month Yuluk, and the year of the Gazelle..? This isn't trolling, just wondering ;)

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