I am looking for a Conan story in which he arrives at a seemingly deserted town (with the occasional girl in distress, of course). They take a look around, something is chasing them throughout the town and at a certain point they meet someone that tells them that all of the people in the town are constantly high with some kind of lotus, so they don't care what happens in the town and so it's deserted.

I looked in my books (I have most of the Ace Books editions) but could not find it. Any ideas?

  • Black lotus is mentioned in the film. Is that the drug or something else?
    – Valorum
    Jul 20, 2018 at 18:07
  • There are various kinds of lotus in Conan's world. From the top of my head I renember black, purple and yellow. I can't remember which kind was in that story. I think the black (and maybe the purple too) are poisons, the yellow maybe sleeping gas, but not sure...
    – Don_S
    Jul 20, 2018 at 18:11
  • The main thing is making sure it's the real deal and not "haga" (getyarn.io/yarn-clip/7961b620-ac9f-4f95-9322-1f5a885550da)
    – DukeZhou
    Jul 20, 2018 at 18:14
  • 2
    @DukeZhou - You would sell Haga to a slayer such as Don_S?
    – Valorum
    Jul 20, 2018 at 18:15

2 Answers 2


The city of Xuthal is mentioned in The Slithering Shadow. Apparently its inhabitants are a bunch of lotus-addicted druggies.

"This city is called Xuthal; it is very ancient. It is built over an oasis, which the founders of Xuthal found in their wanderings. They came from the east, so long ago that not even their descendants remember the age."

"Surely there are not many of them; these palaces seem empty."

"No; and yet more than you might think. The city is really one great palace, with every building inside the walls closely connected with the others. You might walk among these chambers for hours and see no one. At other times, you would meet hundreds of the inhabitants."

"How is that?" Conan inquired uneasily; this savored too strongly of sorcery for comfort.

"Much of the time these people lie in sleep. Their dream-life is as important--and to them as real--as their waking life. You have heard of the black lotus? In certain pits of the city it grows. Through the ages they have cultivated it, until, instead of death, its juice induces dreams, gorgeous and fantastic. In these dreams they spend most of their time. Their lives are vague, erratic, and without plan. They dream, they wake, drink, love, eat and dream again. They seldom finish anything they begin, but leave it half completed and sink back again into the slumber of the black lotus. That meal you found-- doubtless one awoke, felt the urge of hunger, prepared the meal for

  • 9
    I haven't read the story, but it sounds like a reference to the lotus eaters in The Odyssey. Jul 20, 2018 at 19:09
  • 3
    @ToddWilcox - Very similar, yes. And I would not be surprised if REH took that as his model.
    – JohnP
    Jul 20, 2018 at 20:39

For posterity, I wanted to note that there is another Conan story by R. E. Howard that also features a sleeping, drugged city ruled by an evil monstrosity (which Conan explores along with a woman): "The Devil in Iron."

He cradled the girl's glossy head in the bend of his heavy arm, and kissed her full red lips with unfeigned relish.

'You are strong,' she repeated, her voice waning. 'Love me—love—' The sleepy murmur faded away; the dusky eyes closed, the long lashes drooping over the sensuous cheeks; the supple body relaxed in Conan's arms.

He scowled down at her. She seemed to partake of the illusion that haunted this whole city, but the firm resilience of her limbs under his questing fingers convinced him that he had a living human girl in his arms, and not the shadow of a dream. No less disturbed, he hastily laid her on the furs upon the dais. Her sleep was too deep to be natural. He decided that she must be an addict of some drug, perhaps like the black lotus of Xuthal.

As the bolded passage points out, Conan notices, in universe, the parallels to "Xuthal of the Dusk"/"The Slitering Shadow."

(These two stories are possibly my two favorite Conan tales. This is not so much for their plots, which both rely on bizarre coincidences, but because they feature two of the most evocative eldritch monsters that Conan ever fights.)

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