In the old forum we had a thread about the mysterious Skelos, who was probably a wizard living in an age before Atlantis sank.
As I looked through the nominations for the 2017 REH Foundation Awards, I discovered Rick Lai’s essay ”The Sinister Skelos: Robert E. Howard’s Demonic Wizard” published in Blood ‘n’ Thunder #49-50.
Have any of you read this essay? I wonder what Rick Lai could deduce from the few mentions of Skelos in REH’s Conan stories.
In the meantime here are some important facts about Skelos: - Howard first mentions his name in Queen of the Black Coast (1932 Jul/Aug). Conan faced some diabolism in “the Well of Skelos”, which could be the well he describes in The Scarlet Citadel (1932 Apr/May). - In Black Colossus (1932 Sep/Oct) we learn Skelos still has votaries. He is mentioned alongside Vathelos the Blind, who is the author of iron-bound books. - In The Pool of the Black One (1932 Nov/Dec) REH introduces the fictitious Book of Skelos. REH probably modelled it on CAS’s The Book of Eibon. - In The Devil in Iron (1933 Oct) REH mentions the Book of Skelos drew on prehistoric sources - In The People of the Black Circle (1934 Feb) we learn Yasmela has read the Book of Skelos. Khemsa includes the name of Skelos in his dying words. - In The Hour of the Dragon (1934 spring) we learn that the incantations of Skelos were old when Atlantis sank.
It is a pity REH does not mention Skelos in his correspondence.
I've read contradictory things about it; is it common? Is it rare (on the hyboria xoth site it says that there are very few copies yet orastes mentions reading the iron bound books of skelos."
Good question! Lemme put it this way:
The Book(s) of Skelos may not be "common" (what are the criteria on that?), but Conan displayed some fairly detailed knowledge about it/them in TDiI. If a fairly young barbarian from Cimmeria already knew that much about it, then access isn't limited to a group of say, 100 people. This would've been after Conan learned to read.
I think we can safely say that REH modeled the BoS on Lovecraft's Necronomicon to a certain extent. If that's the case, then we could probably posit somewhere between 10 and 30 extant copies written in several "modern" and archaic languages and scripts. Taking Conan's knowledge of the BoS into account, access isn't easy, but not virtually impossible, either.
Into the west, unknown of man, Ships have sailed since the world began. Read, if you dare, what Skelos wrote, With dead hands fumbling his silken coat; And follow the ships through the wind-blown wrack – Follow the ships that come not back.
He desired to learn if this island were indeed that mentioned in the mysterious Book of Skelos, whereon, nameless sages aver, strange monsters guard crypts filled with hieroglyph-carven gold. Nor, for murky reasons of his own, did he wish to share his knowledge, if it were true, with any one, much less his own crew.
…there was a description of them in the Book of Skelos, which drew on prehistoric sources.
Not for naught had he gained access into darksome cults, had harkened to the grisly whispers of Skelos under midnight trees...
I have read the Book of Skelos, and talked with nameless hermits in the caves below Jhelai.
…aie, ya Skelos yar!”
How is it that a priest of Mitra knows of the Heart of Ahriman, and the incantations of Skelos?”
I journeyed in Zamora, in Vendhya, in Stygia, and among the haunted jungles of Khitai. I read the iron-bound books of Skelos, and talked with unseen creatures in deep wells, and faceless shapes in black reeking jungles.
"...I want to know where I came from and why and what relation I hold to the rest of the universe."
- Robert E. Howard to Tevis Clyde Smith, week of 20 Feb 1928, CL1.170
It's mentioned in the original stories but it's not defined. In Conan Exiles it's one of the final dungeons in Marvel it's a literal giant well on an island. What exactly is it and when would Conan have encountered it?
Before dropping this hint about the Well of Skelos in "Queen of the Black Coast", Howard wrote about two demon-haunted wells in the previous months.
One of the wells is in "The Scarlet Citadel", but that story takes place only after he became king. The other story is "The Valley of the Worm", featuring Niord. Maybe Conan has visited, or heard about this well before he joined Belit and her crew.
[The Well of Skelos] is mentioned in the original stories but it's not defined. In Conan Exiles it's one of the final dungeons in Marvel it's a literal giant well on an island. What exactly is it and when would Conan have encountered it?
It's mentioned in one REH story.
As Elegos points out, Conan hadn't encountered the "well" in Tsotha's citadel when QotBC occurred. I'm entirely unconvinced by attempts to posit that "well" as the Well of Skelos.
Chronological/geographical issues also beset the "well" in VotW.
The people behind Exiles may have heard of Rick Lai's theory that the Well of Skelos should be identified with the "well" found in "The Shadow in the Well" fragment:
While better argued than the other two theories, I still don't really buy into it. However, if somebody HAS TO go with one theory or another, I'd say go with Rick's. IMO, there's nothing that says that REH ever wrote about/showed us the Well of Skelos in his fiction.