Before Lord of the Rings, before Kull the Conqueror, before Willow and even before Red Sonia…there was Conan the Barbarian.
Although most movies these days are more about simply making money or driving yet another talentless talking puppet to undeserving-millionaire-idiot status, occasionally movies still teach us a lesson or two. Miami Vice taught me that long hair is still a legit option in male fashion and G.I. Joe: The rise of Cobra showed me that there is something worse than pouring acid in my eyes. Despite these gems, they just don’t seem to make them like they used to.
I grew up watching Conan, god knows how many times, and through literally hundreds of hours spent digesting its contents I have learned seven very valuable life lessons. In fact, I consider these lessons life changing and this is wisdom I can no longer horde greedily alone in my man cave.
I will share these now with you; prepare yourselves for truth…
7. Say Less; Do not pontificateThe Croatians call it “proljev usta“. In Germany they call it “Durchfall Mund“. In the west we have an acute case of it, which experts refer to as “diarrhea mouth-ness”. Everyone wants to talk about everything, all the time. While healthy communication skills might be considered that which separates us from the bands of marauding, disenfranchised, rape hungry unicorns, silence can be better than the blow job you got in the closet at church in tenth grade. Maybe.
Conan the Barbarian teaches us this many times over. It is documented and proven with the aid of Science and the YouTube.
Three minutes and thirty-seven seconds of man noise. That’s it.
I’m not a rocket surgeon, but that’s pretty special in my book.
So little chin wagging yet what does he manage to do? Everything. He becomes a master thief, a brilliant warrior and avenges the death of his father and super sexy mother. He even shines ole’ Thulsa Doom on by hacking his head off in a similar fashion to how his MILF was done in the beginning of the film.
In addition to all of that, he also gets the girl, Valeria. How? Obviously not with moves he picked up reading The Game. He’s just an alpha male barbarian with massive pecs, arms and a ridiculously big sword. Sorry skinny guys, chicks like muscle and some quiet time. It’s proven in the video.
6. If she seems too good to be true, then she isWe’ve all been there, I know I have: You’ve met an amazing girl and things are great. She’s fun to hang out with, she lets you pick where you two are going to eat, she doesn’t bother you when you hang out with your friends and she doesn’t complain about the aromatic complications of you being on a high-protein diet; she’s totally your type.
Then one day it all goes very wrong.
Our Cimmerian friend has experienced it as well and he demonstrates how to deal with this very real life issue succinctly in the movie.
On first viewing, a foreigner in Japan might think this is a warning telling them that frustrated country folk will only give you directions in exchange for sexual favors and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong.
But there is a bigger picture here.
This exchange can be viewed as a microcosm for so many relationships. The initial meeting. The courting. The engaging conversations. The hot sex in front of the fire.
Then, just as our barbarian brother begins to get comfortable, the woman starts babbling incoherent nonsense then turns into a flesh-eating hell cat and tries to rip his face off.
All of this while they’re naked.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? All awash with nostalgia?
Conan shows us clearly how to handle this situation simply by throwing the lunatic slut into the fire. This is the Hyborian age equivalent of blocking her on Facebook and deleting her on LINE. Sure, she might flip out like the she-devil in the video and trans-morph into a blue ball of fire, bounce off the walls and knock over some pictures but then she’s out the door and out of your life.
5. 20 minute anything does not existWhenever I am online it’s a constant barrage of advertisements for 20 minute take your pick.
20 minute abs.
20 minute arms.
20 minute chest.
That Asian guy is always trying to tell me how fat he used to be and how doctors and personal trainers hate him because he has all the 20 minute secrets. It’s annoying and what’s more, it’s bullshit.
Here’s the thing: There’s no such thing as a “shortcut” to being huge and ripped. It takes a lot of work, years of training and heavy compound movements. Again, Conan of Cimmeria shows us this with his true life story.
The Wheel of Pain is the uh, “device”, that Conan is chained to as a kid at about the age of 9 or 10. Ten years later, that’s ten years later, he is a jacked up maniac super man.
Compound movements. Pushing this thing is chest, triceps, lower back, quads and calves so basically total body and it’s heavy. Also we can deduce that the work load was progressively more intensive. As seen in the video, as time goes on fewer and fewer people are assisting with the clearly arduous task of pushing the wheel hence resulting in a gradually increasing workload on Conan himself.
That’s how you build lean mass; heavy loads, gradually increasing over time; week-in and week-out for several years.
This is important for life. Too many people are looking for the short cut and the easy way out. For that which is most worth having in life two things are almost always necessary; Risk and Commitment.
Throw in some forced marches, beatings and a slave trader shooting primabolin in your ass because it’s hard for you to reach your glutes while chained to the original nautilus machine, and you have a powerful Alpha male physic, the envy of gay lords and “natty” bodybuilders the world over.
4. Know PeopleThe standard image of Conan of Cimmeria would be that of a loner. The lone wolf traveling the world in sandaled feet; broad sword always near by. Asking nothing from others and living by his own means.
Is the Barbarian a loner? Yes and No.
Perhaps he likes to think he is. But we also see him continuously adopt other so-called loners as friends throughout his epic journey.
In this clip, we see Conan meet and free the thief and archer known as Subotai.
Not only does Conan free him, but Subotai and he travel together and set up a fairly enterprising little B&E operation and sack the Temple of Set grabbing the “eye of the serpent”. That makes them pretty fast friends if you ask me. Conan released him from his chains for no other reason it seems, than for a bit of company and good thing he did because when Conan is hanging from “The Tree of Woe” , chomping on bird neck, compliments of Thulsa Doom , it’s Subotai that comes prancing over the hills to his rescue.
Pays to have friends. Real ones.
Next, there is “the Wizard”, expertly portrayed by Mako, who not only tells him the way to Thulsa Doom’s “Mountain of Power”, but actually performs a goddamned dangerous magical ritual to bring him back from the dead.
Tell your friend to keep the Starbucks point card he’s trying to give you, which doesn’t use anyway and save up to keep you out of the pits of hell when the time comes.
If he’s really your friend that is.
The point is to know people and have friends, genuine friends. If you take stock and come to the conclusion that your life is for whatever reason devoid of these, maybe you should start out by being open to new people in the oddest of circumstances. Also, make sure to balance out your party with a thief and at least one magic user in addition to the Barbarian and the rogue or you’re fucked when you get further into the adventure.
Conversely however, you should remember to…
3. Trust No OneIn this life, if you want to get something genuinely amazing done, if you want to accomplish something beyond what is considered reasonable, in short if you want to be outstanding, you will usually have to do this alone.
This is because most people you know are lazy, tired and bitter; in that order.
From a very early age our Cimmerian is taught this by his father, albeit with different words and cloaked in a religious fable.
So, lets ask ourselves, “What is the riddle of steel?”
At this point it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters if you’re totally committed and fully believe in what you are doing; beleiving in something: a cause, a dream or just yourself. Belief that something can and will happen is what propels us forward. Also, it is necessary for this inspiration to come from within you. For something to be a true calling, it has to be forged by your own hand, it cannot simply be cookie cutter or canned material cynically spit at you from some trumped up authority figure. This is another point within his fathers lecture: Follow only yourself. Do not trust others to help you, enlighten you or support you. It is perfectly possible, despite where you took them, what you gave them or what you did for them that in the end, they will turn their backs on you.
Don’t believe me?
2. Stuff is not important“Civilization” has two pillars upon which it stands and nurturing this obsessive desire to have more; more money, more possessions or more physical things, is one of them. It’s the proverbial, age-old rat race and denouncing it is the second most profound message found in Conan the Barbarian.
In life, be it here in 2013 or in the Hyborean age, there are certain things we need to live comfortably. But these things do not need to cost a fortune and they shouldn’t require the surrender of the majority of our lives and dignity to obtain them. Our obsession with junk we do not need is a sickness that has locked us all into a scheme that smothers us and leaves us feeling barren, lost and unfulfilled. Why? Because however much you get, the world you exist in is constantly taking it away and showing you someone who has more than you. It’s an endless cycle and no matter how high you climb, you just get deeper into the hole. King Osric preaches truth below.
Also, if one watches this tale of life closely, in the beginning we see Conan’s village in Cimmeria. It seems to be a peaceful, productive place with various parties engaged in various forms of labor. A little more research reveals to us, based on the Conan books written in the 1930′s by Robert Howard, that in Cimmeria “no man or woman went hungry, yet no one had more than they needed.” In addition to that, based on the way Conan’s super hot mother handles a broad sword and keeps a cool head under the pressure of a bloody massacre, the women of the village had training as well. This all points to a collective commune type existence and before the inhabitants are all but wiped out, it seems a very tolerable place to live.
Conversely, the wealthy and powerful King Osric’s throne room is a dank, dreary old place that nobody would seem to be comfortable in. Surrounded by riches, he is a man drowning in them.
The conclusion this tale draws for us is simple: Eliminate the unnecessary.
The things you own end up owning you.
1. Destroy the System; Define your selfNo other theme is so strongly apparent in the tale of our melancholic Cimmerian than that of Anarchism. From the beginning to the end it is the destruction and abandonment of one system, designed by someone else and imposed, after another.
In the previous point we talked about the two pillars of “civilization” and this is the second one: control of the masses by the elite. The destruction of mechanisms of control becomes a central theme in the film early on.
Conan’s evolution is almost a metaphor for the path of every man. He is born in a sort of anarcho-primitivist-commune; in Cimmeria all people rule together, labor is equally distributed even amongst men and women, few go hungry unless all go hungry and it seems logical to assume the concepts of “policing” or “taxation” would be laughably absurd. He is born pure.
This primitivist existence is stripped away when Thulsa Doom and his troop of pranksters show up and murder everyone, having Conan’s father mauled to death by dogs and his mother stylishly beheaded. He is then taken south and chained to the wheel of pain. He is now a slave, the bottom rung on “civilizations” ladder.
Ten years later Conan is purchased by a man with amazing red hair and is thrown into the pits as a gladiator. Again he exists on the fringes of society killing other slaves for the crowds amusement and the financial gain of his owner. Decadent? Yes, but Conan embraces it with a nihilistic approach explaining that to him it meant nothing.
It makes perfect sense that after losing everything and enduring the numbing ordeal of ten years forced labor that Conan would become a nihilist.
But this is not where he stays. Although anarchism and nihilism might go to the same parties this doesn’t mean they are room mates.
Conan is soon released from bondage by the man with amazing red hair and after some escaping from wolves and finding of old swords he becomes a thief, ostensibly under the tutelage of Subotai. During their travels Conan consistently remarks about his negative impressions of developed areas and “civilization”. And although they embark on a stealing frenzy, while stealing the “Eye of the Serpent” we learn that in fact, Conan still longs to find those that destroyed his village. Instead of mere revenge, it seems more likely that what he is seeking is some sort of understanding. This is not nihilism.
Finally, after a failed attempt at infiltrating Thulsa Doom’s organization, the pivotal point in the story arrives. Thulsa Doom and Conan discuss the “Riddle of Steel” and the nature of power.
This is, for all intents and purposes the answer to the “Riddle of Steel”. After this, his crucifixion and subsequent resurrection Conan himself embraces this philosophy and turns his back on all but himself and his belief in one man’s ability to be extraordinary without structures but simply through his actions.
While he and his gang of fun-loving rogues infiltrate Doom’s temple, we see the full decadence and decay propagated by the system and it’s leaders in the form of a massive cannibal soup orgy at which, ole’ Thulsa Doom morphs into a big goddamned snake. Because why not, right?
From the pure and innocent beginnings of a primitive snow-covered forest village to the debauched apex of civilization, what comes next almost seems a foregone conclusion.
Having all his questions answered Conan now turns to simple actions (revenge) and finally the most symbolic act of system deconstruction, the beheading of Doom in front of his followers at the mountain of power.
Not only does he kill Doom, but he resists, he fights against and wins the battle for mental control that his mother, and clearly hundreds of thousands of Doom’s followers have lost, and then decapitates the shit out him. Conan then holds the head high for all to see, re-enforcing his disregard for the authority figures (priests, clerics, teachers, presidents, police, meter-maids, celebrity figures etc) the system imposes on us before throwing it down the stairs of the temple, then, chucking a lantern into the place and burning it to the ground.
A total and complete analogy for the abandonment if not the complete destruction of systems of power that intend to force laws, codes, rules or even thoughts upon us.
A more clear message would be hard to find and even harder to convey.