Conan The Barbarian in both Film and Books is seen as a Nietzschean fantasy that declares that God is Dead and we must rely on ourselves. But after my own personal soul searching to strengthen my own Catholic Faith and looking up the works of Christian existentialist Soren Kierkegaard, I’ve come to see that Conan the Barbarian, weather intentional or not, is a story that starts with the philosophy of the Nietzsche but transforms with its titular protagonist to the philosophy of Kierkegaard(though its done in a morally crude manner), which then a true and authentic religion blooms. Just as God did with the primal faith of Abraham to grow and evolve into the True Religion, The True Myth, as all things he creates grow and transform under his guidance.
Experience comes first, and then from that experience is doctrine born, as experience makes sense of doctrine.
“How so?” You ask.
One simple answer, or should I say name, Crom
Crom is the chief God and supreme deity of the Conan universe worshiped by Conan’s people, The Cimmerians. Though the way he is worshiped is a lot how Soren Kierkegaard describes how one becomes a Christian, not by doctrine, but rather an experience. Soren often used examples of Abraham and Mary and finally Jesus Christ himself.
Crom rarely intervenes, taking the role of an ancient monarch. He neither wants sacrifices of animals or temples, those are for the other gods who serve him. Rather, he gives his followers a will and courage, and then they must fight in combat to feel what he feels, and then when that experience builds up to a battle with no certainty of winning, they must pray to him for courage. Then with victory, can a warrior’s newfound faith make sense of all things.
This is not too uncommon with Soren’s idea of “The Leap of Faith” which is accepting the faith outside of reason when it feels like there’s a dead end. The only thing I disagree with, is that’s where it ends. Christians, especially Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Mainline Protestants in general need to take a leap of faith so they can understand their religion better. Once you do, you feel God and soon everything falls into place.
The Leap of Faith is something I would call organic
So lets now look at the film
Conan’s village and parents worship Crom through their work, blacksmithing in particular. After Thulsa Doom and his followers raid the village and slaughter Conan’s family, he is sold off as a slave. Here as we see him grow as a slave and a gladiator, he follows Nietzsche which gets him pretty far as he becomes an Übermensch. But soon the movie shows something that I myself had theorized after reading bits of Soren.
If the Übermensch and the Eternal Recurrence do exist, they are the end of the first chapter, not the end of the story. They are but a crude accumulation of natural theology.
Conan grows bored of his savage and lecherous ways and decides to hunt down the man who killed his family and as he does, he slowly starts to restrain and reserve his primal traits. Soon he makes a friend of a thief named Subotai and learns to trust, then he finds a woman named Valeria who after looting a temple of Doom’s cult learns to love(though in a way not approved in my faith), then after being essentially hired by the King to reclaim his daughter from Doom, are sen’t off to the wilderness where finally Conan meets an old wizard name Akiro and learns wisdom.
But he foolishly goes off alone again to infiltrate the gnostic-like cult that Doom leads. Here he is captured and brought before Doom where he chastises Conan for stealing from his temple, but Conan like the primitive Übermensch he is rants and berates at Thulsa for what he did to his people. Doom nonchalantly told him why, the “riddle of steel” which his interpretation is Nietzsche called “The Will To Power”, to command people around like cattle. Afterward, Conan is crucified alone on a tree where he seemingly dies and then rescued by Subotai.
The director said its God abandoning him in opposite of Jesus Christ.
But I think what the director missed is Jesus was crucified in front of a jeering mob, which is just as bad as being alone, and like Subotai, only the faithful few where mourning him, the faithful individuals who he would send to inspire a reborn faith not only to Jews, but to Gentiles which grow into some so much greater than what Israel already was, something truly special that would even touch the heart of the Roman Empire itself and carry on where it collapsed.
Anyhoo, after resurrecting Conan from the brink of death, Valeria and Subotai accompany him back to raise hell and reclaim the princess. Sadly this ends in Valeria dying, but Conan learns to hone his anger and restrain himself. He and Subotai perform a funeral pyre for her, but she burns so bright that her corpse is gone the next day without a sign of ashes.
Finally as Doom sends his henchmen to pursuit Conan and company, Conan sets traps but knows thats not guaranteed to work. So in against all odds, Conan finally prays to Crom, understanding what he wants of him, and with that, Crom intervenes by reviving Valeria who has been transformed into a Valkyrie like state, in some kind of rough allusion to a Patron Saint before she returns to the barbaric heaven of Valhalla with the words.
“Do you want to live forever?”
After this, Conan finally understands the faith of the chief God of his people, he is no longer the crude Übermensch of Nietzsche who selfishly leads and pragmatically commands.
No, he has been reborn as Soren’s Knight of Faith, which now he can not only deliver justice to his people, but save and re-inspire those Doom has lured. For now Conan knows empathy and compassion of them and those whom Doom has turned them away from.
Friendship, Love, Wisdom, Loss, Empathy, all what he needs to become the king he will become in the future.
With this virtuous nature, he finally breaks the princess from the spell, ends Doom’s life and terrible reign, and the crowds return their respective kingdoms, homes, families, and gods.
Conan than sits at the steps of the temple, contemplating what Crom wishes for him to do next, and now with a clear mind and making peace with the past, he burns the temple and reunites with his friends. Those who would join him as his subordinates as he becomes a king chosen by Crom and raises a Kingdom in his honor and glory.
When the world was lost, God start with a seed of faith in Abraham, that grew into Israel which then God sent his son Christ, from there Christ sent his disciples to Rome as Israel fell as Christ and the Book of Revelation foretold, and from that came the Church and from the Church after the fall of Rome came the glorious West we know.
Great things start as a tiny seed, and when Great grows weary, it condenses its greatness into another seed, and the process goes on and on until the Last Day.
Because Good, will always prevail no matter it be collective, or individual, because they are ultimately one and the same.