Conan the Barber

He was not related to the much better known Cimmerian after whom he’d been named, although, like him, he was somewhat expert in the use of sharp implements, just not in the same manner.  Actually, in a very different manner with very different goals and very different results.  His only involved butchering when he failed, while his namesake engaged in that activity when he was most successful, at least in his own lights.

Robert E. Howard would probably not have thought much about Conan the Barber, although, perhaps, he might have patronized him, as might his great albeit very different pal, H. P. Lovecraft.  But this Conan also took his profession seriously, and at times engaged in cosmetogolical competitions where, every once in a great while, his creations emerged victorious.

It may well be that he took as much care of his scissors and razors and blades as his namesake did of his swords and spears and lances and arrows, so in that, at least, they were similar.  And of course, they were both Cimmerians, although not many people today know just what that entailed.  For readers who have no idea, well, according to a popular source that will remain unnamed due to its erratic reputation for accuracy, they were “a nomadic Indo-European people, who appeared about 1000 BC”, originating in the Pontic-Caspian steppe but subsequently migrating “into Western Asia and into Central and Southeast Europe”.  Interesting definition, especially the part about “originating in the Pontic-Caspian steppe”, since it begs the question, … well, where were they before that, did they spontaneously come to life there, perhaps from a bit of molded clay onto which a stray divine wind blew?  I would guess that they were a link in the chain of tribes that for diverse reasons kept pulsing out of central Asia, perhaps out of what is now Mongolia, and scaring the hell out of their neighbors who cascaded south and west.  But that’s just my unsubstantiated guess, which is as good as yours.

One wonders what kind of coiffeurs our Conan specialized in, whether he ever invented any, perhaps the Mohawk, or the Pictian spike look, or, perhaps, the faux bald look so popular nowadays.  I can almost see him, concentrating profoundly and perhaps fantasizing about his name sake as he clipped and scraped and combed and parted and started the process all over again.  One wonders if he had a special flair, perhaps a unique style, and what kinds of faces he made as he worked, perhaps as though he were a bass player in a late twentieth century New Orleans late night dive, lost in his melodies.

Of course, in antiquity and even not so long ago, barbers were also sort of surgeons, and engaged in therapeutic, curative bleeding, hence today’s barber poles.  It would be sort of ironic if our Conan was a healer, rather than one who generated a massive need for healers.  Kind of symbiotic.

What about his clothing?  Was it as minimal as his namesake’s?  Did he wear loincloths or trousers, beads or shirts, and what was his own hair like?  Did he change his look frequently or prefer a classic, easy to recognize look that would identify him?  Was it long, short, or somewhere in between?

Was he a contemporary of his name sake?  Not likely, unless, of course, he was twenty or thirty years younger, a lifetime in those days.  Did his namesake ever meet him, perhaps patronize him, and, if so, in what sense?  Double entendre possibilities abound there.

Interestingly, many millennia later, at least a few people have taken to the name and appellation, check out twitter, and evidently there’s also a current musician who uses that name, and not a few barber shops.  So his legacy too lives on.

“Conan the Barber”, a nice ring.  Was it a given name, an adopted name or, perhaps, a professional moniker?

Guess we’ll never know.  Regardless of how carefully one “combs” through the related chronicles compiled by Messier Howard, not a trace of Conan the Barber can be gleaned.  Then, of course, perhaps one would need a sleuth out of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s imagination to take up that particular task, although, why would he.

Wouldn’t it be something if Sherlock Holmes’ creator was somehow distantly related to either of our protagonists?  Of course, after so many generations of intermingled genes, almost anything is possible.

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2022; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at and much of his writing is available through his blog at

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