Hyborian era (possibly 16,000 BC or before and extending to at least 10,000 BC) or possibly before
User/Possessors: Keepers of the Crypt of Lost Lanjau;
formerly the people of Lanjau, Conan of Cimmmeria
Aliases: Ancient Talisman, Sacred Serpent
First Appearance: Conan the Barbarian I#8 (August, 1971)
Powers/Abilities/Functions: The Jade Serpent is considered the most holy talisman of Lanjau is considered especially sacred to the Keepers of the Crypt of Lost Lanjau.
Under uncertain circumstances it can transform into a living (or at least animated) green viper with an almost immediately lethal venom.
Its specific construction and any additional abilities are unrevealed.
(Conan the Barbarian I#255 (fb) - BTS) - Lanjau was long ago the furthest southern outpost of the Hyperboreans.
(Conan the Barbarian I#256 (fb) - BTS) - The Jade Serpent was the most holy talisman of Lanjau.
(Conan the Barbarian I#8 (fb) - BTS) - Legends told that Lanjau was the richest of the ancient cities until the gods, in envy, drove its subjects mad.
The Jade Serpent was kept, along with a massive wealth of jewels, gold, etc., within the Treasure-Crypt of Lanjau.
(Conan the Barbarian I#256 (fb) - BTS) - Six men/beings were slain and entombed as mummy-like beings to guard the Jade Serpent.
(Conan the Barbarian I#8 (fb) - BTS) - These were the Keepers of the Treasure-Crypt of Lanjau, allegedly placed their by those ancient gods.
(Conan the Barbarian I#8) - Conan and an unidentified Gunderman entered the Treasure-Crypt. Both men wanted the Jade Serpent, and Conan won a game of cubes (dice) to claim the Jade Serpent, which he placed in a sack.
(Conan the Barbarian I#8) - Conan's picking up the "Sacred Serpent" awakened the Crypt-Keepers.
(Conan the Barbarian I#8) - While the Gunderman gathered some of the other gems, and the two men discussed their plans, they were interrupted by the Crypt-Keepers, who attacked them. After the two men fought their way free and fled the Treasure-Crypt, the pursuing Crypt-Keepers were turned to dust by the bright sun, after which Lanjau crumbled and collapsed. Conan escaped the city with the Jade Serpent in his bag, as well as with a bag of the Crypt's gems.
When Conan entered a Corinithian village and met his friend Jenna, he found the sack containing the gems now held only dust. He bragged of the greater value within the other sack, but when he handed it to Jenna so she could see, she dropped it when it moved. Before he could pick it up, they were confronted by the magistrate, who planned to arrest Conan and extradite him to Nemedia for the murder of the niece of the governor of Numalia (who had been slain by one of the Man-Serpents). Seeing the sack they had dropped and figuring it to contain booty from Numalia, the magistrate picked it up and reached inside, only to be bitten by the green viper within.
As the magistrate fell dead from the viper's lethal venom, Conan, figuring he could ponder this mystery later, grabbed Jenna, stole one of the guardsmen's horses, and fled.
(Conan the Barbarian I#255 (fb) - BTS) - The viper reverted back into the Jade Serpent. While no one could agree to whom it belonged, all were afraid to touch it, so they hoisted it up into a birdcage and suspended it in a tavern in that Corinthian village.
(Conan the Barbarian I#255) - About 11 years later, Conan returned to that Corinthian village. Glimpsing the Jade Serpent suspended from the birdcage, he asked the tavern wench, Gwenalda, about it. After she told him how it had gotten there, Gwenalda recognized him as the one who had killed the magistrate and she screamed that out for everyone in the tavern to hear. When the soldiers present tried to grab him despite his warnings, Conan dove over their heads and swung on the birdcage, which tore free from the chain suspending it, causing him to drop unexpectedly to the ground. The soldiers piled on Conan, and their captain, Hermios, ordered them to just hold him so they could talk.
Conan admitted to having found the Serpent in Lanjau, after which he accepted the Hermios' offer for both himself and his loose ally Hobb of Anuphar to join them in an offense against a rival city state in exchange for their forgetting his past offense.
(Conan the Barbarian I#255 (fb) - BTS) - The birdcage containing the Jade Serpent was replaced on a chain suspended from the tavern ceiling.
(Conan the Barbarian I#255 - BTS) - The Corinthian soldiers -- alongside Conan and Hobb -- failed to meet up with the rival Menaloans after a few days' marching; when they came upon Lanjau's ruins, Hermios decided they would hole up in the ruins for the night and continue the hunt for the Menaloans in the morning. However, within the ruins, they found the dead Menaloans, whose corpses were purple. While Conan held back, the Corinthian soldiers and Hobb looted the corpses until a group of priests interrupted them. Conan exposed the priests as Witchmen of Hyperborea and slew one of their number, but the Corinthians subdued Conan for this seeming blasphemy and departed with Hobb. Aided by Vammatar, the Witchmen performed a spell that revived the six Keepers of the Treasure-Crypt of Lost Lanjau.
The Keepers, noting how the Earth had buried them for their failure to safeguard the Jade Serpent, asked the witchmen if they had revived them to lead them to the sacred talisman, which the witchman Torumjumala confirmed. Vammatar's magic protected the Keepers from the sun as well as reanimating the Menaloans' purple corpses to fight alongside them.
As the Witchmen, purple "zombies," and witchmen caught up with the Corinthians, Gaius and Hermios succumbed to the purple plague. Freed by Gwenalda, who figured he had powers since he had brought the Jade Serpent, Conan attempted to hide out with her in a Mitrian temple, but Conan began to succumb to the plague as one of the Keepers broke through the temple door.
(Conan the Barbarian I#256) - Conan and Gwenalda made their way back to the taven where the Jade Serpent was hanging. After they reasoned that consuming raw meat could cure and prevent the plague, they were assaulted by purple plague victims who had perished but were revived by the Witchmen. As he started to recover, Conan leapt from a railing and grabbed the birdcage, ripping it open, and causing the Jade Serpent to fall to the ground beside him.
Conan then rushed outside and confronted the gathered Crypt-Keepers and Witch-Men, taunting them with his possession of the Jade Serpent. As Conan headed away and the Witchmen ordered the Crypt-Keepers back, the Keepers slaughtered all but the leader of the witchmen.
Conan then rushed back into the tavern, throwing the Jade Serpent to Hobb, leading the Crypt-Keepers to mow down the reanimated purple plague victims (including Hermios) menacing Hobb and Gwenalda. At Conan's urging, Hobb then tossed the Jade Serpent back to him, and Conan led them into the path of the purple dead.
When the remaining Witchman tried to order the Crypt-Keepers to ignore the Jade Serpent, the Crypt-Keepers expressed how they had to take it back to Lost Lanjau to atone for their long-ago failure. The Witchman told them the Jade Serpent was a relic of a dead era and of no importance to Vammatar and tried to order them -- presumably backed by the power ofVammatar -- to march back to Hyperborea. They instead advanced on Conan to reclaim the Serpent, but Conan threw it to the Witchman; as the Witchman triumphantly announced he would melt down the talisman to end any talks of returning it to Lanjau, a Crypt-Keeper attacked and slew the Witchman to prevent him from harming their sacred talisman.
As the dying Witchman dropped the Jade Serpent, Conan grabbed it and rushed away, telling them he was taking it back to Lanjau for them. The Crypt-Keepers pursued Conan, who rode a horse to death to stay in front of them, and then raced on foot until he reached a "nigh-bottomless" yawning crevasse. As the Crypt-Keepers arrived, Conan -- despite their protests -- hurled the Jade Serpent into the crevasse, and the Crypt-Keepers all leapt in after it.
Comments: Created by Roy Thomas, Barry Smith, Thomas Palmer (and/or Tom Sutton).
I would think it likely that the Jade Serpent had some connection to
Set, or perhaps one of his many offspring, races, etc...the fact that
the Keepers of the Crypt repeatedly referred to the likes of Mitra and
others as upstart, young gods, but fit with their being associated with
the much Elder God Set...
I'm not really sure what sort of gods Vammatar was into...it's unclear whether Vammatar has/had any connections to the Jumala (Finnish gods), although one of the Witchmen of Hyperborea was named Torumjumala; regardless, it is hard to believe this race of gods was older than Mitra, who was worshipped at least as early as 13,000 BC.
We know Vammatar at least sought power from Shuma-Gorath, so perhaps the Great Old Ones were the source of the Jade Serpent's power.
One of the Witchmen invoked "The Great God Borri," who has some sort of ties to the Asgardian gods, at least Buri or Bor...the Hyperboreans are descended from the Hybori, who were named for their deified chief, Borri.
The world may never know...
It's not clear whether the Corinthians rehung the Jade Serpent or the Crypt-Keepers did, but I'd think if the Crypt-Keepers had seen the Jade Serpent, they would have reclaimed it, rather than leaving it in the tavern.
Profile by Snood.
The Jade Serpent should be distinguished from:
images: (without ads)
Conan the Barbarian I#8, pg. 11, panel 3 (statue, face);
panel 5 (mostly full, straight-on);
panel 7 (mostly full, lateral);
pg. 19, panel 5 (alive and biting);
#255, pg. 2, panel 6 (caged)
Conan the Barbarian I#8 (August, 1971) - Roy Thomas (writer), Barry Smith (penicler), Thomas Palmer and Tom Sutton (inkers), Stan Lee (editor)
Conan the Barbarian I#255 (April, 1992) - Roy Thomas (writer), Mike Docherty (penciler), Alfredo Alcala (inker), Mike Rockwitz (editor)
Conan the Barbarian I#256 (May, 1992) - Roy Thomas (writer), Mike Docherty (penciler), Dell Barras (inker), Mike Rockwitz (editor)
Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.
Last Updated: 07/24/16
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