Written by Old Bluffer 21st May 2009
Conan's mother, Verina is trapped at the edge of her burning village, with her young son at her side, facing the full array of the Snake Cult raiders. She has just seen her husband ripped to shreds by a pair of war dogs, and must know her life and that of her son are doomed.
The raiders are curiously formal with her however. First of all the two lieutenants respectfully remove their helms, and Thorgrim carefully hands her husband's bloodied sword to Rexor. He in turn levels it at Verina, who raises her own blade, ready to die in battle.
Rexor was saluting her rather than attacking though, and afterwards passes the sword to his Lord, Thulsa Doom. Doom gazes at the blade for a long while, for we learn later that at this point in his life he had a great deal of respect for The Riddle of Steel - the creed which Cimmerians such as Conan's father live by.
He approaches Verina, and she again raises her blade, but this time she visibly wavers. Thulsa Doom fixes her with his intensely charismatic gaze, and despite herself, she becomes mesmerised, like so many other victims of the Snake Cult.
Doom turns away slowly, holding her gaze until the last moment, and then swings the captured blade in a fatal arc.
We see Conan, holding his mother's hand as her head falls to the ground, and then her body slowly follows, breaking his grip.
Completely stunned, he barely notices when Thulsa Doom raises the sword in one last salute, and passes it to Rexor.
Conan is then sold into slavery and it will be some twenty years before he earns his freedom, regains his father's sword and finally gets revenge.
Old Bluffer's Thoughts
This is a rather strange scene, powerful but raising a number of questions. It's not entirely clear why Verina doesn't defend herself. Possibly she hopes her son's life will be spared if she doesn't resist, or maybe she has just given up. I favour the magical aspect of Thulsa Doom's stare though - she seems courageous enough when faced with Rexor after all.
Even less answerable is why there is so much respect afforded to the sword and Verina. It is undoubtedly a beautifully made weapon, and maybe they seek to show Verina that they honour its maker. Conan's father also put up an impressive fight before he died, and indeed, the blade is covered with the blood of many Snake Cultists. But how could they know that Verina was his wife?
Personally, I like to think that the entire reason for Thulsa Doom's raid in the first place was to obtain this sword. Later on in the film, when Conan confronts Doom and reminds him in anguish about the raid, we learn:
"Ah. It must have been when I was younger. There was a time, boy, when I searched for steel, when steel meant more to me than gold or jewels."
This to me shows that the cultists weren't primarily out to capture slaves, they were on a quest for the Riddle of Steel, and knew Conan's father was a master smith who followed the ways of Crom. Doom is shown to have magical perceptive abilities later in the film as well, so it is plausible to think that he could sense Verina's thoughts at the end of the battle, telling him that she was someone who deserved a respectful death.
By the way, I've called Conan's mother Verina as this is apparently her name according to popular canon.