Robert E. Howard and The Origin of the Reptilian Conspiracy

Beyond the myths of ancient cultures, the notion of a reptilian race that resides underground and has the ability to transform to blend in with humans finds its genesis in The Kingdom of Shadows, a strange story published in 1929.

Robert E. Howard and The Origin of the Reptilian Conspiracy
Along with HP Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, Howard formed the so-called “Three Musketeers of Weird Tales.” 
His work, both in prose and verse, is enormous, and much of it was published posthumously. 
Left: Illustration from The Kingdom of Shadows, by Justin Sweet. 
Right: Robert E. Howard in 1934.

Let’s see, as an example, an excerpt from this work written by Robert E. Howard first appeared in the iconic magazine Weird Tales :

Kull dubiously placed his hand on the hilt of his sword. He got goosebumps as he placed his foot on the horror that lay on the floor and, as the terrible mouth opened, abruptly moved by a last muscular reflex, he stepped back, dominated by nausea. Then, furious with himself, he violently snatched away the sword and carefully examined the abominable creature he had known by the name of Tu, his first advisor. With the sole exception of the reptilian head, the thing was an exact replica of a man.

—A man with a snake head! Kull murmured. In that case, is he a priest of the snake-god?

-Yeah. You sleep, without worrying about anything. These demons can take any form they wish. Or, rather, they may, by means of a magical incantation or the like, weave around their faces an enchanted web, as if an actor were to put on a mask, to resemble those whom they wish to impersonate.

“So the old legends were true,” the king mused, “the old terrible stories that a man hardly dares whisper for fear of death.”

Sounds familiar? For those who have been following the reptilian theme lately, sure! And what Howard wrote is, as far as we have been able to investigate, the first modern mention of these beings in a fiction/fantasy context that alludes to a conspiracy to secretly control humans.

Of course, the author of The Kingdom of Shadows, despite being considered the father of the “sword and sorcery” subgenre, was not the one who coined the term “reptilian.” In fact, as can be read above, these scaly beings are simply referred to as “snake men” – something more reminiscent of the ancient legends of Uluru -.

The Reptilian Empire

According to Howard’s account, the serpent men were created countless eons ago by the Great Serpent. The original Empire of these creatures on Earth, based on an advanced understanding of magic and alchemy, collapsed with the rise of the dinosaurs about 225 million years ago, during the Triassic era.

But this collapse was not the end of the serpent-men, who throughout history have tried to regain power on several occasions. Thus, these survivors of the “old things” infiltrated human society and ruled from the shadows for a time, but were discovered, defeated, and driven out in a secret war. Later, however, they repeated the tactic.

Robert E. Howard and The Origin of the Reptilian Conspiracy
Illustration by Ned Dameron.

At this point, Howard says, a Serpent Cult religion emerged, which gained power and influence within Valusia—a city that was already ancient in the times of Atlantis—as the serpent men used their camouflage abilities to murder. and replace every reigning human monarch.

The power of these beings would finally be broken by King Kull, a one-time barbarian from Atlantis who had recently conquered Valusia, and by the Pictish Brule the Killer, whose society was aware of the infiltration of the serpent men.

The serpent men escaped to Yoth, a cavern beneath K’n-yan in North America. There they built underground cities, of which only ruins remain in the modern era.


It is certain that Howard drew on mythological, theosophical, and occult sources of the time to write  The Kingdom of Shadows. In fact, his greatest creation, Conan the Barbarian, is temporarily located in the Hyborian age, “a fantastic time between the years of the sinking of Atlantis and those of the migrations of the Aryans.”

His pioneering work, capable of transforming the esoteric into the exoteric, has been a source of inspiration for numerous authors in the subsequent decades of the 20th and 21st centuries. These writers have explored in greater depth the theme of “shape-shifting serpent men,” not only in the realm of fiction but also in the realm that has given rise to various conspiracy theories—telephone for David Icke.

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