The Tower of the Elephant
This is good. The Tower of the Elephant is a Robert E. Howard penned short story originally published in Weird Tales in March, 1933. In this one, Conan travels to the City of Thieves (if you look closely you’ll see Gary Gygax cribbing stuff for AD&D everywhere). Howard writes in such depth of this setting that you can almost feel and smell the corruption. Conan finds himself in a tavern surrounded my master thieves speaking of the impossible get… The Elephant’s Heart, a jewel of unimaginable value. Conan brazenly states that he will steal the Heart from the evil priest Yara. The thieves mock Conan with such intensity that a brawl ensues. It only steadies Conan’s resolve. He sets out to the Tower of the Elephant.
I won’t share much more about the tale, except to say there is nothing epic about this. It is one man’s pride leading him into the mouth of the lion… and elephant. There is also a Save vs. Poison or die encounter with a giant spider, which probably has as much to do with the birth of this trope as Shelob. The encounters in the Tower are freaky as hell.
Yes, part of the fun of reading these stories has been noting their influence on Misters Gygax and Arneson.