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Did Arnold Schwarzenegger Just Solve A Mystery From Conan The Barbarian?

Conan the Cimmerian, the beloved warrior created by Robert E. Howard, has been a mainstay of fantasy storytelling since he first appeared in the pages of Weird Tales nearly a century ago in 1932. And, of course, Conan found a whole new audience in 1982 when he was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the film Conan the Barbarian.

While many people point to the Terminator as the role that made Schwarzenegger a household name, that might never have happened if he hadn't played Conan first. There are a lot of things people remember from Schwarzenegger's first Conan movie — the supporting performances from James Earl Jones and Max von Sydow, the epic sword battles, and of course, the belief that what is best in life is "to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women."

However, there is one other part of Conan that always sticks out — the Riddle of Steel. Conan's father explains the riddle in a pretty elaborate way. "The secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery," Conan's father tells him. "You must learn its riddle, Conan. You must learn its discipline. For no one — no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts."

Conan's father brandishes a steel sword he has just forged and says, "This you can trust," as a hint to the riddle. Unfortunately, after that Conan's father (along with most of the rest of their village) is wiped out by Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones).

What is the answer to the riddle? Nearly 40 years later, it seems like Schwarzenegger himself has revealed it.

Why the Riddle of Steel matters now more than ever

There are theories as to what the Riddle of Steel really means. Within the narrative of Conan the Barbarian, Thulsa Doom even suggests that the riddle is based on incorrect assumptions. "Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger," Doom tells Conan. "What is steel compared to the hand that wields it? Look at the strength in your body, the desire in your heart, I gave you this!" Of course, Conan defeats Thulsa Doom, so there's probably more to the riddle than that.

Some people believe that steel represents human will. There are others who believe that the key to true strength comes through being forged in fire, just like a steel sword.

The Riddle of Steel feels more relevant than ever in America, as the country hurdles into an uncertain future. The former governor of California had that in mind when he shared a YouTube video in which he holds a sword, explaining that it's Conan's sword. "Here's the thing about swords," Schwarzenegger explains. "The more you temper a sword, the stronger it becomes. The more you point it with a hammer and then heat in the fire, and then thrust it into the cold water and then pound it again, and then plunge it into the fire and the water, and the more often you do that, the stronger it becomes."

"Our democracy is like the steel of this sword," Schwarzenegger explains. "The more it is tempered, the stronger it becomes." Whether or not he specifically set out to answer the Riddle of Steel, Schwarzenegger's speech resonates both with the story of Conan, and for a lot of people living in America today.