Howard corresponded with H. P. Lovecraft, though it is extremely unlikely that they ever met, and the two would sometimes insert references to elements of each others' settings in their works; the Conan stories thus could be said to have originally occurred in the Cthulhu Mythos universe. Modern editors have since reworked many of the original Conan stories, however, diluting this connection.
The Conan stories are informed by the popular interest of the time in ideas on evolution and social Darwinism. Are some peoples destined to rule over others? Are our physical and mental characteristics the result of our experiences or our inheritance from our ancestors? Is human civilization a natural or unnatural development? As Conan remarks in one story:
- Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing. (Howard, The Tower of the Elephant, Weird Tales, March 1933)
Additionally, some fans such as comic book artist Mark Schultz have concluded that Conan was an idealized alter ego for Howard. Unlike the modern, stereotypical view of a brainless barbarian (mainly from his appearances in movies and comics), Howard originally created Conan as a thoughtful but melancholic figure who often battled with depression, much like Howard himself (the writer eventually committed suicide). However, Howard's Conan is unaffected by such feelings:
- Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is an illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and I am content. (Howard, Queen of the Black Coast, Weird Tales, May 1934).