The tortured, transcosmic being that the youthful Conan encounters in “The Tower of the Elephant” seems to have a bit of an identity problem. Said entity refers to himself as “Yogah” once and as “Yag-kosha” twice. Robert E. Howard, in his role as omnipotent narrator, refers to the last exile of green Yag as “Yag-kosha, or Yogah” and as “Yag-kosha and Yogah.”
What to make of this? How should Yara’s ultra-telluric thrall be called? By what name did that pathetic entity refer to himself, in his innermost thoughts? Short of finding a lost letter relating to the matter, or the discovery of more “Hyborian Age Notes” of some sort, nothing absolutely definitive can be stated. However, I think something can definitely be speculated.
A test using simply the incidence of the two names in “The Tower of the Elephant” as the criterion shows a clear winner: “Yag-Kosha.” All told, “Yag-kosha” is used five times, “Yogah” is used thrice. I haven’t done a formal, precise survey, but my guesstimate of the general implementation of the two names in the arena of overall REH fandom seems to place “Yag-kosha” ahead of “Yogah.” I have to admit, for many years, I used “Yag-kosha” because it sounded “cooler” than “Yogah”.
That’s not all there is to it, not in my opinion.
When one looks at how the last exile of Yag employs his two appelations, a pattern (such as it is) emerges. Here are the first words that the wayward son of green Yag speaks in “The Tower of the Elephant”:
“Who is here? Have you come to torture me again, Yara? Will you never be done? Oh, Yag-kosha, is there no end to agony?”
“Oh, Yag-kosha…” Yara’s slave is referring to himself in the third person, somewhat like how Smeagol (a tortured, enslaved being, though for different reasons), in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, calls himself “Gollum.” Could it be that the marooned, ultra-telluric castaway had created an “outer self,” one which endured nigh-endless torments while the eons-old psyche within clutched the tatters of sanity (and rebellion) tightly?
There is also the matter of the name, “Yag-kosha,” itself. Despite the opinions of de Camp and Lovecraft (to a certain extent), Robert E. Howard had a sophisticated (if mostly instinctive) feel for languages. The entity in question was from the planet of Yag. Howard knew this, obviously. So, would he then bestow a given name upon the titular “elephant” of the yarn in question that contained the name of the planet “Yag” therein? To make an approximate analogy, it would be like someone naming their child “AmericanJoe” or “EarthBob.” One could argue that Howard “felt” like it, but we have “Yogah” as counter-evidence.
As I’ve noted, Yara’s slave refers to himself as “Yogah” but once, but that one time is of paramount significance, in my opinion. Here are his words:
“Let me be free of this cage of broken blind flesh, and I will once more be Yogah of Yag, morning-crowned and shining with wings to fly, and feet to dance, and eyes to see, and hands to break.”
“I will once more be Yogah of Yag…” He was once “Yogah of Yag,” but he was “Yag-kosha” when he spoke (he thought) to Yara. When he instructed the Cimmerian thief before him in what words to say to his erstwhile tormentor, he bade him say, “Yag-kosha gives you…” What Yogah did not give Yara (by way of Conan) was his true name. Even in his moment of ultimate triumph, Yogah was too wary from centuries of hard lessons to give such a precious thing away, lest the whole gambit be foiled at the last moment. Conan may have been the only human to ever hear Yogah’s birth name spoken.
So what might “Yag-kosha” mean? In the spirit of speculation, I’d guess “The Last Son (or ‘Exile’) of Yag,” in Yogah’s native tongue. Certainly, Yogah must have felt he was the last free son of Yag (despite his terrestrial bondage); he and his brethren having conceded green Yag to the tender mercies of its “kings.”
So call that tortured soul “Yogah,” I say. The name carries no taint of exile or torment, and by all accounts, he was always a friend to men of good will.