As part of my guest blog series I am proud to present another guest blog spot. David Thomas I am very excited andthe blogger behind Conan the Cimmerian Blog (The Rambling Conan Blog)
Would you like to be a part of my guest blog series? Please contact me! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Now without further adieu here is David’s awesome guest blog.
And don’t forget to check out his blog:
Conan the Cimmerian Blog (The Rambling Conan Blog)
Rambling Conan Blog pt.13
My wife and I met in the land of Azeroth, in The World of Warcraft MMO. She was from New Zealand and I was in the States. One early morning before sleep, after a long night of raiding together in a digital fantasy world, while actually being about as distant as you can get on Earth, we lay down with our headphones and mics and I read Robert E Howard’s The Frost Giant’s Daughter to her. The story already was one of my favorites, and now has an even larger place in my heart for that memory.
The story was likely written at near the same time as The Phoenix on the Sword, and while Phoenix was accepted by Weird Tales, Frost Giant’s Daughter was rejected. It was never published as a Conan story in Howard’s lifetime.
Where does it fall in the chronology? It’s probably the only REH Conan story that is very difficult to place using solely the story as reference. REH said in a letter that Conan first joined an Aesir band in the north after leaving Cimmeria, which is pretty good evidence that he was talking about this story, and that makes Conan around 16 at the time of the story. However, from a strict reading of the story, I would have placed it later. Conan’s face is scarred, he has a good set of mail, and the narration mentions Poitain, which young Conan had never seen. Poitain is only mentioned narratively, but it seems out of place of not drawn from Conan’s experience. Either way, it doesn’t really matter, and I’m currently favoring the young Conan placement, if only because I don’t see Conan visiting the North often after leaving.
The story contains one of my favorite Conan elements, which is someone underestimating him. It happens in a big way here, and it’s glorious. It also contains a great bit of Conan dialogue,
“Not in Vanaheim,” growled the black haired warrior, “but in Valhalla will you tell your brothers that you met Conan of Cimmeria.”
Some hate the story because Conan tries to force himself on Atali. In my opinion he was obviously enchanted; it’s really a main part of the story and ridiculous not to think so. Just before Atali appears with silvery mocking laughter, everything goes black, and when Conan’s sight fades back in everything has a dreamlike quality. Again and again the text states how Conan is driven mad. Even old Gorm in his meeting with Atali says he howled like a dying dog because he could not chase her, certainly a suspicious reaction of a near mortality wounded man unless he is ensorcelled. It’s clear as day to me that Atali simply underestimated the man she beguiled and hoped to lead to his death.
Anyway, if you have not read the story, it’s very short, and yet high quality Conan. It’s the perfect bedtime story. Give it a read, its fantastic!
About David Thomas
That Cary Nord art, tho! I think the Busiek run on the Dark Horse Conan comics are my favorite visual representation of the great barbarian. And Busiek and Nord did a wonderful job translating the Howard originals into the comic book medium.
I agree that Conan was likely under the sway of Atali, though I would say it’s more like a fae enchantment or a dragon’s fear-inducing awe than a deliberate spell, as such. I also think you’re right that people who skip past this are missing a key plot element. That said, this places Atali into a different sort of anti-feminist peg-hole, the evil femme fatale using her feminine wiles to snare men. Whether you believe the social justice angle or not, it’s at least true as a trope.
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Men are shown as mindlessly violent all the time. Taking these different forms of cruelty and exploitation to the level of carricature is a standard trait of fanntasy. When it comes to portraying villains, I see no objection to either.
Depicting men as needlessly hyper-violent is just as common in fiction. Taking these forms of cruelty and evil to the level of carricature is a standard in fantasy. When this is used to make villains villainous, I see no objection to either.
I totally agree about the fae enchantment rather than a spell.
One thing that always bothers me about almost all Frost Giant’s Daughter artwork depicting the battle with the giants is that the battle is almost ALWAYS depicted wrong. Conan shears through the first giant’s leg and then half-severs the neck of the other. I know it’s a petty sticking point, but the cuts are either depicted out of order (as in the Frazetta painting) or the giants are portrayed much too large.
Again, petty, and despite this minor complaint, I do love the Frazetta painting. I had a print on my wall as a teen.
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