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The Frost-Giant's Daughter: Conan SotM


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#1 Kortoso

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Posted 08 October 2006 - 06:42 PM

CONAN STORY OF THE MONTH: "THE FROST-GIANT'S DAUGHTER"
Source: The Coming of Conan of Cimmeria (Del Rey)


SPOILERS * * * * SPOILERS * * * * SPOILERS

This thread will contain a detailed discussion of the story, so there will be spoilers.

The original plan for the REH story of the month club was to get around to all the various stories by REH on a monthly basis. However, since we have a score of Conan tales to deal with, it would have taken years before we got to the final tale. REH was a prolific writer indeed, however short his career.

Anyway, I'm going on with the next Conan story written by REH. The Frost-Giant's Daughter appears to have been written at about the same time as The Phoenix on the Sword and submitted together to Weird Tales in March of 1932. Frost-Giant's Daughter was rejected by Farnsworth Wright. Later REH re-wrote it as an "Amra of Akbitbana" story.

Lots of meat to chew on in this story: the only REH Conan tale that actually takes place in Nordheim, elements borrowed clearly from Greek mythology, a sort of O. Henry ending, and last but not least, a controversy about whether Conan would commit rape.

Let's try to focus on whether this is one of your favorite tales, and what are the elements that make it work as a story. But, of course, any discussions relevant to the story (within the usual restrictions) are all fair play. There's something about reading a story intentionally, as we are now, rather than on a casual basis, that can bring elements to light that normally are glossed over.

Your rating system:
[10] A fantastic story
[9] A excellent conan story
[8] A great story
[7] A good story
[6] A worthy story that has many intriguing plot points but may be weak in areas
[5] A mediocre story
[4] A Story that may have a couple of interesting ideas
[3] A story that isn't well written or a plot that sucks
[2] A dismal story that in my opinion has many flaws
[1] A complete turd. A worthless sham of a story that shouldn't even mention Conan's name. In my opinion should be avoided by all except fanatic completists (or the author's mother, good ol ma will like it.)

#2 Taranaich

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Posted 08 October 2006 - 08:06 PM

I'd give it a decent 7/10.

The problem with The Frost Giant's Daughter is that the story itself is overshadowed by one particularly contentious aspect of the plot, which can sometimes detract from the rest of the story. I'll get to that later.

The Frost Giant's Daughter is a very atmospheric, fascinating tale. The description of the snow and cold is brilliant, you practically shiver at the words. The description of the battlefield is, rightly, one of the most memorable passages Howard ever wrote, with the death-grip of the Nordheimir and the two last lonely warriors approaching each other over the bloody snow.

The weird menace is very different from other Howardian terrors: it is not dark, but bright, with the scintillating hoarfrost and glittering ice taking on as much of a terrible aspect as any number of subterranean shadows and amorphous monstrosities, which is a refreshing change from the usual Lovecraftian seafood-from-hell. The Ice-Giants in particular are an interesting foe, as they are relatively normal foes aside from their size and the unsettling resistance to cold.

Atali herself is, like Akivasha and Salome after her, a far more powerful and supernaturally dangerous female than the other women Conan encounters. The mix of power and sexuality is one that plagued bad sword-and-sorcery for years to come, but as with many things Howard did it is handled very well.

Now on to the contentious bit. I think that, like many accusations made against Conan (he is sexist, he is racist etc) it is a very misleading argument. Conan does indeed chase Atali across the snow with the intent to ravish her, but the fact that Atali's brothers were lying in wait implies that she fully intended Conan to chase her, coupled with the fact Conan was dunted on the skull and the constant references to Conan's "madness". In my opinion, Atali obviously appealled to Conan's voracious libido in order to lead him into her trap, only for it to backfire. Since she must have been doing this to hundreds of other men throughout Aesir history, and any chick that can run across the snow naked is hardly what I'd consider vulnerable, I cannot think that this is in any way similar to what most instances of rape mean.

If Atali was just a normal girl, even one who taunted and teased Conan to the extent Atali did without the use of psychological powers, I could see why they'd find it distasteful. But Atali was a goddess, a bloody one who was complicit in the murders of countless men by exploiting her sexuality. She deserves no sympathy from me, even in matters of rape.

The other contention is whether Conan would rape anyone of his own accord. I personally think there is ample evidence to suggest that he probably wouldn't: Conan comes from a country where the women fight alongside the men and could look after themselves, even going to battle while heavily pregnant. The Nordheim women seem to be cut of the same cloth. I highly doubt that any Cimmerian woman would suffer a man to violate her, or that any man who attempted it would live, and so there was probably not a lot of raping going on in Cimmeria (though likely a hell of a lot of killing). Plus, Conan himself seems so confident in his awesome sexual magnetism that it's difficult to imagine him feeling the need to force himself on any woman: he'd just wait until the girl succumbed to his charms.

I suspect much heated discussion in this thread.

Robert E. Howard, 1906 - 2006

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#3 PainBrush

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Posted 09 October 2006 - 10:29 PM

Good stuff ! - Maybe the young hot-headed 'kid' Conan in this story learned at this early age to have a 'bit' more thought in regards to women - that lasted the rest of his days ?

" You have a good point there,...put your helmet on & no-one will notice it ."
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#4 Winterghost

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 12:10 AM

Sat down and read it real quick, then read the DH adaptation just for fun (and was impressed at how close they stuck to the source).

Yes, a well written story.

And yeah, the rape issue is an issue.


T,

Okay, Atali doesn't come off all that strong. She teases and runs, and when Conan does get ahold of her, the best she can do is squirm away from him before appealing to the assistance of Ymir. Atali did not run across the snow, but apparently glided over it. There was even only Conan's tracks found in the snow. So we cannot attribute strength to her for running.

If Conan was not intent on raping her, he was surely intent on forcing himself on her for some personal pleasure. Perhaps Atali had enchanted him in some way, as with all the past men, to compel them to follow her even if painfully wounded by battle. So maybe Conan is an innocent in his action, but that did not mean he was not intent to perform the deed.

As you said, Atali had no intention of being raped. She was just pulling off a trick she'd done countless times before, only this time it backfired. And so she was falling prey to her own evil plot. If, though, Conan was not under enchantment, then it's a matter of self control, and he is guilty of attempted rape or sexual assault. I think it is suggested well enough, though, that he is under some enchantment, otherwise I think he'd be more wary of her after killing her brothers.

Some things in your last paragraph had me confused as to where you got your information.

What Howard story indicates that woman fought alongside the men in Cimmeria, even while heavily pregnant? Maybe this is from a story I haven't read in a while. If this is from Conan being born on a battlefield, it's no indication that his mother was a warrior. Is this source pastiche?

And if there is no evidence of this, and Cimmerian woman were not warrior women, then what reason do we have to believe that women would not be raped. Besides, there's plenty of stories in the news today of rape in the military, so even warrior women are not completely safe.

If Cimmerians were a wholesome bunch, we still have to remember that Conan is not an average Cimmerian. At sixteen he was being talked about around the campfires as being something exceptional among them. He wandered away from home. Because so few people in the Howard stories even know where Cimmeria is-- recall last month's story-- it is evidence that these humble country folk aren't much for wandering. And then Conan becomes a thief. Raise your hand if you've ever admired anyone for mugging you, or breaking into your house. Now I know this is fiction, and that's why we can enjoy Conan's antics . Conan is not an evil person, but he is generally self serving. He's not the type to do some community service for the sake of doing community service. Most of the time, Conan and his stories are motived by what can benefit him. For all we know, Conan may have been considered something of a scoundrel to the average Cimerrian. He is surely the anti-hero, or as you D&D folk might say, "neutral-good."

People who are too confident in themselves can often do bad things. And handsome and otherwise wonderful men can rape. These too are stories we see in the paper all the time.

Would Conan intentionally rape a woman? I don't know. I'm glad we don't have a story where he does.

Still friends??? :)

Oh yeah, I give it a 7/10, A good quick adreniline-loaded read!

Edited by Winterghost, 10 October 2006 - 12:12 AM.


#5 grim cimmerian

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 12:19 AM

The Frost giant's daughter Howard's original title was first published as Gods of the North (f.p. Mar 1934 The Fantasy Fan magazine) and later under the original title in an edited and slightly changed version in Rogues in the house (1976 Donald M. Grant) it also was published as The frost king's daughter in a non-Conan Version which the main character was changed to Amra of Akkibitania. According to The Coming of Conan of Cimmeria there are two drafts: draft A was 8 pages and Draft B (final version) was 9 pages. In CofCC it is 7 pages, in Lancer/ace Conan of Cimmeria it is 11 pages.

First off, this is probably the first Conan tale I ever read so it holds special meaning to me, but beyond that the unforgiving north, the characters and the story left me spellbound (I have been chasing Conan ever since and I never got to see Atali!) it gets a solid 10 from me, i only wish it was a chapter in a much longer book I desperately longed for more of Conan's adventures with the Aesir in the frozen north.

OK lets discuss the controversies:
1. yes, the editor did reject it. Why? because of a PC decision about a supposed attempted rape? I hardly think so, the Weird tales covers were definitely considered adult in their day so I don't think the content is too mature.
I don't believe there was any attempted rape at all; rather a supernatural force was at work. We aren't talking about a youth's lust overcoming him but rather a demigod ensorcelling him with her beauty in order to lead him to his doom. Apparently this is a favored game of Atali's to entrance men and lead them off to die. Atali holds complete power over all men who see her as stated by old Gorm who could only howl because he was too wounded to follow when he saw her. this is a supernatural force used by the daughter of a deity not just any hottie who might stir a man. Why then did the editor reject it? that is up for conjecture I guess. DeCamp may have in fact placed this tale later in his chronology based on the content of the tale however.

2. Howard makes the gods of his hyborian world real with this tale directly by having Atali and her brothers being the children of Ymir god of the North. I often have heard the complaint that "this author or that one made Set too real he should have left it as a mythology rather than making him a real being, " or something similar. I got news for you folks Howard made the gods of his world real, with real influence. Atali implores her father Ymir for protection and he responds and thus is saved from Conan's tenacious pursuit. These are real characters not just figments of Conan's weary brain as the result of a dented helm, as evidenced by the wisp of gossamer left in his grip.

3. where should this tale go in Conan's life? we are only left with Howard's words in his letter to Miller where he stated that Conan first travels North out of Cimmeria and joins an Aesir war party. Obviously this is the tale he was refering to even though the fans he wrote to couldn't have known that because it wasn't published. I find it absurd that DeCamp and a good many others place this tale so much later in Conan's life. Howard was pretty clear in retrospect on the matter to me.

I have read both Howard's version and decamp's side by side and i made careful notes as to the changes made. 109 editing changes were made by DeCamp (that I found) in the Lancer/Ace/Sphere paperback version. Mostly changed spelling, word order, and punctuation. But he did add a few words and remove some as well. He inserted a sentence where Conan resheaths his bloody sword to chase Atali but no mention is made of him redrawing it for combat with her brothers, and he adds some words to install a timeline (dusk and later night) to me all in all DeCamp editing was completely a waste of time that neither detracted nor added anything to the story.

The cover of Conan of Cimmeria by Frank Frazetta depicts his battle with the two frost giants. I love this painting but the picture doesn't follow the descriptions in the story (arms and clothing) and Conan decapitated the second giant after chopping the leg off the first (at the thigh in Howard's version, the knee in Decamp's)

Edited by grim cimmerian, 11 October 2006 - 11:23 PM.

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#6 Amra

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 01:19 AM

What Howard story indicates that woman fought alongside the men in Cimmeria, even while heavily pregnant? Maybe this is from a story I haven't read in a while. If this is from Conan being born on a battlefield, it's no indication that his mother was a warrior. Is this source pastiche?

And if there is no evidence of this, and Cimmerian woman were not warrior women, then what reason do we have to believe that women would not be raped. Besides, there's plenty of stories in the news today of rape in the military, so even warrior women are not completely safe.


In a letter to P. Schuyler Miller in March 10, 1936, Howard wrties:

Your outline follows his career as I have visualized it pretty closely. The differences are minor. As you deduct, Conan was about seventeen when he was introduced to the public in "The Tower of the Elephant." While not fully matured, he was riper than the average civilized youth at that age. He was born on a battlefield, during a fight between his tribe and a horde of raiding vanir.

The only other mention that I am aware of in referencing Cimmerian women in battle comes from "Black Colossus"

"The women of the Hyborians do not fight like your Cimmerian women, Conan," he said. "Yasmela rides with us to watch the battle. Anyway," he shifted in his saddle and lowered his voice, "between you and me, I have an idea that the princess dares not remain behind. She fears something"

Edited by Arias de Camp, 10 October 2006 - 01:29 AM.

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#7 Winterghost

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 03:02 AM

What Howard story indicates that woman fought alongside the men in Cimmeria, even while heavily pregnant? Maybe this is from a story I haven't read in a while. If this is from Conan being born on a battlefield, it's no indication that his mother was a warrior. Is this source pastiche?

And if there is no evidence of this, and Cimmerian woman were not warrior women, then what reason do we have to believe that women would not be raped. Besides, there's plenty of stories in the news today of rape in the military, so even warrior women are not completely safe.


In a letter to P. Schuyler Miller in March 10, 1936, Howard wrties:

Your outline follows his career as I have visualized it pretty closely. The differences are minor. As you deduct, Conan was about seventeen when he was introduced to the public in "The Tower of the Elephant." While not fully matured, he was riper than the average civilized youth at that age. He was born on a battlefield, during a fight between his tribe and a horde of raiding vanir.

The only other mention that I am aware of in referencing Cimmerian women in battle comes from "Black Colossus"

"The women of the Hyborians do not fight like your Cimmerian women, Conan," he said. "Yasmela rides with us to watch the battle. Anyway," he shifted in his saddle and lowered his voice, "between you and me, I have an idea that the princess dares not remain behind. She fears something"


Thanks for locating those sources, Arias. It's been a long time since I've read Black Colossus. Point for you, T. :D

So it does prove that women, or at least some women, were fighters. Still, unless someone can convince me, it does not lead to men abstaining from raping women. Gotta put your sword down sometime. And I would again refer you to our world as evidence.

Also, since Howard doesn't give details about Conan's battlefield birth, we can only guess at those. Did his mom intentionally march off to battle with her husband? Was their clan on their way somewhere when they were ambushed by another clan? His mother could even have been kidnapped and his father and the clan caught up to the villians and took care of them. A fully pregnant woman stepping onto a battlefield to do war would be pretty darn worthless, and I think they'd know it.

#8 Amra

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 12:19 PM

Thanks for locating those sources, Arias. It's been a long time since I've read Black Colossus. Point for you, T. :D

You are welcome :D

So it does prove that women, or at least some women, were fighters. Still, unless someone can convince me, it does not lead to men abstaining from raping women. Gotta put your sword down sometime. And I would again refer you to our world as evidence. Also, since Howard doesn't give details about Conan's battlefield birth, we can only guess at those. Did his mom intentionally march off to battle with her husband? Was their clan on their way somewhere when they were ambushed by another clan? His mother could even have been kidnapped and his father and the clan caught up to the villians and took care of them. A fully pregnant woman stepping onto a battlefield to do war would be pretty darn worthless, and I think they'd know it.

I don't think that it prevented men from raping women, in my opinion. I agree, throughout history rape has been a problem worldwide. I think that part of Howard's letter that I posted above served as an inspiration for the beginning of the movie Conan the Barbarian. The way that I read it tells me that the Vanir were raiding the Cimmerian village, and the Cimmerians took to arms to defend the clan. Personally, I can't see a woman in labor going into battle unless she felt that her baby, life and clan were in extremely dire straits. But then again, it may have been the biggest rush that she's ever experienced in her entire dour and miserable life-the bright madness of battle and pain of childbirth.

Edited by Arias de Camp, 10 October 2006 - 12:21 PM.

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#9 Winterghost

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 02:17 PM

Yup, yup; I need to pay attention to that one part, "raiding vanir". May take a few times for a thing or two to click right now; coicidentally my wife is due with our first baby any day now and neither one of us are getting any sleep. If you you knew how many times I've had to retype half the words here so far. Hey that's an interesting idea about Milius getting his first scene from tht letter. Y'know, for all of Milius' faults, at least he read the material.

#10 Amra

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 02:33 PM

Yup, yup; I need to pay attention to that one part, "raiding vanir". May take a few times for a thing or two to click right now; coicidentally my wife is due with our first baby any day now and neither one of us are getting any sleep. If you you knew how many times I've had to retype half the words here so far. Hey that's an interesting idea about Milius getting his first scene from tht letter. Y'know, for all of Milius' faults, at least he read the material.


Congratulations on the baby! Think you aren't getting sleep now :D? (Three sons here) I don't know for sure if that's what inspired Milius or not, but it seems feasible. One thing that I have never been clear on in "The Frost Giant's Daughter" is what "feeling" came over Conan just after his battle with Heimdul. Was it the crack on the helmet or was it Atali's "spell" or bit of both? Personally I think that had it been an effect of her "spell" the following actions of our Cimmerian barbarian were Atali's desired results, though it didn't end the way that it was intended. I suppose that it could be read either way?

Heimdul roared and leaped, and his sword flashed in deathly arc. Conan staggered and his vision was filled with red sparks as the singing blade crashed on his helmet, shivering into bits of blue fire. But as he reeled he thrust with all the power of his broad shoulders behind the humming blade. The sharp point tore through brass scales and bones and heart, and the red-haired warrior died at Conan's feet.

The Cimmerian stood upright, trailing his sword, a sudden sick weariness assailing him. The glare of the sun on the snow cut his eyes like a knife and the sky seemed shrunken and strangely apart. He turned away from the trampled expanse where yellow-bearded warriors lay locked with red-haired slayers in the embrace of death. A few steps he took, and the glare of the snow fields was suddenly dimmed. A rushing wave of blindness engulfed him and he sank down into the snow, supporting himself on one mailed arm, seeking to shake the blindness out of his eyes as a lion might shake his mane.

"But not all men seek rest and peace; some are born with the spirit of the storm in their blood, restless harbingers of violence and bloodshed, knowing no other path."
REH-A Witch Shall Be Born - Amra The Lion.com

#11 Taranaich

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Posted 11 October 2006 - 02:52 PM

What Howard story indicates that woman fought alongside the men in Cimmeria, even while heavily pregnant? Maybe this is from a story I haven't read in a while. If this is from Conan being born on a battlefield, it's no indication that his mother was a warrior. Is this source pastiche?


Aside from the aforementioned quotes from Black Colossus and Howard's letter, there is another interesting snippet from Xuthal of the Dusk:

"Such is not the custom of my people," Conan growled, "nor of Natala's either. The Hyborians do not sacrifice humans to their god, Mitra, and as for my people - by Crom, I'd like to see a priest try to drag a
Cimmerian to the altar! There'd be blood spilt, but not as the priest intended."


This seems to indicate further that Cimmerians are not to be messed with under any circumstances, and because Howard didn't add "man" after the Cimmerian, would seem to go the same for woman (admittedly this is just my personal reading). Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that men didn't go raping in Cimmeria, but it indicates that women were in a far better position to defend themselves, therefore cases of successful rape would probably be extremely low (I presume it would be hard to rape someone when they're ripping out your larynx after all). This is a possible indicator that Cimmerian culture does not have as many incidents of rape as another culture: after all, attempting such an act on a Cimmerian woman would likely be about as risky as having your way with a tigress.

In the vast majority of cases of rape, sexual desire has very little to do with it: far more often it is a man's expression of dominance over a woman, essentially a power trip. Perhaps this man hates women, or in cases of war, a statement: raping the enemy's women is a very potent one to make. Conan's initial run after Atali was certainly a result of sexual desire as Atali intended it: by the end, the maddening rush had given way to Conan's primal need to punish her, so in this altered state I think he *could* have raped her had she not had timely intervention from Dad. I'd consider it like when Herakles murdered his family in a Hera-induced rage: horrific, but extreme circumstances.

In a right state of mind, nah: witness his adventures with Valeria, he waited until pretty much the end of Red Nails until she was ready in her own time. Admittedly this is an older and wiser Conan, so his younger self would likely have been a bit brasher.

People who are too confident in themselves can often do bad things. And handsome and otherwise wonderful men can rape. These too are stories we see in the paper all the time.

Would Conan intentionally rape a woman? I don't know. I'm glad we don't have a story where he does.


I agree. Although Howard had a bit of a thing for flagellation with lesbian overtones, I'm not aware of Conan ever doing anything like that. He had a slavegirl once, I think. I wonder what Howard's opinions on rape are...

Robert E. Howard, 1906 - 2006

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#12 Kortoso

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Posted 11 October 2006 - 05:03 PM

...The Cimmerian stood upright, trailing his sword, a sudden sick weariness assailing him. The glare of the sun on the snow cut his eyes like a knife and the sky seemed shrunken and strangely apart. He turned away from the trampled expanse where yellow-bearded warriors lay locked with red-haired slayers in the embrace of death. A few steps he took, and the glare of the snow fields was suddenly dimmed. A rushing wave of blindness engulfed him and he sank down into the snow, supporting himself on one mailed arm, seeking to shake the blindness out of his eyes as a lion might shake his mane.

Thanks for entering that text. I'd like to point out that there are a few other tales in which Conan gets "konked out" and we don't have a freaking paragraph describing his feelings. I would expect that we are reading here of ensorcelment.

Quick question for the fans: How many men total in the initial battle, and how many on either side?

#13 Amra

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Posted 11 October 2006 - 05:19 PM


...The Cimmerian stood upright, trailing his sword, a sudden sick weariness assailing him. The glare of the sun on the snow cut his eyes like a knife and the sky seemed shrunken and strangely apart. He turned away from the trampled expanse where yellow-bearded warriors lay locked with red-haired slayers in the embrace of death. A few steps he took, and the glare of the snow fields was suddenly dimmed. A rushing wave of blindness engulfed him and he sank down into the snow, supporting himself on one mailed arm, seeking to shake the blindness out of his eyes as a lion might shake his mane.

Thanks for entering that text. I'd like to point out that there are a few other tales in which Conan gets "konked out" and we don't have a freaking paragraph describing his feelings. I would expect that we are reading here of ensorcelment.

Quick question for the fans: How many men total in the initial battle, and how many on either side?


You are welcome! I reread the story last night and found this qoute, evidently it was a type of ensorcelment.:
"A strange madness fell upon me when I looked at her, so I forgot all else in the world. I followed her. Did you not find her tracks? Or the giants in icy mail I slew?"
Now, in that light, had Conan been able to keep her from calling upon Ymir, would she have deserved what most likely would have happened to her? Touchy, I know. I personally don't think anyone "deserves" anything like that to happen to them, but as we see, she tapped into the basics of Conan's mind and fanned the flames of lust on purpose with the intent of having her brothers take his life.

As for the question:

Conan, Heimdul fight, and Conan wins. He then meets Atali:
This day I have seen four score men fall, and I alone have survived the field where Wulfhere's reavers met the wolves of Bragi.

Four score would have made 80 men plus Conan. Perhaps each side had equal numbers of 40? I don't recall if there was a mention of specific numbers other than the quote above. Then there are Atali's two brothers. Then enters Niord, Horsa, two other warriors that speak, and Gorm. So that's 89- 90 souls?

Edited by Arias de Camp, 11 October 2006 - 05:41 PM.

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#14 grim cimmerian

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Posted 11 October 2006 - 11:39 PM

You are welcome! I reread the story last night and found this quote, evidently it was a type of ensorcelment.:
"A strange madness fell upon me when I looked at her, so I forgot all else in the world. I followed her. Did you not find her tracks? Or the giants in icy mail I slew?"
Now, in that light, had Conan been able to keep her from calling upon Ymir, would she have deserved what most likely would have happened to her? Touchy, I know. I personally don't think anyone "deserves" anything like that to happen to them, but as we see, she tapped into the basics of Conan's mind and fanned the flames of lust on purpose with the intent of having her brothers take his life.

She fully intended to lead Conan away for her brothers to slay him for sport. She apparently had been doingthis for a long time (at least back when Gorm was younger) but probably much longer than that to become sort of a local legend of the mysterious woman of the snows that dying men on a battlefield see. When her plan backfired (conan slew her brothers) she went from taunting to really trying to escape him and seemed terrified. But I don't feel sorry for her at all and I wouldn't even if Conan had caught her and had his way as she tried to have him killed. As it was Conan still nearly perished but was fortunate enough to have a party looking for him and the wind not blowing snow over his tracks.
"WOE UNTO MY FOEMEN, PITY THEIR WIDOWS AND KIN."
All flatlanders are soft and frail, I enjoy those qualities in their women.
"By CROM if you so much as touch your hilt I'll split you from crown to crotch and see if your guts are as yellow as I think they are!"

#15 grim cimmerian

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Posted 13 October 2006 - 05:39 PM

"Such is not the custom of my people," Conan growled, "nor of Natala's either. The Hyborians do not sacrifice humans to their god, Mitra, and as for my people - by Crom, I'd like to see a priest try to drag a
Cimmerian to the altar! There'd be blood spilt, but not as the priest intended."


This seems to indicate further that Cimmerians are not to be messed with under any circumstances, and because Howard didn't add "man" after the Cimmerian, would seem to go the same for woman (admittedly this is just my personal reading). Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that men didn't go raping in Cimmeria, but it indicates that women were in a far better position to defend themselves, therefore cases of successful rape would probably be extremely low (I presume it would be hard to rape someone when they're ripping out your larynx after all). This is a possible indicator that Cimmerian culture does not have as many incidents of rape as another culture: after all, attempting such an act on a Cimmerian woman would likely be about as risky as having your way with a tigress.

In the vast majority of cases of rape, sexual desire has very little to do with it: far more often it is a man's expression of dominance over a woman, essentially a power trip. Perhaps this man hates women, or in cases of war, a statement: raping the enemy's women is a very potent one to make. Conan's initial run after Atali was certainly a result of sexual desire as Atali intended it: by the end, the maddening rush had given way to Conan's primal need to punish her, so in this altered state I think he *could* have raped her had she not had timely intervention from Dad. I'd consider it like when Herakles murdered his family in a Hera-induced rage: horrific, but extreme circumstances.

In a right state of mind, nah: witness his adventures with Valeria, he waited until pretty much the end of Red Nails until she was ready in her own time. Admittedly this is an older and wiser Conan, so his younger self would likely have been a bit brasher.

People who are too confident in themselves can often do bad things. And handsome and otherwise wonderful men can rape. These too are stories we see in the paper all the time.

Would Conan intentionally rape a woman? I don't know. I'm glad we don't have a story where he does.


I agree. Although Howard had a bit of a thing for flagellation with lesbian overtones, I'm not aware of Conan ever doing anything like that. He had a slavegirl once, I think. I wonder what Howard's opinions on rape are...

We discussed Conan and rape in an old thread Conan's Vices. here is an excerpt:

... a rape seems to jar with his rough code of ethics. InThe Vale of the Lost Women He says, "It was a foul bargain that I made. the ways of men vary in different lands, but a man need not be a swine, wherever he is. After I thought awhile, I saw that to hold you to your bargain would be the same as if I had forced you." these comments were made in reference to a bargain for sex he made to a girl in return for her freedom from slavery. It is clear that he has strong views on rape and wouldn't force himself on a woman.


"WOE UNTO MY FOEMEN, PITY THEIR WIDOWS AND KIN."
All flatlanders are soft and frail, I enjoy those qualities in their women.
"By CROM if you so much as touch your hilt I'll split you from crown to crotch and see if your guts are as yellow as I think they are!"

#16 Kortoso

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Posted 13 October 2006 - 08:34 PM

Ah, so that tale has something to offer after all! :)

#17 Darkstorm Dale

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Posted 15 October 2006 - 03:04 AM

One thing that I have never been clear on in "The Frost Giant's Daughter" is what "feeling" came over Conan just after his battle with Heimdul. Was it the crack on the helmet or was it Atali's "spell" or bit of both? Personally I think that had it been an effect of her "spell" the following actions of our Cimmerian barbarian were Atali's desired results, though it didn't end the way that it was intended. I suppose that it could be read either way?

The notion advanced that Atali cast a spell on Conan; I?m not so sure it ever happened. The idea of Atali enchanting Conan makes no sense when examined logically. First big red flag is that there is absolutely no mention by Howard of Atali doing ANYTHING to Conan other than some talk and fleeing from him. Secondly, we supposedly have a demi-goddess who can magically make herself invisible to all but her intended victims, as well as magically inflaming their lust, who has been doing this for many years, yet is completely unable to save herself by dispelling her enchantment or just making herself invisible to Conan after everything goes pear-shaped. Howard was not writing the ?Sorcerer?s Apprentice? here. Powerful magic-user one minute and weak, helpless woman the next don?t mix particularly well.

I?ve studied this story closely and it is my belief that something completely different is going on in this story. I finally discovered the key to understanding the story when I realized that Howard is writing this story entirely from the perspective of Conan?s consciousness. Conan passes through three distinct levels of consciousness in this story, yet he as the observer doesn?t realize it; it?s all reality to him as its occurring. I believe that Howard wrote this story to be a powerful meditation on the nature of reality. This is what I think is going on in The Frost-Giant?s Daughter.

Spoiler Alert!

"Heimdul roared and leaped, and his sword flashed in deathly arc. Conan staggered and his vision was filled with red sparks as the singing blade crashed on his helmet, shivering into bits of blue fire. But as he reeled he thrust with all the power of his broad shoulders behind the humming blade. The sharp point tore through brass scales and bones and heart, and the red-haired warrior died at Conan's feet."
"The Cimmerian stood upright, trailing his sword, a sudden sick weariness assailing him. The glare of the sun on the snow cut his eyes like a knife and the sky seemed shrunken and strangely apart. He turned away from the trampled expanse where yellow-bearded warriors lay locked with red-haired slayers in the embrace of death. A few steps he took, and the glare of the snow fields was suddenly dimmed. A rushing wave of blindness engulfed him and he sank down into the snow, supporting himself on one mailed arm, seeking to shake the blindness out of his eyes as a lion might shake his mane.
"

There are various methods of achieving an altered state of consciousness; dancing, chanting, drugs, exhaustion, and extreme pain. Conan is exhausted and has taken a blunt-force trauma to the head. His brain isn?t working as it normally does; his neutrons are shorting out and misfiring. He is the perfect candidate for what is about to befall him. While the default setting of his brain usually receives cable channel 3 (the mundane world), it now has switched to channel 4 (where the supernatural resides). He has entered the twilight zone world of altered consciousness.

It is interesting in that Howard plays with the idea of nested realities. The supernatural world is usually invisible to the mundane world, while the supernatural incorporates the mundane world into its reality. The supernatural world, however, isn?t exactly the same; its appearance is somewhat strange; it shimmers and its colors are heightened. The supernatural realm is a magical fairyland of enchantment. And it has its own denizens; beings that are usually unable to interact with the creature of the mundane world. Atali and her brothers.

When Conan?s consciousness starts channeling the supernatural world, it seems that the influx of information flooding into his brain from both realms causes his brain to try to shut down into unconsciousness. This manifests itself as blindness and he attempts to shake it off through sheer willpower. He becomes aware of Atali through hearing her laughter; presumably she is happy because she has found a victim. He is aware of the strangeness of the world, but has decided to ignore it. He is having problems seeing Atali clearly, though. He can?t tell if she has red or golden hair; it blinds him with its brightness. He is struck by her extreme beauty and has a physical reaction to her; the blood starts pounding in his temples. Conan ignores his reaction and he and Atali chat a bit. He then begins to use his rational mind to worry about his comrades and whether Atali lives close by. Conan?s rationality will eventually present a problem, since it will reject the supernatural reality and kick it back into the mundane world, given half a chance. Atali would lose him, so she can?t let this happen; she asks him pointedly ?Am I not beautiful, oh man??

She does this so that he really takes a good look at her. She needs to inflame his physical and emotional reaction to her for one good reason. Atali needs for Conan?s rational mind to be swamped and swept out of existence by his desire for her. She needs to do this because it will effectively anchor him to her supernatural reality. He won?t be able to slip back into the mundane world.

I want to touch for just a moment on whether Atali uses a spell on Conan. She doesn?t ever obviously cast a spell on him, but then Howard doesn?t really need her to. Conan is in an altered state of reality. The rules of the mundane world no longer apply. His passions could be inflamed due to the nature of the enchanted world he is in, due to her killer pheromones, or simply because she is the most desirable woman he has ever seen. Atali doesn?t need to use magic on Conan; her effect is innate to her character. It?s what she is. Conan isn?t ensorcelled so much as he is enthralled by Atali.

So anyway, she anchors Conan to her reality by appealing to his lust, but she also has an agenda; she needs to lure him away from the battlefield. So she enrages him by pretty much telling him that he?s not ?man? enough to follow where she leads. It all comes together, the lust, the rage, and the diminished capacity for rational though brought on by the head trauma and Conan experiences a type of strange madness; the compulsion to rape the icicles off of this taunting frost-princess. He arises due to sheer strength of will; almost mind over matter.

So they take off across the enchanted landscape (it should be noted that she does leave footprints in her reality, but just barely), Conan forging deeper into the Supernatural Realm. Howard describes the realm in fantastic terms; an aurora glowing fantasyland. He has bought completely into Atali?s reality. It doesn?t even faze him when he is beset by her brothers; the two ice-giants. Conan dispatches them after a brief struggle; now he?s really enraged.

Now this is the point where Atali, if she actually had any magic, would use her spells to become invisible or strip her enchantment from Conan. She doesn?t do that because she can?t; she has no magic. Atali doesn?t control anything. She is just a supernaturally enhanced girl in way over her head and caught by her own trap. Left to her own resources, she does the only thing she can; she runs.

Actually, it?s not a half bad idea. Conan is fixated on her, and that is keeping him anchored to the supernatural realm. If she gets far enough away, he will lose his fixation and exhaustion, coupled with his head trauma should drop him back into mundane reality. Howard describes Conan?s fixation on Atali in the final chase and the effort it takes for him to accomplish her capture in grim detail.

Conan captures Atali and she writhes out of his grasp, stripping herself in the process. She beseeches the god Ymir, her father, to save her. He does; she disappears in a flash of light and a clap of thunder. As an aside, I love how Ymir doesn?t actually inhabit the Supernatural realm; Howard makes the supernatural world itself a nested reality of a larger invisible God?s-world. Howard?s view of reality is that it has layers, like an onion.

When Atali disappears, Conan is cut off from his anchor in the Supernatural world and Howard describes the Cimmerian?s vertigo, as fatigue and trauma pitch him headlong back toward the mundane world and unconsciousness;

?Then suddenly the borealis, the snow-clad hills, and the blazing heavens reeled drunkenly to Conan?s sight, thousands of fire-balls burst with showers of sparks, and the sky itself became a titanic wheel which rained stars as it spun. Under his feet the snowy hills heaved up like a wave, and the Cimmerian crumpled into the snows to lie motionless.?

If the previous paragraph wasn?t proof enough that the story is being told from the perspective of Conan?s conscious perceptions, then the next one positively does, since Howard details what Conan experiences while unconscious.

?In a cold dark universe, whose sun was extinguished long ago, Conan felt the movement of life, alien and unguessed. An earthquake had him in its grip and was shaking him to and fro, at the same time chafing his hands and feet until he yelled in pain and fury and groped for his sword.?

Conan comes to, back in the mundane world and his rational mind begins to convince him that he experience some type of dream. He makes a statement: "A strange madness fell upon me when I looked at her, so I forgot all else in the world. I followed her. Did you not find her tracks? Or the giants in icy mail I slew?" Now, I have seen people use this statement as the rational that Conan was under a spell, but all a ?strange madness? really signifies is that he was suffering from a type of mental aberration that he had never encountered before. Any idea that this implied a spell is simply reading something into the statement that isn?t there. Also, Conan?s statement reiterates Howard?s depiction of reality being a series of nested worlds. The Supernatural realm contained the mundane world, but the people in the ?real? world are completely unable to see Atali?s track or the dead giants. They aren?t ?real? to them.

The only Aesir that believes Conan is Gorm. He saw Atali when he was wounded in battle as a youth. Like Conan, he had taken a sword blow to the head, which seems to be the consistent way to experience her appearance. Unlike Conan he was unable to follow her, although he howled like a dog because he couldn?t.

The story ends with a twist, where Conan discovers Atali?s garment in his hand. Conan brought it back with him because she was so real that he incorporated her into his reality paradigm. His belief was enough to make the garment real. This is Howard?s way of telling us that reality is a product of consciousness.

One final thought; some people might think that this theory of ?altered-consciousness? is kind of ?out there?. Just remember that Conan experiences states of altered reality several times during the Conan saga. In fact, in the story that Howard wrote just prior to this on, The Phoenix on the Sword, Conan is in an altered state (dream state) when he talks to Epemitreous and that the sage places the symbol of a phoenix on Conan?s sword, and like Atali?s garment, it appears in the mundane world. Howard was consistent in the way he handled reality in Conan?s world.
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The phenomenon or fact that cannot in any wise be linked with the rest of what he has observed, he does not observe.
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#18 Buxom Sorceress

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Posted 15 October 2006 - 11:45 AM

THE FROST-GIANT'S DAUGHTER [FGD] by REH [del rey 2003]
[ only 7 pages long]

Atali is a demi-goddess with some limited magic powers. she is the essence of beautiful, cold evil with a fetish for bewitching, torturing and sacrificing human males. the over-used word 'rape' never entered my mind each time i read this tale, because Conan is clearly under a spell, and he can't even keep hold of her, and her flesh is COLD as ice! [ so rape would be impossible to achieve in such frigid conditions?? so that's another male fantasy left shriveled and frozen out in the snow?? :P . :D ]
[ if Conan had tried to stab/kill her i would have liked that better, because she is a very evil monster like her kin. Mitra knows how many 1000s of human hearts she has served up to her voracious father Ymir? ]

FGD and ValeOLWomen were the only 2 Conan tales that i immediately disliked and i dismissed them as being poor, petty stories that did not impress me. even now, IMO those 2 tales are not in the same great S&S class as most of Howards other Conan stories.

then i found to my surprise that FGD is actually quite popular with internet male Conan fans. so when i re-read and analysed it i realised why. it is well written, but i still find it too corny for my liking [Conan is depicted as a kind of unstoppable 'superman' norse hero; being able to slay 2 gigantic giants too easily, and have more stamina/energy than a demi-goddess! he is beating demi-gods, and slaying sons of Ymir, apparently without consequence? gods usually take some kind of revenge on mortals who mess with their kin?]

i'm not keen on tales where the gods are actually fighting and interacting with humans, whether they be writ by REH or not. [there's plenty of that corny over the top god stuff in classic greek and other mythologies, and all those super-powers soon get dull and repetitive]
Howard certainly gives Conan mythic status with FGD.

but, because i find FGD so corny in a 'legendary norse' way i have developed quite a strange affection and amusement for the simple tale. so i dont dislike it now, i find it quirky and entertaining on a different level. :) [i've written 2 different poems which are based on FGD, which i will be inflicting on you in future months]

~ Some questions and ponderings ~
Could the main purpose of this tale [intended by Howard] be to make men feel better about themselves? and also to suggest that females are ultimately flawed, weak and feeble?
[ and ofcourse, how many men have thought about or wanted to get some kind of 'revenge' on a sexy woman who has teased them, or spurned their best sexual advances?]
The beautiful evil teasing witch is taught a lesson by a mighty invincible man of steel? that is probably a fantasy or subconscious desire/dream of every virile male on the planet?

Conan has no difficulty in shearing through 2 'gigantic' frost giants in just 2 quick strokes. shearing through a giant thigh, and beheading a huge head! i would have prefered a much tougher fight with conan finding it hard to hack through big giant limbs and bones? and a full blow from a giant has virtually no bad effect on conan!? :blink:

with his thigh sheared, it would take giant #1 a while yet to die? so why didn't he call for aid from his dad Ymir then?

Atali : how does she [a magical goddess] get tired and slows down?
why does she let conan get anywhere near her before calling her father to escape?
and after conan blacks out, why didn't she return later to slit his throat and get his heart? surely a god like Ymir would want to avenge his 2 sons?
--
my fave bit is the end. the gossamer veil/dress proves everything. and it can lead to some interesting norse hyborian new pastiche?

my rating = 4 /10. Conan the super-norse-hero runs rings round gods and god-lings. not my cup of tea. [but this is a tale designed to please men. clever Howard.]

and thanks to ALL for your interesting info, views and quotes. more please? :)
----
[..tis good to feel the icy winds of Nordheim wildly blowing my long hair and short gossamer dress as i fly low over the sun-gleaming glacier in search of another strong human for teasing and fun...but my name is not Atali... ;) ]

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#19 Darkstorm Dale

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Posted 15 October 2006 - 03:54 PM

i'm not keen on tales where the gods are actually fighting and interacting with humans, whether they be writ by REH or not. [there's plenty of that corny over the top god stuff in classic greek and other mythologies, and all those super-powers soon get dull and repetitive]
Howard certainly gives Conan mythic status with FGD.

I'm sure that it was intentional on Howard's part. He's setting Conan up to be the classic Greek model of a "flawed hero". A human being that can give even minor gods a run for their money.

~ Some questions and ponderings ~
Could the main purpose of this tale [intended by Howard] be to make men feel better about themselves? and also to suggest that females are ultimately flawed, weak and feeble?
[ and ofcourse, how many men have thought about or wanted to get some kind of 'revenge' on a sexy woman who has teased them, or spurned their best sexual advances?]
The beautiful evil teasing witch is taught a lesson by a mighty invincible man of steel? that is probably a fantasy or subconscious desire/dream of every virile male on the planet?

While it's a bit wrong to actually equate Atali with a normal human female, I can see your point. There's quite a bit of sexism in the idea that a woman will use her sexuality to destroy a man (same thing happens in Vale as well). I also find a bit of sexism in the idea that it takes a magic spell in order for a woman to affect a man with the compulsion to rape, since it enables the man to claim the moral highground. Seriously, how many rapes in the world actually occur as the result of magic? The notion of Atali's victims in this story being spellbound absolves them of the responsibilities of ther choices. So the deck does seem pretty stacked against women in this tale.

Conan has no difficulty in shearing through 2 'gigantic' frost giants in just 2 quick strokes. shearing through a giant thigh, and beheading a huge head! i would have prefered a much tougher fight with conan finding it hard to hack through big giant limbs and bones? and a full blow from a giant has virtually no bad effect on conan!? :blink:

I've always held to the opinion that Conan was "in the zone" during his fight with the giants. "In the zone" is a sports term where the athlete has banished the chatter of his rational mind and is intuitively reacting to the flow of the events around him. It usually improves your gameplay immensely, because it cuts a step or two out of the reaction process. Conan's rational mind was suppressed during his time in the Supernatural Realm, so the effects were similar to being "in the zone".

with his thigh sheared, it would take giant #1 a while yet to die? so why didn't he call for aid from his dad Ymir then?

How do we know that he didn't eventually? Conan and Atali were only in his vicinity for mere moments until the pursuit began anew.

Atali : how does she [a magical goddess] get tired and slows down?
why does she let conan get anywhere near her before calling her father to escape?
and after conan blacks out, why didn't she return later to slit his throat and get his heart? surely a god like Ymir would want to avenge his 2 sons?

She wasn't all that magical? ;)
Maybe she thought she could fix it on her own and calling on Ymir was the supernatural equivalent of calling your Dad to bail you out of jail.
Because her disappearence had knocked Conan out of the supernatural realm and back into the mundane world. She isn't able to interact with him on that level.
"Details are all that matters; God dwells there, and you never get to see Him if you don't struggle to get them right." - Stephen Jay Gould

"A man receives only what he is ready to receive. . . .
The phenomenon or fact that cannot in any wise be linked with the rest of what he has observed, he does not observe.
" - Henry D. Thoreau


"There never was an explanation which didn't itself need to be explained" - Charles Fort

"If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you." - Oscar Wilde

#20 Kortoso

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Posted 15 October 2006 - 06:20 PM

I've always held to the opinion that Conan was "in the zone" during his fight with the giants.

Conan seems to have been born in the zone. ;)

Question: Would Atali have been a demigod? That is, product of a god-human mingling? In the Greek mold, that would have given her limited powers, although she would have been normally visible. The giants could have likewise been half-god, half-something else.

And what of Ymir himself? Why didn't he zap Conan then and there? Is this what forced Conan to leave the northlands?