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In Atla's Defense


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#21 deuce

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 04:00 AM

Interestingly, REH describes Atla as having "red lips"; not very lizardlike! It is her movements that are described as "almost serpentine". As well as attributes Deuce has noted, she has "black locks" which are "tangled and unkempt", "sharp and pointed" teeth "like fangs". Not very attractive, but there's nothing to indicate a hag-like appearance.

Words such as "lithe" and "supple", on the other hand, do indicate attractiveness. "Supple" in particular is a word which REH applied almost as shorthand to describe sexually attractive women. Added to which (and I'm assuming that Bran went further than just kissing her, although the mores of the time would not permit REH to describe this), although he has to "force his head down to meet her lifted lips", surely Atla must have had something going on for him to be able to complete the twisted act?

Looking at all this, if I were casting the movie, I would go for a shapely body with a disgusting face. It would be fun to find some well known actress who would be willing to be made up for this. You'd then be able to convey the whole attraction / repulsion thing that REH's words subtly suggest.

Right at the end of the story, Bran's feeling of revulsion at seeing one of the Worms is triggered by seeing its "mottled" body. I think the emphasis put on this word, which Bran has already used to describe Atla before their mating, is intended to convey his sexual disgust at what he has done, as he now realises that the Worms have degenerated so far they are no longer human; "You're ancestors were men ... but gods, ye have become in ghastly fact what my people called ye in scorn! Worms of the earth..." It is at this point that "all human attributes dropped from (Atla) like a cloak in the night" and the very last image is of her "hellish laughter" as Bran rides off in horror and disgust.

I think the true terror at the heart of this tale is that of inter-species sex; the depth to which Bran's determination to destroy the Romans has driven him. Is the message that hatred can destroy our humanity? WotE is a dark, dark tale dealing with a taboo subject. The figure of Atla is at the heart of it. In my opinion, to turn her into nothing more than an ugly old witch ignores some of the more subtle hints that REH gives us to warn that subhuman evil has its attractive side. So, I'm with Daniel on this one.



But then again maybe I'm just another pervy saurophile. There are these websites, you know ... ;)

Posted Image


Hey Mikey! Great post. I somehow missed it the first time 'round.
I'd speculate that most of our forum members (who were so inclined) who visited an "exotic dance venue" would want said dancers to be "supple", perhaps "almost serpentine" in their balletic demonstrations. Since I first read the yarn it's always been a simple question: How could Bran "fulfill his obligation" if he didn't somehow find Atla attractive? Howard depicted BMM as straight-forward, barbaric. I can't see him given to perverse, exotic, almost "bestial" thrills (though I guess it's possible). It seems to smack a lot of "Romanness". I can see BMM ignoring "subtle" and "disquieting" hints long enough to get the job done. I also assume that Atla had her "glamour" set on "stun" (she knew BMM was approaching). The "Atla" depicted by Gianni and Conrad is a "woman" only someone who subscribes to (the hypothetical website, AFAIK) "GMILF" ("Grandmas I'd...") would be able to sleep with. Fred Blosser, in his "Bran Mak Morn: Destroyer" essay, speculates that Conrad was using "visual shorthand". I said the same thing earlier. BTW, I've been a BIG fan of Tim's work for 25+yrs. Tim, in an interview, said he'd never read "WotE" before taking the job. Hardly any REH of any kind, actually. In the i-view, Conrad kept calling her "the witch-woman", never Atla. Howard used the same term, but I think Tim used "witch" iconography as a visual touchstone. Put a pointed hat on Conrad's (or Gianni's) rendition, show it to a kid around Halloween, and that kid is gonna say,"That's a witch!"

Mikey, I think you're right about the "fear of miscegenation" issue (though I think that there are other, greater horrors to be found in the yarn). I'm not sure if Howard had read The Shadow Over Innsmouth before he wrote "Worms". There's plenty of "Dagon" stuff strewn about the story. The two tales share some of the same themes. In "Innsmouth", the overriding theme is definitely that of "ancestral taint" (miscegenation). Howard really liked The Rats in the Walls. I wonder if that was a bit of an influence too? Of course, there is the Arthur Machen influence ancestral to both tales.

My two lunas. :)

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#22 daniel

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 11:53 AM

Any chance she's got elves in her family tree?


now that's a strike below the belt !

#23 timeless

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 03:08 AM

This thread inspired me to dig out and read again the Thomas/Smith/Conrad adaptation of 'Worms.'

I gotta say, it really holds up. The depictions of the wind-blown heathers, the detail, the gloominess, the worms themselves, Bran, Atla herself (especially in one drawing where her face looks just creepy...definitely a cross between human and something else), I really enjoy the job they did with it. Probably my favorite adaptation to graphics form of a Howard story.

I could forgo any Conan/Solomon Kane film if they would this tale instead, and faithfully.
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#24 Old Garfield

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 04:02 AM

As to the use of the term "were-woman" by Howard in "Worms," it could simply mean that she's a sorceress or witch...the prefix has been used to give that connotation...not just the suggestion of a hybrid. I don't see Atla as an actual shapeshifter based on what I read; she seemed to be a mad loner whose parentage made her an outcast.
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#25 Patrice Louinet

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Posted 20 August 2009 - 01:45 PM

As to the use of the term "were-woman" by Howard in "Worms," it could simply mean that she's a sorceress or witch...the prefix has been used to give that connotation...not just the suggestion of a hybrid. I don't see Atla as an actual shapeshifter based on what I read; she seemed to be a mad loner whose parentage made her an outcast.


Having just finished translating that story for the French market, I found myself immersed in that story quite a bit, and the parts about Atla are problematic. Steven Tompkins perfectly summed up the attraction/revulsion angle in one his blogs on the Cimmerian website, but the term "were-woman" is simply impossible to translate in French.
Howard describes Atla as a "witch" twice in the story, so she *is* a witch, but she is mostly referred to as a "were-woman". The question being: what exactly is a "were-woman"? It seems evident - at least to me - that she is a hybrid, the result of that dreadful thing to all Howardian characters: miscegeneation, the product of a mating that should never occur. The "were" part invites comparison with "werewolf", a creature that is part-man, part-wolf, and I think that this was the way Howard understood it. THe problem, of course, is that "were" means "man" (a masculine individual, not the species), so a "were-woman" is actually a "man-woman", a very different kind of hybrid, then...

Patrice

Edited by Patrice Louinet, 20 August 2009 - 01:53 PM.


#26 Rusty Burke

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Posted 20 August 2009 - 02:04 PM

THe problem, of course, is that "were" means "man" (a masculine individual, not the species), so a "were-woman" is actually a "man-woman", a very different kind of hybrid, then...


Kinda like picking up a hot chick in a French Quarter bar and then, in her room, finding out she ain't a chick, huh? A fate from which I once saved a friend who did not realize what kind of bar we'd stumbled into during Mardi Gras.

You know, this kind of reading of the story is plausible, though I think you're right that Atla is more likely to have been understood by REH as a "worm"/human hybrid. Intriguing. One of the things that makes WotE Howard's best story, to my mind, is that it has a really astonishing amount of subtext.

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#27 Hipster

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Posted 20 August 2009 - 02:07 PM

The problem, of course, is that "were" means "man" (a masculine individual, not the species), so a "were-woman" is actually a "man-woman", a very different kind of hybrid, then...

Patrice

I hadn't thought of that, Lizard Girls may be sexy but Man-Women? :huh:
But seriously, when I read the story, I took it that there was no attraction to Atla, just a deed that had to be done in order to get what Bran really wanted. I understood Atla to be mixed-species, looking mainly like a woman but with some unsettling abnormalities.

#28 Patrice Louinet

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Posted 20 August 2009 - 02:31 PM

But seriously, when I read the story, I took it that there was no attraction to Atla, just a deed that had to be done in order to get what Bran really wanted. I understood Atla to be mixed-species, looking mainly like a woman but with some unsettling abnormalities.


As mentioned above, Atla is never described as outwardly repulsive, the old hag clich? of a witch: she has "black locks" (ie, doesn't look old), "red lips", she is "supple", etc. But once you get past the exterior aspect she becomes repulsive: the serpent-like "fangs" are hidden, so to speak, by those red lips. This is a very carefully-written passage, full of ambiguous phrasings. We are never told Bran is attracted to Atla, but we are made to understand, very peripherally, that she is not at all ugly to look at. If Tompkins is indeed right with his "loathing flirt" commentary, this is a scene in which she openly teases Bran, and his response to her advances is far more troubling/troubled than the "man's got to do what a man's got to do" vibe most people seem to derive from this scene.

Patrice

Edited by Patrice Louinet, 20 August 2009 - 02:42 PM.


#29 Hipster

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Posted 20 August 2009 - 02:41 PM

But seriously, when I read the story, I took it that there was no attraction to Atla, just a deed that had to be done in order to get what Bran really wanted. I understood Atla to be mixed-species, looking mainly like a woman but with some unsettling abnormalities.


As mentioned above, Atla is never described as outwardly repulsive, the old hag clich? of a witch: she has "black locks" (ie, doesn't look old), "red lips", she is "supple", etc. But once you get past the exterior aspect she becomes repulsive: the serpent-like "fangs" are hidden, so to speak by those red lips. This is a very carefully-written passage, full of ambiguous phrasings. We are never told Bran is attracted to Atla, but we are made to understand, very peripherally, that she is not at all ugly to look at. If Tompkins is indeed right with his "loathing flirt" commentary, this is a scene in which she openly teases Bran, and his response to her advances is far more troubling/troubled than the "man's got to do what a man's got to do" vibe most people seem to derive from this scene.

Patrice

I'll have to re-read it with a fresh perspective. Now maybe if she looked like this... :)
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#30 Kortoso

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Posted 20 August 2009 - 05:09 PM

I'd hit it! ;)

#31 Lichlord Doom

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Posted 04 September 2009 - 11:55 AM

I can totally picture how this type of creature could look. Here's one way of depicting it...

From a distance, she seems normal enough... even beautiful! Sort of like this:

Posted Image

Then, once you get too close... BAM!... things could get freaky. Sort of like this:

Posted Image

It all depends on the mood she's in. You *don't* want to get her mad! :D
Contemplate this on the Tree of Woe.

#32 Mikey_C

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Posted 04 September 2009 - 09:39 PM

That is scary!
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#33 daniel

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Posted 06 September 2009 - 12:31 PM

That is scary!


scary? you should have told me to have my breakfast only after i saw it, not before!
yikes...

#34 daniel

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Posted 06 September 2009 - 12:56 PM

But seriously, when I read the story, I took it that there was no attraction to Atla, just a deed that had to be done in order to get what Bran really wanted. I understood Atla to be mixed-species, looking mainly like a woman but with some unsettling abnormalities.


As mentioned above, Atla is never described as outwardly repulsive, the old hag clich? of a witch: she has "black locks" (ie, doesn't look old), "red lips", she is "supple", etc. But once you get past the exterior aspect she becomes repulsive: the serpent-like "fangs" are hidden, so to speak, by those red lips. This is a very carefully-written passage, full of ambiguous phrasings. We are never told Bran is attracted to Atla, but we are made to understand, very peripherally, that she is not at all ugly to look at. If Tompkins is indeed right with his "loathing flirt" commentary, this is a scene in which she openly teases Bran, and his response to her advances is far more troubling/troubled than the "man's got to do what a man's got to do" vibe most people seem to derive from this scene.

as for the "man-woman" angle, i think that this term has a social metaphore behind it: a woman who dosen't conform to the demands of society in ancient times, is certainly likely to be named "man-woman" simply by being independant. now, from a linguistic standpoint, in such societies, that are often superstitious, the connection to witchcraft or shapeshifting of any sort is certainly logical.

where does howard come in? i think that since both bran and atla represent the fading glory of their races, superstition is something they both have to struggle against, with the possible addition of howard's simpathy with independant, intelligent women. so, the reader may safely conclude that while atla is indeed connected with an outworldly race, howard is able to criticise our conceptions of it as such, as is evident from bran's and gonar's addmisions that the societiy in which they live has now reverted to superstition. howard tended to add, as we all know, a rationale to many of the "outworldly" phenomena in his works, and to criticise human understanding as easy to accept things at face value.

wether or not he intended for bran to discover a nasty surprise in atla's pythonesque panties, that may (thankfully) be a stretch, but howard would'nt be above using whatever means at his disposal to ask "is what you think really so?" ever more useful in such a surprise-filled story.

Patrice



#35 miketerminus

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Posted 24 September 2009 - 03:02 AM

I can totally picture how this type of creature could look. Here's one way of depicting it...

From a distance, she seems normal enough... even beautiful! Sort of like this:

Posted Image

Then, once you get too close... BAM!... things could get freaky. Sort of like this:

Posted Image

It all depends on the mood she's in. You *don't* want to get her mad! :D

cool pics,man! I never considered Atla to be ugly at all.
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#36 BasilBJr

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Posted 30 April 2010 - 05:48 PM

I always had the impression that Atla was of the same tribe as the Worms of the Earth. While she had been exposed to the powers of whatever entities they worshipped, giving her a somewhat exotic appearence, she had not undergone the full scale devolution the rest of the tribe had.

#37 Sword of Crom

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Posted 21 June 2010 - 02:30 AM

saurophiles of the world unite!
now, as for "were-woman" if this is the case what animal would atla be able to change to? a giant serpent? this would fit in a film perfectly! as for her locks, am i the only one thinking gorgons here? in grrek myths as told by writers and not spoken tradition, the gorgons were known to be very beautiful seconds before turning you to stone. with the romans as the representatives of classical hellenis in britain i' surprised nobody was onto this, including wagner.
anyway, to make atla unatractive on film would be an injustice to the story. it may be that the film would call for a novelisation but that is another matter


Those of us that are thinking the Worms may be descendants of the serpentmen are saying she would become a serpentwoman - just like the serpentmen in the Kull stories. If you haven't already, reading "The Shadow Kingdom" will explain it.

I'm not sure why making her unattractive on film would be an injustice to the story - I'm curious to hear your reasoning as this whole thread has been a pretty enlightening one.

if you mean my personal reasoning, it's fairly simple: the encounter between brn and atla is not described as 100% repellent. there are hints of atraction , as belabored as it is. howard is telling us that in a large sense bran and atla are the last of dying races. this may account for some drive behind their intercourse. howard actually placed an unnessecary hinderance on the story by not making atla fully attractive either with or without bran's agreement to this. on film, if i know "movie sense" nobody would fil bran without a love interest. the all-male adventure story is not digestible on film to the masses. see the rev iew of "the lost world" on "cold fusion reviews" to get my exact meaning.

so, with or without a love interest for bran on film to counter atla, she herself would have to be sufficiently attractive to serve as the feminine equivalent of bran.

i will have more to say about this. back after these messages:

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try "cthulhuside" guarranteed to destroy extra dimensional horrors in 10 minutes!

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see also: the thulsa doom lubricants for a better night life...... pure virgin oil!

One of the dominant themes running through most of the Bran Mak Morn stories is degeneration. Both Bran's race, and Atla, are representatives of the fear of degeneration--especially due to racial mixing--that was very prevalent in popular culture in the 1920s and 1930s. To understand this fear, and how it could be manifested in popular culture, I suggest going back to Lombroso's The Criminal Man, and Nordeau's Degeneration. In Howard's time the fear is expressed in Madison Grant's The Passing of the Great Race. If you look at popular images of the time--pulps and comics, especially--you can see this fear of the foreigner, especially the one who "lives apart"--looks different and speaks a different language. In Howard's time the fear was especially prevalent in relation to Eastern Europeans who were immigrating to America. Now I don't think Howard was directly commenting on this in the story, but I do think he was drawing from the idea. Madison Grant warns his readers against breeding with foreigners in fear of creating an inferior mongrel race. Atla is a manifestation of that fear. She represents the degenerate race, the foreigners who are (quite literally in this story) under the feet of the Picts and Romans. I think Atla is meant to be attractive, but with stigmata (her eyes, teeth, and ears) that label her as an "outsider." As such, she is a representation of the fear of the foreigner who may, if unchecked, (literally) undermine society.

#38 deuce

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 05:55 AM

As to the use of the term "were-woman" by Howard in "Worms," it could simply mean that she's a sorceress or witch...the prefix has been used to give that connotation...not just the suggestion of a hybrid. I don't see Atla as an actual shapeshifter based on what I read; she seemed to be a mad loner whose parentage made her an outcast.


Having just finished translating that story for the French market, I found myself immersed in that story quite a bit, and the parts about Atla are problematic. Steven Tompkins perfectly summed up the attraction/revulsion angle in one his blogs on the Cimmerian website, but the term "were-woman" is simply impossible to translate in French.
Howard describes Atla as a "witch" twice in the story, so she *is* a witch, but she is mostly referred to as a "were-woman". The question being: what exactly is a "were-woman"? It seems evident - at least to me - that she is a hybrid, the result of that dreadful thing to all Howardian characters: miscegeneation, the product of a mating that should never occur. The "were" part invites comparison with "werewolf", a creature that is part-man, part-wolf, and I think that this was the way Howard understood it. THe problem, of course, is that "were" means "man" (a masculine individual, not the species), so a "were-woman" is actually a "man-woman", a very different kind of hybrid, then...

Patrice


Patrice, what is the French equivalent of "lamia"? I think that would have served better than any other term, especially considering Clark Ashton Smith's fondness for it (and Howard's admiration for CAS' works).

Just my two cents.

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#39 JainkhulTamhair

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Posted 03 September 2011 - 03:44 PM


As to the use of the term "were-woman" by Howard in "Worms," it could simply mean that she's a sorceress or witch...the prefix has been used to give that connotation...not just the suggestion of a hybrid. I don't see Atla as an actual shapeshifter based on what I read; she seemed to be a mad loner whose parentage made her an outcast.


Having just finished translating that story for the French market, I found myself immersed in that story quite a bit, and the parts about Atla are problematic. Steven Tompkins perfectly summed up the attraction/revulsion angle in one his blogs on the Cimmerian website, but the term "were-woman" is simply impossible to translate in French.
Howard describes Atla as a "witch" twice in the story, so she *is* a witch, but she is mostly referred to as a "were-woman". The question being: what exactly is a "were-woman"? It seems evident - at least to me - that she is a hybrid, the result of that dreadful thing to all Howardian characters: miscegeneation, the product of a mating that should never occur. The "were" part invites comparison with "werewolf", a creature that is part-man, part-wolf, and I think that this was the way Howard understood it. THe problem, of course, is that "were" means "man" (a masculine individual, not the species), so a "were-woman" is actually a "man-woman", a very different kind of hybrid, then...

Patrice


Patrice, what is the French equivalent of "lamia"? I think that would have served better than any other term, especially considering Clark Ashton Smith's fondness for it (and Howard's admiration for CAS' works).

Just my two cents.


A werewoman is a word often used as the feminine for werewolf because those who introduced it (it is not accepted) do not
have any clue about it's etymology and simply stick the first half of the word ,"were" , in front of "woman"
to obtain the feminine counterpart of a werewolf.

In french it is a great probleme because loup-garou (werewolf) wan be male or female, although it's basically based on
a man and you must say "loup-garou femelle" or a "femme loup-garou".
In french sphinx is a problem too: the sphinx is feminine and was translated as sphynge (pronounced je at the end)
but it was normalised as "UN sphinx","un" being masculin, but the word being feminine.
People then didn't have the background to know that masculin sphinxes existed and were called androsphinx, as sphinx is feminine.

But in french we have another problem: changeling is a word that is not uncommon in english but it's equivalent in frenc is a rare and unused word:
thérianthrope or zooanthrope .
Changeling is often mis-translated in old editions of english-french dictionaries
Only people who are interested in the history of teratomancy and mythological monsters could know the words.

Patrice Louinet doesn't understand the "were" prefix used in english in the modern ense has not the meaning of
"man" in the masculine way, it has the meaning of changeling.It is incorrect (since wer denotes the human part, etymologically), but that's how it is, mistakes are
accepted bit by bit until they become the definition, and were becomes the prefix for a given sort of changeling.
A were-woman is then either a female werewolf or a changeling.

In french, a "zooanthrope" or a "thérianthorpe" are called créatures protéiformes.

Atla would be in french a "sorcière thérianthrope" or a "sorcière protéiforme" or more simply
"une sorcière ayant l'abilité de se métamorphoser en bête féroce à sa guise". Or "selon son bon vouloir" instead of "à sa guise"
If the sense of werewolf is preferred, then "une sorcière lycanthrope"
(loup-garou is too common and lycanthrope is more classy).

Sometimes it's extremely strenuous to translate one single word and a short sentence could be preferred.

In an nutshell, a Atla is not a sex changing sorceress, but a type of changeling and must be translated as such.

Edited by JainkhulTamhair, 03 September 2011 - 04:32 PM.


#40 JainkhulTamhair

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Posted 03 September 2011 - 04:10 PM

Deuce, your "two cents" raise an interesting question:
Atla acts like a sphinx tricking the hero but ends up mating like a succubus (lamia) instead of devouring it's interlocutor.

Atla being a partly degenerated human being according to Howard's view on the "worms of the earth", she could be partly animal
genetically and not in the human race anymore, having evolved after centuries into a new subhuman type.
In french one would say "une sorcière mi-humaine mi-bête sauvage" or "mi-femme mi-animale".

Notice that what is this time not a problem in french becomes a problem in english:
a lamia is what gave rise to the legend of the arabic ghoul which is "une goule" in french (feminine in gender).
Normally ghouls are always demonic females but pop culture made them monsters with no particular sexual gender, nowadays a ghoul in a horror film is either male or female when it's true origins were those of Lilitu/Lamia, strictly female.

A lamia could be interpreted in some cases as a succubus, which in french ( again a gender problem) is "un succube" (a feminine creature but with the masculin article "un" as for sphinx).



Everything is in the context given by a certain author, a lamia could be a greektype of lamia/serpentwoman (not unlike a siren: human torso and animal waist, legs and/or tail), a changeling, a ghoul or a demoness (mesopotamian/semite succubus) , all of this since those who wrote compendiums of monsters a few centuries ago added their own "grain of salt", changing the definitions at their will.
These authors just made up their own were-(choose any living creature) .
The key here is the context in REH's story and we have either a changeling in the broad sense or according to some a female werewolf. Maybe just a beastwoman.

edit: speaking of "worms of the earth", if the werewolf theory is not convincing enough and the idea of a changeling or beastwoman is too vague, imagine instead a... wereworm, a wormwoman, a lumbricanthrope... :ph34r: (made those up)

Edited by JainkhulTamhair, 06 September 2011 - 11:33 AM.