The Frost-Giant's Daughter

The Frost-Giant's Daughter

Infobox short story
name = The Frost-Giant's Daughter
title_orig = Gods of the North
translator =
author = Robert E. Howard
country = USA
language = English
series = Conan the Cimmerian
genre = Fantasy
published_in = USA
publication_type = Pulp magazine
publisher = "Weird Tales"
media_type =
pub_date = 1932
english_pub_date =
preceded_by =
followed_by =

'"The Frost-Giant's Daughter"**' is one of the original short stories about Conan the Cimmerian, written by American author Robert E. Howard, but not published in his lifetime.

It is set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age and details Conan pursuing a spectral nymph across the frozen snows of Nordheim. Rejected as a Conan story by "Weird Tales" magazine editor Farnsworth Wright, Howard changed the main character's name to "Amra of Akbitana" and retitled the piece as The Gods of the North.

Plot summary

cquote2|"The clangor of the swords had died away, the shouting of the slaughter was hushed; silence lay on the red-stained snow. The bleak pale sun that glittered so blindingly from the ice-fields and the snow-covered plains struck sheens of silver from rent corselet and broken blade, where the dead lay as they had fallen. The nerveless hand yet gripped the broken hilt; helmeted heads back-drawn in the death-throes, tilted red beards and golden beards grimly upward, as if in last invocation to Ymir the frost-giant, god of a warrior-race..."
Robert E. Howard|"The Frost-Giant's Daughter"

"The Frost-Giant's Daughter" is, arguably, the earliest chronological story by Robert E. Howard in terms of Conan's life. The brief tale is set somewhere in frozen Nordheim, geographically situated north of Conan's homeland, Cimmeria. Conan is depicted by Howard as a youthful Cimmerian mercenary traveling among the golden-haired Aesir in a war party.

Shortly before the story begins, a hand-to-hand battle has occurred on an icy plain. Eighty men ("four score") have perished in bloody combat, and Conan alone survives the battlefield where Wulfhere's Aesir "reavers" fought the Vanir "wolves" of Bragi, a Vanir chieftain. Thus, the story opens.

Following this fierce battle against the red-haired Vanir, Conan the Cimmerian, lying exhausted on the corpse-strewn battlefield, is visited by a beautiful, condescending and semi-nude woman identifying herself as "Atali." Upon her bodice, she wears a transparent veil: a wisp of gossamer that was not spun by human distaff. The mere sight of her strange nakedness kindles Conan's lust and, when she repeatedly taunts him, he madly chases her for miles across the snows with the intent of raping her.

Mocking him with each step, Atali leads Conan into an ambush. Undaunted by the snare, Conan slays her two hulking brothers, the Frost-Giants, and then captures her in his arms, only to have her call upon her father, Ymir, to save her. Before Conan is able to ravage her, Atali disappears in a stroke of lightning that seemingly transforms the landscape and renders Conan unconscious.

Later, when his Aesir comrades arrive, Conan believes he must have dreamed the bizarre encounter until he finds he is still grasping the translucent veil that served as the sole garment of the Frost-Giant's daughter.

The utilization of poetic descriptions throughout this tale is quite strong, and on par with Howard's "Queen of the Black Coast." However, the narrative is often criticized by Howard scholars for not having the more detailed plotting of his superior Conan stories such as "The Black Stranger." Largely, this is because Howard was aiming for a mythological feel, something to which the story is eminently suited.


While Robert E. Howard had already written many fantasy stories featuring northern Viking-esque characters, the names and plot structure for "The Frost-Giant's Daughter" was derived in its entirety from Thomas Bulfinch's "The Outline of Mythology" (1913). Howard combined the legend of Atalanta with another reworked Bulfinch legend, that of Daphne and Apollo, but he reversed the roles. Whereas Apollo was a god and Daphne a mortal, Howard made Atali a goddess and Conan a mortal. In the original, Cupid had struck Apollo with an arrow to excite love for Daphne, but struck her with an arrow to cause her to find love repellent. Howard kept the idea of the love-maddened Apollo (rather a lust-maddened Conan) pursuing the girl until she invokes aid from her divine father. [Patrice Louinet. "Hyborian Genesis: Part 1", page 438, "The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian"; 2003, Del Rey.]

Publication history

The earlier version of the story was published in the collections "The Coming of Conan" (Gnome Press, 1953) and "Conan of Cimmeria" (Lancer Books, 1969). It has most recently been republished in the collections "The Conan Chronicles Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle" (Gollancz, 2000) and "" (Del Rey, 2003).

The story has been adapted into comics:

* "Conan the Barbarian" #16 (Marvel Comics)
* "Savage Sword of Conan" #1 (Marvel Comics)
* "Conan" #2 (Dark Horse Comics), and reprinted as "Robert E Howard's The Frost-Giant's Daughter".

**The Story has also been referenced in popular music:

"The Frost Giant's Daughter" from the album "Gods of the Earth" by Artist THE SWORD, 2008


External links

* [ Conan wiki • The Frost-Giant's Daughter] • Synopsis, characters, locations, and publishing history
* [ Conan the Barbarian at]
* [ The official website]

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