Saturday, March 18, 2023

Conan - The Frost-Giant's Daughter

“The Frost-Giant's Daughter” was written by Robert E. Howard in the early 1930s. The story, featuring Conan the Cimmerian, was originally rejected by Weird Tales, so Howard changed the character to Amra of Akbitana and called the story “The Gods of the North”. It was accepted and published by The Fantasy Fan #7 in March, 1934. As a Conan story, its original, more popular form, “The Frost-Giant's Daughter”, was published in The Coming of Conan (Gnome Press, 1953) and Conan of Cimmeria (Lancer, 1969). At just 10 paperback pages, it ranks in the top echelon of Conan literature. 

The titular hero has returned to his homeland in Cimmeria, but grows a hunger for battle. He decides to participate in a raid into Vanaheim with his old barbaric friends the Aesirs. As the story begins, Conan is the last remaining combatant of the Aesirs and an enemy named Heimdul is the sole member left of Vanaheim's fighting forces. They both lock into battle and Conan kills Heimdul, but collapses from exhaustion on the hard frozen ground. 

Conan awakens to feminine laughter and then sees a beautiful ivory-skinned woman in front of him. She's naked and barefoot, yet dancing on the snow. Lusting for this cold-weather maiden, Conan trails the woman for miles through the frozen wastelands. Growing tired, he suddenly realizes that the woman has led him to her two brothers, savage frost giants. They want to cut Conan's heart out for some sort of ritual sacrifice. Forced into battle, Conan kills both giants and then the woman vanishes in a blue flame after asking her father, a god named Ymir, for help. Conan collapses yet again, but this time awakens to find another band of Aesir comrades by his side. 

Conan explains that his encounter with the strange woman and the Aesir don't believe him. They also fail to locate any tracks made by the woman. One Aesir warrior confesses that he does believe what Conan is saying is true and explains that this woman is Atali, the daughter of the god Ymir. The Aesir still refuses to believe Conan's account, but are surprised to see that the warrior is holding a piece of the woman's clothing in his hand. 

“The Frost-Giant's Daughter” has a special kind of frosty ambiance. Howard's descriptions of the battlefield, cold weather, the beautiful woman, and the frost giants themselves was just so vivid. The opening dialogue between Conan and Heimdul seemed epic, despite the fact that the reader never experienced the actual battle. For such a short story, the whole narrative felt this way due to the storytelling and pace. Conan's realization that the dream was reality was a fitting ending and proved to his comrades that his sanity, along with his fighting spirit, was still fully intact. Howard absolutely nailed this Conan story and I'm surprised it wasn't picked up by one of the publishers of that era in its original form.

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