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Frozen Flame From Hell –

Frozen Flame From Hell

Sunday , 12, May 2024 2 Comments

The most misinterpreted Robert E. Howard story is “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter.”

Winter Elliott wrote in her essay “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Women” (Conan Meets the Academy):

Women in peril flee across the wastelands and marshes depicted on Howard’s pages; frequently like Atali of the story ‘The Frost-Giant’s Daughter,’ they’re pursued by men with sex, if not outright rape, dominating their minds.”

Sam Lundwall, the Scandinavian scold wrote this about Robert E. Howard in Science Fiction: What’s It All About?:

Their attitude toward the heroines is also far from gallant. If they are of the rare type equipped with a sex drive, they usually rape her on the corpse of the murdered antagonist, where-upon they kill her as well and scamper off toward new gory heroic deeds.”

I can remember a boomer hippie who wrote in his Robert E. Howard United Press Association fanzine in ther 1990s about “Conan the Shit-Heel” in regards to “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter.”

All three are wrong. It is doubtful Lundwall ever read any Robert E. Howard. Debatable that Elliott read “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter.” The boomer hippie is just wrong.

Once again Conan the Rapist is used as a cudgel agains the character. This time from Matt’s Fantasy Reviews at Youtube.

The setting is snow covered Nordheim in the Hyborian Age.”The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” opens with two final combatants of a small battle, Conan the Cimmerian and Heimdul the Vanir face off man to man. Conan wins but he is weary to the point of feeling sick. A wave of blindness hits him to the point he has to sit down. He sees a woman almost completely naked wearing a light veil of gossamer. The girl laughs at him with “cruel mockery.” He asks who she is and she responds “What matter?” with a voice “edged in cruelty.” The appearance of her hair changes as he looks at her. The girl performs a tease dance “Spreading her arms wide, she swayed before him, her golden head lolling sensuously, her scintillant eyes half shadowed beneath their long silken lashes. ‘Am I not beautiful, oh man?’”

The girl is described as a “taunting figure” and Conan is filled with rage and then an overpowering passion. She runs across the snow barely making an imprint while Conan struggles through the frozen crust. The skies “glowed and crackled with strange lights and gleams.” The landscape is described as “a shimmering icy realm of enchantment.” Two gigantic figures rise up as the girl yells to them, “I have brought you a man to slay! Take his heart that we may lay it smoking on our father’s board!” The girl is a honey-pot to lure victims to their doom. One of the giants is described as looking “like a colossus carved of ice.”

Conan fells the two ice giants, the ambush did not work, and the girl is now worried. Conan catches up and grabs her. “That flesh was cold as ice. It was as if he embraced not a woman of human flesh and blood, but a woman of flaming ice.” Howard goes into H. P. Lovecraft mode:

High above his head the witch-lights flashed and played in a frosty sky gone mad, and among the distant blue mountains there sounded a rolling thunder as of a gigantic war-chariot rushing behind steeds whose frantic hoofs struck lightning from the snows and echoes from the skies. 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. . .In a cold dark universe, whose sun was extinguished eons ago, Conan felt the movement of life, alien and unguessed.”

Conan is found unconscious by his Aesir friends where he tells them what happened. Niord and company did not see any tracks other than Conan’s nor any bodies. Gorm tells them Conan encountered Atali:

Myself when a boy I saw her, when I lay half-slain on the bloody field of Wolraven. I saw her walk among the dead in the snows, her naked body gleaming like ivory and her golden hair unbearably bright in the moonlight. I lay and howled like a dying dog because I could not crawl after her. She lures men from stricken fields into the wastelands to be slain by her brothers, the ice-giants, who lay men’s red hearts smoking on Ymir’s board. The Cimmerian has seen Atali, the frost-giant’s daughter!”

The story ends with Conan holding the gossamer veil not spun by humans. “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” ends like an English ghost story on the lines of E. F. Benson with the strange artifact left from a strange occurrence.

This is not a case of attempted rape because Atali is not human. She is a shape-shifter, her hair appears to change color. Conan is under the spell of glamor. He is dead tired to the point of feeling sick. Atali puts an enchantment on men so they pursue her to their demise. Atali is a lamia or a succubus. Her real appearance might be something rather different. Ymir and Odin might have been avatars of the same supernatural being in Robert E. Howard’s universe. In “The Cairn on the Headland,”:

Odin, the Grey Man, the One-eyed, the god of the North who had taken the form of a warrior to fight for his people. Assuming the form of a human, he was subject to many of the limitations of humanity. All men knew this of the gods, who often walked the earth in the guise of men. Odin, clothed in human semblance, could be wounded by certain weapons, and even slain.”

Howard converted Ymir/Odin into a Lovecraftian entity:

The slavering monster that had slain him lumbered now toward me, shadowy, tentacle-like arms outspread, the pale starlight making a luminous pool of his great inhuman eye, his frightful talons dripping with I know not what elemental forces to blast the bodies and souls of men.”

If someone uses “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” as an example of rape, they are either stupid or lying. Ask them which one they are.

  • Gary Romeo says:

    It’s a great story and I agree with you, but I can see the other side as well. Conan (pop-culture Conan for sure) is known to have the ability to shake off sorcerous influences. Strong will and all that. Arnie Conan with James Earl Doom’s snake eyes paralyzing him, hesitates as the sorcerer intones, “You are my son.” But Arnie shrugs and Doom is minus a head. In TFGD it can be reasonably argued that Conan chooses NOT to shake off Atali’s sorcery. He should obviously recognize that he is being manipulated here: nearly naked woman in the freezing cold? There has to be sorcery at work!!! Yet he ignores the peril because his lust is great. That a little damning.

    • Morgan says:

      The other side is retarded and gay. Yes, there are sorcerous influences that are from sorcerers, not supernatural beings like Atali. The movies are a non-sequitur.

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