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Literature / The Frost-Giant's Daughter

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"The Frost-Giant's Daughter" (a.k.a. "Gods of the North") is a Conan the Barbarian story written by Robert E. Howard.

It features a younger Conan than in any other story; while he has left Cimmeria, he is still in the Grim Up North. After a battle in which he is the sole survivor, a mysterious, lightly clad woman appears and lures him over the snows until she reaches two giants, her brothers, whom she calls on to kill him. Conan kills them and goes after the woman, who escapes leaving her only garment in Conan's hand and calls on her father Ymir, who whisks her away. Other friends of Conan track him down, wondering why he left the battlefield, and at first disbelieve his story; but one of them had actually seen the woman, and he still has her garment.

Written in 1932, but not published. A version modified by Howard appeared in March 1934. A version modified by L. Sprague de Camp appeared in 1953. The original version was first published in 1976.

Marvel Comics adapted one version of the story into their first issue of the Savage Tales of Conan the Barbarian in August 1973. Darkhorse Comics adapted one version of the story into their second issue of the ongoing Conan comic series in March 2004.

The Frost-Giant's Tropes:

  • Attempted Rape: Conan's lust is overpowering, and it's one of the very, very few times where Conan is thinking of sex without the woman's consent. He grabs Atali, kissing her forcefully, and is clearly intending to do more. Though it should be noted that Atali is based on a Fey, a magical creature from European folklore that had the ability to literally drive men insane with lust. At the end, Conan even calls what had happened to him "madness", so it's indicated he was compelled by magic.
  • Call on Me: Atali calls upon her father to spirit her away from Conan.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Conan murders Atali's brothers with little effort, given their scheme is too have half dead soldier incensed with lust and tired from chasing Atali they likely weren't expecting any resistance.
  • Disability Immunity: Grom had seen Atali, who comes to those in battle who are about to die with the severity of their wounds, but he survived because his injuries prevented him from following her.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Conan is depicted in later stories to be just as smart as he is strong. Here he's little more than a brute, though that may also be due to Atali's lust charm.
  • Exposed to the Elements: Atali wears nothing but a gossamer cloth, and is even barefoot in the snow. Justified in that she is the daughter of Ymir the Frost Giant.
  • Fictional Colour: When Conan meets Atali, he sees that her eyes are filled with "...clouds of colors he could not define."
  • Giving Them the Strip: One of Conan's attempts to grab Atali sees him accomplish nothing but yanking off the scant garment she's wearing.
  • Horny Vikings: The Aesir and Vanir. Conan is this as well, being a sort of naturalized Aesir; given that he basically adopts their ways and manners, swearing by their gods and desiring their afterlife. Atali calls him out on it.
  • An Ice Person: As ice gods, Atali and her family.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Atali mocks Conan endlessly. Until he kills her brothers, whereupon she flees him in terror.
  • Lighter and Softer: As the second story in the series and technically the first made of original material, it has a much more ethereal atmosphere and features beings who don't seem purely evil. It also lacks a conventional Big Bad.
  • Manly Facial Hair: Every Nordheimer has one. The redness of their hair is singled out in the narration at one point as a sign of their manliness.
  • Mook Horror Show: Much prose is utilized to depict Atali's fear and frenzied attempts to flee from Conan's grasp.
  • Oh, Crap!: The minute Atali sees that her trap failed.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: See Attempted Rape above. Normally Conan adheres to a sort of rough chivalric code, and rape is beneath him. The insane murderous lust Atali works him up into—whether he's under a spell or not—demonstrates just how far out on the edge he is.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: At the end Conan wonders if it was, but the fact that he still holds a garment of unusual material and his allies are surprised to see him alive strongly suggests it wasn't.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: Atali's brothers are much larger than she, who seems roughly human-sized, at least as Conan sees her.
  • Physical God: Ymir, the titular Frost giant. Quite possibly Atali and her brothers as well, though it's hard to be sure, especially as they're very scarce instances of not being associated with black magic, necromancy, or an Eldritch Abomination in Howard's works.
  • The Tease: Atali doesn't seem interested in having sex with her targets and prefers to toy with the dying, leading them off to be killed by her brothers, who then offer up the hearts of these warriors as a sacrifice.

Alternative Title(s): The Gods Of The North