Bêlit (Robert E. Howard)
Bêlit is a character appearing in the fictional universe of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian. She is a pirate queen who has a romantic relationship with Conan. She appears in Howard's Conan novelette Queen of the Black Coast, first published in Weird Tales 23 5 (May 1934). She was selected as the fourth greatest pirate by Wired magazine's Geekdad blog.
As a native of the Hyborian nation of Shem, Bêlit is Shemite. Her name may have been taken from Bel, god of thieves in her native land. Apart from jewellery, she wears only sandals and a red silk girdle. Despite her race and her lack of clothing in the tropical sun, her skin is "ivory white".
She is described in her first appearance:
|“||She turned toward Conan, her bosom heaving, her eyes flashing. Fierce fingers of wonder caught at his heart. She was slender, yet formed like a goddess: at once lithe and voluptuous. Her only garment was a broad silken girdle. Her white ivory limbs and the ivory globes of her breasts drove a beat of fierce passion through the Cimmerian's pulse, even in the panting fury of battle. Her rich black hair, black as a Stygian night, fell in rippling burnished clusters down her supple back. Her dark eyes burned on the Cimmerian.||”|
|“||"Who is Bêlit?"
"The wildest she-devil unhanged. Unless I read the signs awrong, it was her butchers who destroyed that village on the bay. May I some day see her dangling from the yard-arm! She is called the queen of the black coast. She is a Shemite woman, who leads black raiders. They harry the shipping and have sent many a good tradesman to the bottom."
As a pirate Bêlit ranges across the coast of Kush (Hyborian Africa) and as far north as Zingara (Hyborian Spain) aboard her ship, the Tigress. She calls herself the "Queen of the Black Coast" and her crew appear to regard her with awe.
She is described as passionate and elemental woman. She and Conan fall in love at first sight. Bêlit is, however, strongly avaricious which is described as a racial trait: "The Shemite soul finds a bright drunkenness in riches and material splendor, and the sight of this treasure might have shaken the soul of a sated emperor of Shushan." It is this that leads to her death, killed by an ancient winged ape-like creature - hanged from the yard arm of her own ship by a ruby necklace stolen from a city of the "old ones".
She temporarily returns from death, as she had vowed, to protect her lover from the same creature's attack later in the story.
Appearances in Other Media
An action figure of Bêlit was released by McFarlane Toys in 2004, as part of their first Conan series. The facial features, as in the original pulp cover, are more Hyborian (European) than Shemitish (Semitic).
Bêlit appeared in the Marvel comic book series Conan the Barbarian as a major character in issues 58 to 100. Unlike in Robert E.Howard's original short story, Bêlit, as written by Roy Thomas, is a major character in Conan's young life. Dark Horse Comics has adapted their own version of the same story in their Conan series.
Bêlit also appeared as a NPC in Dragon Magazine issue #57, January 1982. She was recorded in the Classic Heroes From Fiction & Literature section.