Crom (fictional deity)

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For other uses, see Crom.

Crom /ˈkrɒm/ is a fictional deity in Robert E. Howard's fantasy tales of the Hyborian Age. He is recognized by the lead character Conan, and his proto-Celtic Cimmerian people.

The name Crom is probably derived from the ancient Celtic deity Crom Cruach or Crom Dubh.

Nature of Crom[edit]

...He dwells on a great mountain. What use to call on him? Little he cares if men live or die. Better to be silent than to call his attention to you; he will send you dooms, not fortune! He is grim and loveless, but at birth he breathes power to strive and slay into a man's soul. What else shall men ask of the gods?

Queen of the Black Coast

Crom is a grim and gloomy and unforgiving god[citation needed], ever watching from atop his mountain in dark clouds and obscuring mists, ready to pass a disapproving judgment on any and all[citation needed]. However, he is also said to value courage and tenacity in mortals, even if the human ultimately proves too frail to succeed.[citation needed] Worshipers of Crom claim that he grants his followers strength and endurance and has little patience for weakness.[citation needed] It is commonly held that Crom does not answer prayers and disfavors weakness, therefore the name of Crom is typically only invoked during an oath or curse. He is the only member of the Cimmerian pantheon named with any regularity, although another Celtic deity, Manannán mac Lir, is mentioned by Conan in one story. In the story "Conan the Valorous" by John Maddox Roberts, Crom is worshiped in and reported to live in a great cave in the east face of the mountain called Ben Morgh in Cimmeria where he (or a giant statue of him) is seated on a throne overlooking the Cimmerian burial grounds known as the Field of the Dead.

The Stygian followers of Set placate their deity with human sacrifice and actively venerate serpents, while Ishtar's worshippers follow the pleasures of the flesh; in Vendhya, the followers of Asura seek truth beyond the illusions of the physical world, and the Hyborian devotees of Mitra are almost Judaeo-Christian in their merging of asceticism with a commitment to compassion and justice. By contrast, Conan remarks in conversation that it is best to avoid doing anything that would draw Crom's attention, as the god brings down only trouble and doom.[1] As a result, he is not so much worshipped in Howard's works as invoked in curses and expletives (for instance, Conan exclaims things like "Crom and his devils"), or when trying to gather one's courage. This does not however imply that he ever does anything, good or bad, to mortals; it is said that his sole gift to men is to bestow them at birth with the courage to survive, persevere, and vanquish adversity.

Crom is never depicted as directly intervening or otherwise explicitly causing any event to occur in the original Conan stories by Robert E. Howard. In fact, there is little consistent evidence in his works that Crom, or any other deity, actually exists; the existence of demons and highly advanced aliens are confirmed (as in the stories "The God in the Bowl" and "The Tower of the Elephant"), while the story "The Phoenix on the Sword" implies that Set is one of H. P. Lovecraft's Great Old Ones. Howard's story "Black Colossus", however, has a princess vocally directed by Mitra to make Conan her champion.[2] Crom makes no such appearances. In Conan stories by authors other than Howard there is some evidence that Crom may exist. For example, in The Return of Conan, Crom intervenes directly to save Conan from death and eternal damnation. See also John Maddox Roberts. Conan the Valorous (Kindle Location 105).

In other media[edit]

Crom is briefly mentioned in Conan the Barbarian, a 1982 film directed by John Milius, co-written by Oliver Stone, and loosely based on Robert E. Howard's works. The film's Crom is similar to the god described in Howard's works, although elements of Norse mythology, in particular the mythos of Odin, are introduced. During a theological discussion, Conan says that when he dies, he will go in front of Crom, who will ask of him the Riddle of Steel, and if he does not know the answer, Crom will cast him away from Valhalla and laugh at him. (The Riddle of Steel is not mentioned in Howard's stories.)

Conan is shown having a strained, distant relationship with Crom. The only time he sincerely prays in the film (and, it is implied, in his entire life) is when he faces the men who killed his people, his family and his lover, Valeria. His prayer is as follows:

"Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you will remember if we were good men or bad, why we fought, or why we died. No, all that matters is that two stood against many, that's what's important. Valor pleases you, Crom, so grant me one request, grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to hell with you!"

In the 1984 sequel Conan the Destroyer, however, Conan, having avenged Valeria's death, appears to have reconciled with his god. At one point, Conan is seen praying to Crom for the return of Valeria; he tells one character that "She sits by the side of my god." He also says "Crom" as an expletive or expression of surprise at numerous points in the film.

Crom is also mentioned in Conan the Adventurer animated series. There, despite many differences in other things, Crom is also mostly portrayed as he is in Howard's stories, a distant deity that Conan more invokes in exclamations than formal worship, such as by saying "By Crom!" in times of danger. Not irreligious, though, Conan is seen to make solemn vows in the name of his god - or, in the case of the cartoon, guardian spirit of his tribe. For example, when his family is turned to stone, he swears in Crom's name to free them.

In the 2011 film, Conan The Barbarian, Crom is mentioned but only in passing and in expletives.

In Marvel Comics' What If? #39 "What If ... Thor Battled Conan?" Thor travels to the Hyborian past and, suffering from amnesia, climbs the mountain of Crom to seek answers from the god. Later, at his death, Thor passes Mjolnir to Conan. At the end Conan then climbs the mountain of Crom as well. His fate is left untold.

References[edit]