Crom (fictional deity)

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Crom /ˈkrɒm/ is a deity in Robert E. Howard's fantasy tales of the Hyborian Age. He is ackowledged as the chief god 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 by Robert E. Howard

Crom is the chief god of the Cimmerian pantheon, and he lives within a great mountain, from where he sends forth doom or death. It's useless to call upon Crom, because he is a gloomy and savage god who despises the weak. However, Crom gives a man courage, free-will, and the strength to kill their enemies at birth.[1] Crom doesn't care if individuals live or die, and he despises 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.

His gods were simple and understandable; Crom was their chief, and he lived on a great mountain, whence he sent forth dooms and death. It was useless to call on Crom, because he was a gloomy, savage god, and he hated weaklings. But he gave a man courage at birth, and the will and might to kill his enemies, which, in the Cimmerian's mind, was all any god should be expected to do.

The Tower of the Elephant by Robert E. Howard

The Stygian followers of Set worship 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 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.[2] 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.

Crom is never depicted as directly intervening or otherwise explicitly causing any event to occur in the original Conan stories by Robert E. Howard. There is little consistent evidence in his works that Crom 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" features a princess vocally directed by Mitra to transform Conan into her champion,[3] yet Crom makes no such appearances.

Using Crom's name as an expletive immediately identifies Conan as being a Cimmerian. Crom is specifically and uniquely considered a Cimmerian god, with other civilizations paying him little attention.

In other works[edit]

In Conan stories by authors other than Howard, there is some evidence that Crom definitely exists. For example, in The Return of Conan, Crom intervenes directly to save Conan from death and eternal damnation - evidently, because in that story Conan takes a quest around the world, braving countless dangers and doing all that a human could possibly do by human means, and it would have been unfair for him to succumb to magic which he was not equipped to counter.

Conan also mentions the Celtic deity, Manannán mac Lir, in Conan the Valorous by John Maddox Roberts. In this story, Crom is worshipped in, and reportedly lives 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.

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 never mentioned in any of 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!"[4]

In the 1984 sequel Conan the Destroyer, 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 uses "Crom" as an expletive or expression of surprise at numerous points in the film.

Crom is also mentioned in Conan the Adventurer animated series, though there he is referred to as a "guardian spirit." In the animated series, Crom is also mostly portrayed as he is in Howard's stories, a distant deity that Conan invokes in exclamations but not in formal worship. Not irreligious, though, Conan is shown to make solemn vows in the name of his god.

In the 1997 live action television series Conan the Adventure starring Ralph Moeller, Crom is shown as being real and active in mortal affairs having directed Conan to the location of an Atlantian sword wielded by him for the run of the series.

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 up the mountain of Crom as well. His fate is left untold.