The Frost-Giant's Daughter

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An interior panel of the Conan #2 (Collected in The Frost-Giant's Daughter And Other Stories) comic adaptation by Kurt Busiek featuring the art of Cary Nord and Thomas Yeates.
"The Frost-Giant's Daughter"
Author Robert E. Howard
Original title "Gods of the North"
Country US
Language English
Series Conan the Cimmerian
Genre(s) Fantasy
Published in US
Publication date 1953

"The Frost-Giant's Daughter" is one of the original fantasy short stories about Conan the Cimmerian, written by American author Robert E. Howard.

It is set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age and details Conan pursuing a spectral nymph across the frozen snows of Nordheim. Rejected as a Conan story by Weird Tales magazine editor Farnsworth Wright, Howard changed the main character's name to "Amra of Akbitana" and retitled the piece as "The Gods of the North", in which form it was published in the March 1934 issue of The Fantasy Fan. It was not published in its original form in Howard's lifetime.

Plot summary[edit]

"The Frost-Giant's Daughter" is the earliest chronological story by Robert E. Howard in terms of Conan's life. The brief tale is set somewhere in frozen Nordheim, geographically situated north of Conan's homeland, Cimmeria. Conan is depicted by Howard as a youthful Cimmerian mercenary traveling among the golden-haired Aesir in a war party. Shortly before the story begins, a hand-to-hand battle has occurred on an icy plain. Eighty men ("four score") have perished in bloody combat, and Conan alone survives the battlefield where Wulfhere's Aesir "reavers" fought the Vanir "wolves" of Bragi, a Vanir chieftain. Thus, the story opens.

Following this fierce battle against the red-haired Vanir, Conan the Cimmerian, lying exhausted on the corpse-strewn battlefield, is visited by a beautiful, condescending and semi-nude woman identifying herself as "Atali." Upon her bodice, she wears a transparent veil: a wisp of gossamer that was not spun by human distaff. The mere sight of her strange nakedness kindles Conan's lust and, when she repeatedly taunts him, he madly chases her for miles across the snows with the intent of capturing her.

Mocking him with each step, Atali leads Conan into an ambush. Undaunted by the snare, Conan slays her two hulking brothers, the Frost-Giants, and then captures her in his arms, only to have her call upon her father, Ymir, to save her. Before Conan is able to ravish her, Atali disappears in a stroke of lightning that seemingly transforms the landscape and renders Conan unconscious.

Later, when his Aesir comrades arrive, Conan believes he must have dreamed the bizarre encounter until he finds he is still grasping the translucent veil that served as the sole garment of the Frost-Giant's daughter.

The utilization of poetic descriptions throughout this tale is quite strong, and on par with Howard's "Queen of the Black Coast". However, the narrative is often criticized by Howard scholars for not having the more detailed plotting of his superior Conan stories such as "The Black Stranger". Largely, this is because Howard was aiming for a mythological feel, something to which the story is eminently suited.

This is the only Conan story in which other characters refer to him as "a southerner". In all the rest of his wanderings, Conan is invariably "a barbarian from the cold north", but for the Aesir and Vanir, Cimmeria is a southern land, a bit less cold than theirs.


While Robert E. Howard had already written many fantasy stories featuring northern Viking-like characters, the names and plot structure for "The Frost-Giant's Daughter" was derived in its entirety from Thomas Bulfinch's The Outline of Mythology (1913). Howard combined the legend of Atalanta with another reworked Bulfinch legend, that of Daphne and Apollo, but he reversed the roles. Whereas Apollo was a god and Daphne a mortal, Howard made Atali a goddess and Conan a mortal. In the original, Cupid had struck Apollo with an arrow to excite love for Daphne, but struck her with an arrow to cause her to find love repellent. Howard kept the idea of the love-maddened Apollo (rather a lust-maddened Conan) pursuing the girl until she invokes aid from her divine father.[1]

Publication history[edit]

The earlier version of the story was published in the collections The Coming of Conan (Gnome Press, 1953) and Conan of Cimmeria (Lancer Books, 1969). The last version, as left by Howard before his death, was first published in 1976 by Donald M. Grant in an edition of the Conan story Rogues in the House. This version of the tale has most recently been republished in the collections The Conan Chronicles Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle (Gollancz, 2000) and The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (Del Rey, 2004).


The story has been adapted into comics:

The story was adapted into the prologue to the unproduced sequel King Conan: Crown of Iron[2] written by screenwriter/director John Milius. In the screenplay, Conan encounters the Frost-Giant's Daughter and defeats her brothers, as in the original. However, in Milius' adaptation, he is not interrupted by Ymir and impregnates Atali, who then disappears in apparent fear of "The Ice Worm". She bears him a son, named Kon, whose parentage takes on much significance over the course of the story.


  1. ^ Patrice Louinet. Hyborian Genesis: Part 1, page 438, "The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian"; 2003, Del Rey.
  2. ^ McWeeny, Drew [1], "MORIARTY Reviews KING CONAN, CROWN OF IRON Draft By John Milius!!", August 27, 2001, accessed February 3, 2011.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"The Black Stranger"
Original Howard Canon
(publication order)
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Original Howard Canon
(Dale Rippke chronology)
Succeeded by
"The God in the Bowl"
Preceded by
Conan the Valorous
Complete Conan Saga
(William Galen Gray chronology)
Succeeded by
"The Lair of the Ice Worm"