The Twilight of the Grey Gods

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"The Twilight of the Grey Gods"
Author Robert E. Howard
Country United States
Language English
Series Turlogh Dubh O'Brien
Genre(s) Low Fantasy
Published in Dark Mind, Dark Heart
Publication type Anthology
Publisher Arkham House
Media type Print (Hardback)
Publication date 1962

"The Twilight of the Grey Gods", also known as "The Grey God Passes", is a short story by American writer Robert E. Howard that blends history and fantasy. Published posthumously in 1962, the first appearance of the story was in a collection titled Dark Mind, Dark Heart, edited by August Derleth.[1]

The tale is a fictionalized version of the Battle of Clontarf recast in Howard's views, with doomful vision and fantasy elements. While the historical facts of the battle are accurate, they are not the most important parts of the story. The protagonist is Turlogh Dubh O'Brien, a recurring character of Howard's who is an outcast from Brian Boru's own clan.

Howard also wrote a version of this story, called "Spears of Clontarf", with the fantastic elements removed. This version first saw print in a chapbook in 1978.[2]

Plot introduction[edit]

The core of the story, as indicated by the title, is the end of the influence of supernatural beings from our world with the victory of Christian King Brian over the heathen Vikings. Among the Irish dead is a fey prince whose own death will cause the death of his fairy lover, a metaphor for the waning away of all the Sidhe. Odin himself makes an impressive and doomful appearance, making the battle a Götterdämmerung. This is more Wagnerian in tone than the utter end of the world predicted for Ragnarök, though it is indeed the end of a world.


While little known, this story can be regarded as a turning point in the timeline of Howard's universe. While even in his stories that take place in incredibly ancient times, the horror, supernatural and Cthulhu mythos elements are seen as survivals from older, more horrible epochs. It can be perceived that in stories that take place later, such elements are viewed as even more horrible and abnormal. (Compare the view of the supernatural in the Kull or Conan the Barbarian stories, with that in the Solomon Kane tales or in The Black Stone or The Children of the Night for instance.) The notable exception being Worms of the Earth where, in the fourth or fifth century, even a hard bitten hero like Bran Mak Morn finds horror beyond his ability to stand.


The story was adapted by Marvel Comics as a Conan story in Conan the Barbarian #3 ("Twilight of the Grim Grey God", Feb 1971).

Finnish comic book artist Petri Hiltunen adapted the story to an album Harmaan Jumalan Hetki.


  1. ^ Works of Robert E. Howard, The Grey God Passes, retrieved 16 August 2007
  2. ^ Works of Robert E. Howard, Spears of Clontarf, retrieved 16 August 2007