Gods Of The North by Robert E. Howard

SFFaudio Online Audio

“Anybody ought to be willing to pay a dollar for the privilege of reading, for a whole year, the works of Lovecraft, Smith, and Derleth.”

-Robert E. Howard (from a letter to Fantasy Fan, December 1933)

“I am so happy that we were able to quickly clear up this misunderstanding. We have accepted Orion’s apology without reservation and I thank our lawyers, and Orion’s lawyers, on both sides of the Atlantic for helping us resolve our issues. Orion was a great licensee of ours for many years and we are delighted to have reached an agreement to renew and expand that relationship. We are already brainstorming the many new productive ways we can work together in the future. Those of us who work at Paradox have put a lot of work into protecting and developing our wide array of Robert E. Howard derived brands since we got into the Robert E. Howard business. The new Conan movie will wrap next month, the Age of Conan MMOG recently launched a big expansion, and we are well along in the development of a number of other feature films and licensed products which we will be announcing shortly. Orion is perfectly positioned as a leading science fiction/fiction publisher which can provide the wider audience we want to reach the real thing, REH’s original stories”

-Fredrik Malmberg, President and CEO of Paradox Entertainment, Inc. and its subsidiaries (Conan Properties International) (from a 2010 press release)

Gods Of The North, first published in 1934, is still just one of two Conan stories available on LibriVox.org (the other being Red Nails). Gods Of The North is a 3,500 word vignette, it’s been republished under the titles The Frost Giant’s Daughter and The Frost King’s Daughter. The reason it survives, and is known today, has nothing to do with marketing campaigns, intellectual property protection or lawyers. It survives for one reason alone – it survives because of it’s fans. In fact, it survives despite it being originally written as a piece for sale. It was actually rejected by Weird Tales magazine editor Farnsworth Wright:

The Frost-Giant's Daughter Rejection Letter

Check it out… Gods Of The North was first published in a fan magazine (that had just sixty subscribers) – a fan magazine that counted both H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard among its feature (and letters column) contributors. Neither Lovecraft nor Howard wrote to, or for, THE FANTASY FAN because it was a profitable venture – they wrote to it, and for it, because they were themselves fans of fantasy and the stories and poems they were weaving. You may know the story. It’s a pretty famous one today, but it isn’t famous because it was a well marketed, properly licensed by the right’s holder, or branded. It is, instead, because it’s a good story that fans (another word for readers) appreciate.

Gods Of The North was nearly forgotten. It lay un-reprinted and virtually unknown for more than thirty years until it was re-discovered and reprinted in the December 1956 issue of Fantastic Universe. Here is the editorial introduction for that reprinting:

The publication of this strange story by Robert E. Howard, author of the Conan stories, so much a part of the Living Library of Fantasy, represents a departure for this magazine. Without abandoning our policy of bringing you, month after month, the best in NEW Science Fiction and Fantasy. We will, front time to time, publish material such as this, hitherto known to only a few students of the field! GODS OF THE NORTH was published in 1934, in Charles D. Hornig’s THE FANTASY FAN, which had a circulation of under a hundred! We thank Sam Moskowitz, Editor and SF historian, who showed us this story.

Here’s the |PDF|, it’s also available (with a slightly different text) at |WIKISOURCE|

Here’s my description of the plot:

A winter war in the mountains of Vanaheim, and a bit of gossamer, are all that stand between Conan of Cimmeria and the frosty beauty who spurns him.

And here’s the audiobook:

LibriVox Fantasy - Gods Of The North by Robert E. HowardGods of the North
By Robert E. Howard; Read by Rowdy Delaney
1 |MP3| – Approx. 21 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: September 21, 2008
She drew away from him, dwindling in the witch·fire of the skies, until she was a figure no bigger than a child. First published in the March 1934 issue of The Fantasy Fan.

Here’s the same reading, with additional commentary:

PodcastlePodcastle #162 – Gods Of The North
By Robert E. Howard; Read by Rowdy Delaney
1 |MP3| – Approx. 30 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Podcastle
Podcast: June 21, 2011

My copy of Conan’s Brethren (a Gollancz collection of Howard stories), edited by Stephen Jones, features this striking image by Les Edwards (aka Edward Miller):

The Frost King's Daughter - illustration by Les Edwards

Comics adaptations:

Savage Tales #1 (May 1971) – The first comics adaptation, adapted by Roy Thomas (writer) and Barry Windsor Smith (artist):

Savage Tales - The Frost Giant's Daughter

Conan the Barbarian #16 (July 1972) – a colorized version of the ST #1 adaptation, except with Comics Code Authority self-censorship and an additional splash page:

Conan The Barbarian - Night Of The Frost Giants

Savage Sword of Conan #1 (August 1974) – an uncoloured and uncensored (full nudity is back) version of the same adaptation from Conan The Barbarian #16 and Savage Tales #1, but featuring the added splash page (in black and white this time) from CTB #16:

The Savage Sword Of Conan - ADDED SPLASH (in black and white) - The Frost Giant's Daughter

Conan #2 (March 2004) adapted by Kurt Busiek (writer) and Cary Nord (artist) – cover art by Joseph Michael Linsner:

Dark Horse - Conan #2 - The Frost Giant's Daughter - COVER

Conan #2 - The Frost Giant's Daughter - INTERIOR

But the fan connection doesn’t end there. The artist most closely associated with the Marvel Comics run of Conan The Barbarian and Savage Sword Of Conan was John Buscema. But, he never illustrated an adaptation of Gods Of The North or The Frost Giant’s Daughter. And so it was up to fan artists, like the impressively talented Benito Gallego, to step in to imagine what a Buscema version of this fan favourite tale might look like. And he did it twice!

Benito Gellago's illustrations of The Frost Giant's Daughter

[Thanks to Robert E. Howard, Charles D. Horning, Sam Moskowitz, Hans Stefan Santesson, Rowdy Delaney, Gorgon776 and many other fans]

Posted by Jesse Willis

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