The Frost-Giant’s Daughter (first published in 1976)
by Robert E. Howard
This very short story opens with the last two warriors stand over the snowy field of battle between viking-like fighters, one side with blonde beards and the other hair as red as flame. One of the tall combatants is a red-headed Vanir named Heimdul, the other is a youthful man with mane of black different from the others as Cimmerian named Conan. After a brief exchange, Conan slays Heimdul and is the last man standing in this bloody battle of eighty men on frozen fields.
Yet he spies a woman with milky white skin and completely bare of clothing despite the freezing temperature. She posses an elfin beauty with fair of neither Vanir red nor Aesir but a blend of each. Conan remarks he knows of no village nearby she could be from. The beautiful woman leads across plains of hoar-frosted snow to low hills that give way to towering mountains. It is these silvery mountains of blue ice that the woman springs her trap upon the barbarian warrior. Her brothers, giants seemly carved of snow and ice with thick armor and frost covered axes, strike at Conan with the fury of a winter storm.
This story was originally rejected by Weird Tales hence the publishing date of more than 30 years after the author’s death during the 1970’s fantasy and sword and sorcery boom. This tale is perhaps the earliest account in Conan’s adventurous life as he is younger than most of Howard’s original stories.
As for the story itself, I can partly understand why it was rejected. It comes in at a scant seven pages making it the shortest of the Conan stories. Additionally, there isn’t a whole happening in this story as well. Conan is the last warrior in a battle of eighty men (which comes off rather incredible even for Conan). He follows a strange naked beauty for several miles in some strange lust-fueled obsession only to be attacked by frost giants.
For me, The Frost-Giant’s Daughter may be my least favorite Conan story between The Black Stranger and Vale of Lost Women both which are better stories but have elements I dislike more than any of The Frost-Giant’s Daughter. With The Black Stranger it is swashbuckler/pirate Conan which just seems out of place for the character. While Vale of Lost Women is one of Howard’s more racist stories though it does have Conan fighting a creature seemly inspired by H.P. Lovecraft.
Bottomline, this is not a particularly good Conan story though it is serviceable and short enough to read without leaving a bad taste in the mouth.