THE GREY GOD
Real Name: Borri
Identity/Class: Hyborian Era deity
Occupation: God of
possible progenitor of the Norse gods
Group Membership: Asgardian Gods (see comments)
Affiliations: the Choosers of the Slain (i.e. Valkyries; Skalla, Hylda, and ten other unnamed spectral maidens mounted on winged steeds), worshipped by the people of Hyperborea, especially King Tomar
Enemies: Ymir, Conan, King Brian of Brythunia, Dunlang, Eevin (all possibly his pawns in destroying Tomar)
Known Relatives: none. see comments
Aliases: the Grim
Grey God, the Grey Man;
possibly Bor or Buri / Tiwaz
Base of Operations: unknown, possibly an extradimensional netherworld or afterlife in the form of a "somber sky cave"
First Appearance: Conan the Barbarian I#3 "Twilight of the Grim Grey God" (February, 1971)
Powers/Abilities: Borri has powers greater than those typical to most gods (at least those of the Hyborian age): enhanced strength in the 90-100 ton range, immunity to disease and conventional injury, mastery of wind, rain, and storm. Also Borri possessed some form of omniscience, knowing the names and recent history of those he encountered (such as Conan), the movement of troops leagues from his presence, and the knowledge of impending death (be it of gods or men). Borri carried into battle a bright gleaming yet battered broadsword that was likely magical in nature (possibly forged from Uru or Rhinegold). Weird lights and strange planetoids hovering in the heavens were often seen playing about Borri's form, perhaps signifying either cosmic power or his coming passing into whatever afterlife awaits the gods.
History: (Savage Sword of Conan I#8/5) - Circa 16,500 BC, a millenium and a half after the Great Cataclysm, the tribe of the Hyborians (or Hybori) dwell in northern Thuria. A great chief of legend named Bori is raised to the status of a god.
(Conan the Barbarian I#3) - On his way hope from battling the ape-like beastmen (@ Conan the Barbarian #1) Conan was captured by Hyperboran slavers and put under the lash of a cruel, blond haired overseer. One night a careless guard gave Conan his opportunity to escape and the Cimmerian made for the closest border, which was with Brythunia. Conan pauses from trying to smash apart his chains with a rock on hearing a strange voice in the darkness. Conan approaches a tall silent figure standing amongst the weathered stones on a rocky hill. The stranger knows Conan's name and that he has recently escaped from the Hyperborean's slave pens. Conan at first takes him for a slave-catcher but is soon disabused of that notion. "Fool! Do you take me for a mere hunter of runaway captives? There are wilder matters abroad. Can't you smell it, Conan? The scent of blood is on the wind - - the musk of slaughter - - and the shouts of slaying! There is war long the borders, stripling. The spears of Hyperborea are rising against the swords of Brythunia! The death-fires soon shall light the land like the mid-day sun!"
When Conan demands to know who the stranger is and how he can know such things, a threat enters his voice and Borri becomes enraged, weird lights playing about him. "What?? You would threaten me!? Lift your eyes, boy - - and learn to whom you speak!" Conan looks up to see swooping down out of the clouds the Choosers of the Slain, twelve inhumanly beautiful women riding winged steeds, their eyes fixed on some goal beyond human ken. Borri turns to Conan once more, "Now comes the reaping of kings - - the garnering of chiefs like a harvest. To each being, there is an appointed time - - and even the gods must die!! You comprehend but little of what you have seen and heard, Conan. Yet, soon you shall witness the passing of kings - - aye, and of more than kings. Now get you gone - - for gigantic shadows stalk red-handed across the world - - and night is falling on Hyperborea."
Conan quite sensibly flees as a storm begins to fall all around him. One backward glance shows him the dark stranger has grown to a gigantic height and has become grey as with great age. After the summer gale has blown itself out, Conan comes across a lone Brythunian on horseback. Ignoring the horseman's query as to his identity Conan asks if Brythunia has gone to war with Hyperborea. The Brythunian realizes Conan has escaped from the Hyperborean slave pens and answers that, yes, Brythunia has gone to war. Conan tells the horseman, Dunlang, to take him with him for he has many Hyperboreans to kill.
As they approach the Brythunian camp Conan tells Dunlang of how he came to be so far from his home. Dunlang accounts the tale well told and agrees that Conan has a score to settle with the blond overseer. Just as they get to the camp they are halted by a voice crying out for Dunlang. Eevin, Dunlang's beloved, calls out for him to abandon the battle as she sees death looming in the future of her often prophetic dreams. Dunlang refuses, his sens eof duty is too strong, even when certain doom is his portion. "Then, Dunlang, by the Veil which my dreams do pierce - - you are as good as dead!" Eevin, whose race was old when the land was young, provides Dunlang a suit of enchanted golden mail to protect him if he refuses to heed her advice. As Conan and Dunlang depart Eevin cries out, the spectral head of Borri floating above her, "Dunlang, be not ever in the forefront of tomorrow's clash! For, our foes are mad with the lust for conquest - - and I feel the presence of Grey Death hovering near me."
Elsewhere, midway between the Brythunian and Hyperborean camps a secret assignation takes place between Malachi, Commander of the Brythunian Cavalry, and Kormlada, consort of King Tomar of Hyperborea. Enchanted by Kormlada's wiles Malachi plays into King Tomar's hands and agrees to hold back the Brythunian Cavalry at the decisive moment thus giving the day to Tomar. On returning to the Hyperborean camp, Kormlada's arm is almost broken by hot-blooded Tomar as he forces out of her whether or not Malachi will hold off the charge of the cavalry. Flung down amongst the cushions as Tomar departs, Kormlada hisses to herself that when the battle is done and the Brythunians are scattered she'll put a dagger in Tomar and set Malachi up as her puppet king.
Conan briefly meets King Brian of Brythunia, after learning from Dunlang that King Tomar and King Brian have been enemies for more years than the Cimmerian has been alive. King Brian asks why Conan is in chains if he is not a prisoner, to which Conan replies he has sworn to not remove his chains until he has slain the blond savage that put them on his wrists and many more besides. Brian assures Conan he will get his chance. Malachi comes and cuts the chains on Conan's manacles and provide him with a weapon at King Brian's command. Once Malachi has cut the chain so that one long piece of it dangles from the right hand Conan says he has all the weapon he needs.
The next day Conan asks where is King Brian who should be leading his men into battle. Dunlang tells Conan King Brian awaits the outcome of the battle in his tent. Eevin bids Dunlang farewell and the warrior tells her to hush, that they will laugh of all this when night comes again. King Tomar however does lead his men into battle, all the while howling a name that sounds strangely familiar to Conan. "For Borri! Borri!" Conan asks whose name it is the dark-maned one shouts and learns that Borri is the Hyperboreans' war-god whose sacrifices are the souls of men slain in battle, and that the dark-maned one is Tomar who has sent more men to Borri than mortal man can count. Then the battle is joined and for awhile all is chaos as forty thousand men meet in battle.
In the middle of the blood and slaughter Conan spies a bold blond Hyperborean and remembers a lash that bit like an angry adder. Conan realizes that the Hyperborean savage does not remember him, but reminds him before splitting his skull with the length of rusted chain in his hand. Dunlang sends Conan to find why Malachi does not charge only to be told by the traitor he will move "when the time comes." Sensing the seeds of treachery sprouting Conan returns with this dread news and Dunlang goes mad, ripping off his enchanted mail, and attempting to rally his men, only to be taken down by a Hyperborean knife in the back. Conan strikes down the attacker, but it is too late for his friend. Dunlang dies trying to get Conan to tell Eevin he loves her. Conan goes berserk, rallying the Brythunians by his savage example.
Tomar realizes the battle is lost, but not all is lost if only King Brian dies by his hand. Tomar slips through the enemy lines past a grieving Eevin, intent on a mission of revenge. Kormlada laughs at Eevin's grief until she discovers Malachi dead, a victim of Conan's bloody vengeance, and all her plans brought to naught. Brian and Tomar clash in Brian's tent while Brian's careless guards carouse and toast their "victory." King Tomar and King Brian trade words even as they trade swordblows.
"You'll not add Brian's lifeblood to your war-god's goblet."
"Borri is a hungry god - - a thirsting god. He must have battles to feed on or he perishes."
"Then he has supped his last - - when you die!"
The Brythunian king speaks more truly than even he knows for as the two warlords clash amid the tents in the gloomy twilight skies above a gigantic grey figure watches and waits with grim, implacable patience. Then suddenly both Brian and Tomar die, each by the other's hand. Conan discovers the two bodies and wonders why so many men had to die just so two king's could murder each other. And above the camp the Grey Man stretches out a giant hand to stir the clouds and summon both storm and the Choosers of the Slain. At last Conan understands, the Grey Man is the Hyperborean god Borri and he has summoned his wild women to gather the lost souls of the slain one last time. "For even the gods must die - - when their altars crumble - - and their worshippers all are fallen."
Flying above the battlefield the choosing of the worthy ones begins - - "amidst the cries of long-dead heroes whistling in the void and the shouts of forgotten gods." - - and with their slain warriors chosen for the last time the Choosers spur their white-winged steeds upward, flying off into the mist forever. Conan looks up one last time and sees the gigantic shadowy form of Borri striding off into the mist and recalls the grim god's last vow...
"Soon you shall witness the passing of kings - - aye, and of more than kings."
(Conan the Adventurer#7) - Conan, after getting caught in a
landslide while climbing a mountain, encounters Skalla, who he recognizes
as one of The Choosers of the Slain. She states that Borri, after that battle,
turned his back on mankind, as in its aftermath, many of his worshippers
died in battle. Borri retreated to his frozen domain, and most of the Choosers
of the Slain joined him. Skalla refused, as she felt enamored of life. She
seeks to become Conan's companion.
m However, then Hylda, another Chooser of the Slain, appears. She notes that Borri has ordered Skalla to return to Borri. When she refuses, Hylda summons the ghosts of Malachi, Dunlang, and others who participated in the battle. Eventually, Skalla decides to depart with Hylda, and Conan sees Borri's face in a cloud. He soon looses his memory of what happened.
Comments: Borri adapted by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor Smith from an appearance of Odin in the Robert E. Howard story "The Grim Grey God Passes."
Who is Borri?
Discussion on Borri being Buri, courtesy of Greg O:
And Per Degaton's two cents:
Profile by Greg O'Driscoll, updated by Per Degaton, revised by Snood.
In addition to that discussed in the Comments, Borri the Grim Grey God should not be confused with...
She was one of the Choosers of the Slain sent to return her wayward comrade Skalla to Borri.
--Conan the Adventurer#7
She was one of the Choosers of the Slain, who, too enamored of the world of the living, refused to return to Borri's "somber sky cave". She encountered Conan. While by taking part of his strength and/or life force she was able to gain a brief approximation of life, had she attempted to stay on Earth, she would have had to continually leech off of a human being. Not wanting to do this, she returned to Borri.
--Conan the Adventurer#7
Conan the Barbarian I#3 (February, 1971) - Roy Thomas (writer), Barry Windsor-Smith (pencils), Sal Buscema (inks), Stan Lee (editor)
Savage Sword of Conan#8 (October, 1975) - Roy Thomas (writer/editor), Walt Simonson (artist)
Conan the Adventurer#7 (December, 1994) - Roy Thomas (writer), John Watkiss (artist), Richard Ashford (editor)
Last updated: 04/09/04
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