Real Name: Vammatar
Identity/Class: Human (Hyborian Era) magic-user
Occupation: Queen of portion of Hyperborea
Group Membership: None
Affiliations: Louhi (priestess); Kulan Gath (sometime-ally); Witch Men of Hyperborea (servants); Njal, Thror Ironhand (undead servants); Nightgaunts; Conan (former semi-willing lover)
Enemies: Aesir (Egil, Gorm, Thror Ironhand, Njal, Rann Njalsdatter), Conan, Hobb, Kulan Gath (sometimes), Shon (Cimmerian), Shuma-Gorath
Known Relatives: Kulan Gath (former husband)
Aliases: The Witch Queen of Hyperborea; Vammatar the Cruel
Base of Operations: Castle Haloga, Hyperborea; last seen on the Mount of Crom, Cimmeria--all in the Hyborian Era
First Appearance: "Legions of the Dead", Conan the Swordsman (1978); Savage Sword of Conan#39 (April, 1979)
Powers: Vammatar possesses a number of
magical powers. She is immune to the effects of disease and
aging. She can project magical bolts, form shields, etc. She can
raise the dead, and cause those she has revived to serve her as
warriors. Once raised, they will follow her commands, but do not
require continual direct control/animation (in some instances,
however, she did require at least one of her Witch Men to be
present to maintain their animation). She has vast knowledge of
magical lore, and can cast spells for a variety of effects.
Vammatar is also served by the Witch Men of Hyperborea, who are seven feet tall, and carry staffs able to shock a man into unconsciousness.
History: Vammatar's origins are unknown. She was presumably born during the Hyborian era, @ 10, 000 BC, but her early experiences and training are undetailed. She came to rule a portion of the northern realm of Hyperborea.
(Conan the Barbarian I#258(fb))-Vammatar was an
unfriendly rival to Kulan Gath, a sorcerer of Stygia. In a valley
just south of the Graaskal Mountains, in Brythunia, their mutual
hatred came to climax. As the struggle between their armies
reached a stalemate, the two sorcerers negotiated. Vammatar
revealed she possessed the Iron-Bound Books of Shuma-Gorath, but
Kulan Gath possessed the key, without which the books could not
be opened. They both desired the power that lay within the Books,
and Vammatar proposed a more solid alliance, "Marry me,
Kulan Gath--and let your key turn in my lock."
They were wed in a hidden temple dedicated to gods they both acknowledged. The ancient priest who officiated never saw the Nether Demon they were silently conjuring up, even as he mouthed the words of the ceremony. They wanted no third human present as they unlocked the Iron-Bound Books. They learned that Shuma-Gorath had been imprisoned millennia before in the peak of the Mount of Crom, by Crom himself. They made the long trek to Cimmeria, where Vammatar betrayed Gath and his soldiers, ambushing them at the base of Mount Crom. As their forces struggled, a sudden torrential downpour swept over them. Gath and Vammatar voiced their defiance to Crom, and were rewarded with a lightning bolt that split rock asunder and covered them in an avalanche of rock and snow.
Both sorcerers survived, although each believed the other had perished.
(Savage Sword of Conan#39)-Approximately 100 years later, Vammatar directed her Witch-Men to torture and then slay a scouting party from the Aesir. This brought her into conflict with Conan, a youth of 15 years, who was at the time serving in the Aesir army under its Jarl (leader), Njal. While Njal pondered a plan of attack, Conan scaled the wall of Vammatar's castle, freed Rann Njalsdatter, and set the wooden inner frame of the castle on fire. As the Aesir headed back to Aesgaard, Vammatar, not in the least bit worried, animated the slain warriors of Njal, added them to her ranks, and sent them after the Aesir. The tireless undead warriors soon caught up to the Aesir and overpowered them. Conan's efforts allowed Rann to escape, but Njal and many others were slain. Conan, Gorm, and the remaining Aesir were captured and condemned to Vammatar's slave pens.
(Conan tB#254(fb))-Conan and the Aesir were brought to Castle Haloga. The Aesir were sent to the slave pens, but Vammatar was lonely amongst the Hyperboreans, and had Conan brought to her chambers for some...recreation. She made it clear that he would only remain in that...position, as long as he retained her interest. The next day, Vammatar sent Conan's former allies to battle their own former allies in her undead warriors. Conan quickly rebelled against this idea and jumped into the arena to their aid. The battle was cut short as Rann led another troop of warriors against Castle Haloga. However, Conan broke free from his prison and led the imprisoned Aesir to aid Rann's troop against Vammatar's undead warriors. Conan also found a cache of weapons beneath the castle, which had been used to "slay" the undead warriors in ages past. Using these weapons, Conan and the Aesir fought off Vammatar's forces long enough to escape Castle Haloga and flee into the wilderness.
(Conan#252-BTS)-Ten years later, possibly under the direction of Shuma-Gorath, Vammatar had her warriors set fire to the Village of the Snow Bear, the Cimmerian tribe in which Conan was raised.
(Conan#252)-Conan had a vision of his village burning and headed north, alongside his loose ally at the time, Hobb. In an unnamed village both Conan and Hobb encountered undead women who sought to seduce and then slay them. After overcoming these women, they encountered one of the Witch Men of Hyperborea. Vammatar briefly projected her consciousness into one of the dead women and taunted Conan over her involvement in his village, and with the demon Shuma-Gorath. Conan slew the Witch Man, which caused the undead women, and other undead warriors present, to collapse.
(Conan#253-BTS)-After learning of Vammatar's plans from Conan, Kulan Gath decided to renew their acquaintance.
(Conan#255, )-Vammatar's Witch Men plundered the ruined city of Lanjau, where they encountered Conan and a group of Corinthian soldiers, who were similarly plundering Lanjau. Conan attacked the Witch Men, but fearing their curse, one of the Corinthian soldiers beaned him from behind with a rock. Under Vammatar's direction, and with her aid from a distance, the Witch Men revived the armored skeletons of the Keepers of the Treasure-Crypt of Lanjau, as well as a group of former plunderers who had died from "The Purple Plague." The Witch Men sought to bring the Keepers back to Vammatar to form the nucleus of a mighty army with which she might conquer the surrounding kingdoms. The Keepers, however, sought the Jade Serpent, a magical item located in Corinthia, which they had apparently died defending in years past. Eventually the Keepers turned against the Witch Men and slew them, when they attempted to force them to abandon their quest for the Jade Serpent. The Keepers followed the Serpent into a deep chasm, where it was thrown by Conan.
(Conan#257-BTS)-Kulan Gath duped Conan into attacking King Nimed of Numalia, by casting an illusion to make him appear to be Vammatar.
(Conan#258-BTS)-As Kulan Gath, Conan, and Hobb approached the Mount of Crom, Vammatar sent two Witch Men, riding a Nightgaunt, to drive them off. Conan slew the Witch Men, and the Nightgaunt, lacking direction, flew off. Conan was knocked off of Kulan Gath's Bone Dragon in the process, and the Bone Dragon was damaged and crashed soon afterwards.
(Conan#259-260)-Vammatar and her warriors encountered Kulan
Gath on their journeys up the Mount of Crom. They agreed to
reunite to locate the Iron-Bound Books of Shuma-Gorath. However,
while they talked, Hobb fell through a crevice, found the Books,
and was manipulated by Shuma-Gorath itself to read from them.
Shuma-Gorath burst forth from Mount Crom. Gath and Vammatar combined their powers to immobilize Shuma-Gorath and then to drive off Conan and his new allies, who attempted to ambush them. However, Shuma-Gorath broke free from their control, or perhaps he was never under it. The immense demon easily overpowered and obliterated the two former lovers.
Comments: Created by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, adapted by Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema.
SSoC#39 described Vammatar as centuries old, so she was already at least a few hundred years old in her first chronological appearance in Conan#258's flashback.
I'd love to see Vammatar appear in the modern era and attempt to take revenge for the death of Kulan Gath. Perhaps she could forcibly recruit an army of heroes to attack the N'Garai.
I enjoyed Roy Thomas' efforts to clear up some dangling plotlines in the last few years of Conan the Barbarian's regular and limited series. The conclusion of SSoC#39's "Legion of the Undead" storyline was told in 1992.
I place the Hyborian era @ 12, 000 BC-10, 000 BC. For a truly excellent pre-modern era Chronology of the Marvel Universe, check out Robert Wicks' Unofficial Chronology of the Marvel Universe.
Thanks to Will U for the info regarding Vammater. It seems likely that at least the name was taken from mythology. Hyperborea occupies a northern portion of the landmass of the Hyborian Era, which wouldn't be too far from where Finland exists in the modern era.
The Nightgaunts are likely derived from similar
creatures of Lovecraftian origin, as mentioned by Greg O.
I'll do some double checking but am fairly certain the Nightgaunts of Lovecraft's works were servitors/messengers of the Elder Gods, especially hoary Nodens. They were (obviously) gaunt, humanoid beings with horns, wings, and barbed tails, featurelss faces, and dead black. They usually collected people the Elder Gods wished to destroy or converse with, subduing them by skillfully tickling thme into insensibility/paralysis. Weird, eh? I think they first appeared in the "Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath."
The fact that it is referred to as horned almost guarantees it is meant to be a homage to the Nightgaunts of Lovecraft's stories. It appears sigificantly different, much larger and with no arms for one thing, but I'd say it is likely an homage to the Lovecraft source--if anything it looks like a couple of other critters from the "Cthulhu Mythos" such as the bat-winged Byakhe. Still, pretty damn cool.
And more, from Flank:
They inhabited caves in the Dreamlands, and had rubbery hides, big bat wings, smooth & featureless faces, and a tail with a barb on the end. They would sweep people up and carry them back to the caves to fall prey to other beasts, and if their victims struggles too much, the Nightgaunts would 'tickle' them with their tails.
And from The Zen Spider:
One thing that caught my eye was your passage on Night Gaunts I am not sure if you are aware but the Night Gaunts were based on a reoccurring night mare the author H. P; Lovecraft has when he was five, he wrote a poem about them in his collection Fungi from Yugoth and later made them the servitor Race of the Elder God Nodens.
It is appropriate, that they would appear in a comic book of Conan since, Conan was created by Robert E. Howard, one of Lovecraft's correspondent and writing Circle member.
No KNOWN connections to:
The Aesir of the Hyborian era are the countrymen of the realm
of Aesgaard, which is a nation north of Cimmeria.
The name is clearly derived from the name used for the Norse/Asgardian Gods, but they are not directly connected to them:
In the MU, there is also:
Good rule of thumb: Characters from the Hyborian era are NOT connected to similarly named characters from the modern era, unless specifically stated as such.
Nightgaunts were horned,
winged creatures who have been described in the Book of Skelos.
Some have been apparently enslaved by Vammatar.
--Conan the Barbarian I#258
images: (without ads)
Conan the Barbarian I#252 (January, 1992) - Roy Thomas (writer), Mike Docherty (pencils), Ernie Chan (inks), Mike Rockwitz (editor)
Conan the Barbarian I#253 (February, 1992) - Roy Thomas (writer), Dave Hoover (pencils), Dell Barras (inks), Mike Rockwitz (editor)
Conan the Barbarian I#254-257 (March-June, 1992) - Roy Thomas (writer), Mike Docherty (pencils), Ernie Chan (#254), Alredo Alcala (#255, 257) & Dell Barras (#256) (inks), Mike Rockwitz (editor)
Conan the Barbarian I#258-260 (July-September, 1992) - Roy Thomas (writer), Mike Docherty (pencils), Ricardo Villagran (inks), Mike Rockwitz (editor)
Last updated: 08/01/02
Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.
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