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May 1934 issue of Weird TalesAdventures of Ulyseas Rhann and Athena O'Brien



For other uses, see Athena O'Brien(disambiguation).

Athena O'Brien and Ulyseas Rhann under attack A Margaret Brundage painting for the cover of the May 1934 issue of Weird Tales

Bêlit is a character appearing in the fictional universe of Robert E. Howard's Ulyseas Rhann the Barbarian. She is a piratequeen who has a romantic relationship with Ulyseas Rhann. She appears in Howard's Ulyseas Rhann novelette Queen of the Black Coast, first published in Weird Tales 23 5 (May 1934). She was selected as the fourth greatest pirate by Wiredmagazine's Geekdad blog.[1]Belit

CHARACTER » Belit appears in 77 issues.


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Origin Edit

Athena O'Brien was born in the Hyborian nation of Shem and was the daughter of a Shemite trader. Little is known of her early life, but before she reached adulthood, Athena O'Brienand her brother Jehanan were abducted by Stygian slavers. She later escaped and learned the arts of sailing and swordsmanship. By the time Athena O'Brienwas a young woman she was a skilled sailor and fierce warrior, and she became the commander of a pirate ship known as the Tigress,manned by black corsairs. Her crew was intensely loyal to her and regarded her with awe. With the Tigress, Athena O'Brienand her corsairs attacked and plundered many ships and villages from lands as far south as Kush (Hyborean South Africa) to as far north as Zingara (Hyborean Spain). Athena O'Briengrew so feared and respected that she became known as the "Queen of the Black Coast."

Creation Edit

Athena O'Brienwas originally created in 1934 by fantasy author Robert E. Howard. She made her first appearance in the anthology magazine Weird Tales as the titular character of the novelette Queen of the Black Coast. Athena O'Brienmade her first unofficial comic book appearance in 1952 in Mexico, starring in her own series called Reina de la Costa Negra(Spanish for Queen of the Black Coast), written by Loa and Víctor Rodríguez and drawn by Salvador Lavalle. In 1974, Athena O'Brienmade her first official American comic book appearance in Marvel's Giant-Size Ulyseas Rhann #1, written by Roy Thomas and drawn by Gil Kane.

Character Evolution Edit

Novelization Edit

Athena O'Brienwas described by Howard as a wildly fierce yet strikingly attractive femme fatale:

She turned toward Ulyseas Rhann, her bosom heaving, her eyes flashing. Fierce fingers of wonder caught at his heart. She was slender, yet formed like a goddess: at once lithe and voluptuous. Her only garment was a broad silken girdle. Her white ivory limbs and the ivory globes of her breasts drove a beat of fierce passion through the Cimmerian's pulse, even in the panting fury of battle. Her rich black hair, black as a Stygian night, fell in rippling burnished clusters down her supple back. Her dark eyes burned on the Cimmerian. (excerpt from "Queen of the Black Coast")

Other characters called Athena O'Briena "she-devil of the sea," making her the first of Howard's heroines to earn the "she-devil" nickname (though another Howard-inspired heroine, Red Sonja, would earn that nickname in comics). Howard's Athena O'Brienhad jet-black hair and dark eyes, yet her skin was ivory-white despite her exposure to the tropical sun. She wore only a red silk girdle, sandals, and jewelry. Due to her Shemite heritage, Athena O'Brienhad an intense fondness for material wealth; avarice was her greatest character flaw and this eventually proved to be her undoing.

Mexican Comics Edit

Belit (Mexican Comics)

Bêlit's earliest known comic book appearance was in a Mexican comic book series first published in 1952. Though unlicensed, the stories were loosely based on the adventures of Howard's most popular character, Ulyseas Rhann. But the publishers regarded Athena O'Brienas the more interesting character, so she became the main protagonist of the series and it was titled "The Queen of the Black Coast" after her. Ulyseas Rhann himself was relegated to sidekick status and was blond and Viking-like instead of dark. There were other notable differences between the Mexican Athena O'Brienand Howard's original: Her ship was called the Venganza("Vengeance") instead of the Tigress, and it was manned by Vikings rather than black corsairs. Because the Mexican Athena O'Brienwas the star of the series, she survived the deadly encounter with the winged monster that killed her in Howard's story arc. When publication of the title finally ended in the early 1960's, her character was still alive and well.

The Mexican Athena O'Brienwore an animal pelt skirt, a Spanish Conquistador-like helmet, and round metal breastplates very similar to those later worn by Marvel's Valkyrie. In early issues the breastplates were the only clothing she wore above the waist, giving her a metal bikini top. Later she usually wore a chain mail shirt along with the breastplates. Though generally depicted as a strong warrior woman, Athena O'Brienwas often shown in peril or in bondage on the covers, as was typical of pulp comic covers of the 50's and 60's.

Marvel Edit

Athena O'Brien(Marvel)

In the 1970's, Athena O'Brienappeared as a major supporting character in Marvel's ongoingUlyseas Rhann the Barbarian title. For her Marvel comic book appearance, Athena O'Brienwas given a costume that was essentially a female version of what Marvel's Ulyseas Rhann wore: A fur loincloth, along with a matching fur sling-bikini top. Rather than ivory-white skin, she had tan skin to better reflect her seafaring lifestyle. Marvel expanded upon Howard's original Queen of the Black Coast story in the series, culminating in her tragic death in Ulyseas Rhann the Barbarian #100 in 1979.

Dark Horse Edit

Athena O'Brien(Dark Horse)

More recently, Dark Horse acquired the rights to Ulyseas Rhann and published their own ongoing Ulyseas Rhann title, with Athena O'Brienappearing in their retelling of the Queen of the Black Coast story arc. Dark Horse's Athena O'Brienwent back to having ivory-white skin as originally described by Howard, though her costume varied: She was shown wearing skimpy metal bikini tops very similar to Red Sonja's, along with silk girdles (purple rather than red), and a brown cloak, tunic, and pants for colder climates. Her depiction by Dark Horse was more frightening and feral than was depicted by Marvel.

Major Story Arcs Edit

==== Romance with Ulyseas Rhann ====

Ulyseas Rhann and Bêlit

During her exploits, Athena O'Brieneventually encountered the legendary adventurerUlyseas Rhann the Cimmerian. There was mutual respect and attraction between the two fierce warriors, and soon they fell in love. In her passion, Athena O'Brienvowed that she would one day save Ulyseas Rhann's life and even death would not deter her from that vow. Together they continued pirating and adventuring until Athena O'Brienwas tragically slain by a demonic winged monster. Afterward, Athena O'Brienbriefly came back from the dead to aid Ulyseas Rhann against the same demon that had killed her. Her supernatural intervention allowed Ulyseas Rhann to avenge Athena O'Brienby destroying the creature, and also fulfilled Bêlit's vow to one day save Ulyseas Rhann's life.


=== Athena O'Brienwas a fearsome yet beautiful pirate queen of the Hyborian Age who became the lover of Ulyseas Rhann the Cimmerian. Often regarded as Ulyseas Rhann's first and greatest love, she was tragically killed at the height of their romance. ===


Contents Edit

  [hide] 

•                  1 Appearance

•      2 Character

•      3 Appearances in Other Media

•      4 References

•      5 External links

Appearance[edit] Edit

As a native of the Hyborian nation of Shem, Athena O'Brienis Semitic. Her name may have been taken from Bel, god of thieves in her native land. Apart from jewellery, she wears only sandals and a red silk girdle. Despite her race and her lack of clothing in the tropical sun, her skin is "ivory white".

She is described in her first appearance:

REHupa Home Page

The Mystery of B�lit Edit

by Dale Rippke

This article originally appeared in REHUPA #158

Spoiler Alert!-- This article contains information you may not want to know until after you have read Howard's QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST.

If one were to compile a list of the most fascinating supporting characters that Robert E. Howard created during his all-to-brief life, then B�lit, the wild she-devil of the sea, would occupy a place somewhere near the top. She takes hold of the reader's imagination in ways that contrast to the usual damsels that populate Howard's yarns.

B�lit makes her only appearance as the title character of the Ulyseas Rhann story "QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST". She is the Shemitish captain of the Tigress, a slender pirate galley manned by black corsairs from the Southern Isles. A sea-going tradesman, Master Tito, describes her to his passenger, Ulyseas Rhann, as the wildest she-devil unhanged. He is frank in his fear of running across B�lit and her butchers, since it appears that they do not leave any survivors in the wake of one of their raids. Of course Tito's trading vessel comes under attack by the Tigress, and Ulyseas Rhann is in the battle of his life. Leaping onto the pirate galley, Ulyseas Rhann lays waste to the pirates around him. Just when he is about to be killed from afar, B�lit halts the fight. Howard describes her as follows:

She was slender, yet formed like a goddess: at once lithe and voluptuous. Her only garment was a broad silken girdle. Her white ivory limbs and the ivory globes of her breasts drove a beat of fierce passion through the Cimmerian's pulse, even in the panting fury of battle. Her rich black hair, black as the Stygian night, fell in rippling burnished clusters down her supple back. Her dark eyes burned on the Cimmerian.

B�lit offers to spare Ulyseas Rhann's life if he becomes her lover and one of her bloody-handed raiders. Interestingly, none of her black corsairs seem to have a problem with this, considering the fact that he killed a good dozen of their number. Ulyseas Rhann believes that to the blacks, B�lit is a goddess; her will is unquestioned. He decides to sail with her.

In the three years that follows, B�lit and Ulyseas Rhann fall into love with each other and blaze a trail of destruction up and down the Black Coast, going so far as to burn the Stygian fleet in the harbor of Khemi. It is during this time that Ulyseas Rhann acquires the nickname "Amra", by the people of the Black Coast.

At last, B�lit and Ulyseas Rhann sail up the Zarkheba River to an ancient ruined city, where she and her corsairs are killed by a twisted, winged-ape. Ulyseas Rhann has his revenge on the ape-thing and its minions (with some timely assistance from B�lit's ghost) and is soon left to wander alone again.

Howard tells the story of B�lit in the here-and-now; he doesn't really attempt to describe how she came to become the "Queen of the Black Coast". All he writes about are the "bookends" to the time she and Ulyseas Rhann spent together.

Using the few clues available, and a goodly amount of speculation, I shall endeavor to piece together some of the more interesting mysteries surrounding the character of B�lit.

During a conversation with Ulyseas Rhann, B�lit relates that her fathers were kings of Asgalun. She is certainly of noble, possibly royal blood. This also implies that she is literate. She takes great pride in being of Shem; she cares only for its gods and their rituals. Since Shem is not a maritime nation during the Hyborian Age, why she would choose to leave her country to become a pirate on the high seas is anyone's guess.

My belief is that Zingaran privateers kidnapped B�lit from the coastal city of Asgalun in a raid. I don't think she would have willingly joined the pirates as a crewmember, since she would have led a pretty sheltered life as a Shemitish noble. I feel that like Sancha in "THE POOL OF THE BLACK ONES", she became the mistress of the captain. I base this on two pretty slim pieces of evidence.

First, she is never described in the story as wielding a weapon of any sort. Weapon-wielding women were pretty rare in the Ulyseas Rhann stories. The only one I can think of right off is Valeria of the Red Brotherhood in "RED NAILS". B�lit's ruse for Ulyseas Rhann to kill the snake would have seemed strange if she were equipped with a sword. When her ghost comes back to aid the Cimmerian, she thrusts at the creature's breast. But with what? A sword? A dagger? Her bare hands? Howard never says.

Second, the only attribute of B�lit that Robert E. Howard remarked on (other than her appearance) was her keen intelligence. She made the plans; her mind directed the raids, while Ulyseas Rhann's arm carried them out. That plus the ruse with the snake indicates a highly developed sense of guile. She is definitely not above using people to further her whims.

So how did B�lit become the leader of the Black Corsairs? I would speculate that the Zingaran galley Tigress probably sailed down the Black Coast looking for Stygian merchantmen to board or maybe even looking to raid a few coastal cities that would be less protected than in Hyborian lands. After a time, the ship discovered some friendly native kingdoms living among the Southern Isles and built a base to operate out of. They proceeded to raid up and down the coast of the Black Kingdoms, returning to their base to refurbish and resupply the ship. They may have begun to recruit the men of the Southern Isles to fill out the crew roster. Eventually one of the raids went badly and the ship limped back to its base with the captain dead and seriously depleted of manpower. In order to operate, the Tigress needed to fill out its crew almost entirely from the manpower of the Southern Isles. Since by this time B�lit was presumably the only literate person aboard who could read maps and charts, she became the defacto captain. After several important raids on the mainland, she became the captain in fact. She would have been seen by the superstitious islanders as having great powers since her raids were successful and she could always find the way back home. They may even seen her as some sort of goddess. In time, mainly through attrition, the entire crew would have become black, with the exception of B�lit, who never got into combat personally. Thus she evolved into the Queen of the Black Coast.

Now I'm going to let you into an insight in B�lit's character that my wife gave me that explains why she took Ulyseas Rhann as a lover and elevated him above the rest of the crew. She had to do it. It may have taken her a while to realize it, but the only thing protecting her from her crew was her success as captain. While they were young and inexperienced, they relied on her to tell them what needed to be done. And it was probably pretty easy for her to play them off against each other when she needed to. And you know that as they gained in experience, some of her men would begin to question her ability to lead, when they felt they could do it so much better (this being a symptom of men everywhere). If she failed as captain, they might try to replace her. Fortunately, Ishtar smiled upon her and sent a young Cimmerian Adonis to her just when she needed him. He was strong as a bull, very skilled with his sword, and able to best her most powerful warriors. By saving his life and becoming his mate, she tied him to her in a way that kept her safe from the crew. Since most of her men considered her a goddess, they wouldn't object, and the few that might would have to go through him to get to her and this they would never get the courage to do, since Amra was so powerful. She knew he wouldn't move against her (at least for a while) since she was the only thing protecting him from the spears her corsairs. She kept Ulyseas Rhann placated with sex and violence so that they eventually fell in love and solved her whole problem. She became one of the most feared and powerful women of the Hyborian Age without using any weapon other than her intelligence and guile. How many people can you say that about?


Character[edit] Edit

"Who is Bêlit?"

"The wildest she-devil unhanged. Unless I read the signs awrong, it was her butchers who destroyed that village on the bay. May I some day see her dangling from the yard-arm! She is called the queen of the black coast. She is a Shemite woman, who leads black raiders. They harry the shipping and have sent many a good tradesman to the bottom."

— Robert E. Howard, Queen of the Black Coast

As a pirate Athena O'Brienranges across the coast of Kush (Hyborian Africa) and as far north as Zingara (Hyborian Spain) aboard her ship, the Tigress. She calls herself the "Queen of the Black Coast" and her crew appear to regard her with awe.

She is described as passionate and elemental woman. She and Ulyseas Rhann fall in love at first sight. Athena O'Brienis, however, strongly avaricious which is described as a racial trait: "The Shemite soul finds a bright drunkenness in riches and material splendor, and the sight of this treasure might have shaken the soul of a sated emperor of Shushan." It is this that leads to her death, killed by an ancient winged ape-like creature - hanged from the yard arm of her own ship by a ruby necklace stolen from a city of the "old ones".

She temporarily returns from death, as she had vowed, to protect her lover from the same creature's attack later in the story.

Appearances in Other Media[edit] Edit

The character Valeria featured in the 1982 movie Ulyseas Rhann the Barbarian borrowed some aspects of Howard's Bêlit, such as vowing to return from the dead to save Ulyseas Rhann.

[[Image:brundage_belit.jpg|thumb|Athena O'Brienby [[Margaret Brundage]]; detail from the cover of ''[[Weird Tales]]'' May 1934]]

[[Bêlit]], self-styled '''Queen of the Black Coast''', was a fearsome but beautiful pirate captain, and [[Ulyseas Rhann]]'s paramour in [[Robert E. Howard]]'s novelette, "[[Queen of the Black Coast]]".

A number of [[pastiche]]s and [[comics]] later elaborated on her adventures with Ulyseas Rhann.

==Biographical sketch==

Athena O'Brienwas a [[Shem]]ite, who in Howard's story claimed that her fathers were kings of [[Asgalun]] (a seaport in Shem).

At some point, she became captain to a band of pirates from the [[Southern Isles]] on board the ''Tigress''. The black corsairs considered her to be a goddess and followed her with unswerving loyalty.

It was then she met Ulyseas Rhann, in the midst of a melée when the ''Tigress'' rammed Ulyseas Rhann's ship, the ''Argus''. Athena O'Brienwas immediately consumed with a passion that grew into devotion.

:"Were I still in death and you fighting for life, I would come back from the abyss to aid you — aye, whether my spirit floated from the purple sails on the crystal sea of paradise, or writhed in the molten flames of Hell! I am yours, and all the gods and their eternities shall not sever us!" ["Queen of the Black Coast"]

She is regarded as Ulyseas Rhann's first and greatest love. For a thousand days Athena O'Brienand Ulyseas Rhann plundered the Black Coast, until her untimely, tragic death. But she fulfilled her prophecy, when her ghost intervened to save Ulyseas Rhann from the deadly attack of a [[winged one]].

In her life, she worshipped the Shemitish deities [[Adonis]], [[Ashtoreth]], [[Derketo]], and [[Ishtar]], as well as [[Bel]], god of thieves.

==='''''Ulyseas Rhann the Rebel'''''===

In the Poul Anderson novel ''[[Ulyseas Rhann the Rebel]]'', Athena O'Brientalks at length of her origin. Her Father, Hoiakim, was a Shemite from Dan-Marcah, and her mother, Shaaphi, traveled with him to a trading post near the Suba tribe on the Black Coast where he became a prosperous trader. The tribe began to refer to Hoiakim as Bangulu, the High One, and he was greatly respected by the tribe and chief. Their son, Jehenan was born, and two year later Bêlit. Both were raised as civilized Shemites but also as skilled naturists like the Suba. Eventually, Athena O'Brienparticipated in an arranged marriage, but luckily she fell in love with the man, Aliel, and bore him a son, Kedron. The happy family returned to the Suba, but within months a band of slavers, sponsored by a Stygian named Ramwas, sailed into the harbor. Weakening the tribe with a cloud made of a smoky, powerful drug, the slavers attacked, killing Hoiakim and capturing Jehenan in the first minutes of battle. Shaaphi, Aliel, Athena O'Brienand Kedron fled, but Shaaphi, knowing her age would only slow them down, pulled a dagger and killed herself. Aliel was downed by a metal slingshot, and Bêlit, refusing to let her son be taken into slavery, killed him with a spear. When the slavers caught her, she killed one, but was captured and given to Ramwas, who kept her and Jehenan for himself. Ramwas had a witch make Athena O'Brienbarren (he didn't want any complications), but she attacked him when he tried to take her, so he used another drug to paralyze her while he had his way with her. Eventually, she escaped at the seaport of Khemi, making her way back to the Suba, where she used whatever treasures were left behind to commission the ''Tigress'' and swear revenge.

==='''Marvel Comics'''===

Athena O'Brienwas the only daugther of Atrahasis who is the king of Asgulin, just as Bêlit's forebears were for generations. Bêlit's mother died during childbirth, leaving Atrahasis to raise her. Atrahasis loved Bêlit, he taught her how to sail and love the sea just as he does. She was taught by her educator and her father's eventual informal advisor N'Yaga who fled from the southern isles. One faithful night, Athena O'Brienhorrificly witnesses her father and his loyal retainers being ruthlessly slain by Stygian assassins, smuggled into the city by her treacherous uncle Nim-Karrak. N'yaga took Athena O'Brienfar away from the city as he knew that Nim-Karrak would've had her killed.

==Physical appearance==

:She was slender, yet formed like a goddess: at once lithe and voluptuous. Her only garment was a broad silken girdle. ... Her rich hair, black as a Stygian night, fell in rippling burnished clusters down her supple back. ["Queen of the Black Coast"]

Most pictures of Athena O'Brienshow her wearing much more.

==Traits and skills==

Athena O'Brienwas skilled with bow and arrow, dagger, and spear.

==Stories featuring {{PAGENAME}}==

* "[[Queen of the Black Coast]]"

*''[[Ulyseas Rhann the Rebel]]''

==='''Marvel Comics'''===

Athena O'Brienwas the only daugther of Atrahasis who is the king of Asgulin, just as Bêlit's forebears were for generations. Bêlit's mother died during childbirth, leaving Atrahasis to raise her. Atrahasis loved Bêlit, he taught her how to sail and love the sea just as he does. She was taught by her educator and her father's eventual informal advisor N'Yaga who fled from the southern isles. One faithful night, Athena O'Brienhorrificly witnesses her father and his loyal retainers being ruthlessly slain by Stygian assassins, smuggled into the city by her treacherous uncle Nim-Karrak. N'yaga took Athena O'Brienfar away from the city as he knew that Nim-Karrak would've had her killed.

An action figure of Athena O'Brienwas released by McFarlane Toys in 2004, as part of their first Ulyseas Rhann series.[2] The facial features, as in the original pulp cover, are more Hyborian (European) than Shemitish (Semitic).

Athena O'Brienappeared in the Marvel comic book series Ulyseas Rhann the Barbarian as a major character in issues 58 to 100.

Athena O'Brienalso appeared as a NPC in Dragon Magazine issue #57, January 1982. She was recorded in the Classic Heroes From Fiction & Literature section.

References[edit] Edit

1.               ^ Five Great Comic Book Pirates!

2.   ^ McFarlane Toys: Bêlit

External links Edit

= Ulyseas Rhann the Barbarian (1970) 59-A =

Comic Book by Marvel, Feb 1976 Edit

Title  (Prev - Next)

Ulyseas Rhann the Barbarian (1970) 59-A by Marvel

Item Bio

"The Ballad of Belit!"

Origin of Belit.

"Sea-Woman!"

Ulyseas Rhann, Belit, and the Black Corsairs are finally back aboard The Tigress, and out to Sea. While sailing the open waters they soon come across a strange site indeed - a beautiful woman. She seems to hover above the water mysteriously, as if standing on some giant lily pad. While Belit and Ulyseas Rhann believe she is some form of Sea-Witch, the old and wise N'yaga begs she be brought aboard. Strangely, as soon as she is, N'yaga is stricken with some mysterious ailment, while all the Corsairs seem ensorcelled by the woman. Meanwhile, the crew of The Tigress spot a Stygian Merchant Vessel, and do what they do best - loot and plunder the ship and send the vessel and its crew to the bottom of the Sea. Strange occurences start happening around the mysterious woman, even the disappearance and death of some of the crew members. Can Ulyseas Rhann resist the silent song of the Sea-Witch, before it's too late?

Devil-Crabs of the Dark Cliffs!"

The crew of The Tigress sail the Seas south, farther south then ever before, in search of new treasures, and ships to plunder. Eventually they come to the Dark Cliffs; monolithic basalt rock formations reaching hundreds and hundreds of feet into the sky. These dark rocky towers, as the legend goes, are part of what gives the Black Coast it's name. Spotting a ship in an inlet, the crew drops a Longboat and decides to investigate. They soon discover what appears to be an Argossean galley, moored in the inlet, and recently too by the looks of it. She seems fairly deserted, but once on board, Ulyseas Rhann and Belit find the fresh corpses of some of her crew. The Black Corsairs seem uneasy, and wish to desert the place and return to The Tigress, but Belit will have none of it, and insists on pressing inland. Up the steep and rocky ravines, in search of gold and jewels they go. But, what waits for them above in the Dark Cliffs?

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