log in or register to remove this ad

 

Raging Barbarians in Fiction?

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Does anyone have some favorite examples of protagonist Barbarians in fiction who regularly (or ever) use something like the D&D rage power? Or is it usually minor characters or something the enemy does?

Conan and Fafhrd seem like the most famous "Barbarians". What are the best stories (if any) of them raging?

The only one I have is in Glen Cook's "Dread Empire" series, Bragi Ragnarson's father is known for his berzerker rages, and Bragi (the series most prominent character) has it happen once or twice. But it isn't a regular thing and he's just more of a fighter.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I don't think the trope is particularly strong for main characters in modern age fiction. I think it is more a callback to the legends of berzerkers.

However, in Lord of the Rings, King Theoden at the Battle of Pellenor fields is described, "Fey he seemed, or the battle-fury of his fathers ran like new fire in his veins."

As for Conan, in Queen of the Black Coast: "The fighting-madness of his race was upon him, and with a red mist of unreasoning fury wavering before his blazing eyes, he cleft skulls, smashed breasts, severed limbs, ripped out entrails, and littered the deck like a shambles with a ghastly harvest of brains and blood."

Other examples: Literature / The Berserker - TV Tropes

I can think of several outside of fantasy literature. Marvel Comics Wolverine and Hulk certainly qualify. Pretty much any Red Lantern from DC. Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde is a classic one in literature.

 
Last edited:


Ryujin

Adventurer
I'm vaguely remembering someone in a novel raging in battle and not remembering anything until the battle was won, but drawing a blank. I know it wasn't in "Three Hearts and Three Lions" despite there being a similar scene in that, because Paladin, not barbarian. If I can remember it, I'll come back and post it too.

I think that my favourite is not actually borne of anger, but fear. An "urban barbarian." In "The Horseclans" series of books Geros Lahvoheetos is a gentleman's servant who, during an ambush, is sent off for help. He has no weapons training and considers himself to be a coward. They give him a mule and a spear. No armour. No one else to go with him, because no one else can be spared. Off he goes for help. A short distance along the road he comes upon three raiders who raise their weapons and move to attack, Out of terror he spurs him mule forward. Not being trained he swings his spear like a staff, forgetting that it has a bladed point, and cuts the throat of one of one, then rides right over another of the raiders, while accidentally jamming his spear into the third. He has no clear memory of this, since he's terrified and pretty much has his eyes closed through the whole incident.

When he returns with reinforcements his master, who thought that he was just going to be dying a little before the rest of them did, thinks that he has underestimated the "natural talents" of Geros. He's armed, equipped, and added to the common soldiery. Realizing that he needs to get a quick education or die quickly, he starts mastering his weapons. It doesn't help with the fear. In his first real battle his internal monologue is damning his luck, damning the enemy for making him fight, and damning himself for his own cowardice. This goes from an internal monologue to externally shouting, "DAMN YOU! DAMN YOU!", which his fellows take to be his battle cry. Again, everything is pretty much just a blur of hoof beats, flashing metal, and blood; no real memory.

Along the way he's congratulated for his valour by his legendary captain (Billy the Axe). Geros can't accept the praise stating, with great embarrassment, that when the battle came, he pissed himself. All of the leaders present laugh at this and Geros is concerned that his cowardice is now in the open, for all to see. Billy reassures him that they weren't laughing at him, but rather because it's such a common thing. In fact [insert famous general's name here] would routinely crap himself when going into battle. Billy says that any man who isn't afraid when going into battle is a fool and not someone he'd want at his side.

So fear, not anger sparking a barbarian "rage."
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Literary (of various forms) raging barbarians could include Cú Chulainn of Irish mythology and Sláine of 2000AD magazine and his own comics. Both experienced variations on warp spasms that could be handled by barbarian rage mechanics.
 


Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I think that my favourite is not actually borne of anger, but fear. An "urban barbarian." In "The Horseclans" series of books Geros Lahvoheetos is a gentleman's servant who, during an ambush, is sent off for help. He has no weapons training and considers himself to be a coward.

It's been 25 or 30 years since I read all of the Horseclans books. I might have to see if I can find some of those again. I remember bits and pieces, but not of that character.



Miss Piggy

Now I want to do an Orc Barbarian and some amphibian race Bard...
 


MarkB

Legend
Slaine from 2000AD.

The Hulk.

Sith from Star Wars gain strength from rage.

Kratos from God of War has a rage mechanic.
 





Tonguez

Legend
Literary (of various forms) raging barbarians could include Cú Chulainn of Irish mythology and Sláine of 2000AD magazine and his own comics. Both experienced variations on warp spasms that could be handled by barbarian rage mechanics.
Pat Mills who created Slaine was quite explicit that Slaine was based primarily (though not exclusively) on Cú Chulainn.
Rage can indeed be used to model the Warpspasm but in the original story it was a monstrous transformation wherein Cú Chulainn would swell to many times his usual size; one eye would pop out of its socket and hang down on his cheek, and a gout of "poisonous" blood would shoot out of his forehead...
 

I will let others quantify the instances of barbarian rage in literature. For me it has always been one of those abilities that felt right more than anything else

My favorite rage though is BlackAdder's Tim McInnerny foaming at the mouth in Erik the Viking
 



The Conan yarn, "The Phoenix on the Sword" (rejiggered from the Kull tale "By This Axe I Rule"), specifically springs to mind:

"With his back to the wall he faced the closing ring for a flashing instant, then leaped into the thick of them. He was no defensive fighter; even in the teeth of overwhelming odds he always carried the war to the enemy. Any other man would have already died there, and Conan himself did not hope to survive, but he did ferociously wish to inflict as much damage as he could before he fell. His barbaric soul was ablaze, and the chants of old heroes were singing in his ears."

The berserkers of various Norse sagas (Like Grettir's), spring to mind, though they are more often depicted as villainous figures.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I don't think the trope is particularly strong for main characters in modern age fiction. I think it is more a callback to the legends of berzerkers.

However, in Lord of the Rings, King Theoden at the Battle of Pellenor fields is described, "Fey he seemed, or the battle-fury of his fathers ran like new fire in his veins."

As for Conan, in Queen of the Black Coast: "The fighting-madness of his race was upon him, and with a red mist of unreasoning fury wavering before his blazing eyes, he cleft skulls, smashed breasts, severed limbs, ripped out entrails, and littered the deck like a shambles with a ghastly harvest of brains and blood."

Other examples: Literature / The Berserker - TV Tropes

I can think of several outside of fantasy literature. Marvel Comics Wolverine and Hulk certainly qualify. Pretty much any Red Lantern from DC. Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde is a classic one in literature.

Isn’t it Eomir who goes berserk, at the sight of Eowyn “dead”? He goes wild and screams “Death! Death!” And the other Rohirrim cry out with him.
I'm not so sure I'd classify River as a raging barbarian. She was more the hyper-competent killer. Reminded me of the Machine from the novel Armor.
She’s definitely a D&D barbarian, IMO, who are highly competent killers. She goes into a killer state and exceeds what is possible for other people while in that state.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Isn’t it Eomir who goes berserk, at the sight of Eowyn “dead”? He goes wild and screams “Death! Death!” And the other Rohirrim cry out with him.

The quote I gave was from the moment of the charge.

"Suddenly the king cried to Snowmane and the horse sprang away. Behind him his banner blew in the wind, white horse upon a field of green, but he outpaced it. After him thundered the knights of his house, but he was ever before them. Éomer rode there, the white horsetail on his helm floating in his speed, and the front of the first éored roared like a breaker foaming to the shore, but Théoden could not be overtaken. Fey he seemed, or the battle-fury of his fathers ran like new fire in his veins, and he was borne up on Snowmane like a god of old, even as Oromë the Great in the battle of the Valar when the world was young."

The battle-fury thing is pretty clearly about Theoden in this passage.

And, Eomer does get a similar moment, but the description isn't quite as explicit - he could just be really freaking mad. And this happens late in the battle, which would seem odd for the barbarian type, who usually leads with RRRRarrghhhghh!, so I didn't mention it. And if we are going to interpret everyone who ever gets angry in battle as a barbarian... that's a lot of barbarians.

That said, Eomer is of the same bloodline. If you wanna call him berzerk, feel free.
 
Last edited:

Halloween Horror For 5E

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top