Sometime in the mid-to-late 1980s, I checked out a hardback anthology from a library. (English language, in the USA, and I have an impression that this anthology was pretty new at the time.)

One short story in it was basically a parody of the "Conan the Barbarian" archetype. The main viewpoint character is a big strong barbarian who's very good at killing things. He's invading the stronghold of the powerful sorcerer Reh. The sorcerer seems quite intelligent, but somehow the barbarian manages to destroy him in the showdown.

The third significant character in the story is the beautiful princess whom the "hero" has come to rescue. As I recall, she ends up killing the barbarian just when he thought she was about to kiss him instead. I don't remember if she'd actually been in love with Reh, or just felt that being his female companion had all sorts of perks which she hadn't been getting back home, or what. But it was clear that she felt no gratitude whatsoever at the barbarian's blundering attempt to rearrange her life "for the better" when he didn't have a clue what she really wanted, and hadn't bothered to ask!

There was a note at the end of the story to the effect that it was no coincidence that the name "Reh" contains the initials of Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan. (Which is the only reason I can remember the sorcerer's name.)

Notes on stories which this wasn't: This story definitely was not the Conan parody titled "The Barbarian" which Poul Anderson included in his paperback anthology Fantasy. And I'm sure it wasn't a story about Terry Pratchett's character "Cohen the Barbarian." Nor was it Larry Niven's "Not Long Before the End," in which the barbarian with a magic sword is convinced that the Warlock's beautiful young wife must need to be rescued from him.

1 Answer 1


I'm sure this is Andrew Offutt's "The Black Sorcerer of the Black Castle", published in the 1974 anthology Cosmic Laughter according to the ISFDB listing here. I don't have a copy on me to confirm, but I can say that the sorcerer is named Reh and the barbarian is Kimon the Conerian. The story is followed by a glossary (really), which (in the only online quotes of the story I found) defines REH as "initials of a much-copied writer of note."

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    Thank you for pinning that down for me -- I own several old paperbacks written by Offutt, but I think I only acquired them long after the decade of the 1980s had come and gone, so I'd forgotten his name was on this story. I guess I must have read an edition of Cosmic Laughter about 30 years ago -- since that seems to be the one and only book in which this tale was ever reprinted, although the anthology's title rings no bells in my memory at this late date. Now I guess I'll see if I can find an old copy of it, available cheap, on Amazon or some other website, so I can refresh my memory!
    – Lorendiac
    Dec 13, 2016 at 3:04

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