I remember the story is a about a civilization of humans who have the tradition of selecting a god-emperor from among their population

They worship this god-emperor, and believe the emperor is so divine that the emperor's ties to the physical realm need to be removed. Therefore they amputate all four limbs, gouge out eyes, cut off nose and burn out the ears. Additionally they believe that proximity to the god-emperor brings strength and good luck, so they bring the god-emperor into battle to where the most fervent fighting is going on. This leads to the god-emperor's frequent death, and the subsequent promotion of a new god-emperor from among their ranks

I think I read this around 2010. I really thought it was a Borges short story, but have been unable to find it. I also read JG Ballard's complete short stories around that time, and it possibly could have been in there. Or somewhere totally different

This story left a big impression on me and I'd love to read it again and show it to some friends.


2 Answers 2


You were right, it is a Borges’ story. El informe de Brodi, published in 1970 (in english Dr. Brodie's Report) includes and homonymous short story which fits exactly with your description.

The tribe is ruled over by a king, whose power is absolute, but it is my suspicion that the true rulers are the witch doctors, who administer to him and who have chosen him. Every male born into the tribe is subjected to a painstaking examination; if he exhibits certain stigmata, the nature of which were not revealed to me, he is elevated to the rank of king of the Yahoos. So that the physical world may not lead him from the paths of wisdom, he is gelded on the spot, his eyes are burned, and his hands and feet are amputated.

You can find the whole book online: https://theteacherscrate.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/borges-jorge-luis-doctor-brodies-report-bantam-1973.pdf

  • 1
    Awesome, this is it! Thank you. I remembered another story of amputation/mutilation and government in Last Days by Brian Evenson too. I suppose the Borges story, RR Martin story and Evenson story form some kind of a loose trilogy Jan 14, 2022 at 14:58

The 1976 George R.R. Martin story In the House of the Worm includes the theme of a culture that removes its god-king's (the "Manworm") limbs and facial features.

The part about carrying the Manworm into battle may not be a fit, although he is carried by the "bronze knights" to ceremonies, at least.

He had reigned a dozen years already, for the priest-surgeons had done their holy work all that while, and soon there would be nothing to purify but the too-human head that lolled above the sinuous writhing torso.


The Manworm had no face now, he was one with the White Worm. Beside him the priest-surgeons stood, in white smocks with scalpel-and-theta, as they had stood for a week.

  • 3
    Cool, I did not know about this. I started reading In the House of the Worm, and I am sure this is not the story I read 10+ years ago, but I am glad to know about it Jan 13, 2022 at 19:25
  • 1
    @THIRDLOOKintern I have a feeling that I have also read another story like this. I will continue to ponder it. Jan 13, 2022 at 19:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.