Vintage Treasures: The Barbarians Anthology Series

Vintage Treasures: The Barbarians Anthology Series

barbariansThere’s been some good discussion of Sword & Sorcery on the BG blog of late, from Brian Murphy’s excellent list of “A Half-Dozen Swords And Sorcery Short Stories Worth Your Summer Reading Time, and Howard Andrew Jones’s skillful examination of the writing technique of the genre’s patriarch, “Under the Hood with Robert E. Howard,” to Joe Bonadonna’s warm reminiscence of the very best S&S of his youth, “How I Met Your Cimmerian (and other Barbarian Swordsmen).”

I thought I was pretty well educated in Sword & Sorcery; but it’s the sign of a rich and vibrant genre that it can still surprise you after decades of collecting.

That’s exactly what happened when I found the artifact at left, buried deep in a paperback science fiction collection I recently purchased.

Barbarians was a major S&S retrospective anthology published by Signet in 1986. It was edited by Robert Adams, Martin H. Greenberg, and Charles Waugh, and contained stories by Fritz Leiber, Fred Saberhagen, Andre Norton, Karl Edward Wagner, and many more. It’s a thick paperback original with 13 short stories.

And no, I’d never seen a copy before — or its sequel. Here’s the back cover copy:

From a beautiful huntress with glittering eyes and a killing kiss to mighty Conan’s struggle in a deadly place beyond magic… from a distant planet fated to do battle with the forgotten past to primeval swordsmen pledged to protect a besieged land — here are tales of titanic strength and unearthly courage, of savage warriors facing incredible challenges in the far-flung realms of the imagination.

Sounds pretty good. Not entirely sure how this one escaped me for all these years, but I’m glad I’ve stumbled across it now.

Barbarians isn’t just a single book — it became the start of an anthology series, albeit a short-lived one. One more volume, Barbarians II,  edited by Adams, Greenberg, and Pamela Crippen Adams, was published in 1988.

I still don’t have a copy of that one. I only know it exists ’cause the Internet says so.

But I am sure of volume one.  Barbarians is 368 pages in paperback and the cover art is by Ken Kelly. Here’s the impressive table of contents:

  • Introduction by Robert Adams
  • “Beyond the Black River” by Robert E. Howard
  • “Scylla’s Daughter” by Fritz Leiber
  • “Stone Man” by Fred Saberhagen
  • “Sand Sister” by Andre Norton
  • “Swordsman of Lost Terra” by Poul Anderson
  • “The Were-Wolf” by Clemence Housman
  • “Swords Against the Marluk” by Katherine Kurtz
  • “Not Long Before the End” by Larry Niven
  • “Maureen Birnbaum, Barbarian Swordsperson” by George Alec Effinger
  • “Thurigon Agonistes” by Ardath Mayhar
  • “Vault of Silence” by Lin Carter
  • “The Other One” by Karl Edward Wagner
  • “The Age of the Warrior” by Hank Reinhardt

barbarians2-smallBarbarians II was published in 1988 (or so they tell me). It is 365 pages and the cover art is by Ken Kelly again.

Here’s the complete TOC:

  • Introduction by Robert Adams
  • “The Valley of the Worm” by Robert E. Howard
  • “The Toads of Grimmerdale” by Andre Norton
  • “Maureen Birnbaum at the Earth’s Core” by George Alec Effinger
  • “Trapped in the Shadowland” by Fritz Leiber
  • “The Blacksmith” by Raul Garcia Capella
  • “Demon of the Snows” by Lin Carter
  • “The Dark Mother” by Diana L. Paxson
  • “Misericorde” by Karl Edward Wagner
  • “The Warrior Race” by L. Sprague de Camp
  • “Fredeya” by Charles Fontenay
  • “A Logical Conclusion” by Poul Anderson
  • “The Winged Helmet” by Fred Saberhagen
  • “The Changer of Names” by Ramsey Campbell
  • “The Ghastly Pond” by Jessica Amanda Salmonson

I’ll be keeping any eye out for that second volume. But until then, I have the first one to keep me occupied.

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Joe H.

I vaguely remember seeing at least the first one of these back in the day, but never picked it up. Now I have something else to look for next time I’m at Uncle Hugo’s. (After ordering that Giant SF Anthology thing from an Amazon seller.)

Have you read the Karl Edward Wagner Echoes of Valor anthos?

Dave T

I see from Barbarians II the Andre Norton story, “Toads of Grimmerdale.” It first appeared in Flashing Swords #2, ed. Lin Carter (Dell pb, Feb. 1974).

Now, I’ve never had a single nightmare from reading anything, much less a science fiction, fantasy, or horror story. One evening in 1974 I had just read “Toads of Grimmerdale” before going to bed. Somewhere in the middle of the night, my girlfriend rolled over and began nudging me…again and again, more roughly with each nudge, until I was startled awake from some sort of nightmare. She claimed I was growling like some beast she’d never heard before, and was speaking in some fantastic language and making other unearthly sounds that were scaring her to death. I don’t remember doing anything of the sort, don’t remember doing any of this or having a nightmare of any sort. But she said I was scaring her to death with this unearthly growling, other sounds, and the gutteral language.

Did this have anything to do with Andre’s “Toads of Grimmerdale”? I have no idea, but I’ve been kind of leary about rereading that story again even after 38 years.

It’s weird how your subconscious works sometimes. I’m holding that copy of Flashing Swords #2, and I’m thinking that *maybe* I might try to read that story again. Or not.

Joe H.


Yes, they’re excellent anthologies, and at the time they were published, they were the only way to lay hands on a lot of obscure stuff — v3 has three stories by Nictzin Dyalhis, for example (and was there ever a better name for a fantasy author?) and both v2 and v3 include Hok stories by Manly Wade Wellman.

If it’s any consolation, the first volume is probably the least indispensible — it only contains three stories, at least two of which aren’t that hard to find elsewhere: REH’s Black Stranger (at the time, in its first restored appearance), Leiber’s Adept’s Gambit, and Kuttner’s Wet Magic (American pilot in WWII encounters Morgan le Fay).

the wasp

Great anthologies all around. I still need to get Barbarians II. The KEW ones are great, and as with much of his list making editing in other anthologies, idiosyncratic and very rewarding to readers.

I didn’t get that effect from “Toads of Grimmerdale” but it did turn me on to the wonders and greatness of Witch World. It’s still one of my favorite of her stories. For someone who seems to have a bit of a coziness to her reputation she could write very disturbing stories woven from dark imagery.


Ah, the birth of Maureen Birnbaum! George Alec Effinger’s Maureen short stories are some of the funniest things I’ve ever read. Any S&S fan needs to read about her.

Oh, I have known of and looked for both of these books! You lucky scoundrel you! If I’d had even an inkling they might have been in all those boxes from Windy City I’m sure I could have managed to ‘drop’ them off in my car on the way to your van!

Awesome story Dave T!

Joe H.

>I’ll have to redouble my efforts to track down volume one of Echoes of Valor, I think.

Well, I just started reading the Giant Anthology of Science Fiction that I picked up off of Amazon, so turnabout is fair play… 😀

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