The Hungry Hercynian

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"The Hungry Hercynian"
The Hungry Hercynian.jpg
Lawrence Sterne Stevens’s illustration of a scene from the story in Universe Science Fiction magazine
Author L. Sprague de Camp
Country United States
Language English
Series Pusadian series
Genre(s) Fantasy short story
Published in Universe Science Fiction
Media type Print (Magazine)
Publication date December, 1953
Preceded by "The Owl and the Ape"
Followed by "The Stone of the Witch Queen"

"The Hungry Hercynian" is a fantasy story written by L. Sprague de Camp as part of his Pusadian series. It was first published in the magazine Universe Science Fiction for December, 1953, and first appeared in book form in the anthology The Spell of Seven, edited by de Camp (Pyramid Books, 1965). It has also been translated into German, and was first brought together with other works of de Camp in the German collection Die Chronik von Poseidonis (Pabel, 1978).

Plot summary[edit]

The fugitive Gezun of Lorsk, seeking his fortune in the great city of Torrutseish, becomes enamoured of the slave girl Yorida. At his urging she flees with him from the house of her master, the wizard Derezong Taash, only to be kidnapped by the conspirator Lord Noish as a pawn in the latter's plot to attain the position of chief minister to the king. Noish intends to use the girl as a bribe to secure the aid of the cannibalistic Hercynian shaman Zyc. Gezun must somehow spirit her out of the clutches of the nefarious duo while there is still time.

Noish successfully deposes Lord Haldu, the chief minister, using Zyc's magical truth drug, but then refuses payment to the wizard Bokari, who recommended Zyc, thus offending him. When Noish finally captures Yorida and delivers her to Zyc and his servant Kumo, the so-called Yorida is revealed to be a magical simulcrum. Enraged, Zyc and Kumo kill and eat Noish whilst Yorida remains more-or-less contentedly with Derezong and Gezun leaves for more profitable pastures.

Chronologically, "The Hungry Hercynian" is the fourth of de Camp's Pusadian tales, and the second to feature his protagonists Gezun of Lorsk, Derezong Taash, and Zhamel Seh.

Setting[edit]

In common with the other Pusadian tales, "The Hungry Hercynian" takes place in a prehistoric era during which a magic-based Atlantian civilization supposedly throve in what was then a single continent consisting of Eurasia joined with Africa, and in the islands to the west. It is similar in conception to Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age, by which it was inspired, but more astutely constructed, utilizing actual Ice Age geography in preference to a wholly invented one. In de Camp's scheme, the legend of this culture that came down to classic Greece as "Atlantis" was a garbled memory that conflated the mighty Tartessian Empire with the island continent of Pusad and the actual Atlantis, a barbaric mountainous region that is today the Atlas mountain range.

Critical reception[edit]

Groff Conklin described the Pusadian series as being "in the Conan tradition in every sense of the word, though better written."[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf", Galaxy Science Fiction, June 1954, p.122
  • Laughlin, Charlotte; Daniel J. H. Levack (1983). De Camp: An L. Sprague de Camp Bibliography. San Francisco: Underwood/Miller. pp. 182–183. 
Preceded by
"The Owl and the Ape"
Pusadian series
"The Hungry Hercynian"
Succeeded by
"The Stone of the Witch Queen"