Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cimmerian sighting: Unearthing David Drake's "The Barrow Troll"

“You Northerners believe in trolls, so my brother tells me,” said the priest.

“Aye, long before the gold I’d heard of the Parma troll,” the berserker agreed. “Ox broad and stronger than ten men, shaggy as a denned bear.”

—David Drake, “The Barrow Troll”

One of my haunts for used books, Webhead Enterprises in Wakefield, MA, seems to house more than its fair share of exceptional short story collections (I’ve scored copies of Prime Evil, Dark Forces, and Revelations in Webhead, to name a few). It was there I purchased the excellent anthology Whispers, whose contents include “The Barrow Troll,” a terrific short story by David Drake.

“The Barrow Troll” was originally published in 1975 in Whispers magazine, a former periodical specializing in dark fantasy and horror. Drake, a former assistant editor for the magazine, wrote a nice piece about Whispers on his personal Web site.

Starting in 1977 editor Stuart David Schiff released the first of six best-of collections from the magazine in a book series also entitled Whispers. “The Barrow Troll” appears in the first of these anthologies.

In his introduction to the story, Schiff describes “The Barrow Troll” as “a brutal and shocking piece.” That about sums it up. It’s a wonderful fusion of horror and fantasy, probably my favorite entry in what is an almost-uniformly excellent collection (though Karl Edward Wagner’s “Sticks” is also an absolute gem). Whispers’ table of contents reads like a who’s who of legendary horror/fantasy authors, as it includes stories by Fritz Leiber, Robert Bloch, Dennis Etchison, Hugh B. Cave, Richard Christian Matheson, Robert Aickman, Joseph Payne Brennan, Manly Wade Wellman, and Ramsey Campbell, among others.

To read the rest of this post, visit The Cimmerian Web site.


Scott Oden said...

Drake is excellent! The volume to look for is Vettius and His Friends (1989, Riverdale, NY: Baen). Along with "The Barrow Troll", it contains Drake's Vettius and Dama stories (imagine Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser in ancient Rome). These are easily the best historical fantasy short stories I've ever read.

Brian Murphy said...

Thanks for the recommendation Scott, I'm adding it to my list of books to purchase and read.