As advanced as the Gorean
world is insofar as medicine and other sciences might be concerned,
it remains for the most part a very primitive type of society and
particularly so in terms of its structure and rules. Similarly,
when rules are broken, punishment is often looked at as something
which needs to somehow fit the offense.
The following is a list
of various sentences and forms of punishment mentioned and sometimes
described within the pages of the Gorean stories.
HARD LABOR (fields,
mines, galleys and other work chains)
The work chains
where prisoners, criminals and sometimes enslaved foes are sent
for either a set time or for life, are found in one form or another
in most of the books of the Gorean series. There are numerous mentions
of both prisoners and purchased slaves being used for various labors,
and it is not always clear that there would be much difference in
the way the two might be treated, with the difference that the convicted
criminal sentenced to the work chain would eventually be set free
when his time is done. To simplify matters, perhaps it is of note
that life sentences usually include enslavement or so it would appear.
Those sentenced to Klima for example, are referred to as salt slaves;
those who are sent to ship galleys are referred to as galley slaves.
We also passed pens of male slaves. These, usually
criminals and debtors, or prisoners taken in wars, then enslaved,
are commonly sold cheaply and used for heavy labor.
---Explorers of Gor, 1: 20-21
In a society
where men are put to death for various crimes, one might wonder
if life sentences even exist, but as the limitation of technology
prevents a number of equipments from showing up on the Counter Earth,
the fact is that manual labor is a very large part of how most tasks
upon Gor are accomplished.
For this reason,
it would be extremely convenient to have work chains of men for
the state not to have to pay to keep the mines, fields and other
large projects going. It is also easy to see why it is the men
who end up on work chains, while the women are more likely to
find themselves performing the duties of pleasure. Indeed if
for the most part female criminals seem to be enslaved, there
are numerous mentions of penal brothels and at least one example
of women working their debts as sluts for the person they owe
to be implied with all life sentences although this is not true
of executions. It is interesting to note that women serving in penal
brothels for a set time will never be referred to as slaves, nor
suffer the consequences of enslavement, whereas of course, a person
who is enslaved even for an hour loses all social status and rights
as per the law. Enslavement, of course, is never meant to be temporary;
the finality of it is clear throughout the Gorean novels. There
is always, however, the possibility that an enslaved prisoner can
escape or be set free by his or her keeper or any conqueror who
defeats those who enslaved him.
In any of those
cases, the logistics and ramifications of enslavement do apply at
least in theory. Practically, however, it would be a brave man who
would show up on Bosk of Port Kar's doorstep and claim his property
while he is still alive. Where men are concerned, slavery is not
considered natural and unless declared by the legislative body of
his own city as a sentence for a crime, men captured by the enemy
are not referred to by their own as slaves. A return is expected
and decisions pertaining to assets and such are delayed as much
It would seem
that the sentence to hard labor, when temporary, is served in specific
areas and not habitually on the same chains as those where permanent
prisoners or slaves can be found. The reference is less than clear
but certainly when John Norman takes the time to speak of how thieves
serve time in the arsenal, or the wharves of Port Kar when Port
Kar has so many galley ships, it does indicate that there is indeed
an attempt at separating the types of prisoners. Perhaps it is that
in the chains where slaves and life sentences are sent, it is not
expected that one could ever find a specific prisoner to set him
There is of
course also the fact that the conditions on these work chains are
quite often so hard that only the very strongest manage to survive
them. Sentencing a petty criminal to a few weeks of hard labor might
not make sense if the sentence is in effect the equivalent of a
death sentence. Goreans tend to be candidly honest about such things
and would not likely dissimulate the true nature of a sentence.
If indeed a sentence is meant to be temporary, it is likely that
the conditions in which it is served allow for most prisoners to
where men and women were sent to serve a sentence would be those
projects that belong to the state, city, or leading body. Of course
one might encounter prisoners, enslaved or not, kept and made to
serve as labor slaves in the private dwellings of more fortunate
or powerful Goreans, but this would not be seen as an actual legal
punishment. In fact certain men specialized in the luring and deceit
of men which would result in their being sold for forced participation
to a work chain or another individual. Legal sentencing for convicted
criminals would be handed by the recognized legal body of a given
state needs physical labor performed, be that on an ad hoc basis
or a permanent need, you will find slaves and prisoners. In Port
Kar, where there is mention of sentences served in the arsenal and
on the wharves, we are likely to find slaves and prisoners. There
is always need for the repair of public roads, and in other cities
we find them cleaning sewers, digging rain trenches and performing
other public services.
are some examples of perhaps the most common or the most infamous
types of work chains, some of which clearly were considered the
equivalent of a death or at the very least a life sentence while
others served for shorter punishments. You would note that the work
chains of men are of the extremely hard labor types while the work
type sentences for women are often that of service to men.
The most famous of mines would of course be the Tharnan silver mines
but the reader finds mention of other cities where mines are an
important source of income as well as reference to gold, copper,
other metals, minerals and gems of all sorts, which would have to
be extracted before they can be transformed.
arose from her throne, and pointed her finger at the wretched conspirator.
Her voice was cold as she spoke to the guardsman who had brought
him to the chamber. “To the mines with him,” she said.
“No, Beloved Tatrix, no!” cried Ost. Terror, like a
trapped cat, seemed to scratch behind his eyes, and he began to
shake in his yoke like a diseased animal. Scornfully the guardsman
lifted him to his feet and dragged him stumbling and whimpering
from the room. I gathered the sentence to the mines was equivalent
to a sentence of death.
---Outlaw of Gor, 11:97
The Brine Pits:
Another version of the mines would be the sentence to the brine
and salt of Klima, at the ends of the Tahari. Working the salt mines
of Klima is in itself an achievement as we are told that most who
are sentenced to these pits do not survive the journey to reach
them. The march to Klima is known and spoken of as a sentence of
"Do you understand what it is," asked Ibn Saran, "to
be sent to Klima—to be a salt slave?"
"I think so," I told him.
"There is the march to Klima," said he, "through the dune
country, on foot, chained, on which many die."
I said nothing.
"And should you be so unfortunate," said he, "as
to reach the vicinity of Klima, your feet must be bound with leather
to your knees, for you will sink through the salt crusts to your
knees, and, unprotected, your flesh, by the millions of tiny, heated
crystals, would be grated and burned from your bones."
I looked away, in the chains.
"In the pits," he said, "you pump water through underground
deposits, to wash salt, with the water, to the surface, and re pump
again the same water. Men die at the pumps, in the heat. Others,
the carriers, in the brine, must fill their yoke buckets with the
erupted sludge, and carry it from the pits to the drying tables;
others must gather the salt and mold it into cylinders." He
smiled. "Sometimes men kill one another for the lighter assignments."
---Tribesmen of Gor, 7:124
The Canal of Bila
Huruma: The project of a Ubar to dig a canal though swamp
and jungle to unite two lakes, the canal of Bila Huruma is where
most of those who resisted the conqueror will be found. It is also
where most of the male slaves available in the Schendi region are
purchased. There is reference in Explorers of Gor to the shortage
or near absence of male slaves in that entire region as all available
manpower was sent 'digging'.
rebel, in chains, was then dragged before Bila Huruma. He was thrown
upon his knees. He was sentenced to the canal, to be put upon the
rogues' chain, that he might now, at last, well serve his sovereign,
---Explorers of Gor, 18:231
A sentence of choice in most port towns and cities where ships
need human motors.
The Work Chains
of War: The digging of trenches, the setting up of
palisades and other construction works required by war are
often described as done by both slaves and prisoners. Similar chains
exist for various purposes, related or not to the business
of war or the rebuilding of structures destroyed by war.
walls were Pa-Kur’s lines of investment, set forth with all
the skill of Gor’s most experienced siege engineers. Some
hundreds of yards from the wall, just beyond crossbow range, a gigantic
ditch was being dug by thousands of siege slaves and prisoners.
When completed, it would be fifty or sixty feet wide, and seventy
or eighty feet deep. In back of the ditch slaves were piling up
the earth which had been removed from the ditch, packing and hardening
it into a rampart....
---Tarnsman of Gor, 15:163
for the black chain of Ionicus," said one of my master's men.
Ionicus was a master of work chains. He had several, the "red
chain," the "green chain," "the yellow chain,"
and so on, each of which boasted several hundred men. Supposedly
these were free work chains, "free" in the sense of not
utilizing slaves. Goreans generally do not employ slaves for such
labors as road construction, siege works, raising walls, and so
on. Similarly they generally would not use them for the construction
of temples and public buildings. Most such work is generally done
by the free labor of a given community, though this "free labor"
may, upon occasion, particularly in emergencies, be "levied,"
the laborers then contributing their labor as a form of special
tax, or, if you like, "conscripted" or "drafted,"
rather as if for military service....
---Dancer of Gor, 20:301
It had been
a narrow thing a few Ehn ago, back on the road. I did not think
a little hard labor would hurt the brigands. There were one or more
work chains, I knew, in the neighborhood of Venna, to the south.
She was repairing her walls. I had heard, as I had come north, that
Ionicus of Cos, the master of several such chains, was currently
buying. Such chains, incidentally, are regarded as politically neutral
instruments. Thus, Venna, an ally of Ar, might employ such a chain,
even though its master was of Cos. I supposed that if the Cosians
did not mind, there was no point in Venna, who could use cheap labor,
becoming exercised about the matter either.
---Renegades of Gor, 1:21
The Labors of Pleasure
- Work Chains for Women
The Penal Brothel:
Self explanatory, these would be places where one could purchase
sexual services from women sent there as a form of hard labor sentences.
The moneys of course would be paid to the state or city. The women
in these establishments would remain free as far as their social
status is considered. In the less formal culture of the jungle interior,
the reader will encounter a similar sentence when the Ubar there
sends a woman to the barracks of the askari so that she may learn
to please men.
guilty in the court of the arsenal, the male thief would be sentenced,
for a week to a year, to hard labor in the arsenal or on the wharves;
the female thief would be sentenced to service, for a week to a
year, in a straw-strewn cell in one of Port Kar's penal brothels.
They are chained by the left ankle to a ring in the stone. Their
food is that of a galley slave, peas, black bread and onions. If
they serve well, however, their customers often bring them a bit
of meat or fruit. Few thieves of Port Kar have not served time,
depending on their sex, either in the arsenal or on the wharves,
or in the brothels.
---Hunters of Gor, 22:304
to appear before Bila Huruma were two members of the nobility,
a man and his companion. He complained of her that she had been
unwilling to please him. By one word and a stroke of his hand
between them Bila Huruma dissolved their companionship. He then
ordered that the man be put in the dress of a woman and beaten
from the court with sticks. This was done. Re then ordered that
the woman be stripped and a vine leash be put on her neck. She
was then sentenced to a barrack of askaris for a year, that she
might learn how to please men.
---Explorers of Gor, 18:231
The Baths: Similar
to the penal brothel in that the woman is expected to serve the
pleasures of men even though she is, at the time, a free woman.
What is perhaps of note in the sentence to the baths is the mention
that those sent there habitually end up enslaved once their lesson
is learned. This of course would follow the premise that the sentence
to slavery, for women, is not necessarily so much a punishment as
it is a nudge toward what Goreans consider to be the natural order.
in certain cities, free women, found guilty of crimes, are sentenced
to the baths, to serve there as bath girls, subject, too, to the
disciplines of such. After a given time there, after it is thought
they have learned their lessons, and those of the baths, they are,
commonly, routinely enslaved and sold out of the city....
---Renegades of Gor, 4:59
Debtor Sluts: Enduring
a less formal or official form of payback are the debtor sluts the
reader encounters in the war torn countrysides of Gor: free women
working as tavern wenches to repay an inn keeper the cost of their
lodging and feed or other accumulated debt. Again as odd as it may
seem, these women are not looked at as slaves nor wear collars,
and their social status remains that of a free woman.
the Lady Amina of Venna," she said. "I was visiting in
the north, and forced to flee at the approach of Cosians."
"Your redemption fee," I said, "is forty copper tarsks,
a considerable amount." I had read this amount on the back
of the oilcloth rectangle.
"Pay it!" she begged. "Rescue a noble free woman
from jeopardy. I will be forever grateful."
"Few men," I said, "would be content with gratitude."
She shrank back, frightened, against the rough surface.
"My bill is only thirty tarsks," said the second woman,
a blonde. "Redeem me!"
"Mine is thirty-five!" said the third woman.
"Mine is only twenty-seven!" cried the fourth woman.
"Mine is fifty," wept the last of the five women, "but
I will make it well worth your while!"
"In what way?" I asked.
"In the way of the woman!" she said, brazenly.
There were cries of protest, and anger, from the others.
"Do not sound too righteous," I said to the first four
prisoners at the wall.
"We are free women!" said the first woman.
"You are all debtor sluts," I said.
The first woman gasped, startled, so referred to, and the second
and third woman cried out in anger. The fourth whimpered, knowing
what I had said was true. The fifth was silent.
I recalled that the porter, when I had come to the outer gate, at
the height of the bridge over the moat, seeing that I was not a
female, had made me show money, and a considerable amount of it,
before he had admitted me. This was probably because of the crowding
at the inn, and perhaps inflated prices, in these unusual, perilous
times. Women, I had gathered, on the other hand, would not be required
to show such money. This, of course, was presumably not so much
because such a challenge might be thought to be demeaning to a free
woman, as, perhaps, that women on Gor, in a sense, are themselves
money. They are, or can be, a medium of exchange, like currency.
This is particularly true of the slave, of course, who, like other
goods, or domestic animals, has an ascertainable, finite value,
whatever free persons are willing to pay for her. Women such as
these, those at the wall, would be surrendered by the management
of the inn for the equivalent of their unpaid bills. They would
then be in the power of their "redeemers," any who might
make good their debts. Lacking such a "redemption" they
might then expect to find themselves, sooner or later, sold as slaves.
In this way the inn usually recovers its money and, not unoften,
turns a profit. Particularly beautiful specimens of impecunious
guests are sometimes kept by the inn itself, as inn slaves.
---Renegades of Gor, 2:41-42
Aside from the usual beatings
and whippings one might expect from the type of world that Gor is,
there are numerous forms of corporal punishment used in the various
areas and cultures of the counter-earth, most of them having a clear
link to the offense for which the criminal is sentenced. Thieves
for example, will have their ear notched so that they may forever
be recognized as thieves; they will also at times and depending
upon the culture, have their right hand cut off. Liars may end up
without a tongue and runaways punished in a way which prevents them
from doing so again by either the removal of a foot or the more
damaging hamstringing sentence.
The notching of an ear is mentioned as the first penalty applied
to those who are caught thieving. It would appear that this way
of marking thieves is fairly universal, at least among city-state
structures. The reader will find its mention in reference to Saphrar
of Turia, whose original home was Tyros, and much later again, in
an encounter with a thief carrying such a mark in the streets of
Lydius. In the case of Saphrar it is clearly mentioned that it is
the right ear which is notched and although the author does not
state that the ear of choice is indeed the right one, one could
argue, however, that marks of such nature, given in particular the
Gorean's taste for symbolic conventions, would likely be of uniform
ear had been notched, doubtless in some accident. Such notching,
I knew, is usually done to the ears of thieves; a second offense
is normally punished by the loss of the right hand; a third offense
by the removal of the left hand and both feet. There are few thieves,
incidentally, on Gor. I have heard, though, there is a Caste of
Thieves in Port Kar, a strong caste which naturally protects its
members from such indignities as ear notching....
---Nomads of Gor, 9:85
is the first penalty for a convicted thief in most Gorean cities,
whether male or female. The second offense, by a male, is punished
with the removal of the left hand, the third offense by the removal
of the right. The penalty for a woman, for her second offense, if
she is convicted, is to be reduced to slavery.
---Hunters of Gor, 2:23
It may be
worth noting that the two above quotes reverse the order in which
the hands of a thief are cut off, the first quote specifically
stating the right hand is taken first while the second quote
says the opposite.
The severing of the hamstrings is yet another fairly often mentioned
form of extreme corporal punishment. Obviously the person whose
hamstrings are cut does not have a chance at recovery and hence
can be effectively seen as serving a life sentence.
the two large tendons behind each knee are cut. The legs may
then no longer be contracted. They are then useless. No longer
can the subject walk or run, or even stand erect.
The subject is, however, not without resource. He can, though it requires strength,
and it is awkward and painful, drag himself about by the hands.
When an individual is hamstrung he is often taken to a city where he is left,
that he may, if he can, earn his living by begging. Sometimes tavern keepers
gather several such unfortunates together, enslave them, and keep their beggings
for themselves. A slave with a tharlarion wagon puts them about the city in the
morning and picks them up at night. Sometimes the tavern keepers blind or mutilate
them as well, that they be more piteous, and their earnings accordingly increased.
---Hunters of Gor, 11:160-161
These would be perhaps the
more obvious tit for tat methods but there are indeed some which
appear quite creative such as you will find in the below quotes.
fellow had lied about his taxes. He would be hung, a hook through
his tongue, in a market. His properties were to be confiscated and
distributed, half to be given to members of his village and half
to the state. It was conjectured that, when he was removed from
the pole, if he were still alive, he would be more careful in his
---Explorers of Gor, 18:231
His first case dealt with
a widow who had been defrauded by a creditor. The fellow was
dragged screaming from the court. His
hands would be cut off, as those of a common thief. His properties
were to be confiscated and divided, half to the widow, and half,
predictably, to the state.
---Explorers of Gor, 18:230
Whippings, beatings, penalty
brandings, cagings and of course the threat to remove a limb or
one's tongue, although mentioned as common types of sentences for
minor crimes, are all also methods frequently used to punish slaves,
although there is no legal process by which these are decided, the
slave not being entitled to the justice of the free.
Interestingly enough, in
the case of women, admitting to having the needs of a slave is viewed
as an acceptable alternative to guilt. It appears that if a woman
proclaims or admits herself slave, the loss of status also means
the loss of civil responsibility. Of course as a slave she may still
be punished, and harshly, for the offense, but the fact is that
the citizen's laws and obligations are no longer hers. Her faults
then would be of a different nature.
Other than enslavement as
a result of what is commonly referred to as begging the alternative,
there are numerous crimes for which, in the case of women, the sentence
is enslavement. It may be worth noting that these same crimes, when
committed by men, are quite often punishable by death. Female criminals
seem to almost always find themselves in collars. The conditions
and consequences of enslavement sentences are discussed at length
in other pages of this section including the page which explains
and the Free
BANISHMENT and OUTLAWRY
The removal of one's right
to claim citizenship is often considered worse than a sentence of
death. In the Gorean world, one's city, tribe or cultural background
is as much a part of who they are as their caste or trade is. The
fact that banishment removes the right to claim both caste and home
makes this sentence one of the harshest which can be imposed on
any man. The outlaw is not only instantly without caste and expelled
from the city walls, he is also unwelcome and in fact subject to
impalement in most cities.
Although the removal of
status is an instantaneous process and includes, as is the case
with enslavement, loss of all assets and property, the reader
does encounter cases where an outlaw, having been pardoned, is
granted back his titles. There is also the matter of anyone actually
taking possession of the outlaw's former assets. If it seemed
easy enough to declare the Forkbeard an outlaw, the reader will
note that he seemed a rather wealthy man.
in spite of his heroic role in the victory, submitted himself
to the judgment
of Ar’s Council of High Castes. The
sentence of death passed upon him by the usurping government of
the Initiates was rescinded, but because his imperialistic ambition
was feared, he was exiled from his beloved city. Such a man as
Marlenus can never be second in a city, and the men of Ar were
determined that he should never again be first. Accordingly, the
Ubar, tears in his eyes, was publicly refused bread and salt, and,
under penalty of death, was ordered to leave Ar by sundown, never
again to come within ten pasangs of the city.
---Tarnsman of Gor, 20:216
"I am an outlaw," said Ivar. "In
a duel I killed Finn Broadbelt."
"It was in a duel," I said.
"Finn Broadbelt was the cousin of Jarl Svein Blue Tooth."
"Ah," I said. Svein Blue Tooth was the high jarl of Torvaldsland,
in the sense that he was generally regarded as the most powerful.
In his hall, it was said he fed a thousand men. Beyond this his
heralds could carry the war arrow, it was said, to ten thousand
farms. Ten ships he had at his own wharves, and, it was said, he
could summon a hundred more. "He is your Jarl?" I asked.
"He was my Jarl," said Ivar Forkbeard.
"The wergild must be high," I speculated.
The Forkbeard looked at me, and grinned. "It was set so high," said
he, "out of the reach of custom and law, against the protests
of the rune-priests and his own men, that none, in his belief,
could pay it."
"And thus," said I, "that your outlawry would remain
in effect until you were apprehended or slain?"
"He hoped to drive me from Torvaldsland," said Ivar.
---Marauders of Gor, 6:93-94
"Turgus, of Port Kar," said the praetor, "in
virtue of what we have here today established, and in virtue
of the general
warrant outstanding upon you, you are sentenced to banishment.
If you are found within the limits of the city after sunset this
day you will be impaled."
---Explorers of Gor, 4:58
More information on the
Gorean outlaw can be found on the Outlaw page
of this section.
The line between a sentence
of execution and a sentence of corporal punishment is often difficult
to draw. In many cases, the torture does lead to death although
it is somehow believed that an element of a chance for survival
is present, slim as it may be. The purpose of these sentences seems
to fall into two very different types, the first being that the
crime deserves a painful death and the other, on the contrary, is
meant to offer a chance at survival, a test of sorts, often of the
type that only the very best might survive.
The methods by which a man
or woman can be executed often will have to do with local culture
and tradition. Goreans appear to be fond of allowing nature to take
care of the weak. It is not uncommon then, for a criminal whose
sentence is a sentence of death, to be left to the elements, the
forces of nature or fed to the beasts of the land, especially if
the crime committed is one which is considered a crime against the
core belief system of the area where it is committed. For example,
in the slaying of a bosk in the land of the Wagon Peoples, or the
destruction of a well in the Tahari, the offense committed is against
what the local culture believes to be the symbol of their world,
their people or their culture. It seems fair then, that the lives
of those who are found guilty of damaging this symbol be offered
as a form of sacrificial retribution.
is said to be the Mother of the Wagon Peoples, and they reverence
it as such. The man who kills one foolishly is strangled in thongs
or suffocated in the hide of the animal he slew; if, for any reason,
the man should kill a bosk cow with unborn young he is staked out,
alive, in the path of the herd, and the march of the Wagon Peoples
takes its way over him.
---Nomads of Gor, 1:5
them and hang them in iron collars at the inn!” said a fellow.
Sometimes a man lasts two or three days in this fashion
“Chain them on the boards,” cried another. That is a
similar form of punishment. In it the victim is fastened, by collars
and shackles, on structures of parallel, upright boards, vertical
platforms, in effect, mounted on posts. These structures are most
common in harbor cities, near the wharves. The fellow who had made
the suggestion was probably from the river port of Ar’s Station.
In the country, impalement is often used, the pole usually being
set up near a crossroads.
“ Let them be trampled by tharlarion,” said a fellow.
let them be torn apart by them,” said another. In this fashion
ropes are tied separately to the victim’s wrists and ankles,
these ropes then attached to the harnesses of two different tharlarion,
which are, of course, then driven in opposite directions.
“ Yes, that is better,” agreed the first.
one shares a Home Stone with the victim, of course, the punishment
is often more humane. A common punishment where this mitigating
feature obtains is to strip the victim, tie him to a post, beat
him with rods and then behead him. This, like the hanging in chains,
the exposure on boards, and such, is a very ancient modality of
---Renegades of Gor, 1:14-15
are often done in very public fashion, especially if a lesson
is considered necessary or for the demonstration of victory against
a well known foe.
Impalement: One of
the most spoken about forms of execution, this method is mentioned used
disposing of high dignitaries of a conquered city as well as for the
of a slave. In any case for which impalement is used, the reader can
easily conclude that a public statement is being made.
him," said Marlenus.
The tarnsmen began to unlock the shackles, that I might be impaled
freely on the lance, perhaps so that my struggles might provide
a more interesting spectacle to the onlookers....
tarnsmen grasped my arms more securely. Two others removed the tharlarion
lance from its crevice and brought it forward. It would be forced
into my body, and I would then be lifted, with it, into place.
---Tarnsman of Gor, 14:157
Tharlarion Oil: Another
frequently mentioned mode of execution is to have the prisoner boiled
in a vat of tharlarion oil.
There also seems to be a
morbid sort of entertainment value to the spectacle of death,
indeed many executions are done with much noise and in a
festive sort of atmosphere. This is made especially obvious in the use
of public amusements, gladiatorial combats
similar public set ups which serve the dual purpose of both offering entertainment
and disposing of prisoners. In these public games, though, an element
it may sometimes
be, does in fact exist. It is how we find men who make statements
such as Kron of the metal workers, about how he had survived
the amusements of Tharna three times.
was not Andreas, but a squat, powerful man with short-clipped
yellow hair, Kron of Tharna, of the Caste of Metal Workers. His
eyes were blue like steel. One ear had been torn from his head.
“ I have survived the Amusements of Tharna three times,” he said
as he faced me.
I observed him carefully. He would be a dangerous opponent.
---Outlaw of Gor, 13:113
Although the case of Tharna
pretty well demonstrates use of public amusement for the purpose
of execution, the games were not events in which only
those sentenced to
participated. In Ar, for example, it is explained that these
games served various purposes.
I do not
choose to describe the nature of the games, except in certain general
detail. There seems to me little of beauty in them and much of blood.
Matches are arranged between single armed fighters, or teams of
such. Generally Warriors do not participate in these matches, but
men of low caste, slaves, condemned criminals and such. Some of
them, however, are quite skillful with the weapons of their choice,
surely the equal of many Warriors. The crowd is fond of seeing various
types of weapons used against others, and styles of fighting. Buckler
and short sword are perhaps most popular, but there are few weapons
on Gor which are not seen over a period of three or four days of
the games. Another popular set of weapons, as in the ancient ludi
of Rome, is net and trident. Usually those most skilled with this
set of weapons are from the shore and islands of distant, gleaming
Thassa, the sea, where they doubtless originally developed among
fishermen. Sometimes men fight locked in iron hoods, unable to see
their opponents. Sometimes men wrestle to the death or use the spiked
gauntlets. Sometimes slave girls are forced to fight slave girls,
perhaps with steel claws fastened on their fingers, or several girls,
variously armed, will be forced to fight a single man, or a small
number of men. Surviving girls, of course, become the property of
those whom they have fought; men who lose are, of course, slain.
Beasts are also popular in the Stadium of Blades, and fights between
various animals, half starved and goaded into fury by hot irons
and whips, are common; sometimes the beasts fight beasts of the
same species, and other times not; sometimes the beasts fight men,
variously armed, or armed slave girls; sometimes, for the sport
of the crowd, slaves or criminals are fed to the beasts. The training
of slaves and criminals for these fights, and the acquisition and
training of the beasts is a large business in Ar, there being training
schools for men, and compounds where the beasts, captured on expeditions
to various parts of Gor and shipped to Ar, may be kept and taught
to kill under the unnatural conditions of the stadium spectacle....
---Assassin of Gor, 15:189-190
Honor in death
One of the concepts which
may appear contradictory to the reader is that of honorable death,
or how a man might be executed in a manner which shows that he is
respected despite the crime committed. Honor is quite often the
topic of lengthy passages and particularly when it pertains to the
Gorean warrior. There are, then, a number of ways by which one may
die honorably, sometimes by his own choosing, sometimes by the executioner's
respect of what is seen as honorable death having been earned.
An honorable form of death which seems to be reserved to warriors
and possibly more specifically tarnsmen.
done, young warrior,” acclaimed Marlenus. “I thought
I would see if you would die like a slave.” He addressed
his men, pointing to me. “What say you?” he laughed. “Has
this warrior not earned his right to the tarn death?”
has indeed,” said one of the tarnsmen, who held a wadded
lump of tunic over his slashed rib cage.
I was dragged
outside, and binding fiber was fastened to my wrists and ankles.
The loose ends of the fiber were then attached by broad leather
straps to two tarns, one of them my own sable giant.
will be torn to pieces,” said Marlenus. “Not pleasant,
but better than impalement.”
I was fastened
securely. A tarnsman mounted one tarn; another tarnsman mounted
the other tarn.
not dead yet,” I said. It was a stupid thing to say, but
I felt that it was not yet my time to die.
did not deride me. “You it was who stole the Home Stone
of Ar,” he said. “You have luck.”
man can escape the tarn death,” said one of the men.
of the Ubar moved back, to give the tarns room.
himself knelt in the darkness to check the knots in the binding
fiber, tightening them carefully. As he checked the knots at
my wrists, he spoke to me.
you wish me to kill you now?” he asked softly. “The
tarn death is an ugly death.” His hand, shielded from his
men by his body, was on my throat. I felt it could have crushed
no more if he should kill me, but rose to his feet and walked away,
under the snapping wing of one of the tarns, and waved farewell.
Good-bye, Warrior,” he called.
With a sickening
lurch and sharp jolt of pain the two tarnsmen brought their birds
into the air. For a moment I swung between the birds, and then,
perhaps a hundred feet in the air, the tarnsmen, at a prearranged
signal—a sharp blast of a tarn whistle from the ground—turned
their birds in opposite directions. The sudden wrenching pain
seemed to rip my body. I think I inadvertently screamed. The
birds were pulling against one another, stabilized in their flight,
each trying to pull away from the other. Now and again there
would be a moment’s giddy respite from the pain as one
or the other of the birds failed to keep the ropes taut. I could
hear the curses of the tarnsmen above me and saw once or twice
the flash of the striking tarn-goad. Then the birds would throw
their weight again on the ropes, bringing another flashing wrench
---Tarnsman of Gor, 14:158-160
Similarly, an enemy whose
behavior has been judged dishonorable will more than likely be executed
in a fashion which denies him the right to honor in death. The denial
of honorable death makes a public statement of the absence of respect.
The Frame of Humiliation:
The other end of the honor spectrum, the frame of humiliation is a clear
of the absence of respect.
AND ANKLES WERE bound to a hollow, floating frame. The ropes sawed
into my flesh as the weight of my body drew on them. I turned my
head, sick to my stomach, and threw up into the turbid waters of
the Vosk. I blinked my eyes against the hot sun and tried to move
my wrists and ankles....
was her wish that you die the death of a villain,” he said,
“on the Frame of Humiliation, unworthy to stain our weapons.”
I closed my eyes.
I should have known that the proud Talena, daughter of a Ubar, would leap
at the first chance to return to power in Ar, even though it be at the
head of a plundering host of brigands. And I, her protector, was now to
be discarded. Indeed, the Frame of Humiliation would be ample vengeance
to satisfy even Talena for the indignities she had suffered at my hands.
It, if anything, would wipe out forever from her mind the offensive memory
that she had once needed my help and had pretended to love me.
Then, each of the
men of Pa-Kur, as is the custom before a frame is surrendered to the waters
of the Vosk, spit on my body. Lastly, Pa-Kur spit in his hand and then
placed his hand on my chest. “Were it not for the daughter of Marlenus,” said
Pa-Kur, his metallic face as placid as the quicksilver behind a mirror, “I
would have slain you honorably. That I swear by the black helmet of my
“I believe you,” I
said, my voice choked, no longer caring if I lived or died.
The spear butts pressed
against the frame, shoving it away from the bank. The current soon caught
it, and it began to spin in slow circles farther and farther out into the
midst of that vast force of nature called the Vosk.
The death would not
be a pleasant one. Bound helplessly, without food or water, my own body
would torture me by its weight dragging on the hand and ankle ropes, suspended
a few inches above the roiling, muddy surface under the fiery sun. I knew
that I would not, some days hence, reach the delta of the Vosk and the
cities in the delta except perhaps as a bound corpse, withered by exposure
and the lack of water. Indeed, it was unlikely my body would reach the
delta at all. It was far more likely that one of the water lizards of the
Vosk or one of the great hook-beaked turtles of the river would seize my
body and drag it and the frame under the water, destroying me in the mud
below. There was also the chance that a wild tarn might swoop down and
feed on the helpless living morsel fastened to that degrading frame. Of
one thing I was certain—there would be no human assistance or even
pity, for the poor wretches on the frames are none but villains, betrayers,
and blasphemers against the Priest-Kings, and it is a sacrilegious act
even to consider terminating their sufferings.
---Tarnsman of Gor, 12:136-139
the most part, the Gorean man respects his enemy and even in the execution
of prisoners, this will have importance and be demonstrated.
This is not to say that there are not a number of passages
and mentions of choosing a purposely humiliating death.
The reader will find though, that the proverbial good guys
or in the Gorean world, honorable men, will indeed demonstrate
respect for an enemy to the very end.
Two murderers were next
brought to him for sentencing. The first, a commoner, had slain
a boatsman from Schendi. The second, an askari,
had killed another askari. The commoner was ordered to have his
fingers cut off and then be put upon a tharlarion pole in Lake
Ushindi. That his fingers be removed was accounted mercy on the
part of Bila Huruma, that he be able to cling less long to the
pole and his miseries be the sooner terminated. He had slain not
one of the domain of Bila Huruma but one of Schendi. His crime,
thus, was regarded as the less heinous. The askari was ordered
to be speared to death by one of his own kin. In this fashion his
honor would be protected and there would be no beginning of a possible
blood feud between families. The askari petitioned, however, to
be permitted to die instead fighting the enemies of the ubarate.
This petition was denied on the grounds that he had, by slaying
his comrade, not permitted this same privilege to him. This judgment
was accepted unquestioningly by the askari. "But am I not
of my own kin, my Ubar?" he asked. "Yes," had said
Bila Huruma. He was taken outside. He would be given a short-handled
stabbing spear and would be permitted to throw himself upon it.
---Explorers of Gor, 18:230-231