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"Know also, O prince, that in the selfsame days that the CIMMERIAN did stalk the HYBORIAN KINGDOMS, one of the few swords worthy to cross his was that of RED SONJA, warrior-woman out of majestic HYRKANIA. Forced to flee her homeland because she spurned the advances of a king and slew him instead, she rode west across the TURANIAN steppes and into the shadowed mists of legendry."
The Nemedian Chronicles

Red Sonja, the She-Devil with a Sword, is a low fantasy sword and sorcery heroine created by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith. She first appeared in Conan the Barbarian #23 (Marvel Comics, February 1973). The character was loosely based on Red Sonya of Rogatino in Robert E. Howard's short story The Shadow of the Vulture (The Magic Carpet, January 1934), which Roy Thomas rewrote as a Conan story for the Marvel comic. Hence "Sonja" is supposed to be pronounced "Sonya", not with a J sound.

The character now appears monthly in her own series, as well as a series of mini-series and one-shots, all published by Dynamite Comics. The first main Red Sonja series features a wide array of cover artists as well as the regular creative team of writer Michael Avon Oeming and artist Mel Rubi. Subsequent volumes were written by Gail Simone, Amy Chu, Marguerite Bennett and Mark Russell.


Red Sonja has become the archetypical example of the fantasy figure of a fierce and stunningly beautiful female barbarian in the utterly impractical Chainmail Bikini (in her case, the bikini is actually scale armor, not chainmail, if we're splitting hairs).

Red Sonja lived with her family in a humble house in the Western Hyrkanian steppes (modern Ukraine/Russia). When she had just turned 17 years old, a group of mercenaries killed her family and burned down their house. Sonja survived but she had been brutally raped by the leader of the group, leaving her in shame. Answering her cry for revenge, the red goddess Scathach appeared to her, and instilled in her incredible skill in the handling of swords and other weapons on the condition that she would never lie with a man unless he defeated her in fair combat. (The "fair" part is sometimes not included.)


Sonja has been featured in several novels by David C. Smith and Richard L. Tierney with covers by Boris Vallejo:

  1. The Ring of Ikribu (Ace 1981) (Adapted to comics by Roy Thomas and Esteban Maroto in The Savage Sword of Conan issues 230-3)
  2. Demon Night (Ace 1982)
  3. When Hell Laughs (Ace 1982)
  4. Endithor's Daughter (Ace 1982)
  5. Against the Prince of Hell (Ace 1983)
  6. Star of Doom (Ace 1983)

On television, Red Sonja makes an appearance on the Conan TV series, in the episode, "Red Sonja". She is on a mission to rescue a young wizard who was kidnapped. When one of Conan's partners sarcastically asks why the village didn't send their best warriors, Sonja replies, "They did send their best warrior, mulebrain!" She was played by Angelica Bridges.

She was played by Brigitte Nielsen in the 1985 film Red Sonja. Hannah John-Kamen is slated to portray the character in a film reboot as of 2021.

An animated movie was released October 3rd, 2016.


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    Character Tropes 

  • Action Girl: Red Sonja herself.
  • Action Hero: Sonja rarely meets problems she can't bash, slash, or stab. Even when she does it's still her go-to strategy.
  • Amazonian Beauty: The comic character can be this Depending on the Artist - she has been more commonly depicted as svelte and voluptuous than buff (though there are exceptions). She was definitely one in the live action movie played by Brigitte Nielsen.
  • Ancestral Weapon: In the novels, Sonja's sword was originally her father's who was once a mercenary captain before settling down to become a farmer (the soldiers who murdered Sonja's family and raped her were her father's ex-comrades who had a grudge). When she received her vision and picked up a sword to kill her first man, it was her father's that was lying in the wreckage. The novel Star of Doom goes further, Sonja tells a witch that her father crafted the sword himself and when she took it up - she had slain so many demons, sorcerers and battle-crazy warriors and put so much of herself in that sword, that it had become magical and the witch acknowledged it actually had power.
  • Anything That Moves: The Gail Simone incarnation was not raped unlike her previous incarnations and will not lose her fighting abilities if she has sex, so she's more than happy to indulge. She's also not too particular about who she does it with. Man, woman, horned forest god are all fair game.
  • Arch-Enemy: The sorcerer Kulan Gath has repeatedly plagued her life more than any foe and has a knack for not staying dead.
  • Badass Normal: Zigzagged, Whether Sonja is superhuman or not depends on the writer. Her fighting prowess was divinely granted rather than the product of natural training and under some writers Sonja is acknowledged to be just a mortal fighter on peak female human condition. Others explicitly make her superhuman to a least some degree. She once demonstrated a healing factor and other writers have ranged from being Made of Iron to giving her the strength of multiple men. For example, Michael Avon Oeming's Sonja was an unearthly warrior virtually impossible to defeat in combat, whereas Gail Simone's could be beaten in a duel with a skilled swordsman and got thrown out of a bar by a couple of bouncers. Amy Chu's take on the character in the current run is probably the most physically impressive yet. She can take a fall onto bare rock from 30 feet up and jump straight up again, and can leap 15 feet straight up to slash a sauropod-sized demon; she is also swiped by the same demon and hurled hundreds of feet away and immediately jumps to her feet unscathed. She can catch a thrown knife by the hilt in the dark without even looking and can necklift a 250lb man with one arm, with him being unable to break her grip with both hands. Amy Chu has said in a Reddit chat that Sonja developed her abilities through sheer bloody determination and training (i.e. without divine intervention, unlike Oeming's version) but that she has the strength of several men and is powerful enough to topple a horse with a punch. The version of Sonja that appeared in 2019's 'Vampirella/Red Sonja' was legitimately superhuman and could smash through a two-foot-thick stone wall with a single punch, taking out several solders on the other side, as well as kicking down a heavy steel door with ease - she appeared to be just as strong as Vampirella. Similarly, the Sonja of the 'Sonjaversal' series appears to be either immortal or to age very slowly and is said to have been blessed with strength and speed greater than anyone else of her world.
  • Barbarian Hero : Rare female version.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: While she does get a few dirt smears on her in rare occasions, this is played straight to an extreme degree. Sonja has been slashed, impaled with arrows (albeit in the arms or legs), and even got got shot with a police revolver in her team-up with Spider-man. In no instance has she ever been scarred, lampshaded at the end of her Spider-man team-up, she wakes up lying on an altar somewhere in her own time period and finds the bullet she had been shot with had fallen out. More recently she contracted black plague and while one panel had her sprouting some boils on her face, these immediately disappeared the panel after.
  • Best Her to Bed Her: Former Trope Namer.
    • Loophole Abuse: As might be expected in a modern take on the story, deconstructing the exact wording and meaning of Sonja's vow has been attempted in her current series. Aside from the presence of the word fair (which can come and go, depending on the story), and for that matter the definition of fair combat, in issue 15 of the Dynamite series, an ancient god defeats her (and two of her friends, which apparently made it a fair fight) in battle. However, he knows nothing of her vow. Later, they become allies, and she comes to admire him, so she allows herself the indulgence. In issue 31, it's revealed she can lie with any man she chooses if she permanently foreswears her blessed skills. It would also follow that she does not have to let a man rape her if he defeats her, but the option to sleep with him is there if he does. In addition, there is no provision against love, just physical affection—it is as much a test of Sonja's will to abide by her vow as it is a compact from her goddess. The wording of her vow also means that if she were to be raped, she would not lose her blessed skills in consequence.
    • This facet of her has officially been abandoned in the Gail Simone run; she runs into a male swordmaster with the same vow and... well...
      Red Sonja: That is without question the stupidest thing I have ever heard.
  • Blithe Spirit: Of the more violent sort. In general, the Hyboria is at least as patriarchal as the medieval times of our own world; when she passes through a town, though, some of the women tend to take inspiration from her example.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Invoked — when Roy Thomas decided to create a Distaff Counterpart for Conan, he wanted to make her a redhead, as the established warrior women in Conan lore were Valeria (blonde) and Belit (Brunette).
  • Blood Knight: Sonja basically enjoys two things - drinking and fighting. And she is very good at both.
  • Boobs of Steel: A skilled and strong fighter who is often drawn very busty.
  • Book Dumb: Despite her mother's efforts, Sonja is only borderline literate. She may have a learning disability; she describes working very hard to develop only crude handwriting. Averted in the current run by Amy Chu where she demonstrates the ability read English signs within 24 hours of arriving in 21st century New York.
  • Butt-Monkey: In the Gail Simone run; she's been thrown in the mud by bouncers, has a chef turn her down when she's practically begging him for sex, and a swordsman spanks her in the butt before she falls face first in the mud. Finally a barbarian who saw her get humiliated gives her the nickname Mud Sonja. Stuff like this would never happen in the previous Dynamite incarnations.
  • Celibate Hero: Until the Gail Simone's run retconned it, Sonja was defined by her celibacy vow unless if a man defeated her in fair combat. The nature of her vows and whether or not she would lose her skills should she ever had sex depends on who is writing it. She does show attraction to certain men from time to time, but these never develop into true relationships, though according to her past narrated in Queen Sonja, she did have a boyfriend during her teenage years after her rape without losing her abilities. Its implied that in addition to her vows to the goddess, she also refuses to love any men because she still grieves her beloved's death and wants to Never Be Hurt Again.
  • Chainmail Bikini: Usually attributed to artist Esteban Maroto. Red Sonja is the Trope Codifier, if not the Ur-Example.
  • Color Character: Red Sonja.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Especially in Gail Simone's run on the series.
    • Sonja uses her Chainmail Bikini to distract male opponents.
    • In Legends of Red Sonja she tells a former adventuring partner to spread lies about her cowardice and lack of prowess so a group of hunters tracking her will be caught off guard.
    • When it comes to a straight-up fight, she's perfectly willing to put on a suit of full plate armor and pull out all the stops with her swordfighting skills.
    • In Amy Chu's run, Sonja encounters a group of mercenaries on a quest and demands to join them. When their hulking leader mocks her in front of a crowded tavern and tells her there's no more room in the party, she calmly chops him in the windpipe and punches him out, before telling his group that she'll be taking his place.
  • Depending on the Writer: Red Sonja has been subjected to various retcons depending on who's writing her at the time - with changes ranging from whether she was the oldest child or the youngest child in her family, how old she was when her family was slaughtered, whether she got raped or not and why she was raped (originally the bandit leader was just horny and saw a beautiful red-headed girl, while in the Dynamite comics - Sonja was just a tweenie but she pissed off the bandits and they decided to rape her in revenge), whether she was divinely granted abilities or did she just develop them naturally and etc.
  • Distaff Counterpart: To Conan the Barbarian.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: This is sometimes given as the reason for the Chainmail Bikini. The Pathfinder stats for Red Sonja from Pathfinder: Worldscape show her chainmail bikini doesn't give her any armor bonus at all (her only armor bonus comes from Bracers of Armor +4), but she does have an ability that lets her add her Charisma bonus (18, for a +4 bonus) to Armor Class when not wearing armor,
    Opponents are distracted by her boo—, uh, "confidence and personality".
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Sonja frequently turns to alcohol when she is depressed. Her volatile state when drunk has made her the bane of any unfortunate barkeep's existence.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: She wore a downright modest regular chainmail shirt in her first few comic appearances but gained her signature bikini for the first issue of Savage Sword of Conan.
  • Eternal Hero: After a story in which Sonja dies, the subsequent story has the character being reincarnated. This is later revealed to be a mystic line of reincarnation, back to the days before humans used weapons—Sonja's original incarnation was the first to do so. Apparently being a Fiery Redhead is actually the real power of the line, as her fury is what allows each incarnation a way of becoming a great warrior regardless of circumstances, but depending on how she does it, that fury means she can end up a great hero or a great villain.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Happens from time to time. Sonja herself is apparently accustomed to this treatment and even flaunts it when opportunities arise.
    Sonja: I'm Red Sonja. I'm everyone's type.
  • Exposed to the Elements: Sonja both averts this and plays this straight, depending on the writer and artist of the story. The better writers will have her wearing several layers of fur when she is in a snow-covered realm. The worst ones will have her marching through the snow or rain in a Chainmail Bikini without even as much as a fur cloak.
  • Farm Girl: In almost all of her incarnations, Red Sonja and her family were farmers/foresters before they got attacked. (Though in the '80s novels - Sonja's father was a mercenary captain before mustering out and settling down to farm.)
  • Fiery Redhead: Red Sonja is named for her hair and known for her rage, battle- and otherwise. Roy Thomas said he drew from Red Sonya of Rogitano of The Shadow of the Vulture when creating Sonja.
  • Genius Bruiser: In the Dragan the Magnificent arc, prior to returning to Hyrkania she had studied under a Sun-Tzu expy, Domo the greatest warmaster in Khitai. Not only can she read, but she's had 4 years of daily strategy and tactical lessons from him. The Dragan story often had Queen Sonja be a general as much as fighting in person.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Sonja to a tee. Offend her or attack innocents in her presence and she'll usually offer a Badass Boast; those who apologize and leave live, but those who refuse are almost universally executed. Corrupt leaders don't even get the chance to leave because by the time Sonja is in their presence, she's aware of their greater crimes.
  • The High Queen: Just like Conan, Sonja also became queen by her own hand when taking the throne of Songaria. Despite her past as The Lad-ette and not being royal born, she was regal and queenly in every other way as well as devoted in protecting her realm. In the Dragan the Magnificent story arc, Sonja is voted into being Queen of Hyrkania by the desperate rubes (Hyrkania here is a primitive land of tents, bandits and goats) - Sonja is queenly and regal because she was a high ranking officer of Khitai before the Emperor got deposed by his treasonous son.
  • The Lad-ette: Especially in Gail Simone's run. Sonja is not particularly modest, has an aggressive appetite for sex, booze and food, sings bawdy songs and has a mouth as foul as anyone else's she might encounter.
  • Like a Duck Takes to Water: In runs where Sonja was granted mastery over weapons by Scathach, she can turn virtually any object into an instrument of death with expert skill. In the current run by Amy Chu, her ability to learn new skills is practically a superpower. Arriving in New York, she quickly figures out how to use a remote control to operate a television and becomes almost fluent in English in 24 hours ... a faster learning curve than Wonder Woman. She somehow also learns how to read English without being taught and even picks up how to drive a motorbike just by riding on the back of one(with a nasty hangover, to boot).
  • Little Miss Bad Ass: In the Dynamite comics one-shot Sanctuary, Sonja mentions that she started her career as Scathach's enforcer when she was 12.
  • Mistaken for Prostitute: This happens to Sonja on a semi-regular basis; largely due to her habit of hanging around seedy taverns in her Chain Mail Bikini. This usually ends badly for the person making the mistake, although she always gives them the opportunity to apologize before kicking their ass. They seldom take it.
  • Most Common Super Power: One of the most blatant examples. Sonja has very buxom breasts.
  • Ms. Fanservice: One of the most well known examples in comics due to being the Trope Codifier for the Chainmail Bikini trope.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Sonja is far stronger than most men she encounters but lacks the muscle mass to illustrate this, although other characters will occasionally mention that she's exceptionally well built for a woman.
  • Never Gets Drunk: Type 3a. Red Sonja *can* get drunk and often *does* but her capacity for alcohol is prodigious, probably even higher than Conan’s. In Amy Chu’s current series, having been transported through time and space to modern-day New York, Sonja finds herself a bar, makes friends quickly despite her inability to speak English and ends up in a big drinking session with her new buddies. When her cop friend Max comes by to pick her up, he finds her passed out drunk with a bar tab of 837 dollars to settle. The bartender tells Max it’s all her’s. Word of God is that there was a glitch with the calculations … based on the price of beer on the wall, 837 bucks would’ve bought nearly 300 beers but Amy Chu ‘only’ intended Sonja to have gone through 120 beers, equalling the personal best of André the Giant. Bear in mind that Andre was about 7’0’’ and 450lbs at the time and Sonja’s 6’0’’ and 140.
  • Perfect Pacifist People: Believe it or not, but Sonja belongs to one as revealed in the Wrath of the Gods miniseries. Her people are the Bundini, a red-haired race of humans defined as a peaceful shepherds, advisers and merchants rather than warriors and as such, they were bullied and persecuted by everyone in Hyboria. According to their legend, they would one day breed a powerful warrior without parallel, which is incidentally Sonja herself.
  • Pirate Girl: Sonja has been a pirate from time to time.
  • Private Military Contractors: When she's not righting wrongs and helping the helpless (or getting into bar fights, or killing people for looking at her funny, or cutting her way through a few dozen guards of the latest guy to kidnap her and try to make her part of his harem and then making him wear his ass as a hat, or any of the other sort of violence she engages in), Sonja tends to make a living as one of these.
  • Rape as Backstory: She became the badass warrior she did partly out of a reaction to being raped when she was a girl.
  • Rape as Drama: Sonja's original backstory uses this as an inciting element (along with, y'know, the deaths of her entire family).
  • Real Men Love Jesus: A female example, since she is extremely devout to Scathatch, the deity that granted Sonja her fighting abilities.
  • Red Is Heroic: A heroic redhead.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Part of her backstory, but also like her Spear Counterpart Conan, would often find herself motivated to them, especially against foes that took particular delight in their crimes against women.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Her height is officially 5'11" ... in the current series by Amy Chu, she's 6'0" and was played by the 6'0" Brigitte Nielsen in the movie.
  • Stripperiffic: Obviously. Probably the only major comic character who routinely wears less than her is Namor. Justified in the Dynamite Series that Red Sonja deliberately wears it to distract her mostly male adversaries.
    Sonja: Men are easily distracted. Most don't even notice my sword until their head rolls off their necks.
  • Supporting Protagonist: In the first 3 of the six '80s Red Sonja novels by David Smith and Richard Tierney, Red Sonja is there to support the local protagonist of the story - in fact, she's not even close to dealing with the Big Bad of the respective first 2 novels. The first book The Ring of Ikribu, it was Duke Pelias and a bunch of Stygian cultists that dealt with the sorcerer Asroth - Sonja merely found the McGuffin before having to eventually turn it over and act as supporting muscle. The second book Demon Night, it was renegade temple virgin Tiamu who destroyed the Corrupt Church and released the Earthfolk, Sonja mostly putzed around on the run and indirectly led Tiamu to where she needed to go.
  • Touched by Vorlons: The source of Sonja's power in comics where her abilities are supernatural, the early run of Dynamite comics had her granted her swordsmanship by the goddess Scathach and in the novels the blue vision that gave her power was a manifestation of her own spirit - Sonja was a True Soul, a person of great destiny, and through this she gave herself supernatural swordsmanship (sorcerers in the novel can actually detect that her fighting abilities are magical in nature).
  • Tragic Keepsake: Her Chainmail Bikini is revealed to be this in Queen Sonja. It was a Beautiful Slave Girl outfit given by her boyfriend Kain to infiltrate a sacrifice chamber and rescue their allies. He was killed during their mission and she wore this outfit ever since in his honor.
  • Walking the Earth: Sonja is usually depicted wandering from town to town. Occasionally she gets a quest that gives direction for a month or two.
  • World's Best Warrior: In several versions, Sonja is either the uncontested greatest warrior in the world or has only Conan as a true peer.

    Comic Tropes 
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Thulsa Doom in the Dynamite run look more like his movie counterpart than the original, skull-headed necromancer from the original Kull stories.
  • An Arm and a Leg: At one point Sonja's hands are burned to the point of being permanently crippled to prevent her from ever holding a weapon again.
  • Ancient Egypt: Represented by Stygia: pyramid as mausoleum, slave labor, stereotypical dress, and a Nepharious Pharaoh.
  • Androcles' Lion: In Red Sonja: Beserker, Sonja rescues a polar bear cub from a pair of sadistic hunters who were tormenting it. The bear stays with her through winter. Years later, Sonja has been sentenced to die in the arena and a bear is unleashed against her. It turns out to be the same bear and refuses to attack her. The two team up and escape the arena.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Most individual arcs as well as the end of Simone's run ended on this note, with Sonja riding off into the sunset to find more battles to fight.
  • Animal Assassin: Sonja sets the arena animals on their masters in Red Sonja: Berserker.
  • Annoying Arrows: Notably averted, at least in the Simone run. Sonja recognizes archers as a threat (having been one herself) and will write off any plan that requires charging them.
  • Anticlimax: With only a day remaining before her deadline Sonja bashes into an inn and declares she's taking Rakaua with her and slaughtering everyone who gets in her way. The innkeeper happily informs her that they've heard of her quest and are honored to assist. Rakaua still requests he be carried out over her shoulder (for dramatic reasons) but Sonja is underwhelmed by the whole experience.
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: In What If? v2 #16, a crossover with Wolverine, Red Sonja is beaten by Wolverine and essentially gives up and waits for him to rape her, but he walks away, disgusted by the idea and saying "Sorry, darlin', that ain't my style." Sonja is both perplexed and slightly insulted, so she follows him. After their next meeting he warms up to her, and she eventually becomes his queen.
  • Armed with Canon: Gail Simone had Sonja encounter Osric the Untouched, a seemingly invincible swordsman who has his skills given to him by the gods and who can only have sex with the person who defeats him in battle. Sonja declares that she has never heard of anything so stupid.
  • Astrologer: Samala believes "the greatest stargazer in the world" is an astrologer, but defined target Plaitius is an astronomer.
  • Avenging the Villain: After the death of Kalas-ra, his brother Katharas-ra comes hunting for his killer.
  • Back for the Finale: Not quite the finale, but the penultimate plot has Sonja's friends show up to say goodbye as she lies on her deathbed. Ayla and Nias, Gribaldi and Avena, Plaitius, Rat, Rakaua, Osric, and even Annisia all appear in addition to a mob of nameless extras claiming to represent villages that Sonja protected.
  • Back from the Dead: Dark Annisia joins Sonja's friends for their Back for the Finale mourning party.
  • Badass Boast: In the Gail Simone version she throws these before or halfway through almost every fight. Apparently it's much more successful offscreen.
    Osric: Do they always run?
    Sonja: I'd say it's about half and half.
  • Band of Brothels: Aneva's brothel is an abusive one in that Captain Ferox protects them from outside violence but no one protects the workers from him and his men. Aneva's stated dream is to create a prostitute-run band.
  • Bar Brawl: A common trope in Red Sonja stories, usually at the start of a story and leading to Sonja getting into trouble. There were a couple of instances in Frank Thorne's run at Marvel and a great one early in the Dynamite reboot, with a fantastic cover by Adam Hughes. There have been instances of Sonja starting brawls because she's been out of sorts but usually trouble will occur when another character hits on her or when they are bullying another character. In such instances, Sonja usually comes out on top, relying on any available weapons. She's cut off the wandering hands of would-be admirers with her sword, she's smashed guys with tankards and she's flattened groups of men with her bare hands. There's a short but neat bar brawl in the current series by Amy Chu, where Sonja picks up a table with one hand and hurls it across the bar like a softball, taking a gigantic thug off his feet ... Chu's Sonja is a cut above most Sonjas and Word of God is that she is pretty much superhuman.
  • Bathe Her and Bring Her to Me: Has happened to her more than once, when some Evil Overlord decides to make her part of his harem. See the Sonja Goes East one-shot for one such example.
  • Beastly Bloodsports: Kalayah the Beastmaster oversees these in the Art of Blood and Fire arc.
  • The Beastmaster: Kalayah claims the title but his assistant Rat does the actual work. She frees herself by setting the gladiator animals loose on Kalayah knowing their love for her will leave her safe. Later she's seen asking a gorilla to break a jail cell and sending her hawk Windsong into combat.
  • Black Magic: Occasionally used by villains. To be fair, it's probably their only hope against the She-Devil with a Sword.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Roy Thomas has said that when he 'created' Sonja, he made her a redhead so she would be visually distinct from the other major women in Conan's life: the black haired Belit and the blonde Valeria.
  • Bodyguard Babes:
    • The Red Sisters serve as the Praetorian Guard to Sonja as Queen of Songaria.
    • Ayla and Nias from the Gail Simone's run also serve Sonja.
  • Bookends: Gail Simone writes them for her run on the character: the first page of Queen of Plagues shows Sonja sleeping in the woods about to be attacked by three men while the last page of The Forgiving of Monsters shows Halayah recording the same encounter for posterity.
  • The Caligula: When she wasn't killing evil sorcerers, Red Sonja was often killing mad kings, many of whom attempted to imprison her in their harem.
  • Captured on Purpose: In The Art of Blood and Fire Sonja makes an assassination attempt against Kalayah, motivating him to capture and imprison her, which allows her to break free (with Rat's help) within his compound and set his own animals against him.
  • Carnival of Killers: The Gray Riders, a group of twelve mercenaries and assassins hired to hunt down and kill Sonja in the Legends of Red Sonja mini-series.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Sonja arrives in the bogmen's camp to rescue the chef Gribaldi. Gribaldi foraged some eggs and lizards a few weeks ago and has been cooking them for the tribe. Those eggs and lizards were actually the offspring of lizardmen who choose to attack the bogmen within hours of Sonja's arrival, slaughtering the bogmen so she and Gribaldi can escape.
  • Cool Old Lady: Gerd, the blacksmith and retired adventurer who gives Sonja her very first Chainmail Bikini in a story by Rhianna Pratchett in Legends of Red Sonja. She cut an impressive figure herself before she settled down.
  • Crossover: Red Sonja has crossed over with a number of others from Claw the Unconquered (a Barbarian Hero from a different publisher) to Spider-Man and Wolverine. She was also a major figure in the Dynamite Swords of Sorrow event, which included Dejah Thoris, Vampirella, and Snow White among others.
  • Curse: With his dying breath Kalas-ra curses Sonja to be incapable of forgiveness. His intent is that her inability to control her rage will see her killed by an angry mob or at least exiled.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Dark Annisia endured the fighting pits alongside Sonja. Annisia was driven mad, hearing the ghosts of everyone they were forced to slaughter to stay alive and constantly promising to deliver more company to them.
  • Decadent Court: Despite Songara appearing to be peaceful and isolated from the rest of Hyboria, Sonja quickly finds out their nobles are a cutthroat bunch that do not take kindly to a foreigner (and a woman, no less) being on the throne and they attempt to find ways to remove or subvert her.
  • Death by Irony: Kalas-ra's vengeance against Sonja is for her to lose control of her rage, resulting in her attacking innocents and allies to turn them against her.
  • Defiant to the End:
    • Plaitius the stargazer. He faces torture and execution for his observations defying the divine writ of the rector, but refuses to recant even to save his own life.
    • Death offers Sonja a job as Death's personal enforcer, seeking glory in battle for eternity. Sonja refuses, mostly to prove that she can.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?:
    • Evil Sorcerer Thulsa Doom slays an Elder God in Queen Sonja #20. Overlaps with Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?, as he first tricks it into giving him enough power to allow him to kill it.
    • Sonja herself gets this a lot; in one mini-series she kills Woden, Loki, the Fenris Wolf and the Midgard Serpent. She also becomes a Witchblade wielder in another mini-series and defeats a fallen archangel.
  • Discontinuity Nod: Gail Simone's relaunch dispenses with the "can't have sex unless the man defeats her in battle" aspect of her origin. Instead, a very horny Sonja meets a swordsman who won't have sex with anyone unless they defeat him in battle. She declares it to be the stupidest thing she's ever heard.
  • The Dog Bites Back:
    • In the first arc of Simone's run the queen of the king killed by the mad King of Zamora gets even with him by feeding him the very poison he'd used to decimate the countryside in his drink, resulting in an extremely messy death as all his organs fail at once.
    • Both metaphoric and literal examples in the Art of Blood and Fire arc: the apprentice Rat releases all the caged animals at once on their abusive trainer Kalayah.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: Sonja's first appearance was an adaptation of Howard's non-Conan story The Shadow of the Vulture.
  • Duel to the Death: Invoked by Sonja to beat Osric, the greatest swordsman in the world. Turns out he is a better swordsman in a duel, but if death is on the line her steely nerves hold up where his fail.
  • Emergency Transformation: It happened to Sonja in the crossover event Prophecy when she is fatally poisoned by a Mayan demon and in order to save her life, Dracula turns her into a vampire. She was still a vampire at the end of the story and for a short time in her regular series, until it was reversed.
  • Enigmatic Empowering Entity: The "red goddess" Scáthach (known as "The Lady" in some accounts) who grants Sonja her fighting skills in the Marvel Comics version of her origin.
  • Evil All Along: The thief Jubal, who personally trained Sonja in her youth, was revealed to be a Kulan Gath's follower who tried to resurrect his master before Sonja stopped him.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • Crimson Katherine from Giant-Size Red Sonja #2.
    • Dark Annisia in Queen of Plagues.
  • Evil Overlord: Many of Sonja's enemies are warlords or dictators bent on military domination, such as the king of Zamora.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Kulan Gath, the brothers Kalas-ra and Katharas-ra, and many others.
  • Eye Scream: Sonja gets an eye removed by a vindictive warlord in Black Tower, due to some timestream repairing when a possible clone/bastard daughter or whatnot of Sonja went back to the past, losing the eye was undone.
  • The Fagin: Jubal in Queen Sonja was a criminal that trained children to pickpocket and "conscripted" Sonja during her teenage years.
  • Fanservice: Not just our female protagonist provides this. Named male characters are often depicted shirtless with excellent muscle definition such as Lord Ariok.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The Art of Blood and Fire arc has Sonja collecting six artisans. As they journey with her they band together so that when she is captured, they all contribute to her escape (except for the dancer, who was the last to join).
    Sonja: They could have lived lives of endless surplus. They chose friendship instead.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: She is thrown into modern times with frequent regularity such as her crossover with Spider-Man, the Dynamite crossover Prophecy and the 2017 run where she was magically displaced in time and is trying to adapt to modern times.
  • Forgiveness: Obviously, a heavy theme in The Forgiving of Monsters arc.
    • Kalas-ra curses Sonja to be unable to forgive, intending that this will lead to her being cast out and/or murdered by the people she protects.
    • A barkeep who suffers Sonja's rage as a result forgives her publicly, nullifying the curse's effect in that town.
    • Sonja asks Death's forgiveness for opposing her in a literal Duel to the Death. Death, who understands Sonja's nature and is barely inconvenienced by the encounter, agrees.
    • When Sonja catches up to Fellan, she tells him that he is forgiven since he is no longer the man who sinned against her.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: When Sonja meets Death in her fever dream, Death appears as Sonja-but-more-so: ten feet tall in a chainmail bikini with prominent skull motif. Death intends it as a compliment after all the people Sonja has delivered to her arms.
  • Full-Frontal Assault:
    • On a few occasions, Red Sonja has broken out of a harem and fought while clothed only with shadow.
    • In the third Smith/Tierney novel, When Hell Laughs, her Chainmail Bikini is torn off her in the middle of battle. She fights on, and makes no attempt to cover herself even when the danger is past. (For the remainder of the novel series she wears more practical armor, though the cover art keeps the bikini.)
    • It also happens in the first act of Red Sonja: Blue; during battle with a monster to save a young man from being a virgin sacrifice, her top is ripped away. This, naturally, just pisses her off, and after defeating the monster (berating the boy not to look all through the rest of the battle) skins it to wear its blue fur as a makeshift tunic.
    • A male example happens in Queen Sonja when Ariok is ambushed by a couple of nobles while taking a bath and he is forced to beat them all up while naked.
  • Funny Background Event: While Gribaldi, Rat, Aneva, Osric, and Plaitius are fighting for Sonja's freedom, Rakaua is lost in his dancing in the background.
  • Gladiator Games: Commonly overlapped with slavery.
    • Sonja is sentenced to the arena in the Red Sonja: Berserker one-shot.
    • In the Gail Simone run, she and Dark Annisia used to be slaves fighting in an arena for the King of Zamora's amusement until they were rescued.
  • God Is Evil: Odin and Loki from the Norse pantheon in Wrath of the Gods are monstrous beings that rule the realm of Aesir with iron fist and aim to wipe out the Bundini people off from existence and return to Earth just to re-establish their control over mortals. Thor, on the other hand, averts this trope, being half-Bundini and being genuinely heroic and kind towards humans.
  • Go-Go Enslavement: A frequent trait of bad guys. The King of Zamora is shown having multiple slaves of both genders from kingdoms he's conquered, including at least one queen whose husband he murdered.
  • Gold Digger: Laranda-fa, the Empress Dowager, was a common peasant until she married the emperor. It's implied she murdered him to wield his power.
  • Gotta Collect Them All: Sonja is charged with collecting six of the greatest artisans in the world. Four need rescuing from hostile forces, but the other two only need convincing.
  • Great Big Library of Everything: The nuns' Citadel of All Knowledge aspires to be this, but it's really quite small in that context. Considering the time period and the practical difficulties of travel, it may well be the largest collection of knowledge in the world.
  • Great White Feline: Issue #50 of the original Dynamite run has Sonja accompanying an Egomaniac Hunter known as Lord Kinzara on a hunt for a mythical beast known as the Cloud Tiger which takes the form of a large, terrifying white tiger. Sonja convinces him to journey to the top of a mountain with just her and leave his hunting party behind. When they are confronted by the Cloud Tiger, it is revealed that Kinzara was the leader of the bandits who murdered Sonja's family and raped her when she was a child. Sonja has spent years tracking him down and used his obsession with hunting to lure him to his doom. Sonja leaves Kinzara to be killed by the Cloud Tiger and avenges her family.
  • A Handful for an Eye: Sonja pulls this trick on Raven in the Red Sonja: Raven one-shot.
  • Healing Potion: The alchemist of Queen of Plagues develops one, but is killed shortly thereafter. The last few drops he manufactured are delivered to Sonja as she lies dying.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Aneva. When introduced, her dream is to unite the prostitutes into a guild for their own protection. She agrees to join Sonja to save the lives of slaves who will be freed if Sonja succeeds.
  • Human Shield:
    • Sonja uses Rudus' body to as a shield to close against archer Haron in the final issue of The Forgiving of Monsters.
    • Used tactically by Sonja whenever she's outnumbered. She'll maneuver around frontline fighters to keep a body between herself and arrows/bolts.
      Sonja: Basic combat. When surrounded, as the arrows start flying, it's not a matter of how you stand. It's where.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Done to Sonja constantly, whether its by mad kings and dark lords trying to add her to their harems or turn her into a Hot Consort, or by barbarian brutes looking forward to defeat her in combat to take her as their prize. Not even female villains (like the Queen of the Frozen Wastes) are exempt from pulling this to. Of course, this is always a bad idea.
  • I Lied: Though never directly stated, this was Samala's plan all along. Sonja is unsurprised but still pissed.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The bog people delight in consuming outsiders who enter their swamps as a delicacy.
  • Important Haircut: In the final few pages of The Forgiving Of Monsters Sonja cuts her long red hair short, symbolizing her learned control of her rage.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Red Sonja has always been a boozer and this probably reached its zenith under Gail Simone, where she was a full-blown alcoholic who could barely function without booze. Current writer Amy Chu has dialled that back a bit but her Sonja still loves a drink. In the storyline where Kulan Gath transports her through time to modern-day New York, her first priority after escaping captivity is food and her second is ale. Sonja pretty much says the trope title while walking around Harlem looking for a bar.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: The final page of Simone's last issue shows Halayah carefully chronicling Sonja's adventures (starting with Simone's first) for the Citadel of All Knowledge.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Rare heroic variant: when Rudus offers injured Sonja the chance to kiss his blade to earn a swift coup de grace, she uses it to get inside his reach and stab him.
  • Kangaroo Court: Sonja finds herself before one in the Red Sonja: Berserker one -shot after maiming two young hotheads who mistook her for a prostitute and then attacked. One of them was the son of the justicar who sat in judgement on her.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Kalayah the Beastmaster not only runs a savage arena pitting animals against each other, after he captures Sonja he puts her horses into the ring — hamstrung, so they can't run or fight back.
    • Laranda-fa forces a slave to brush her hair, then has her executed when the brush shows the girl broke off too many hairs.
  • Lizard Folk: There is a tribe in the bogmen's swamp, secret enough that Gribaldi doesn't recognize their young as an intelligent species. Sonja dubs them mindless predators, but they are intelligent enough to coordinate an attack on the bogmen (who were prepared for such), to use the table for their feast, and to speak at least a few words.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Kalas-ra, who pulls his cavern sanctuary down on top of himself as he's dying of bloodloss. Sonja sprints to the exit.
    Sonja: I'll say this about wizards. They are very poor losers.
  • Lost Food Grievance: Sonja likes ale, and does not like absence of ale.
    • She objects vehemently when Gribaldi uses Cimmerian ale to cook instead of drink.
    • It's reversed when Sonja uses Gribaldi's artisanal soup as an improvised weapon.
  • Low Fantasy: Usually, with some variation depending who's writing. Sonja isn't often motivated to take down a Big Bad or Ultimate Evil, nor does she often work alongside other adventurers. She's taking on quests to earn money to get drunk and fights whenever she feels like it.
  • Magic Feather: Havan the Fire Maker loses his ability to summon fire. He sought out other magic users to find what he was missing. Sonja re-empowers him by claiming to be a witch princess and commanding him to restore his fire.
  • Man-Eating Plant: Savage Tales #5.
  • Mark of Shame: In the Queen of Plauges arc Sonja's face is marked with one after she contracts the plague.
  • Master Swordsman:
    • Red Sonja is dangerous with a bow or improvised weapons, but she's most deadly with her sword.
    • Also Osric the Untouched, a duelist so named because he's never been touched by his opponents' blades.
  • Mercy Kill: Sonja shoots a mortally injured bear in Kalayah's arena, drawing his ire.
  • Nepharious Pharaoh: Emperor Samala of Stygia.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: A villainous version of this appears in the 2nd issue of Red Sonja: The Black Tower. After maiming the thug Fengar Tolt in the previous issue, he becomes a mighty warlord and captures Sonja. Not only that, he also has one of her eyes cut out. None of these events are shown on-panel.
  • Oh My Gods!: "By Ishtar and Mitra!"
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Plaitius the stargazer is learned in physics to conduct his craft, but he also claims to be an expert in "potions and powders", i.e. biology and chemistry.
  • One-Sided Arm-Wrestling: In the ‘Lost In New York’ storyline mentioned under Bar Brawl, Never Gets Drunk and I Need a Freaking Drink above, Sonja finds a seedy bar and while she’s knocking back a couple of beers, she notices a big guy called Luis crushing his friend in an arm-wrestle. Luis then invites the statuesque female barbarian in the chainmail bikini to step up, hoping to Best Her to Bed Her and figuring he’s got an easy win on his hands. Unfortunately for him, Sonja immediately smashes his arm down without blinking. With the other patrons laughing at him, Luis complains that he wasn’t ready, so Sonja offers to take him on again. Once more, she immediately and effortlessly beats him, with Luis saying he thinks she broke his wrist. The next panel shows Sonja beating a huge bald guy with ease in an arm-wrestle and this particular bout goes viral on social media and alerts her enemy Kulan Gath to her presence. The strong implication here is that the She-Devil beat every single challenger in the bar without breaking a sweat, although we only see her taking on two. Now factor in that Sonja was sporting a nasty head-wound in the scene and also had a nasty gunshot wound to her arm-wrestling shoulder, suffered in the previous issue. Word of God is that Red Sonja is as strong as six normal men. We also get instances of her destroying huge guys at armwrestling in the Red Sonja Halloween Special (2018)and in Invincible Red Sonja #1 (2021)
  • Our Dragons Are Different: One dark wizard shows off by conjuring wyrms to devour his enemies.
  • Pirates: Just as with Conan the Barbarian, pirates feature prominently in the Red Sonja stories: both as enemies and allies.
  • Playing with Fire: Havan the Fire Maker can conjure and control flames.
  • Plot Coupon: The six artisans Sonja collects in The Art of Blood and Fire.
  • Poison Is Evil: Zigzagged. Poison is evil if used indiscriminately, but acceptable if targeted and used by someone otherwise physically incapable of murdering them.
    • Poison is used by the villains of Queen of Plagues to kill off enemy militaries before a fair fight even starts. The men in question are depicted as cowardly and unnatural.
    • The same arc sees one of them heroically poisoned by his own attendant at risk of her own life.
    • In the next arc, a chef poisons an evil king when he reneges on his bargain with Sonja.
    • The poisoned daggers of Utro are treated as evil since they subject victims to excruciatingly painful death.
  • Poisoned Weapons: Utro the Needle uses daggers covered in dung to cause lethal infection from a scratch.
  • The Problem with Fighting Death: Referenced but handwaved. Sonja goes toe-to-toe and is unabashedly disrespectful when she fights Death herself. After the fight Death communicates that she's not displeased and there's no bad blood between them.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Not Sonja, but some of her foes fall into this category, such as the Queen of the Frozen Wastes.
  • Redemption Earns Life: Fellan the woodsman was the only survivor of the band that killed Sonja's family. He fled and escaped her wrath until she hunted him down decades later. She forgave him since he gave up raiding and went into self-imposed exile.
  • Retcon: Happened partially when Dynamite first re-introduced Red Sonja. While almost all the other details have been kept the same, her age had been reduced to tweeny-hood in her origin (perhaps to increase the believable length of her adventuring career) and she was made to be the youngest child not the oldest. In the latest Gail Simone version, her origin seems to be retconned again, this time making her successful revenge against the killers of her family come from her own childhood skills as a hunter rather than being powered-up by a goddess and there seems to be no rape.
  • Retool: The Gail Simone series, with an eye toward Reconstruction.
  • Sanity Slippage: Over the Queen of Plagues arc Dark Annisia transitions from a competent and fearsome general protecting the world from dangerous plague to a bloodthirsty executioner driven mad by the weight of deaths she's caused.
  • Savage Piercings: Katharas-ra wears facial jewelry: two nails driven through his right eyebrow and eyelid and spacer earrings in his nostrils.
  • Scarecrow Solution: Played by Gravaha the Clever in her in-universe children's book when she dressed a field of cornstalks as an army to intimidate an enemy with terrible eyesight.
  • Schmuck Bait: Gribaldi announces his first appetizer to his captor as Khitaian mushroom pate, which the man happily eats. Minutes later Gribaldi announces that any gourmand would know Khitaian mushrooms are poisonous.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Samala empowers Sonja to get the cooperation of the six greatest artisans in the world for his party by offering any amount of money. None of them accept the money, but Sonja persuades them by other means.
    • Gribaldi the chef is just happy to repay Sonja for his rescue from the cannibal tribe.
    • Rat the beastmaster likewise repays Sonja for ending Kalayah's Beastly Bloodsports.
    • Avena the courtesan is willing to help secure the release of Samala's slaves.
    • Osric the swordsman agrees after Sonja defeats him in a duel.
    • Plaitius the stargazer wants a platform to educate people on his observations of physics.
    • Rakaua the dancer finds Sonja's quest noble and interesting.
  • The Secret of Long Pork Pies: Inverted by Gribaldi among the cannibal bogmen. By day they captured travelers and brought them to him to cook for dinner. Instead he cooked foraged foods and released the travelers.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sibling Team: The Red Sisters in Queen Sonja and Ayla and Nias in the Simone's 2013 run.
  • Single-Minded Twins: Ayla and Nias, the two hunters sent to track Sonja. They're always in the frame together and complete each other's sentiments if not sentences.
  • Sleeping Their Way to the Top: Laranda-fa was a commoner girl until she caught the attention of the emperor with her beauty. Shortly thereafter they were married, and shortly after that he was dead.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: Kulan Gath.
  • Spiked Wheels: She acquires a Boudicca-style chariot, complete with spiked wheels, for leading troops into battle in Queen Sonja #4.
  • Supreme Chef: Gribaldi, renowned as the greatest chef in the world. It's implied that his skills were either the reason the bogmen allowed him to live as a slave or else why they captured him in the first place.
  • The Straight and Arrow Path:
    • This is shown as the first weapon Sonja used when she avenged her family, having practiced hunting rabbits.
    • Ayla and Nias are also expert archers due to their hunting backgrounds.
  • Sword & Sorcery: One of the genre-defining works.
  • Through His Stomach: How Gribaldi earned survival from the bogmen. It helps that they have palates sensitive enough to appreciate his work; Sonja certainly doesn't.
  • Til Murder Do Us Part: Implied to be how Laranda-fa took the throne as Empress Dowager.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Fengar Tolt in the Black Tower, not only was this thug trying to rape a woman in front of Sonja (this is the hugest Berserk Button for her), he also jabs his finger into an exposed part of her breast. He loses a finger as a warning.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: Used defensively by the town when evil wizard Katharas-ra comes hunting injured Sonja.
  • True Craftsman: Gribaldi the expert chef, who cannot prevent himself from turning forage into gourmet meals.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Dark Annisia is dangerous as the general of an army cleansing plaguebearers. When the plague is cured, she refuses to believe it and executes healthy people violating quarantine. When the plague's true cause is finally revealed she snaps completely into bloodthirsty madness.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: Sonja saves a young man from this fate in Red Sonja: Blue.
  • War Elephants: In the 1970s Marvel run, Sonja allied herself with the young ruler of kingdom whose major military strength was its war mammoths.
  • Warrior vs. Sorcerer: Like Conan, Sonja frequently finds herself pitted against Evil Sorcerers, the most recurring of which is Kulan Gath. Sonja has occasionnally expressed a dislike for magic due to bad experiences.
  • Waterfall Shower: Sonja takes one (surrounded by strategic Censor Steam) just before she is captured by an Evil Sorcerer at the start of Red Sonja Annual #4.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Dark Annisia is fighting to stop a mysterious plague from spreading throughout the land. She does so by massacring any population with signs of infection.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Gribaldi cooks and eats eggs and baby Lizard Folk without realizing their intelligence. He is genuinely penitent when he realizes his mistake.
  • Where It All Began: Queen of Plagues quickly flashes back to Sonja's past as a slave gladiator in the king of Zamora's arena with Dark Annisia. The end of the arc sees them return to the same arena to fight with the king of Zamora watching.
  • The Women Are Safe with Us: In Queen Sonja, she finds out that her soldiers are used to killing women and children, and were attempting to rape a rebellious noble's little sister. Even though said noble sent assassins to kill her, Sonja is completely horrified with learning this due to being a rape victim herself, and while she doesn't punish the men for threatening to do this (due to the leader that suggested it being already dead), she warns that she will not tolerate them trying it again.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Sonja defeats a fighter believed to be really strong almost once per issue. They use this excuse.
    Sonja: Every spoor of a mud village has an unbeatable local swordsman. They often say they "slipped" after I thrash them.


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