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Literature / The Eye of Argon

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"Grignr slipped his right hand to his thigh, concealing a small opague object beneath the folds of the g-string wrapped about his waist. Brine wells swelled in Grignr's cold, jade squinting eyes, which grown accustomed to the gloom of the stygian pools of ebony engulfing him, were bedazzled and blinded by flickerering radiance cast forth by the second soldiers's resin torch."

Described as "the worst fantasy novella ever", The Eye of Argon is a story by then 16 year-old Jim Theis. It's the tale of Grignr, a foul-mouthed barbarian warrior who is trying to escape the dungeons of Evil Overlord Agaphim and rescue a young woman named Carthena from a pagan cult who want to sacrifice her to their idol — a statue with one eye called "The Eye of Argon". (A "scarlet emerald", complete with some interesting plumbing.)

Published in the fanzine OSFAN 7 in 1970, the story is well known for its abundant cliches, shoddy spelling, flat characters, wooden dialogue and overly colourful writing. Every woman is a "wench", eyes are "emerald orbs". Almost nothing is ever "said" — instead it is "queried" or "ejaculated" or "husked" or "stated whimsicoracally". There's an extended scene involving elderly cult priests groping Carthena, and she is described earlier as a "half-naked harlot... with a lithe, opaque nose". One cult member randomly faints from an epileptic fit in battle, and another suffers a savage, multi-paragraph Groin Attack.

The most widely-known and circulated copy of the story comes to an abrupt and unsatisfactory halt, and for many years it was believed that the ending was lost forever (or even, in some quarters, that the story was never completed). Recent years have seen the separate discoveries of two intact copies of the fanzine in which The Eye of Argon debuted, so it is now known how the tale ends. (With multiple exclamation marks, it turns out.)

At science fiction conventions, The Eye of Argon is now a sort of parlor game. All participants sit in a circle with a hard copy of the story, and the first one starts reading aloud — pronouncing every word as it's misspelled, and including every adjective. When they finally burst into laughter, the copy is passed to the next person. If a person manages to make it through more than a page, the copy is sometimes passed anyway, on the grounds that the reader must have special training as a news anchor.

A nicely-retyped transcription, not perfect but quite a bit better, has long been in circulation, with a transcriber's note apologising for its inability to reproduce the original's equally awful typesetting and illustrations. It is now also possible to view a facsimile copy of the original publication, in all its strangely-set and oddly-illustrated glory. This facsimile does include the lost ending.

You can also purchase an authorized print edition.

As reading it raw may cause brain damage, you can settle for the MST'd version (by Adam Cadre) which naturally calls out many of the tropes listed here, and it's not hard to find dramatic readings of it on YouTube. It also got the treatment from Let's Drown Out, and a whole season of the podcast 372 Pages We'll Never Get Back reading through it from start to finish. For those who are unable to read it sober, we have the Drinking Game over here. An example of the game can be found here. Geoff Bottone actually wrote a version of the story called Grïgnyr the Ecordian, which aimed to make a compelling version of the story that Theis probably envisioned in his head.

Compare Amanda McKittrick Ros, Atlanta Nights and My Immortal.

This story provides examples of:

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: A nauseating amount. For example, Grignr ducks an axe swing which misses him entirely but ends up severing several scarlet locks from his scalp.
  • Adipose Rex: Agaphim, and Jim makes sure we know about it.
    The paunchy noble’s sagging round face flushed suddenly pale...His sagging flabs rolled like a tub of upset jelly, then compressed as he sucked in his gut in an attempt to conceal his softness...The noble cupped his drooping double chin...The fat prince stood undulating in insurmountable fear...his flabs of jellied blubber pulsating to and fro in ripples of flowing terror.'
  • A Lady on Each Arm: Agaphim sits with a naked wench at each arm in his throne room.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: The narration establishes that the soldier who confronts Grignr in the tavern normally wouldn't have done so, but he was too drunk to realize starting a fight with a huge, well-armed man over a hooker instead of waiting his turn with her wasn't worth the risk.
  • Amusing Injuries: Double subverted when the head priest gets kicked in the nuts — or rather, between them. Rather than saying something like "With a groan of pain, the priest crumpled to the ground, doubled up over his knees and clutching himself," Theis treats us to a long paragraph giving a blow-by-blow of the priest's bizarre reaction by body part. This is so over-the-top (such as the priest's knees wobbling "rapidly about for a few seconds"), that it comes across like it's being played for comedy, but it's treated seriously in the narrative. However, the hyper-dramatic, exquisitely detailed prose makes the whole situation amusing to imagine.
  • Angrish: Prince Agaphim starts to spout "muffled sibilant gibberish" when Grignir calls him a fat idiot.
  • Anti-Climax:
    • Agaphim, despite being built up as the main villain, is burned alive by Carthena without a fight. He is not even the final challenge of the book.
    • After pages of over-the-top fight scenes, Grignr's final enemy is a mystical leech, the Eye itself, that sucks an absurd amount of blood from his leg only to die when burned with a torch. Downplayed, as it's still the most difficult foe Grignr faces.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • Given that the gene that produces Grignr's red hair also tends to produce fair skin with a tendency to burn and freckle rather than tan evenly (at least in Caucasians; red hair is not unheard of in parts of central Asia), it's rather surprising that Grignr's skin is "bronzed". Most people, let alone red-headed Europeans, would be somewhere between extremely uncomfortable and nearly dead after traveling across a desert in the blazing sun for at least an entire day wearing only a loincloth, a helmet and sandals, but Grignr suffers no ill effects at all. Granted, combinations of red hair and dark skin can occur naturally in non-European or mixed-race populations, and some redheads can develop so many freckles as to appear tanned after extended sun exposure, but on balance it's unlikely that Theis was thinking about either of these. That said, this is a fantasy story, and the ethnicities of its world don't necessarily map onto those of ours.
    • The shaman who gets kicked "between" the testicles grabs his urinary gland in pain.
      • He's described as the "ruptured shaman" after being kicked in the balls by a not-particularly-strong woman wearing sandals. It's remotely possible that this could have ruptured one or both of his testicles, but extremely unlikely.
      • Carthena supposedly kicks the shaman between his testicles. Unless she has a really small foot, this doesn't make much sense. It was probably supposed to say either that he got kicked in the testicles, or between the legs.
    • The following diatribe from the author, after Grignr gets tossed into a cell:
      He has slept three times and had been fed five times since his awakening in the crypt. However, when the actions of the body are restricted its needs are also affected. The need for nourishmnet and slumber are directly proportional to the functions the body has performed, meaning that when free and active Grignr may become hungry every six hours and witness the desire for sleep every fifteen hours, whereas in his present condition he may encounter the need for food every ten hours, and the want for rest every twenty hours.
  • Author Appeal: Almost every chapter contains at least a mention of breasts. Carthena even speaks "bustily".
  • Author Vocabulary Calendar: Theis seems to be fond of the word "swiveled" — or, as he misspells it, "swilveled". Also "stygian," "oval," and "opaque". Every lighting source is a "cuppex" or "cresset", too.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • The prison guards' gear includes huge, two-handed, double-headed battleaxes (slow to swing and difficult to use effectively in the narrow confines of a tunnel) and half-length cloaks with no discernable purpose other than to give prisoners something to grab if they fight back.
    • Agaphim's personal guards wear chainmail made of gold, one of the softest metals known.
    • In Agaphim's throne room, he sits upon a golden throne set on an ivory floor in a lavishly appointed room, with a naked wench at each arm...and, inexplicably, his advisor Agafnd sits on his back (or possibly behind him, making him a literal case of The Man Behind the Man - the wording is very unclear).
    • Agaphim uses a secret tunnel out of the catacombs under his palace as a torture chamber, so he can gloat over his victims. This also means anyone can walk in or out of the catacombs and kill him with impunity.
  • Bad Guy Bar: In the second chapter, Grignr goes to a Gorzom tavern that is filled with mercenaries, cutthroats, and prostitutes, although being an Anti-Hero, he feels right at home there. The real danger is at the prince's palace.
  • Barbarian Hero: Grignr, a very obvious Captain Ersatz of Conan the Barbarian.
  • Barbarian Longhair: The protagonist, northern barbarian Grignr, has long red hair. It's also described as "robust," but given the author's attitude towards adjectives, that could mean almost anything.
  • Battle Cry: Grignr's is "hoarsely piercing." Usually includes the phrase "by the surly beard of Mrifk!"
    • The epileptic shaman, or possibly Grignr's eardrums, give a "maddened, blood lusting screech" when the shaman attacks Grignr.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: The prince and shamen [sic] are always described as fat and disgusting, while Grignr and Carthena are usually portrayed as attractive. Grignr is muscular and ruggedly handsome, and it's implied that he cleans up nicely.
  • The Berserker:
    • Grignr attacks with Unstoppable Rage and wild abandon.
    • The epileptic shaman is "a raving maniac bent soley upon reaking vengeance."
  • BFS: Inverted. Most of the swords described are "a foot of blinding steel", which actually would make them more daggers than swords. Theis might have meant "yard" but there's no way to be sure.
  • The Big Guy: "Huge" Grignr, a "behemoth" with "mighty thews" and "bulging sinews".
  • Bizarrchitecture: Grignr comes across a disused storeroom which inexplicably has a Booby Trap in it. The trap reveals a gap in the floor, which he climbs down, finding himself in a mausoleum. Then, he discovers another Secret Underground Passage in a sarcophagus, which leads down into a sacrificial room.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: As in most Sword and Sorcery fiction, a self-interested Anti-Hero (Grignr) is pitted against an unambigiously evil villain (Agaphim).
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: Subverted. Agafnd and Agaphim wield jewel-hilted daggers, while the "shamen" use similarly jewelled scimitars for self-defense and a carved, solid gold mallet as a sacrificial weapon. All of them are totally ineffectual with these weapons, unable to kill or wound anyone, or even mount an effective defense.
  • Blood Lust: The sacrificial "alter" is sloped with a slit in the lowest corner, which stands above a pail with chalices arranged around it — presumably the "shamen" intend to drain and drink Carthena's blood as part of their ritual, but it's never explicitly stated.
  • Booby Trap: Grignr manages to dodge one he accidentally sets off. It later kills one of the "shamen". See Chekhov's Gun, below.
  • Bookcase Passage: A secret passage out of the palace is opened by twisting a torch bracket and pushing a panel on the wall.
  • Brutish Character, Brutish Weapon: The "shamen" - who are depicted as superstitious and cruel, and whose leader is described as looking like an ape - use a gold mallet as a sacrificial weapon. Being made of gold, it's not much use in an actual fight.
  • The Caligula: Agaphim is a cruel, hedonistic, thin-skinned sadist who has people like slaves in his mines and responds to his people complaining about his oppressive taxes by taxing them even more heavily, apparently for no other reason than sheer cruelty.
  • Captain Obvious: "The foot-trodden floor." As opposed to what?
  • Chekhov's Gun: While sneaking through the castle, Grigr sets off a Booby Trap, but manages to leap out of the way in time. He then realizes that, if any guards are about, simply seeing that the trap has been activated could tip them off to his whereabouts, so he resets the trap. Later on, the same trap saves Grigr from the last of the Argon cultists, who sets it off while trying to sneak up on him.
  • Costume Porn: Oh, so very much, coupled with Purple Prose.
  • Crapsack World: Everyone and everything is roguish and violent.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Agaphim initially plans to have Grignr tortured to death before Agafnd persuades him that forcing him to slave away in the mines would be an even worse punishment.
    Agaphim: Take this uncouth heathen to the vault of misery, and be sure that his agonies are long and drawn out...
  • Cryptic Background Reference:
    • Grignr invokes the name of Mrifk a few times, usually as a swear word ("By the surly beard of Mrifk!"). We can infer that Mrifk is some kind of Ecordian god or culture hero, but any details beyond that - particularly the question of a how a beard can be surly - remain unclear.
    • In addition to the main setting of Gorzom, there are references to a city called Crin (which Grignr is fleeing at the beginning of the story) and Barwego (Carthena's hometown, apparently a duchy that pays tribute to Gorzom).
  • Damsel in Distress: Carthena gets captured by the Argon cultists for use as a Human Sacrifice, and Grignr has to rescue her.
  • Decadent Court: Agaphim lives in incredible luxury, and seems to spend his entire time eating, torturing people, sitting about with naked "wenches", and according to the illustrations, smoking joints.
  • Department of Redundancy Department:
    • "The Stygian cloud of charcoal ebony", which amounts to "the dark cloud of black black".
    • "All that remained was a dark red blotch upon the face of the earth, blotching things up." Blotches tend to do that.
  • Deus ex Machina: Grignr, the barbarian protagonist, is locked in combat with a bunch of cultists. During the fight, one of his opponents just collapses in the middle of the fight from an epileptic "siezure". Downplayed, because Grignr clearly has the upper hand anyway.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Agaphim, with no knowledge of the murder Grignr has committed, sentences Grignr to a lifetime of slavery for insulting him.
  • The Empire: Gorzom (or Gorzam) is said to be part of The Norgolian Empire, who are presumably pretty bad.
  • Evil Chancellor: Agafnd brings the trope to mind, although he and Agaphim are on the same side. Agafnd seems to be the more devious of the two, but he is fiercely loyal to the prince, even jumping in front of Grignr's sword to save his liege. Don't blame yourself if you get Agaphim and Agafnd mixed up, though.
  • Evil Laugh: Agaphim does this twice: first a "nobly cackle" of "Ha, Ha Ha, Haaa", then later a "Ha-a".
  • The Evil Prince: Agaphim. His response to his subjects complaining about oppressive taxes is to tax them even more oppressively. As prince of a city within an empire, it's ambiguous what his relationship is to the larger imperial regime, or whether he is in line to be king of something grander than Gorzom.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Carthena claims that the human-sacrificing Cult of Argon is enemies with Agaphim and his oppressive regime, who worship a god called Sargon.
  • Fainting: One of the shamen [sic] faints for no reason, Carthena passes out quite a few times, but Grignr — despite losing a bathtub's-worth of blood at the climax — never faints.
  • Fanservice Extra: The naked women at Agaphim's arms. Neither of them has any dialogue, name, or characterization, and they contribute nothing to the story. They're just there to show Agaphim's decadence.
  • Fat Bastard: Agaphim is thoroughly evil and so unbelievably obese that his body fat appears to act of its own accord.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Agafnd persuades Agaphim that sentencing Grignr to a life of slave labor would be more of a punishment than being tortured to death.
  • Fiery Redhead: Grignr is our redheaded barbarian hero. His also-redheaded love interest Carthena has her moments of fieriness as well.
  • Flanderization: A rapid-fire example. Agaphim's first described as a "short stocky man" with a "chuncky frame". Fair enough. Within paragraphs, he goes from stocky to "paunchy" and "fat", and in a couple more, judging by his blubbery, jelly-like flabs, massively obese.
  • Gorn: Grignr takes a quarter of a chapter to decapitate a rat, and no gory detail is spared. Earlier, Grignr bisects a man in equal detail.
  • Gratuitous Rape: The "shamen" molest Carthena for no apparent reason.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: When Carthena was one of Agaphim's slaves, a man named Doyanta made the mistake of being nice to her. Agaphim, paranoid that the two of them were romantically involved (Carthena claims they weren't, although Grignr isn't convinced), had Doyanta tortured to death.
  • Groin Attack: The attack itself is quick, but the priest's reaction takes an entire two paragraphs.
    "Cocking her right foot backwards, she leashed it desperately outwards with the strength of a demon possessed, lodging her sandled foot squarely between the shaman's testicles."
  • Have a Gay Old Time
    • Grignr is repeatedly described as wearing a "g-string". When describing clothing, this used to refer to a type of loincloth worn by the men of some Native American tribes. Today, however, it almost exclusively (in a clothing context) means an extremely skimpy bottom design used for underwear and swimwear. Worse, he is "naked save for a loin cloth brandishing a long steel broad sword".
    • Men call each other "slut" a lot in this story as well. See Unusual Euphemism below for more information.
  • The Hedonist: Prince Agaphim lives in decadent luxury, and seems to pass the time eating, hanging around with naked women, and getting blazed.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Grignr prefers a sword but uses an axe just as effectively. Swords are also the preferred weapons of the mercenaries in the opening chapter, the soldiers Grignr fights in the tavern, and the last of the shamans. Nobody uses ranged weapons of any description, unless you count the local peasants who, according to Carthena, regularly hurl "stones and rotting fruits" at Agaphim.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The "shamen" set up booby traps in the catacombs to keep anyone from discovering where they conduct their rites. One of them sets off a trap while pursuing Grignr and Carthena and gets killed by it.
  • Honey Trap: Carthena claims to have seduced, then murdered, a palace guard.
    Carthena: It was a simple matter to seduce the sentry at the western gate. His trust found him with a dagger thrust his ribs.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Carthena turns out to be the prostitute who serviced Grignr at the start of the story.
  • Human Sacrifice: Grignr rescues Carthena from this fate.
  • Idiot Ball: Passed between the characters at blinding speed — just about any time any character opens their mouth, something stupid comes out. More or less everything negative in the story could have been avoided if Grignr didn't try to resolve all conflicts with murder.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Carthena in the hands of the very handsy head shaman.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction:
    • "Cushoning their bare feet were plush red felt slippers" — if you wear footwear on your bare feet, then how are your feet bare?
    • "Knowing where his steps were leading to", Grignr meanders aimlessly around the catacombs. Theis probably forgot to add the word "not".
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: One of the two guards sent to drag Grignr from his cell swings an axe at him from behind when Grignr attacks the second guard, Broig. Despite having readied the axe to swing at Grignr, who is facing the other way, not only does the guard somehow miss Grignr entirely, but accidentally kills Broig.
  • Impossible Hourglass Figure: Carthena is described as both "slender" with a "trim build" and endowed with a "bulging bosom" and "huge outcropping breasts".
  • Improvised Weapon: Grignr stabs a guard with the sharpened pelvic bone of a rat.
  • Informed Attribute: Grignr's genius. He is supposed to be very smart, but he usually responds to problems with brute force, and only once does he show enough brains to avoid a fight that would lead to certain defeat.
  • It Can Think: Subverted when the author feels it necessary to point out that several gargoyles aren't aware of what's going on around them.
  • Jump Physics: At one point, Agafnd apparently jumps over Grignr and Agaphim. This is probably not what the author meant by "Agafnd leaped Grignr and his sire", but it's difficult to read it any other way.
  • Kevlard: Averted with Agaphim, who's hugely fat but whom Carthena kills anticlimactically.
  • Kill It with Fire: Carthena burns Agaphim to death with a flaming torch.
  • A Lady on Each Arm: Agaphim is introduced with a naked woman sitting on each arm of his throne.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Armed with an axe, Grignr charges headlong into a couple of dozen enemies with no plans whatsoever.
  • Low Fantasy: Set in an Iron Age Crapsack World, where magic exists but is mysterious and little understood.
  • Made a Slave: On Agafnd's advice, Agaphim tries to inflict this on Grignr. Carthena claims that she was subject to it too.
  • Magic Is Evil: Implied and invoked. We're told that Grignr's culture have a strong aversion to all things supernatural, so they definitely think this trope applies. If there is any benign magic in this story's world, it never appears on the page.
  • Malaproper:
    • The narrative uses "leashed" to mean both "lashed" and "unleashed" (despite also using "unleashed" in the same paragraph).
    • Characters are described as having "surly" hair/beards at some points, and it's unclear what word Theis is confusing it for (unruly, perhaps?)
  • The Man Behind the Man: Agafnd, the prince's loyal advisor, is literally described as sitting behind the throne. Fittingly, he is the real brains of their operation.
  • MockGuffin: The Eye itself turns out to be a cursed object that turns into a leech-like monster that Grignr has to kill, making his detour to acquire it All for Nothing.
  • Morton's Fork: Grignr gets annoyed at Carthena's talking, so he tells her to shut up. She does, which only serves to irritate him further.
  • Mundane Made Awesome:
    • The following describes Grignr's wine being kicked over:
    "A flying foot caught the mug Grignr had taken hold of, sending its blood red contents sloshing over a flickering crescent; leashing tongues of bright orange flame to the foot trodden floor."
    • The narrator also spends six long sentences describing a guy falling over after being kicked in the crotch.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Grignr's standard response to any conflict is to become furious and immediately resort to extreme violence. If he's prevented from immediately doing so, he spends his time planning a way to respond with violence.
  • Mystical Jade: The cultists worship a huge jade statue of their god, Argon, with a "scarlet emerald" as the titular eye. It's unclear if the statue itself has mystical powers, or just the eye, though.
  • Neutral Female: Zigzagged with Carthena. She does take an active role in the fight against Agafnd and Agaphim, managing to kill the latter, but during the climactic battle against the ooze monster, she faints immediately.
  • Noble Savage: Gringr claims to be one, although by this point in the story he's long since left his native climes, been defeated twice, and gone out of his way to steal a petty bauble:
  • Nobody Poops: Grignr's dumped into an empty cell. While it's never stated how long he's in there, he sleeps at least three times and eats at least five times (the author provides a rambling lecture explaining that he can't rely on this to measure time as he doesn't need to sleep or eat as much due to his restricted activity). The guards feed him regularly, but no mention is made of his other biological needs.
  • No Ending: The most widely-circulated copy of the story ends abruptly during Grignr's final battle. Some people continue to believe that this is how the original version actually ended. The full text does have a proper resolution, though.
  • Noodle Incident: At the beginning of the story, Grignr has just escaped from the city of Crin, where his behaviour has scandalized the local aristocracy to the point where they have sent mercenaries to kill him. We can only guess what he did to provoke such an extreme reaction.
  • No-Sell:
    • One of the soldiers who arrests Grignr directs him through the streets by prodding him repeatedly with his sword. While he wasn't actually trying to kill or injure Grignr, this would certainly hurt and at least break skin, depending on how sharp the blade was. Grignr doesn't even acknowledge it.
    • Grignr later gets punched in the face and scratched by a prison guard but doesn't react one bit.
    "The sentry plunged his right fist into Grignr's face, digging his grimy nails into the barbarians flesh."
  • Offscreen Teleportation: The rat that attacks Gringr in his cell seems to be an unintentional example. It's stated earlier that the only entrance to the cell is a hatch on the ceiling, and there's nothing indicating the rat burrowed up from the ground, which makes it seem like it just magically appeared.
  • Off with His Head!: Grignr chops off a guard's head when he goes for his sword.
    • Later, he rips the head off a huge rat with his bare hands.
  • Oh, My Gods!:
    • "By the surly beard of Mrifk!" See Cryptic Background Reference above.
    • At the climax of the story, Carthena uses "Kalla!" as an exclamation of shock and horror. Perhaps this is the name of a god from her own culture.
  • Our Gargoyles Rock: The ritual chamber contains "expertly chiseled forms of grotesque gargoyles". As these are statues rather than gargoyles, or even grotesques (sort of a gargoyle without a rainspout), the implication is that in this world gargoyles are a sort of creature and these are statues of said creature. Of course, this isn't explored at all, and it's likely that Theis simply meant that they were monstrous carved faces.
  • Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: At the end of the story, a leech... thing sucks a ridiculous amount of Grignr's blood.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Carthena, a foreign noblewoman with a very striking and distinctive appearance, makes one of the most moronic decisions in the story: after escaping Agaphim's castle, she "lies low" by prostituting herself in a cheap tavern nearby, not having taken any steps to alter her appearance. Somehow, this boneheaded plan isn't the reason for her eventual capture.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: The story is full of beauties. Among others, we have "appilevered", "expugnisively", "nerelady", "protruberating", "scozstic" and "yawkishly".
  • Produce Pelting: Agaphim is "often assaulted by hurtling stones and rotting fruits" when he leaves his palace.
  • Purple Prose: Theis seemed to have an aversion to common words, and had access to a thesaurus. There's wenches and females, but never women, and the sun was "half way through its daily rotation," but it's never noon. He always refers to mounts, but never horses, though it's implied when one of the mounts whinnies. Torches are always cressets and weapons and armour in particular are described with wildly varying and often contradictory nomenclature (basinets, morions, hauberks, cutlasses, poniards, scimitars..). At least the title is concise and looks like a normal title, apart from sharing the name of a noble gas.
  • Put the "Laughter" in "Slaughter": After chopping a congregation of "shamen" to pieces, Grignr makes a quip about how his victims no longer need to worry about being punished by the Evil Overlord.
    "They have no more to fear of Agaphim now!" Bellowed Grignr in a deep mirthful tome; a gleeful smirk upon his face.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: When addressed by Agaphim, Grignr starts one, pauses to be beaten by a soldier, then resumes.
    "I find you to be the only fool, sitting upon your pompous throne, enhancing the rolling flabs of your belly in the midst of your elaborate luxuryand [...] I shall never understand the ways if your twisted civilization. I simply defend my honor and am condemned to life confinement, by a pig who sits on his royal ass wooing whores, and knows nothing of the affairs of the land he imagines to rule!" Lectures Grignr ?
  • Redheads Are Ravishing: The redheaded Grignr is repeatedly described in ways that imply rugged attractiveness, like possessing "bulging sinews at their peak of marvel". Carthena's hair is described as "orchid" (a vivid pinkish purple), and the narrator notes her "exquisitely molded body".
  • Red Hot Masculinity: The protagonist, Grignr, is a classic Barbarian Hero (i.e. excessively macho and badass) with a "surly [sic] red mane."
  • Religion is Magic: All the magic we see in the story is associated with the cult of Argon.
  • Religion of Evil: The worshipers of Argon, whose faith seems to consist entirely of performing Human Sacrifices every three months. Gorzom's established religion, the worship of the similiarly-named god Sargon, is implied to be at best only slightly better, and may be merely a Corrupt Church.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: The longest fight scene in the story is Grignr doing battle with a "garganuan" rat. He finally wins by twisting its head off.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: The original version had some atrocious spelling, although less faithful transcriptions sometimes correct these. See any of the quoted passages on this page for examples.
  • Said Bookism: So very, very, very much. "Said" is avoided so hard that "sayeth" gets used twice (both times incorrectly) just because Theis presumably couldn't think of any other word.
  • Secret Underground Passage: Agaphim's palace seems to be riddled with them.
  • Sex in a Shared Room: When Grignr enters the pub men are gambling, drinking and "making love to willing prostitutes" on the tables.
  • Share the Male Pain: Averted. When the shaman suffers the above-mentioned Groin Attack, he's described as "the ruptured shaman". He collapses and begins rolling around on the floor, bleeding heavily and screaming in pain. The other "shamen" don't seem to react for some time. When they do, they pay no attention to him at all and their only response is to molest Carthena.
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Grignr, the hero, has flaming red hair and emerald orbs. Carthena, the heroine, is also a redhead, but her eyes are blue.
  • Sinister Scimitar: The cruel soldiers who arrest Grignr in the tavern are equipped with oak-hilted scimitars. The last of the shamans comes after Grignr with a scimitar as well.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Grignr has a filthy mouth but is quite verbose.
  • Stripperiffic: Both male and female examples exist: Grignr wears a g-string (with folds), while Carthena wears beads.
  • The Stoner: The illustration on Page 32 of the facsimile (presumably of Agaphim the evil prince) shows him smoking something that looks like a joint.
  • Stout Strength: The fat priest has arms so muscular that they resemble those of an ape.
  • Stupid Evil: When Agafnd tells Agaphim that the commoners are complaining of feeling oppressed because they can't afford to pay his ridiculously high taxes, Agaphim decides to teach them a lesson by deliberately oppressing them with yet higher taxes.
    Agafnd: But the peasants are showing signs of growing unrest. They complain that they cannot feet their families while burdened with your taxes.
    Agaphim: I shall teach those sluts the meaning of humility! Order an immediate increase upon their taxes. They dare to question my sovereign authority, Ha-a, they shall soon learn what true oppression can be.
  • Talking Is a Free Action
    "Prepare to embrace your creators in the stygian haunts of hell, barbarian", gasped the first soldier.
  • Tap on the Head: Grignr takes two. The first time, it's downplayed; Grignr just shakes it off after being dazed for a second (justified in that he's wearing a helmet). The second time, it's played straight when a guard cleanly knocks him out with the haft of a pike and in the next chapter Grignr wakes up gradually in a cell.
  • Thirsty Desert: One of these surrounds Gorzom, and makes up a large portion of the Norgolian Empire.
  • Thong of Shielding: Grignr wears a G-string, which apparently has folds. Theis was probably envisioning a loincloth.
  • Title Drop: at the end of chapter 3½.
  • Too Dumb to Live: A literal instance in the case of Doyanta, who flirted with the Evil Overlord Agaphim's wife in front of him.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Counselor Agafnd is stabbed through the ribs by Grignr in the second chapter, but is up on his feet a few chapters later. We're never explicitly told the earlier wound killed him, so maybe it was supposed to be Only a Flesh Wound, although from the way it's written and the extent of the injury, most readers come out the scene with the understanding that Agafnd is dead. Either way, his recovery is nothing short of miraculous, especially since not much time passed since he was stabbed.
  • The Unpronounceable: You try pronouncing "Grignr", "Agafnd" or "Mrifk". This gets particularly amusing when already consonant-heavy words lose their few vowels through typos — the aforementioned Agafnd becomes "Agfnd" at one point. One gets the impression that the author has an irrational dislike of vowels. Dramatic readings sometimes attempt to bypass this by rendering "Grignr" as "Grignir" or "Grignar" and "Agafnd" as either "Agafund" or "Agafnud".
  • Unusual Chapter Numbers: There are two fractional chapters: Chapters 3½ and 7½. The former is the first chapter to break away from Grignr's POV to check in on Carthena and the cultists, while the latter is a brief flashback to the epileptic shaman's awakening.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Mrifk". In addition, while "slut" is a real word, using it as an insult against men is somewhat antiquated, and that version still doesn't quite work in context as it meant "slovenly person", which isn't really any of the insultees' salient characteristics.
  • Vampiric Draining: The blob at the end sucks blood like a leech.
  • Villainous Valor: Agafnd shows this in his introductory scene. When Grignr grabs a sword and makes a mad dash to kill Agaphim, Agafnd leaps into the way, saving the prince and getting stabbed for his troubles.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot:
    "The vile stench of the Shaman's hot fetid breath over came the nauseated female with a deep soul searing sickness, causing her to wrench her head backwards and regurgitate a slimy, orangewhite stream of swelling gore over the richly woven purple robe of the enthused acolyte."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: A minor example. When Grignr arrives in Gorzom, he hitches his horse outside the tavern where he gets arrested by the prince's soldiers. He never has a chance to go back and recover his horse. Given that he doesn't seem to have much of a bond with the horse (there's no reference to it having a name or anything), this is believable for his character. By the end of the story, he's found another horse.
  • What's Up, King Dude?: The soldiers take Grignr straight to the city's prince Agaphim when he's arrested, despite the fact that a city of Gorzom's size and apparent wealth would presumably have a judiciary or at least a police force. Even more inexplicably, the king is sitting on his throne, apparently just waiting in case anyone needs to speak with him, even though the scene takes place in the middle of the night.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Grignr is astonished the citizens of Gorzom don't depose the incredibly unpopular Prince Agaphim. The story states that they are held in terror of his enormous army, but apparently they feel free to pelt him with garbage even when he's under heavy guard.
  • Wretched Hive: Gorzom appears to be one of these, from the squalid tavern full of prostitutes and cutthroats to the decadent palace of the prince.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: "Sayeth the king" would be correct, except that it's the wrong tense — even then, "saith" would be more common in most dialects of Early Modern English. Carthena starts out talking this way, and Grignr does too shortly thereafter, when up 'til that point, he only talked in vulgarities.
  • You Talk Too Much!: Grignr doesn't say this to Carthena, but he thinks it, even though she doesn't seem to be any more talkative than he is.

Adam Cadre's Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan-MSTing presentation has examples of:

  • Fate Worse than Death: The straight lines from the original story are not left un-riffed. It happens so frequently it's lampshaded.
    Carthena: The prince would surely have submitted them to the most ghastly of tortures—
    Crow: Insert joke about having to read THE EYE OF ARGON here.
  • Heroic BSoD: The abrupt, non-existent ending leaves Crow utterly broken, and the others are forced to leave him behind in the theater. Fortunately, he recovers.
  • MST: One of the classics, written by Adam Cadre in 1996.
    Story: "The paunchy noble's sagging round face flushed suddenly pale,"
    Crow: "It flushed pale? Did it blanch red after that?"
    Story: "then pastily lit up to a lustrous cherry red radiance."
    Crow: "Hold me."
  • Running Gag:
    Story: "[some bit of Purple Prose, such as 'crimson droplets of escaping life fluid']"
    Crow: "You mean [the normal word, such as 'blood']?"
    Mike: "Let's not jump to conclusions."
  • Shout-Out: To Magic: The Gathering: "Tor Giant?"
  • Tarot Troubles: Tom Servo is reading Crow's future with a pack of Tarot cards he found somewhere. Poor Crow gets nine Deaths and a Tor Giant.

Geoff Bottone's Grïgnyr of Ecordia: A Retelling of The Eye of Argon adaptation has examples of:

  • Accent Adaptation: In the original, Grïgnyr's supposed to have a strong "barbarous accent" (though it didn't exactly come up much). Now, he doesn't.
  • Action Girl: Carthena turns out to be a proficient fighter here, earning Grïgnyr's admiration.
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • In this version, Grïgnyr is knocked out rather than accepting the uncharacteristic surrender of the original.
    • Agaphim fights back effectively when attacked, rather than rolling over and accepting it.
  • Adaptational Diversity: Races are established and a non-white character gets a prominent role.
  • Adaptational Dye-Job: In the case of Carthena, somehow zigzagged, providing a literal example but not changing her hair colour. While Theis probably made a mistake in making Carthena's hair orchid-coloured — i.e., bright pink — in this version she is still orchid-haired, but it's explicitly stated that her hair has been dyed.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: Carthena, who spots Grïgnyr on his arrival from Crin. She also introduces herself to him in the inn and they share a long conversation, rather than her just being the "tavern wench" at that point.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The story is approximately two to three times longer than the original, making it a short novel rather than a novella.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy:
    • The Evil Prince Agaphim becomes a weak-willed but generally benevolent character in the thrall of Agfand.
    • Grïgnyr becomes much more likable, relatable and honourable.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Agaphim.
  • Adaptational Intelligence: Everyone in the story appears to be of average or better intelligence, whereas in the original they all behaved like blithering idiots.
  • Adaptational Modesty: Rather than a loincloth (or a g-string...), Grïgnyr starts off in random, mismatched clothes suitable for crossing a desert, then buys clothes more appropriate for city life. Carthena wears clothes, rather than nothing, beads or a harness.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Mainly for pronouncability: Grignr becomes Grïgnyr, Agafnd becomes Agfand, and Grïgnyr's favoured god Mrifk becomes Myrk. Meanwhile, the demon god Argon becomes Argol, and the "bastard diety" Sargon becomes the beneficent Sargoth.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul:
    • Grïgnyr likes and respects Carthena, rather than just finding her sexually attractive.
    • Agfand is manipulating Agaphim so as to rule the city by proxy, rather than just being his evil counsellor.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The above situation with the desert trek is averted in this version — Grïgnyr becomes dehydrated and exhausted not long after he enters the desert and only escapes severe sunburn because his skin is covered in dye as a disguise.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • The "faithless concubine" of the original is now the Sultana of Crin, who gets an entire prologue chapter to herself.
    • Broig, a random soldier in the original, is now captain of the guard.
    • Carthena and Agaphim actually help to drive the story forward rather than being nondescript side characters.
  • Big Bad: Agfand.
  • The Big Guy: Double subverted. In this version, Grïgnyr is of average size for an Ecordian, but still very strong and a highly skilled warrior.
  • The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In:
    • Carthena throws a knife into Grïgnyr's calf, an "almost impossible" throw, to break him out of a trance.
    • Grïgnyr finally kills Agfand with a thrown axe which buries its blade into his chest.
  • The Chessmaster: Agfand is ruling the city by proxy, by manipulating Agaphim, something the original only loosely implied.
    Here, thought Grïgnyr, is the true master of Gorzom.
  • Darker and Edgier: Possibly just because it's better written, the cult of Argol is much more frightening in this version.
  • The Dragon: Broig to Agfand.
  • Evil Chancellor: Agfand is much more like this. He is manipulating the weak-willed but basically good Prince Agaphim.
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: After Agaphim takes to exercising with Grïgnyr, the whole court remarks on the improvement in his appearance.
  • Hypocrite: Nowhere near as much as in the original, but in this version Grïgnyr claims to despise trickery and states he'd sooner die than live as a liar — but obtained the Eye of Argol by trickery himself.
  • Improvised Weapon:
    • Grïgnyr and Carthena arm themselves with rat bones, as in the original, but this time they use the broken jawbone of a dog-sized rat.
    • Agaphim's Decadent Court defend themselves with pieces of furniture and broken bottles. Agaphim knocks out two cultists with his own throne.
  • Informed Attribute: Carthena's intelligence; the author keeps on pointing out how smart she is, but the only evidence of this is her having unexplained knowledge of Grignr's possession of the Eye of Argol.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Grïgnyr kicks Broig, who's on his hands and knees, full in the face.
  • Kinder and Cleaner: Grïgnyr is markedly less vulgar.
  • Necromancer: So that he can still be killed twice in this adaptation, Agfand is brought back to life by the evil cultists.
  • Not as You Know Them: Grïgnyr, Carthena, Agfand, Agaphim and Broig.
  • Oh, My Gods!: Grïgnyr's new oath is "By Myrk's hoary beard!"
  • Puppet King: Agaphim is this to Agfand.
  • Red Right Hand: Counsellor Agfand has a misshapen skull in this version, which is presumably based on the atrocious illustration of him in the original.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: The rats in this version are the size of large dogs.
  • Said Bookism: Not as much as the original, but some fairly strange ways of talking come up, such as "intoned".
  • Schrödinger's Cast: Agfand dies twice — by design this time.
  • Sliding Scale of Adaptation Modification: Probably a 2, maybe a 3.
  • Tap on the Head:
    • Grïgnyr takes three in this adaptation: the two in the original, plus one in the tavern scene when he falls over a table and hits his head, knocking himself out.
    • Prince Agaphim gets one in the second throne room scene.
  • Title: The Adaptation: Grïgnyr of Ecordia: A Retelling of The Eye of Argon.
  • Warrior Princess: Carthena, a skilled warrior woman, turns out to also be a princess.
  • Xenafication: Carthena goes from a largely passive character (though she does kick an evil priest in the crotch) to a capable warrior in her own right.