Follow TV Tropes


Barbarian Hero

Go To

"The fact is, barbarian heroism has the advantage of a certain clear, solipsistic simplicity; any itchy kid can take up a big sword, pull on a loincloth, and set out to carve his way to glory, and some turn out to be good at it (or just lucky)."

Loin cloths or Pelts of the Barbarian, taut rippling muscles, oiled back, impressive weapons, the beard of a grizzly bear (or inexplicably clean-shaven at all times) and glorious manly manes.

The Barbarian Hero is the ancient-era (or Future Primitive) badass, armed with muscles upon muscles and a variety of very sharp bladed objects, whose job it is to kill lots of monsters (human or inhuman) and kick lots of ass. While he seems to favor Cool Swords (the bigger, the better) he's more likely than other heroes to have An Axe to Grind, Carry a Big Stick, Drop the Hammer or Flail Epically. A Mighty Glacier, or even a Lightning Bruiser, he's able to defeat wizards and giants despite having no magical abilities (in myth, this was often ascribed to divine ancestry). One of The Oldest Ones in the Book, a popular heroic archetype since ancient times, but seems to be coming back into style recently.


This type of character seems to lean more toward the Anti-Hero side of the scale, and he may be the white sheep of an Always Chaotic Evil Barbarian Tribe. If he is modelled in any way on Genghis Khan, it generally means he will end up becoming King By His Own Hand and generally an example of Modest Royalty. His enemy will often be a Sorcerous Overlord: both an overlord for him to be anti-authoritarian against and an Evil Sorcerer for him to be physical and brave against to emphasise the ideal of combined physical and mental mastery.

Part Truth in Television before modern age, for less than intuitive reasons: usually "civilized" urban classes, despite having guaranteed access to better food, schooling and military training, suffered dearly for other flaws of lesser affluent societies than ours. Such as inbreeding pushed to ridiculous levels from King (out of choice) to commoners (out of lack of affordable transport to seek a mate outside village or city; this problem, incidentally, was solved by the steam engine: railroads!) and chronic diseases due to overcrowding and unsanitary conditions (like tuberculosis, dysentery, or skin diseases). The barbarian might have had a nasty, brutish and short life due to everyday violence and the need to provide for himself in face of danger, but at least he was far from everyday filth and crowding. Jared Diamond touched the issue when he discussed the evolution of the humans from hunter-gatherers to farmers.


A very common variant are the clones of Conan the Barbarian, there are some terms, such as Conanesque or Conanesco (Hispanic variant), similar to what happened to Tarzan (see Tarzan Boy).

Overlaps with Proud Warrior Race Guy, Noble Savage, and The Berserker. Often fond of being In Harm's Way. Females who fit this Trope are often of the Nubile Savage and/or Jungle Princess type.


    open/close all folders 

  • Various forms of barbarians appear in Capital One commercials. What's in your wallet?

    Anime & Manga 
  • Guts from Berserk definitely has a lot of Conan in him, especially in his younger days (Griffith has more than a little Elric of Melnibone in him, thus covering the whole spectrum). Word of God is that Guts is more directly based on Rutger Hauer's character in the movie Flesh+Blood (more mercenary than barbarian). Either way, don't piss him off if you value your life.
    • Conan more often than not was a mercenary, so it's not like you can't have two for the price of one.
  • Mugen in Samurai Champloo. A Berserker, Blood Knight and former Pirate, he cares about little else than fighting, drinking, gambling and shagging and has nothing but contempt for all authority.

    Comic Books 
  • The European comic Den has a nerdy Earth male Trapped in Another World where he becomes a musclebound warrior and Chick Magnet. Also likes to be naked.
  • Red Sonja
  • Claw The Unconquered is a Conan with a red gauntlet that hides his demon hand. Sort of has elements of Elric and Prince Corum.
  • Marvel Comics's Arkon, from his own perspective (and that of his home dimension Polemachus); in-story Values Dissonance means he most often acts as an antagonist to mainstream Earth's superheroes.
  • In the late 2010s, Marvel Comics has regained comic book use of Conan the Barbarian, this has led the character starring alongside Marvel super heroes and other characters in Savage Avengers, Conan the Barbarian 2099 and Conan: Serpent War with likely more to come.
  • Every character in The Warlord comic book. Travis Morgan, a USAF officer from modern-day earth, enthusiastically adopts the lifestyle when he is stranded in Skartaris, eventually becoming its greatest hero.
  • Parodied by Sergio Aragonés' Groo the Wanderer.
  • Cerebus the Aardvark was a direct parody of the Barry Windsor-Smith drawn Conan comic books for its first 50 issues.
  • Sláine, who appeared in 2000 AD.
  • Incredible Hulk:
    • Hulk often has shades of this, but most particularly when he was on the sub atomic planet K'ai and later the alien world of Sakaar.
    • His son Skaar is a proud example of this, even getting nicknamed "Conan" when he arrives on Earth.
    • Kronen is a Conan parody featured in a Hulk story. He's one eyed, cruel and possess an amulet with a smile demon.
  • Marvel's The Incredible Hercules.
  • Korrek from Man-Thing is a kind of Conan in another dimension.
  • Ironjaw, from the eponymous comic from the long-defunct Atlas/Seaboard comics. The main character was a barbarian with an iron lower, well, jaw. He didn't get a lot of girls, especially since it was cancelled after 4 issues.
  • DC's Arak: Son of Thunder was a Native American whose canoe was washed out to sea as a boy, where he was found and raised by Vikings (they name him Eric, which he at first mispronounces "Arak," and the name sticks). He eventually winds up in the court of Charlemagne.
  • Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! had a time traveling canine named Bow-Zar the Barkbarian.
  • A monologue describing Marv in Sin City mentions he'd probably be right at home in a role like this. Unfortunately, Marv had the rotten luck of being Born in the Wrong Century where barely civilized, gigantic muscled men with honour codes and propensities for violence are in less demand.
    • Also, Frank Miller himself has described Marv as "Conan in a trench coat", making him a rare modern-era barbarian hero.
  • Before DC Comics got a hold of the property and introduced the "Prince Adam" thing, this was He-Man's backstory in Masters of the Universe. He was the greatest warrior in his jungle-dwelling tribe, who left to defend Castle Grayskull when he heard of evil forces seeking to plunder it and take over the world.
  • Mikey Rhodes, who visually resembles this trope, being a towering, bearded warrior armed to the teeth with some massive weapons, with one police officer even calling him Conan at a point. Also just like the typical archetype, his biggest enemy is a Evil Sorceror-type of God-Emperor and Mikey also has a distaste for magic (albeit, he is fine with magical weapons). He is more complicated than other examples, since he is actually an agent of his main enemy working to unleash Hell on Earth behind everyone's else knowledge. He manages to break free from his influence and ends up becoming a Magic Knight.
  • Wolfskin is a classic example, although he is far more brutal and barbaric than the usual lot. Could arguably be a Deconstruction or a Played for Drama.
  • Aquaman (especially when written by Peter David) can be a modern take on this. So much so that these runs are often nicknamed by fans as "The Savage Sword of Aquaman" or "Conan Under The Sea."
  • X-O Manowar is a very unconventional take on this trope, being a Visigoth warrior from Dacia (today Romania), and therefore considered a barbarian by the Roman Empire, that gets a symbiotic Powered Armor from an alien race. Despite using technology much more advanced than other examples of this trope, he is still very much a Blood Knight due to being a product of his time period that has problems adapting to civilized society (especially when forced to work for the US government).
  • Asterix has the title character and his Undefeatable Little Village in Gaul.
  • Marvel's 2001: A Space Odyssey issues 3 and 4 features one named Marak who leads an army while wearing armor and wielding a sword both crafted by a smith who was inspired by a Monolith.
  • Before doing Marvel's Conan comics, Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith made Starr The Slayer. Notably, Den creator, Richard Corben drew a reboot for Marvel Max in 2009.

    Comic Strips 
  • Parodied in Thrud the Barbarian, a comic strip that used to run in White Dwarf magazine. Brawn-to-brain ratio indicated by giving him a huge body and a grapefruit-sized head.

    Fan Works 
  • A Crown of Stars: Invoked in chapter 33 when Asuka gloats that she will lead her army with an iron fist and one of her friends asks her if she will be going for a "blood-soaked barbarian-queen" vibe.
  • Thousand Shinji: As her transformation in a Khornate berserker advances -eventually leading to her becoming the next Goddess of War-, Asuka resembles this: she becomes an impressively muscled and powerful warrior, armed with primitive-looking, gigantic axes and barely clad in a tarp.
  • And then there's The Riddle of Steel, in which Shinji somehow gets hold of what can only be described as a Barbarian Hero Correspondence Course reminiscent of the one that plays a minor role in Sourcery (probably not coincidentally) except with the actual Conan instead of his Discworld counterpart, and turns out to be better at it than Nijel ever was. This skillset translates surprisingly well to piloting an Evangelion, and Shinji's rather strong Anti-Hero tendencies make it a lot harder for Gendo to push him around, meaning the Scenario rapidly goes off the rails.

    Films — Animation 
  • Darkwolf in Fire and Ice is a straight example of the trope.
  • Den from the animated short, Neverwhere was an office clerk from Earth who was transported to the world of Neverwhere and given a buff body.
    • This went on to inspire the Den segment of Heavy Metal where he's a nerdy kid on Earth and decides to remain on Neverwhere at the end.
  • Ronal the Barbarian and more fittingly the rest of his clan.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • D'Leh from 10,000 BC.
  • Amathea (Lana Clarkson) from Barbarian Queen, but not in the sequel.
  • Kain (David Carradine) from The Warrior and the Sorceress, a Barbarian Hero version of Yojimbo.
  • Mace (Jorge Rivero) in Conquest, easily the most psychedelic Barbarian film ever.
  • Deathstalker (Rick Hill) in Deathstalker, but not the sequel (where John Terlesky's Deathstalker is more of a Lovable Rogue or perhaps Magnificent Bastard).
  • Mathayus in The Scorpion King.
  • Yor: The Hunter from the Future. He's the MAAAAA-AAN!
  • Dar from The Beastmaster.
  • Kai from Robot Holocaust is this with a bit of The Big Guy & The Speechless.
  • William Wallace in Braveheart.
  • Subverted in The Blade Master, despite its Conan-inspired Heroic Fantasy aesthetic. Ator certainly looks the part and is a great warrior, but he's also highly-educated and high-minded, and studied at the feet of a scientist who lives in a castle, while "barbarians" are referred to with derision in the film.
  • The Chronicles of Riddick take the barbarian hero to space, playing out many of the classic tropes as Riddick rises from a childhood on a Death World Penal Colony to Dreaded criminal, mercenary, and conqueror.
  • In The World's End, Gary has become this at the very end of the film: a sword-wielding hero in a post-societal collapse Britain. This is shown as a good thing as he's kicked his alcoholism and suicidal depression and now really feels like he has a place in the world.
  • Red Miller from Mandy (2018) may not be a barbarian but he certainly shares a lot of tropes associated with a character like this: He's a solitary man who lives alone in the wilderness, who is heavily implied to have some sort of violent past that he's left behind to live with girlfriend Mandy. His enemies include a depraved, cowardly cult leader who may possess some sort of magical ability, and his gang of demonic biker servants (mirroring the Sorcerous Overlord trope often found in barbarian stories). When he's called into action, he does so with medieval weaponry, specifically an ax forged by his own hand and a crossbow, and in hand-to-hand confrontations he's The Berserker.
  • The titular character of Red Sonja. We also had Lord Kalidor, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger who was meant to be reprising his role from Conan the Barbarian but couldn't for copyright reasons.

  • Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian is the most famous of the Barbarian Heroes and the Trope Codifier, and versions of the character have appeared in every medium, from the original short stories to later novels (new books are still published), several comic book adaptations, the adult-oriented comic magazine Savage Sword of Conan, a live-action television show, a children's cartoon, video games, and three feature films.

    Additionally the character has inspired an entire genre of imitators, ranging from silly Groo the Wanderer to more serious fare like Red Sonja (a female Barbarian Hero). In some ways Conan is an Unbuilt Trope. At least the original Howard version who only rarely went around in only a loincloth (usually to cast off excess weight when he planned to climb something) and was substantially more intelligent and articulate than the stereotype.
  • There's a lot of these in Terry Pratchett's Discworld:
    • Cohen the Barbarian is a deconstruction, as he was never defeated but also can't hold down a steady job as king of any of the kingdoms he conquered, is still barbarian hero-ing in his eighties. His Silver Horde included an eclectic bunch of ancient-but-still-mighty warriors, and an aged geography teacher.
    • Nijel the Destroyer, who is over six feet of rippling skin and bone with long underwear under his loincloth.
    • The entire race of Nac Mac Feegle, with the possible exceptions of the gonnagle and the kelda.
    • The Colour of Magic specifically notes that the Disc's hub is swarming with these types, the two appearing prominently in that book being Bravd (a parody of Fafhrd, below) and Hrun, who are both described as standard models if only slightly more intelligent than the norm.
    • There's even a bar for them in Ankh-Morpork, where brawls have a scoring system, and calling yourself "[Name] the Invincible" is considered a form of suicide.
    • Barbarian heroines on the Disc include Herrena the Henna-Haired Harridan, Cohen's daughter Conina and Vena the Raven-Haired, who's the same age as Cohen's gang and looks like a kindly old grandmother who happens to be dressed like Xena. There's also a brief mention in Eric of a "Red Scharron".
    • The royal dynasty of Sto Lat was founded by a barbarian conqueror five generations prior to Mort. Princess Keli inherited some of his facial features and, implicitly, some of his attitude.
    • Later books see a decline in the profession of barbarian heroism concurrent with the progress of Disc civilization. The truest of barbarian heroes are pared down to old men like Cohen and the Horde, while younger ones like Hrun seek out steadier jobs and the famed barbarian bar brawls in Ankh-Morpork become more of a show for tourists.
  • Non-Discworld Pratchett example: Erdan the Barbarian in the short story "Final Reward". While he starts off as a primitive barbarian, it takes him about a day to fit seamlessly into modern society, with his creator noting that he's "basically your total hero type" who can function anywhere.
  • Fafhrd in Fritz Leiber's stories, although he's kind of a subversion since he was trained as a skald (a singer of poetry) among the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Vikings he came from and thus has a higher voice and more sensitivity than most of these characters.
  • Kull the Conqueror. One of Robert E. Howard's earlier characters, and would later form the foundation of the man who would become Conan. Kull, like Conan, is something of an Unbuilt Trope. He is rather introspective and EXTREMELY timid around women, so much so that a 19-year old girl was able to push him around when he's the king.
  • Lin Carter's Thongor of Lemuria novels.
  • Grignr from The Eye of Argon (if we use a rather loose definition of 'literature'.)
  • Almost every Alom feudal lord in Yulia Latynina's Wei Empire cycle. Especially from the Whitefalcon line, which gives us two especially awesome and Badass Barbarian Heroes: Marbod Whitefalcon in "100 Fields" (who once slaughtered the population of a castle from the inside, while unarmed and naked) and Kissur Whitefalcon in "Wizards and Ministers" and "the Insider".
  • Wulfgar, from the Drizzt novels. He actually comes to find that he can't get along in "civilized" society with the rest of the Companions of the Hall, and goes back home to Icewind Dale.
  • Beowulf from both the Old English poem and The Movie, although he's actually relatively civilised and wears lots of pretty armour.
  • In Jack L. Chalker's The River of Dancing Gods, middle-aged truck driver Joe finds himself reborn in a fantasy world as Joe, the Barbarian! With a mighty sword...Irving!
  • The Death Dealer, a novel series based on a series of Frank Frazetta paintings.
  • Speaking of Frank Frazetta, the 'modern' depiction of barbarian hero with rippling muscles and oily long hair is essentially his creation, especially thanks to a cover he painted for Robert E. Howard's Conan, copied and/or referenced often by many others afterwards.
  • Parodied with Conan the Librarian.
  • Achilles in The Iliad is almost the Ur-Example.
  • Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel and The Third Chimpanzee discuss the physical devolution of humans during the transition from hunter-gatherer "barbarians" to primitive agriculture. Skeletons of the poor classes show decrease in average height and muscular development, tooth decay, signs of the diseases acquired during overcrowding and filth (leprosy or tuberculosis). As in the Achilles example above, the skeletons of aristocrats and wild warriors from the Homeric Age Greece show a superior average height by 2-3 inches and barely any signs of disease compared to those of poor laborers. No wonder poor people who witnessed them ascribed their physical strength and appearance to being illegitimate sons of Gods.
  • Karsa Orlong of Malazan Book of the Fallen is what happens when this trope meets a whole lot of Deliberate Values Dissonance and gets dropped into a more traditional fantasy setting. Karsa's not "evil" per say, and certainly sees himself as a Barbarian Hero, but his casual attitude towards rape, murder, and theft do not make him popular with a lot of people in universe. And oh yeah, he thinks that wiping out civilisation is the best way to save humanity from itself. Word of God says that he is a very deliberate deconstruction of the "barbarian fantasy".
  • Liane the Wayfarer, the protagonist of the eponymous story in Jack Vance's Dying Earth series is a subversion. He's actually a lot like the original Conan, being a cunning Adventurer Archaeologist type, except that he's really more of a villain. He's arrogant, utterly amoral, and has no problem with killing innocents.
  • Paul Atreides in Dune after Going Native.
  • John Jakes, later famous for his historical novels, had Brak the Barbarian, circa 1968.
  • Parodied, like so many other Fantasy tropes, in Mary Gentle's Grunts!. Lord Blond Wolf, is a northern barbarian; complete with wolf-fur boots and cloak, huge blond braids and a really big axe. However, he's only 2' 7".
  • Thunk the Barbarian from John Moore's Heroics for Beginners, who tries to break into the Fortress of Doom at the beginning of the story, is a classic version bordering on parody.
  • Joe Abercrombie's Northerners, when they are the (relative) heroes, notably Logen Ninefingers.
  • Karl Edward Wagner has Kane who was one of these for long stretches of his life, but he's unusually anti-heroic even by sword and sorcery standards and at times he's a sorcerous overlord. Finally he abandons this identity once he survives into the modern world and becomes a biker and then a scientist.
  • Subverted with Michael Moorcock's The Elric Saga , while there are parallels in terms of Elric and your standard barbarian hero having archnemesis wizards and going on all kinds of adventures. Elric is otherwise the deliberate opposite of a Barbarian Hero in every way. He starts off inheriting a decadent empire, he's the greatest wizard of his generation and is entirely civilized. He's also a homebody preferring to read books than fighting (or for that matter, living much of a life), until he's forced to by the machinations of his cousin.
  • Subverted with Ward of Hurog. He lives in Shavig, a northern country known for its barbarism in other countries, has muscles upon muscles and is so big he's eventually nicknamed the "Giant of Shavig". He is also an avid reader, knows lots of ballads and likes to recite them. In the only incident of Rape, Pillage, and Burn that takes place in the novels, Ward is the one who kills the would-be rapists before they can get to the burning part.This incident helps a lot with changing the image of his country, which beforehand did include Viking-like invaders.
  • Aside from being a villain, Raven of Snow Crash is essentially one of these transplanted into a Cyberpunk setting, with devastating results. He manages to make primitive weapons like his beloved glass knives effective even in the cyberpunk era through sheer skill and toughness, and is utterly contemptuous of Western civilization and all it represents.
  • Hirad Coldheart from Chronicles of the Raven certainly fits the bill. He is somewhat more thoughtful and patient (up to a point) than the usual examples. He wears lots of furs and leather, though, and fights in the manner of a berserker. Swords, axes, bare fists, even teeth are some of his weapons of choice.
  • In The Divine Cities there's Sigrud je Harkvaldsson, Shara's six and a half feet tall bodyguard and assistant. She tends to introduce him as her secretary, especially when confronted with other people's assumption that he's just a Dreyling barbarian from the northern lands. Sigrud does not care to correct their assumptions and prefers his heritage to dictate others' opinion of him. It is, however, Sigrud who often saves the day and gets horribly injured while fighting to protect strangers, even though his methods for doing so involve copious amounts of flat-out slaughter.
  • All works by the author Jack Donovan are basically manuals to become a real life barbarian hero.
  • Rom, the titular barbarian from The Barbarian and the Sorceress, complete with Heroic Build and Braids of Barbarism.
  • Author Richard Kirk (the pseudonym of Robert Holdstock of Mythago Woods fame), has a female one with the Raven: Swordsmistress of Chaos series. In it, Raven was an escaped slave-girl who is The Chosen One fated to usher in an age of chaos with her companion and lover, the sorcerer Spellbinder (this Age of Chaos is seen as a good thing, the world had become increasingly stagnant under tyranical and supernatural forces). Raven becomes a scantily-clad raider and mercenary while furthering the cause of Chaos in the world, eventually leading to the The End of the World as We Know It which allows that world to evolve into our own.
  • Ulfyr the Bloody of Duncan M. Hamilton's The Wolf of the North trilogy. The books cover his exploits from his time as a boy named Wulfric to his final confrontation with his arch nemesis and childhood bully, Rodulf.

    Live-Action TV 

  • Ensiferum's Wanderer depicts a figure very reminiscent of characters like Conan (With bare hands he has taken many lives/He's had a hundred women by his side) or Guts (But when sun sets and the cold arrives/With crushing solitude in the darkness of night).
  • Manowar loves this trope.
  • Rhapsody of Fire has the Nordic Warrior in their Emerald Sword Saga.
  • Subverted with A Sound of Thunder's "Udoroth". The guy in that song that looks to be the typical Barbarian Hero is a cruel tyrant that's eventually murdered by a concubine and eventually becomes a demon lord.
  • Ill Bill, Immortal Technique, and Max Cavalera have a song called "War is My Destiny" which is Hip-Hop's answer to this trope. And it is EPIC.
  • Averted by GWAR.
  • "Barbarian" by Electric Wizard, which is directly based on the Conan stories.
  • The Hollywood Hootsman from Gloryhammer, King of Unst and California, greatest movie star to ever walk the land cyborg powered by a neutron star and the one and only true god of an alternate dimension.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Older Than Dirt: Enkidu from The Epic of Gilgamesh. Even Gilgamesh qualifies (despite not technically being a "barbarian" since he came from what was then the most civilized culture on Earth — which wasn't very, back then), especially when he goes out on his wilderness journey.
  • Herakles. (Though as with Gilgamesh it's worth remembering that as the son of Zeus and Queen Alcmene of Thebes he has a civilized background in the myths. He ends up wearing the skin of the Nemean Lion later in life not just because it looks cool, but because it's arguably better armor than he could get otherwise.) But he carries a club instead of a blade.
    • It's the bronze age, so swords aren't primary weapons yet. And he's superhumanly strong; a sturdy club with decent reach (fashioned from a tree he uprooted himself) may actually make more sense than an axe or spear that could get stuck. He's also explicitly a superb archer.
    • The skin of the Nemean Lion could not be pierced by any arrow or spear, so Herc beat it to death with a club, then skinned it using its own teeth/claws. While he is usually depicted with a club, in various myths he used different weapons depending on what he was fighting (sword and torch for the Lernaean Hydra, arrows for the Stymphalian Birds, etc.).
    • Broadly speaking, the heroes of Greek mythology are not too different from Vikings and Norse heroes, in the areas of monster-slaying, plundering, single combat, and general warrior culture. There's even some evidence that unlike Vikings, they actually wore horned helmets.
  • Bhima, the third Pandava brother in the Mahabharata. He's not The Hero either — his two older brothers are Yudhisthira, The Captain of sorts and paragon of morality and ethical compass to all five brothers, and Arjuna, an outrageously skilled warrior of all forms and a borderline metaphorical god of archery. Bhima just fits here because of his temper and absurd levels of strength (notably ripping apart a man in half by the crotch) and stamina (survived being poisoned just because of his size, and was subsequently nursed to health by the Nagas — increasing his power another tenfold).



    Tabletop Games 
  • Games Workshop games
    • Necromunda: The Ratskin special character Brakar the Avenger, from the game's 1st Edition, resembles a traditional barbarian hero with long, unkept hair, a hugely muscled bare chest, and trousers made from animal hides. The Downplayed due to the fact that he is a Long-Range Fighter rather than a melee specialist, but he still wields a massively oversized weapon.
    • Warhammer: Sigmar, the founding god of the Empire, was originally a barbarian hero and chieftain of the Unberogen tribe who used a combination of strength and diplomacy to unite most of the other human tribes between the Worlds Edge Mountains, the Grey Mountains and the Great Ocean, before leading them to decisively crush a huge Orc horde at the Battle of Blackfire Pass. The most famous wielder of the powerful warhammer Ghal Maraz — which he received for saving the life of the High King of the Dwarfs – Sigmar is typically depicted as a noble barbarian with wild hair and is often shown bear-chested. One of his greatest foes was the powerful Lich Nagash, the Great Necromancer, whose undead armies invaded the fifteen years after the founding of the Empire.
    • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Warhammer: Age of Sigmar: Many of the Stormcast were the heroes of Barbarian Tribes who were defeated, or died, defending their people from the forces of the Dark Gods during the Age of Chaos only to have their souls reforged as Sigmar's elite warriors.
    • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: When using the Tome of Corruption sourcebook, and the 2nd Edition rules, a player can create a heroic character from the heavily muscled, and fair haired, barbaric northern tribes of Norsca. While later lore in the main game made the Norscans almost totally tainted by Chaos, at the time the Tome was released the Norscans were more neutral, and could at times be heroic and friendly to other human nations.
    • Warhammer Quest: The Barbarian is the leader of the game’s default party, and the strongest close combat skill of the original Warrior characters. The model itself is sculpted to represent a typical barbarian hero with big muscles, long hair, wears nothing but a fur loincloth and a bear-skin cloak, and wields a large broadsword as a starting weapon.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The Barbarian class is generally meant to evoke this archetype. In 4th Edition Barbarian is one of the "Primal" classes, making it more spiritual in nature, as well as giving some "magical" gimmicks; a high level barbarian may literally turn into a volcano.
    • Playing as a Barbarian does come with a few special quirks. You're faster and more athletic than a Fighter and have more hitpoints to boot, as you were raised in the wilds and needed to become physically fit from a very young age. On the other hand, because you haven't had the privileges of learning to properly fight in a civilised society like your Fighter pal, you're not trained to use heavier armour nor tower shields and have fewer combat feats. In 3rd edition, Barbarians were also the only class in the game who started as illiterate.
    • In 5th Edition, Barbarians make up for their lack of heavy armor with Unarmored Defense, which allows them to add their Constitution Modifier to their AC when not wearing armor. Without factoring in Dex, this means a Barbarian's shredded abs provide him as much protection as a maille shirt if he has 16 Con. If you rolled extremely well making your character, you could start off the game with 18 Dex and 18 Con, giving you a starting AC of 18, equivalent to plate armor, while being completely naked. Even better, Barbarians can carry shields and keep this bonus, and don't have the Disadvantage on stealth checks that comes with Heavy Armor.
      • Curiously, in a reversal from the norm, the 5th Edition Barbarian archetypes offered up are overwhelmingly magical, in stark contrast to the usual expectations of the barbarian character'd distrust of magic. Of the six archetypes officially published, only two are devoid of magical features.
    • Many of D&D's descendants like 13th Age and Pathfinder have their own barbarian classes, usually based on the 3.5 one, meaning that while they may hold spiritual beliefs (then again, they may not), their actual combat style is heavy on The Berserker. Amiri, Pathfinder's iconic Barbarian, goes so far as to wield a BFS that's so heavy it can't be swung effectively unless she's in a blood rage.
  • As Exalted is Trope Overdosed, there must of course be examples of this. The most prominent is Yurgen Kaneko, the Bull of the North. Yurgen was an old barbarian warlord who followed the ways of his people and walked out into a snowstorm when it became clear he was getting too old for the battlefield... and while out there, he was chosen by the Unconquered Sun to be one of his great heroes and kick ass in his name. Right now, he's currently giving the Realm one hell of a hard time defending its holdings.
    • First Edition suggested that the vast, vast majority of Lunars were such heroes, devoted to smashing the pillars of decadent civilization and bringing humanity back into the toughened fold of the world. This did not meet with much popularity, so it merely became a option for Lunars trying to find an alternative to the extant model of society (and it says a bit that the signature Lunar who's biggest on barbarism, Ma-Ha-Suchi, is just using his "experiment" as a reason to get back at the world 'cause he's not the prettiest anymore).
  • Barbarians of Lemuria lives by this trope.
  • The German small-press beer-and-pretzels RPG Barbaren! takes this trope to its logical conclusion: all player characters are manly male barbarian heroes out to demonstrate their manliness by winning fights (the more dangerous the better) and getting women, unattached or otherwise, to fall for their manly charms. (It's subtitled 'The Ultimate Macho Role-Playing Game' for good if somewhat tongue-in-cheek reason. That said, there actually is playable fairly rules-light role-playing game complete with an almost-plausible setting underneath said cheekiness.)
  • In Wasteland 2010 (a riff on Thundarr the Barbarian), Zolgar is "the de facto leader of the group" and also "a loyal friend who will risk his life to save those in need without so much as a second thought."
  • The main character of Barbarian Prince, Cal Arath, is built on this trope. Cool Sword? It's called Backbiter. Battling wizards, dragons, and all manor of monsters? He's the strongest human in the setting. Anti-Hero? Up to the player, he can pillage and steal to raise the money needed to save his kingdom. Of course, none of this makes his quest anything close to easy.
  • World Tree RPG: Gormoror consider this a dramatic ideal to live up to, and tend to fancy themselves might Beowulf-style heroes in the making. A typical Gormoror is very focused on building himself up as a fearsome warrior of great renown, and will enthusiastically engage in raids for treasure and glory, fight horrific monsters and enemy armies, swear mighty oaths, and preferably die nobly in a dramatically lopsided battle.

    Video Games 
  • Rastan is one of the most well-known and archetypical arcade examples.
  • Both Player Characters in Magic Sword: Heroic Fantasy, although Player 1 (Alan) moreso.
  • The hero of Black Tiger (who may or may not be be named Black Tiger) is another example.
  • The Black Whirlwind from Jade Empire is somewhat like this, mixed with Boisterous Bruiser and Ax-Crazy. Virtually all his stories end up with him killing everybody in the vicinity, and it's mentioned that, like Marbod Whitefalcon above, he once stormed an entire castle, alone and naked. And drunk. Ninety-nine percent of what the Black Whirlwind does is apparently done under the influence.
  • Many Atari ST games in the late '80s and early '90s had barbarian protagonists, with Targhan, Torvak the Warrior, and Barbarian being prime examples.
  • Castlevania's Simon Belmont was depicted this way in his early appearances, as basically Conan with a whip. In fact, the figure and pose of Simon on the original Castlevania cover is taken directly from a Frank Frazetta painting. He's received several redesigns since then, but even at his most bishonen-y, Simon still looks like he could rip you in half with his bare hands, unlike many of the later Belmonts. He eventually went back to the original, straightforward barbarian look in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
    • Subverted in the case of Gabriel Belmont. He was originally intended as one, but Hideo Kojima advised the production team to refine him to appeal to players better.
  • Minsc from the Baldur's Gate series. In a rarity for Barbarian Heroes in D&D-based games, not actually of the Barbarian class, he is a Ranger instead. This is because the D&D rules decreed that the only class allowed to have animal companions are Rangers, and Minsc is absolutely inseparable from his pet 'miniature space hamster' Boo. Also, the 2nd edition of D&D did not have a dedicated Barbarian class out of the gate, which left Ranger as the closest equivalent.
  • There was to be a Human Barbarian origin for the Player Character in Dragon Age: Origins, but it was never implemented because the devs didn't have the time to produce the assets needed to sufficiently distinguish the Avvar (i.e. local barbarian) culture from the regular (civilized/feudal) Fereldan culture. Hence also the conspicuous absence of Avvar-related subplots in a game set in the region where the Avvars are supposedly a prominent ethnic group. There is, however, an Avvar origin in the Dragon Age pen-and-paper RPG.
  • Barbarian is one of the available classes in both Diablo II and Diablo III. The Barbarians as a race are given a different spin in this series than most, being not individual world-roaming anti-heroes but rather a heroic and honorable Proud Warrior Race charged with protecting a Cosmic Keystone. The non-canon, third-party expansion of the first game, titled Hellfire, also allowed a Barbarian class. One of these Barbarians, Sonya, represents the class in Heroes of the Storm.
  • Duke Nukem is a Barbarian Hero with guns. Think about it for a second: Muscles like a Belgian Blue, irresistible to the ladies, armed to the teeth, constantly fighting with monsters, some of whom are clear cut Eldritch Abominations and finally he is rich, famous and powerful. The only thing that separates him from the traditional Barbarian is that he did not go from rags to riches. Duke was pretty much born into being the most successful man ever.
  • The Warrior from the Gauntlet series fits this trope perfectly. Though the Red variant in Legends and Dark Legacy is the standard version, the other three colors offer different costumes.
  • Starting with the third game, the Fallout series has featured the comic-book hero "Groknak the Barbarian." Collecting issues of his comic will increase your Melee Weapons skill, and in the fourth game, the protagonist can find some replica props and cosplay as him.
    • In a more traditional sense, Fallout 2 puts the player in the shoes of a Future Primitive descended from the previous game's hero, who is declared The Chosen One due to their heritage and sent on a quest to find a "holy relic" (read: terraforming device) that will save their village from starvation.
    • Fallout 4 gives us Strong, a Super Mutant that became inspired by the writings of Shakespear and wants to find the "milk of human kindness." His values are significantly different from the more "civilized" companions (since he comes from a "simple" culture), such as hating solutions that require too much "smart" activity while loving cannibalism and violence. Strong, however, does have morals that set him apart from what's typical of his kind, displaying surprising altruism, interest in other people, and equal sharing of resources. Strong is also surprisingly philosophical at times. He describes his belief in finding strength through sharing with others, making the whole stronger than the individual. In Strong's eyes, selfishness is the height of dishonor and it's only through teamwork that a species can progress/survive.
  • "Barbarian" was a playable class in Ultima III: Exodus. In a subversion of the trope, it was actually the worst character to play the game with, since the game system was very reliant on magic. As in an entire party of Squishy Wizards would get you a lot further than one of Barbarians. That said, an all-Barbarian party is one challenge for the game.
  • Rau from The Mark of Kri and Rise of the Kasai is basically Polynesian Conan (the stereotype, not the original). He's even directly addressed as "Barbarian" instead of his name sometimes.
  • Gogan, the Mighty Warrior from The Legendary Axe.
  • Played with in Final Fantasy IV: The After Years: The Man In Black is a toweringly huge man, very strong with very high HP, extremely muscular, a Barbarian Long Hair, who wears only a kilt and cowl and wields a BFS—heck, said BFS is even called the Cimmerian Blade. However, since he is also Golbez, Anti-Villain of the previous game and Cecil's brother, he is extremely intelligent, highly proficient in magic, and at heart a very good man.
  • The main character of NieR in the Gestalt version of the game. In the Replicant version, he's instead a Bishōnen.
  • In Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior the player controls a barbarian hero on a quest to save a beautiful princess from an evil wizard. In the sequel, the princess takes up the sword alongside the hero as a playable character.
  • Ax Battler from Golden Axe, with expys Stern Blade in Revenge of Death Adder and Kain Grinder in Golden Axe III.
    • All of the playable characters in the Golden Axe series tend to fit this trope, but Ax Battler is the most archetypal.
  • Age of Conan
    • Barbarian is a playable class in the MMORPG. Interestingly, this game makes the barbarian a rogue class with stealth skills rather than a brawling warrior archetype like most games do, as Conan was a thief in a lot of his stories. They're DPS-oriented rogue/fighter hybrids that favours big weapons or Dual Wield.
    • There is also the Conqueror class, which is nothing less than the Barbarian class with warrior features: this can wear heavy armor and can use Dual Wield and Two-Handed gears and is focused on damage rather than being tanker.
  • Rose Sub in Trio the Punch is practically a Captain Ersatz of Rastan.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Throughout the series (until Skyrim did away with classes), Barbarians were one of the character classes. They were lighter armoured and more mobile warriors.
    • This is a common depiction (and even ideal) of the Nords, along with Horny Vikings. Axes as a favored weapon, Braids of Barbarism, Badass Beards, war paint, war cries, Pelts of the Barbarian... It is all heavily present in Nord culture, which they took from their ancestors, the Atmorans. Enemies of the Nords (usually elves) prefer to paint them instead as a violent and savage Barbarian Tribe. Nords themselves are acutely aware of this image; some like the Stormcloaks and certain Nord mercenaries and criminals embrace it for the intimidation factor, but city-dwelling and law-abiding Nords largely shun the image and claim it gives them a bad name to outsiders.
    • Skyrim:
      • Although the game gives you the opportunity to play as many other things aside from this, the promotional art for the "official" Dragonborn is shown to be a male Nord with the dress and demeanor of Barbarian Hero.
      • This appears to be the general aesthetic of most of the armors in Skyrim, in contrast to Oblivion's Knight in Shining Armor aesthetic. Steel Armor, for instance: compare the Oblivion set to the Skyrim set. Justified by Skyrim's native inhabitants being the Nords, as described above.
  • Lykos in the TurboGrafx-CD game Shapeshifter. He is actually called a "barbarian lad" in dialogue.
  • The hero of the Amstrad CPC game Savage. "Gonad the Barbiturate" was how programmer David Perry described his character design.
  • Leo of Red Earth is a king who set off as a warrior when cursed into a Beast Man.
  • Rock from Soul Edge is a glaring example in terms of much of his backstory and his look of sporting a fur loincloth and carrying a huge battle-axe. He does subvert it a bit as he's a self-taught barbarian who's really a well-to-do British man marooned in the U.S.
  • Subverted in Wizards & Warriors. Kuros (the protagonist) is portrayed this way on the box art (both for this game, and its sequel Ironsword: Wizards and Warriors II), but in actuality, he's more like a Knight in Shining Armor wearing full plate mail.
  • League of Legends features the Barbarian King Tryndamere, wielding a bigass sword and the ability to NOT die, sustained with nothing but his own rage
  • Shop Heroes features Kurul and Karal, both of whom are barbarian warriors from the plains (and who may be related, judging by the names). Kurul probably fits the archetype best, being a a grim, violent thug who's always shouting. By contrast, Karal has a much sunnier disposition than the typical barbarian hero, although she's still quite loud.
  • Italian company Crian Soft has Age of Barbarian, a game that's a tribute to '80s Barbarian and Sword & Sorcery movies. Fittingly they have a Conan expy, Rahaan and a Frank Frazetta-style girl, Sheyna.
  • As a tribute to '70s Sword & Sorcery pulp fantasy, White Whale games has the surrealistic God of Blades. In this game that looks like a Roger Dean album cover, you control the resurrected alien barbarian "The Nameless King" as he fights enemies from the void that invaded his world.
  • Data East's Hippodrome and follow-up game Mutant Fighter (in Japan, it was Deathbrade) has barbarian warriors fighting inhuman creatures in the arena.
  • Kratos from God of War. Even though he is Greek (which would technically make him the opposite of a barbarian) he hails from Sparta, which was considered the most barbaric of all Greek city-states by far, and Kratos is particularly a warrior of pure unadultered physical power and immense savagery, driven by animalistic and atavistic fury. Also, in true Barbarian Hero fashion, his first instinct when accosted by beautiful women in scant clothing cringing in terror is to have sex with them. His throne as the Greek God of War was also draped with willing female slaves like a Frazetta piece. Ironically, in 2018 God of War (PS4), he fits the aesthetic even better (grew a full beard and switched his Blades of Chaos with a battle axe), but he calmed down a lot after he formed a new family.
  • DOOM (2016): If there can be such a thing as a high-tech barbarian, the Doom Slayer has earned his spot as one. No homeland (he lost it to demons), always seeking another fight (he's made it his goal to destroy every demon there is), lonesome, heroic for the most part and certainly barbaric in both sheer power and pure, unbridled, unquenchable rage. The only thing he's missing to fit would be the heavily exposed muscles, and even then he's bulky enough that no amount of armor can hide them. He's lost the sleeves in Doom Eternal, revealing his muscles are suitably ripped.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic has Tarnum, the Barbarian Warlord of the Wasteland, who led his barbarian people in an uprising against their Sorcerous Overlord oppressors. When the barbarian gods command him to become an eternal Atoner for his war crimes during said uprising, he subverts this by using his newfound immortality to try out lots of other roles. Over the course of the series he becomes a Knight in Shining Armor, a Magic Knight, a Forest Ranger and even masquerades as an Evil Overlord — though in all cases it's made pretty clear that this trope is still there underneath the latest veneer.
  • Might and Magic from the second game on through the fifth has the Barbarian class. It's limited in armor and can't use every weapon, though it can use the biggest and baddest two handed ones. However they gain more hit points than any other class, as well as gain levels faster than most. Given that armor class becomes increasingly useless as the game progresses, Barbarians end up being significantly ahead of the other fighting classes.

    Web Comics 
  • Drowtales: Tur'geis and Die'tra Am'saag Sarghress are good Conan-like examples of this trope, save for not being main characters. Bonus points from originally being from Relic Hunters, a very Swords and Sorcery based side-comic/RPG on the Drowtales site.
  • In American Barbarian, the title hero and his family.
  • In Exiern, Typhan-Knee was a typical loin cloth wearing, sword-swinging, over muscled, misogynistic barbarian hero and fully committed to living down to the stereotype. That is, until in the first few panels of the strip, where a run-in with the Evil Wizard Faden gave him a Gender Bender. Now "Tiffany", she is struggling to reconcile her views of women and previous adventuring with her new state. It does seem that being a woman has bumped her IQ up a few points though. She's still sword-swinging and over-muscled, however.
  • Legend of Bill and its spin-offs explore this trope: Bill is the stereotypical intellect-challenged barbarian roaming the D&D landscape accompanied by the far more intelligent blue dragon Frank, meeting other deconstructed stereotypes (evil wizards, mysterious gipsies, knightly heroes, badass princesses). Although perhaps the most bad-ass psychotic-fighter barbarian of all in the Billverse is Barwench Sarah, a frustrated and put-upon inn skivvy whose approach to hospitality and customer care involves not breaking the customer's fingers provided the tip he leaves is acceptable.
  • Girl Genius: The Ht'rok'din, ultimate ancestor of the Heterodyne family fits the physical appearance, although given that his descendents are Mad Scientists, he's probably smarter than he looks.
  • Goblins: Minmax was already fitting the trope when a pure fighter (by Dungeons & Dragons rules), including the bare chest and aversion to pants. As of the fight in the magic forest room of the Maze of Many, he has officially taken his first level of barbarian. (With the "extra rage" feat, as befitting of a good minmaxer.)
    Minmax: The strength bonus from raging is totally awesome!
  • Oglaf parodies the trope with Kronar the Barbarian, a warrior from an all-male tribe who is essentially a Manly Gay version of Conan. When not sleeping with other manly men, he is usually seen in an Unstoppable Rage. He also has a daughter who is apparently as much of a badass as he is, given that she was killing wolves with her bare hands a few hours after birth. Despite his disdain for 'sorcery' (which to him includes scented candles and writing, and arrows are borderline), he learns how to 'shoot bzowts' in order to defeat a sorceress, and, when asked by his men how he could bear that shame, he dismisses them by stating that he feels no shame, because feelings are for women.
  • Guilded Age: Frigg. Less in terms of the culture that raised her than her crass & violent attitude.

    Web Original 
  • Critical Role: Being based on D&D, this trope was inevitable. Both the Tal'dorei and Wildemount campaigns have had a barbarian amongst the heroes.
    • Grog Strongjaw fits the trope to a T. Drinking, whoring, and getting into fights was pretty much all Grog cares about, other than his friend Pike Trickfoot. As a Berserker, he's able to go on even more dangerous rages then most.
    • Yasha Nydoorin still fits within the trope, but is less bombastic than Grog is. A seven-foot-tall Aasimar from the setting's version of Mordor, Yasha is implied to have gone on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge in the past after her wife was killed by their tribe and has some connection to a mysterious cult.

    Western Animation 
  • Dave the Barbarian:
    • Parodied with the main character, a wimp with a wimpy name who prefers not to fight.
    • Played straighter with his little sister Fang.
  • Korgoth of Barbaria: Korgoth is a deadpan parody of the trope, specifically parodying Thundarr and Conan.
  • The Fairly Oddparents: One episode features Timmy getting transformed into a barbarian thanks to Jorgen.
  • Fangbone!: The titular character combines this trope with Kid Hero, since he's only nine. Doesn't stop him from being able to take down the evil forces of Venomous Drool like a pint-sized version of Conan.

    Real Life 
  • Most prominent Viking saga heroes qualify and are indeed, the primary inspiration for this trope's existence. After all, no one's more badass than the Vikings.
  • Alexander the Great bears more than a few traces of this trope. His personal hero was Achilles, his goal in life was to win glory and become known as a mighty warrior (his own words). And his conquests look less like a monarch carrying out a carefully planned Realpolitik and more like a raider on a rampage, or even like a Great White Hunter on a safari. On top of that, proper Greeks certainly considered him a barbarian themselves, as the kingdom of Macedon was on the periphery of Greek civilization and barely regarded as civilized itself (and most definitely not as "Greek"). The irony kicks in when it is pointed out that, on the other hand, he was cultured and trained by the best scholars. His teacher was Aristotle, in fact; and whenever he found any interesting items on his conquests, he would send them back to his teacher to study.
  • Arminius, leader of the Germanic tribes that annihilated Roman Legions in the Battle of Teutoberg Forest, was later portrayed as this trope by various German Nationalists. Again, Arminius had actually spent quite a part of his life living a civilized life among Romans.
  • Almost any badass outsider to a "civilized" nation counts actually. Barbarians don't think of themselves as barbarians. Its just that to them, everyone else is a silly sissy.
  • Representing the Turkic and Mongol peoples are Genghis Khan, Tarmashirin Khan, and Oghuz Khagan.

Alternative Title(s): Barbarian Heroine


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: