I research how eunuchs (castrated men) are portrayed in literature. I’ve written the following articles to discuss the referenced fiction books. I’ve listed the books with “fantasy” worlds first, and the books with more realistic settings are listed in chronological order of those settings, from earliest to most recent.
Are you interested in a whole book on the topic of fictional eunuch characters….and specifically just on the ones who are villains? My 2018 book, Painting Dragons, is exactly about this!
|Setting of the story||Eunuch character|
|Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman (2009)||fantasy||fantasy||Ryko (supporting character)||bodyguard|
|Percheron Saga (#1, Odalisque; #2, Emissary; #3, Goddess) by Fiona McIntosh (2005)|
Discussed in Painting Dragons!
|fantasy||Percheron (fantasy)||Salmeo (main character)||Grand Master Eunuch in a palace harem|
|“The Tale of the Seventeenth Eunuch” by Jane Yolen (1998)||fantasy||fantasy||The seventeenth eunuch (narrator)||wish fulfillment|
|Like Fire Through Bone by E. E. Ottoman (2013)||fantasy||fantasy||Vasilios Eleni (main character), Ilkay Zoe, Xegodis Aetia||Vasilios was a household servant to a high-status married couple|
|Sword Dance (Sword Dance, #1) by A. J. Demas (2019)||fantasy||Boukos (fantasy); Varazda’s homeland is Zash||Varazda (also known by the assumed slave name Pharastes)||purchased and then freed by Aristokles|
|Jewel of Persia by Roseanna M. White (2010)||489-477 BCE||Persia||Theron, Zethar, Mehuman, Bigthan, Teresh||palace eunuchs under King Xerxes, during the time of his Jewish queen Esther|
|La muerte del filosofo by Vicente Herrasti (2004)||c. 380 BCE||Greece||Akorna (main character), often called “el acarnio” (the Acharnian)||personal servant to the aged philosopher Gorgias|
|Salammbo by Gustave Flaubert (1862)||The Mercenary War, 241-238 BCE||Carthage (North Africa)||Schahabarim (supporting character)||high priest of Tanit|
|The Eunuch Neferu by Daniel Tegan Marsche (2002)||1st century BCE||Alexandria (Egypt)||Neferu, formerly known as Kebryn (main character)||concubine to a Roman general|
|Roman Blood by Steven Saylor (1991)||80 BCE||Rome||Ahausarus (supporting character)||house servant to Caecilia Metella|
|The Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw (1986)||371-378 CE||Ephesus (Turkey), Alexandria (Egypt), Thrace (Greece)||Charis, a woman posing as a eunuch Chariton (main character)||physician|
|The Female by Paul Iselin Wellman (1953)||early 6th century CE||various||various||various (everything from personal masseurs to military leaders)|
|Memoirs of a Byzantine Eunuch by Christopher Harris (2002)||He is 7 years old at the time of his castration in 837 CE; the story chronicles his long life||Born in Tmutorokan, near Khazaria, he is taken southwest across the Black Sea to Constantinople||Zeno (main character)||a scholar, servant to the Church patriarch Photius|
|Pilgermann by Russell Hoban (1983)||The story begins when he is a young man in 1096 C.E., but he travels through time||Germany, and a pilgrimage to Jerusalem||Pilgermann||“I think I may have been a tailor or a surgeon or something of that sort”|
|The Eunuch by Jonathan Kos-Read (2021)||1153||China||Enchenkei Gett;|
|Chief Imperial Investigator;|
Head of the Imperial Harem
|The Sheen on the Silk by Anne Perry (2010)||1273||Constantinople||Anna, a woman posing as a eunuch Anastasius (main character)||physician, sleuth in disguise|
|The Prisoners of Fate by Jeremy Han (2015)||1435||China||Kong Wei (and many others)||Grand Eunuch|
|The Sultan’s Daughter by Ann Chamberlin (1997)||1560s||Turkey||Abdullah (narrator), formerly called Veniero||servant to a woman who is a prince’s sister and a pasha’s wife|
|Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani (2012)||1570s||Iran||Javaher (narrator), formerly called Payam||servant to a princess|
|The King at the Edge of the World by Arthur Phillips (2020)||1591-1602||England||Unnamed||Ambassador from the Ottoman sultan|
|The Fatal Contract: A French Tragedy by William Hemings (1639)||17th century? (contemporary fantasy)||France||“Castrato”||really a woman, disguised so she can exact revenge; acting as a servant to a queen|
|Imprimatur by Rita Monaldi and Francesco Sorti (2002)||1683||Italy||Atto Melani||singer, abbot|
|The Eunuch: Or, the Northumberland Shepherd by Anonymous (1752)||mid-1700s||England||Harry Collison (narrator), falsely believed to be a eunuch||classical singer|
|Zohrab, The Hostage by James Justinian Morier (1832)||1797||Persia||Aga Mohamed Khan (main character)||the Shah (ruler of Persia 1796-1797)|
|The Last Castrato by J. Wolf Sanchez (2006)||early 19th century||Italy||Giaocchino and Vincenzo (twins)||castrati singers; serial killer|
|Harem by Dora Levy Mossanen (2002)||19th century||Constantinople||Narcissus (main character); Gulf Lily and Hazel-Boy (supporting characters)||chief black eunuch; palace eunuchs, respectively|
|Princess Mersabel by Waltenegus Dargie (2021)|
This is a revised version of The Eunuch and the King’s Daughter.
|c. 1860||the kingdom of Kaffa, southwestern Ethiopia||Marebath||the Head Guard and protector of the princess|
|The Eunuch and the King’s Daughter by Waltenegus Dargie (2005)||c. 1860||the fictional kingdom of Méthi, southwestern Ethiopia||Marebath||the Head Guard and protector of the princess|
|The Beautiful Lady Was a Palace Eunuch by Beverley Jackson (2011)||He is 6 years old at the time of his castration in 1904; the story chronicles his life until 1937||Peking (Beijing), China||Li Chung (main character), and other palace eunuchs||palace eunuch trained as an opera singer and martial arts fighter|
|The Boy Fortune Hunters of China by Floyd Akers (L. Frank Baum) (1909)||1908||China||Wi-to (a significant character in the second half of the book), and other palace eunuchs||chief eunuch at a palace in northwestern China|
|The Eunuch of Stamboul by Dennis Wheatley (1935)||early 20th century (during the presidency of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, 1923-1938)||Istanbul||Kazdim Hari Bekar (main character)||former palace eunuch, now Chief of Police|
|Cool Cut by Sharad P. Paul (2007)||mid-20th century||KKP, Tamil Nadu, India||Raman, a.k.a. Ramani (main character); Rajinder (supporting character)||dancer and eunuch group leader, respectively|
|Not a Man by M. A. McRae (2011)||mid-20th century||Elbarada (in an unnamed Arab country) and England||Shuki, a.k.a. Shane (main character)||child sex slave|
|Murmur by Will Eaves (2018)||1950s||England||Alec Pryor (narrator, based on the true story of Alan Turing)||codebreaker|
|The Last Castrato by John Spencer Hill (1995)||mid-to-late 20th century||Florence, Italy||Francesco Pistocchi, a.k.a. Farinelli, a.k.a. ‘Lo Squartatore’||failed classical singer; serial killer|
|The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (1984)||1970s||Porteneil, Scotland||Francis “Frank” Leslie Cauldhame (narrator)||child psychopath; murderer of other children|
|The City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre (1985)||1980s||Calcutta (Kolkata), India||Kalima (supporting character)||hijra; dancer and entertainer in a religious/superstitious capacity|
|The Strike by Anand Mahadevan (2011)||1987||India||Radha (supporting character)||hijra; beggar on a train|
|The Eunuch: A Dark Tale by Richard Bird (1995)||1990s||Dallas, Texas (United States)||Nathan Doering (main character); Geronimo Jones (supporting character)||pheromone producers|
|Jackfoolery by Mark Johnson (2010)||1990s||Western parts of the United States||Jack Sullivan (main character)||U.S. presidential candidate|
|Dance of the Eunuch by Jehangir Bux (2013)||modern day||India||Jana (main character)||singer and dancer|
In 1905, the Evening Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii) published The Captain of the Janizaries (1886) by James M. Ludlow, apparently in serial installments. Here is the installment from June 24, 1905 (PDF).
In 1915, the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger (September 21, 1915) announced that Keith’s Theater would put on “Sumurun,” described as “a wordless play from ‘The Arabian Nights,’ written by Friedrich Freska and produced by Richard Ordynski, with scenery by Karl Ernst. Sumurun is the wife of the sheikh. The characters include a “Chief Eunuch” (played by Howard Holden), a “Slave Dealer” (played by Clyde MacKinley”), and other “eunuchs,” “slaves,” and “ladies of the harem.” (I found this image in 2020 via Newspaper Navigator.)
In 1968, Romain Gary published The Dance of Genghis Cohn, which does not have a eunuch character, but uses the word “eunuch” and “impotent” several times.
In 1989, Alice Walker published The Temple of My Familiar, which includes an origin myth of men who castrated themselves because they envied women’s ability to give birth.