A civil servant of the Empire who’s looking forward to retiring soon, the magistrate is the narrator and protagonist (though his proper name is never revealed) of Waiting for the Barbarians. The magistrate’s dream… (read full character analysis)
Captured (along with her father and several others) by Colonel Joll’s men during the first days of their military campaign against the nomads, the nameless barbarian girl comes to play a central role in… (read full character analysis)
A colonel in the Empire’s army, Joll visits the Empire’s frontier settlements in order to interrogate any barbarians who have been taken prisoner, hoping to gain information about the barbarians’ raiding plans. Joll—commandeering and overbearing… (read full character analysis)
A warrant officer for the Empire, Mandel is sent to replace the magistrate’s position after the magistrate has been charged with treason (consorting with the barbarians). The magistrate describes Mandel as highly affected and self-conscious… (read full character analysis)
Conscripted by the magistrate to accompany him on his expedition to deliver the barbarian girl back to her people, the two soldiers ultimately serve an integral role in the magistrate’s incrimination. When they return from… (read full character analysis)
Captured along with his nephew, the barbarian boy, this nameless man is ultimately killed during his interrogation by Colonel Joll. When explaining the man’s death, Joll says that his victim had grown violent… (read full character analysis)
Mai cooks at the inn located in the settlement under the magistrate’s jurisdiction (before his arrest). When the magistrate is released from jail, assuming leadership of the fort again, he sleeps with her—the two having been sexually involved in the past.
To lead his expedition to return the barbarian girl to her people, the magistrate hires a hunter and horseman as a guide, since he’s familiar with the vast stretch of land between the magistrate’s settlement and the mountains where the barbarians live.
While the magistrate is imprisoned, he’s supervised by a warder who brings him his breakfast and releases him every two days for an hour of exercise.
The Barbarian Boy
A boy captured along with his uncle, the barbarian man, at the start of the book. After his uncle is killed, the boy is tortured by Colonel Joll and then taken along with Joll to act as a “guide.”
The Little Boy
While the magistrate is imprisoned, a little boy brings him his dinner every night, escorted by a guard. The boy, for a while, becomes one of the magistrate’s only contact with other human beings—a daily interaction to which he looks forward.
The only doctor in the settlement, and not a very skilled one.