A man from Samsat tells you a true story. It goes as follows:

The king of the horned cannibals goes out to the great forest. Suddenly, a herd of a dozen deer arrive and charge at the king. Though he tried to escape, he was trampled under the deer's hooves

Considering all the details, how many nails were driven into the king?


The answer requires a specific detail from a specific story

The detail you need is a minor detail of a ransom-payment

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Not a full answer, so just posting as a comment - the first line could well be a reference to rot13(N Gehr Fgbel ol Yhpvna bs Fnzbfngn, n fngver ba zlguf checbegvat gb or gehr. Vgf xrl srngher vf gung rirelguvat jvguva vg vf SNYFR. Gur fprcgvp jvguva zr vf gura vapyvarq gb oryvrir gung rirelguvat va gur tvira fgbel vf nyfb snyfr naq gung gurersber AB anvyf ner vaibyirq ng nyy, orpnhfr gurer vf ab xvat - ohg znlor gung'f n ovg gbb 'bhg gurer'... Rvgure jnl, xabjyrqtr bs gur yvaxrq fgbel znl cebir urycshy gb fbzrbar.) $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 8:23
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    $\begingroup$ I'm 100% sure -- well, say 99% sure -- it's a reference to that, but unfortunately I've failed to find anything in it (or in the other works by the same author, who is also clearly referenced in the question) that matches the story here, either literally or metaphorically. The same author is famous for criticizing rot13(pregnva sbyybjref bs n abgnoyr crefba fbzrgvzrf ersreerq gb nf n xvat jub unq anvyf qevira vagb uvz, naq jubfr sbyybjref pbhyq xvaqn or pnyyrq pnaavonyf) but I think that's a red herring. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 11:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Stiv I've added a hint $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 11:59
  • $\begingroup$ @GarethMcCaughan I've added a hint $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 11:59
  • $\begingroup$ @IchthysKing That hint just completely verifies Stiv and Gareth's theory. rot13(Hasbeghangryl, V pna'g svaq nal qrgnvyf rkprcg sbe gur snpg gung rirelguvat va gung fgbel vf SNYFR) $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 16:51

2 Answers 2


This doesn't really add much new but is a little too long for a comment. Credit to @Stiv and @Rand al'Thor for most of the leg work.

As was already pointed out by @Stiv, the puzzle refers to:

Lucian's True History

We see this because:

Lucian was a famous author from Samosata

The work in question is:

A famous piece of his which consists of fiction presented as truth, thus agreeing with the introduction to the puzzle.

In Section 44 of that work, we encounter the following:

There followed a sail through smooth water, and then a small island, easy of approach, and inhabited; its occupants were the Ox-heads, savage men with horns, after the fashion of our poets’ Minotaur. We landed and went in search of water and provisions, of which we were now in want. The water we found easily, but nothing else; we heard, however, not far off, a numerous lowing; supposing it to indicate a herd of cattle, we went a little way towards it, and came upon these men. They gave chase as soon as they saw us, and seized three of my comrades, the rest of us getting off to sea. We then armed — for we would not leave our friends unavenged — and in full force fell on the Ox-heads as they were dividing our slaughtered men’s flesh. Our combined shout put them to flight, and in the pursuit we killed about fifty, took two alive, and returned with our captives. We had found nothing to eat; the general opinion was for slaughtering the prisoners; but I refused to accede to this, and kept them in bonds till an embassy came from the Ox-heads to ransom them; so we understood the motions they made, and their tearful supplicatory lowings. The ransom consisted of a quantity of cheese, dried fish, onions, and four deer; these were three-footed, the two forefeet being joined into one. In exchange for all this we restored the prisoners, and after one day’s further stay departed. [emphases added]

Here we meet the:

Ox-heads who are presumably the horned cannibals of the OP's puzzle.

We also encounter in this passage:

Three-footed deer

If we take the part about the king being charged by a dozen deer at face value as a new detail invented by @Ichthys King occurring in the universe of the story (I can not find another reference to such an event in the rest of the work), then combining our insights with @Rand al'Thor's we see that there must have been a total of:

$12\times3\times2=72$ nails involved

As we have $12$ deer, each with $3$ feet, each foot with $2$ nails


Three pieces of information are needed to answer this:

  • There are a dozen (12) deer.

  • Deer have 4 legs.

  • Deer are even-toed ungulates, which means that each hoof is cloven into 2 toes (also with 2 smaller "dew claws" above and behind, which don't touch the ground).

So the number of nails should be

12 times 4 times 2 equals 96.

In this case, the information about

Samsat and horned cannibals

would be red herrings, and the only real we need would be

about the physiology of ungulates.

  • $\begingroup$ There are no red herrings. You need to consider all the details to get the right answer $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 7:22
  • $\begingroup$ I've added a hint $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 11:58

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