28 February 2011

On the Original Elric Stories

In order to get into the spirit of my current ‘Young Kingdoms’ campaign, I just reread the original five Elric short stories. They recently were published in their original form (the version that was published in Science Fantasy magazine, 1961-62) in the Del Rey collection Elric: The Stealer of Souls.

The stories are:

· The Dreaming City

· While the Gods Laugh

· The Stealer of Souls

· Kings in Darkness

· The Caravan of Forgotten Dreams (originally The Flame Bringers)

I must say that I really enjoyed reading these tales again. They are briskly paced but contain surprising depth. Only around 40 pages each, they each are easily readable in a single sitting (or a single ‘lying,’ if you generally read fiction in bed, as I do).

The last time I had read an Elric tale was over 15 years ago; it was The Revenge of the Rose, if I recall correctly. I’ve always wanted to give Elric another read, but never seemed to get around to it. Last year, though, I did reread some of Michael Moorcock’s other ‘Eternal Champion’ stories, viz., both Corum trilogies, and the short novel The Silver Warriors, all of which I enjoyed very much. (‘Corum’ was my favourite ‘Eternal Champion’ when I first read many of Moorcock’s fantasy tales over 25 years ago. I think that he still is, although I find Elric more intriguing now than I did as a teenager.)

Also included in this book is Stormbringer, specifically, the four original novelettes that were published in Science Fantasy 1963-64. I’ve finished the first novelette (Dead God’s Homecoming) and am well into the second (Black Sword’s Brothers). While I’m enjoying these tales well enough, I decidedly prefer the earlier five. Those earlier stories have a certain élan that the Stormbringer novelettes lack. The latter stories seem ponderously ‘epic’ in tone.

Right now, I wish that all of the Elric stories were like the original five. Dark fantasy tales, most definitely, but relatively light on the angst and melodrama. Perhaps that sentiment will change as I read more (I already have volume two of the Del Rey series, To Rescue Tanelorn).

(Anyone else notice that the artist of the above illustration, John Picacio, stuck the ‘Eye of Sauron’ onto the hilt of Stormbringer?)

8 comments:

  1. I keep meaning to read these, you've just made up my mind!

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  2. I have that collection, but I haven't given it a try yet, but your review makes me think I should.

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  3. "(Anyone else notice that the artist of the above illustration, John Picacio, stuck the ‘Eye of Sauron’ onto the hilt of Stormbringer?)"

    Seems to be a common interpretation: http://marjasall.blogspot.com/search/label/Elric

    Mine doesn't look like Sauron's eye, but I think the eye alludes to intelligence -- the sword being a living thing, that can 'see'.

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  4. That's a great picture of Elric, Marjasall! Mind if I use it in a future post (with full credit and link to your site, of course)?

    I agree as well re. the brilliance of the Michael Whelan covers.

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  5. One thing that I probably should have mentioned in my original post is that the stories in the Del Rey collections are presented in order of publication, not in terms of the 'chronology' of Elric's life. The four novelettes that make up 'Stormbringer', for instance, describe the *final* adventures of Elric, yet they appear in the first Del Rey volume.

    Earlier collections presented the stories in 'chronological' order. (Unfortunately, they also contain edited versions of the stories, including removing the amazing opening to 'The Dreaming City'.)

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  6. I just read this edition a couple of months ago. As a teenager, I probably reread the Elric books (the DAW editions at that time) at least once a year), but I hadn't read them at this point for many a year. Some things I noticed:

    - Despite the obsession with presenting Elric as a Goth, he dresses more like a glam-rocker in the earlier appearances. In The Dreaming City, he appears like some cross between the Thin White Duke and the Mick Jagger of Performance.

    - Kings in Darkness is, I hate to say, kind of a dumb story, in which Elric comes off as an idiot and I can't imagine how he woos Zarozinia by his actions. I remember using that potion for many Stormbringer games over the years, though.

    - Moonglum is an actual dwarf (in the medical sense) at first. I always subconciously assume Jeff Dee's picture from the Deities & Demigods when I think of Moonglum.

    - I really dislike Picacio's artwork.

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  7. Matthew, I just read Moorcock's introduction to To Rescue Tanelorn, and he notes that "Kings in Darkness" is his least favourite Elric story.

    Nonetheless, I love the way that the Forest of Troos is described. Very creepy!

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who divides his time between Milwaukee and Toronto.