Elric of Melniboné
|Elric of Melniboné|
Elric as depicted by Michael Whelan on the 1977 cover of The Weird of the White Wolf.
|First appearance||The Dreaming City, 1961 novel|
|Created by||Michael Moorcock|
Elric of Melniboné is a fictional character created by Michael Moorcock, and the antihero of a series of sword and sorcery stories centering in an alternate Earth. The proper name and title of the character is Elric VIII, 428th Emperor of Melniboné. Later novels by Moorcock mark Elric as a facet of the Eternal Champion.
Elric first appeared in print in Moorcock’s novella, "The Dreaming City" (Science Fantasy #47, June 1961); subsequent novellas were reformatted as the novel Stormbringer (1965), but his first appearance in an original novel wasn't until 1973 in Elric of Melniboné. Moorcock's albinistic character is one of the better known in fantasy literature, having crossed over into multimedia, such as comics and film, though efforts towards the latter stalled over the years. The novels have been continuously in print since the 1970s.
Elric is described by his creator, in the first book, Elric of Melniboné, as follows:
It is the colour of a bleached skull, his flesh; and the long hair which flows below his shoulders is milk-white. From the tapering, beautiful head stare two slanting eyes, crimson and moody, and from the loose sleeves of his yellow gown emerge two slender hands, also the colour of bone.
Elric was the last emperor of the stagnating island civilization of Melniboné. Physically weak and frail, the albino Elric must take drugs—later retconned to mean special herbs—in order to maintain his health. In addition to herb lore, his character becomes an accomplished sorcerer and summoner, able to summon powerful, supernatural allies by dint of his royal Melnibonéan bloodline. Unlike most others of his race, Elric possesses something of a conscience; he sees the decadence of his culture, and worries about the rise of the Young Kingdoms, populated by humans (as Melniboneans do not consider themselves such) and the threat they pose to his empire. Because of his introspective self-loathing of Melnibonéan traditions, his subjects find him odd and unfathomable, and his cousin Yyrkoon (next in the line of succession, as Elric has no heirs) interprets his behavior as weakness and plots Elric's death.
As emperor of Melniboné, Elric wears the Ring of Kings, also called the Ring of Actorios, and is able to call for aid upon the traditional patron of the Melniboné emperors, Arioch, a Lord of Chaos and Duke of Hell. From the first story onwards, Elric is shown using ancient pacts and agreements with not only Arioch but various other beings—some gods, some demons—to assist him in accomplishing his tasks.
Elric's finding of the sword Stormbringer serves as both his greatest asset and greatest disadvantage. The sword confers upon Elric strength, health and fighting prowess but must be fed by the souls of those struck with the black blade. In the end, the blade takes everyone close to Elric and eventually Elric's own soul as well. Most of Moorcock's stories about Elric feature this relationship with Stormbringer, and how it—despite Elric's best intentions—brings doom to everything the Melnibonéan holds dear.
Moorcock acknowledges the work of Bertolt Brecht, particularly Threepenny Novel and The Threepenny Opera, as "one of the chief influences" on the initial Elric sequence; he dedicated the 1972 Elric of Melnibone to Brecht. In the same dedication, he cited Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions and Fletcher Pratt's The Well of the Unicorn as similarly influential texts. Moorcock has referred to Elric as a type of the 'doomed hero', one of the oldest character-types in literature, akin to such hero-villains as Mervyn Peake's Steerpike in the Titus Groan trilogy, Poul Anderson's Scafloc in The Broken Sword, T.H. White's Lancelot in The Once and Future King, and Jane Gaskell's Zerd in The Serpent.
The story of Kullervo from Finnish Mythology contains elements similar to Elric's story, such as a talking magic sword and fatal alienation of the hero from his family. Besides Elric, Kullervo has been proposed as having influence on Poul Anderson's 1954 novel The Broken Sword, Elric, and J.R.R. Tolkien's Túrin Turambar. Moorcock has stated that "Anderson's a definite influence [on Elric], as stated. But oddly, the Kalevala was read to us at my boarding school when I was about seven." and "from a very early age I was reading Norse legends and any books I could find about Norse stories" Moorcock in the same posting stated "one thing I'm pretty sure of, I was not in any way directly influenced by Prof. T[olkien]".
Elric's albinism appears influenced by Monsieur Zenith, an albino villain who used a sword cane, who Moorcock appreciated enough to write into later multiverse stories. Moorcock read Zenith stories in his youth, and has contributed to their later reprinting, remarking "took me forty years to find another copy of Zenith the Albino! In fact it was a friend who found it under lock and key and got a copy of it to Savoy who are, at last, about to reprint it! Why I have spent so much energy making public the evidence of my vast theft from Anthony Skene, I'm not entirely sure... ". Moorcock later said "As I've said in my introduction to Monsieur Zenith: The Albino [ISBN 0861301099], the Anthony Skenes character was a huge influence. For the rest of the character, his ambiguities in particular, I based him on myself at the age I was when I created Elric, which was 20" The influence of Zenith on Elric is often cited in discussions of Zenith (e.g.,)
DAW series (1977)
- Elric of Melniboné (novel, Hutchinson 1972, cut vt The Dreaming City Lancer 1972 US; DAW 1977) ISBN 0-425-08843-X
- The Sailor on the Seas of Fate (collection, Quartet 1976; DAW 1977) ISBN 0-441-74863-5
- The Weird of the White Wolf (collection, DAW 1977) ISBN 0-441-88805-4
- The Sleeping Sorceress (novel, NEL 1971; Lancer 1972 as The Vanishing Tower; DAW 1977) ISBN 0-441-86039-7
- The Bane of the Black Sword (collection, DAW 1977) ISBN 0-441-04885-4
- Stormbringer (novel, fix-up, cut, Herbet Jenkins 1965; restored, DAW 1977, Berkeley 1984) ISBN 0-425-06559-6
Del Rey reprint series, Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné (2008–2010)
- Elric: The Stealer of Souls ISBN 0-345-49862-3
- Elric: To Rescue Tanelorn ISBN 0-345-49863-1
- Elric: The Sleeping Sorceress ISBN 0-345-49864-X
- Duke Elric ISBN 0-345-49865-8
- Elric in the Dream Realms ISBN 0-345-49866-6
- Elric: Swords and Roses ISBN 0-345-49867-4
- Fortress of the Pearl (novel, Gollancz 1989) ISBN 0-441-24866-7
- Revenge of the Rose (novel, Grafton 1991 as The Revenge of the Rose: A Tale of the Albino Prince in the Years of his Wandering) ISBN 0-441-00106-8
- The Dreamthief's Daughter (2001) ISBN 0-446-61120-4
- The Skrayling Tree (2003) ISBN 0-446-53104-9
- The White Wolf's Son (2005) ISBN 0-446-61745-8
- Elric at the End of Time (1984) ISBN 1-85028-032-0
- Michael Moorcock’s Elric: Tales of the White Wolf (1994) ISBN 1-56504-175-5
- Pawns of Chaos: Tales of the Eternal Champion (1996) ISBN 1-56504-933-0
- Michael Moorcock's Multiverse (with Walt Simonson and John Ridgway) (1999) ISBN 1-56389-516-1
- Elric: Making of a Sorcerer (with Walt Simonson) (2007) ISBN 1-4012-1334-0
Elric first appeared in print in 1961 in Michael Moorcock’s novelette "The Dreaming City" (Science Fantasy #47 June 1961). A further four novelettes ("While the Gods Laugh", "The Stealer of Souls", "Kings in Darkness", "The Flame Bringers") and four novellas ("Dead God's Homecoming", "Black Sword's Brothers", "Sad Giant's Shield", "Doomed Lord's Passing") followed, the last of these terminating the sequence with the close of Elric’s angst-ridden life. The five novelettes were collected in The Stealer of Souls (collection, Neville Spearman 1963) and the four novellas were first published as a novel in Stormbringer (op. cit.). (This early version of Elric’s saga, i.e., these nine short stories – with the full text of Stormbringer, as it appeared in Science Fantasy – has recently been republished in a single volume as Elric (Orion/Gollancz 2001), Volume 17 in the Fantasy Masterworks series.)
Moorcock published further Elric tales throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. One of these was "The Jade Man's Eyes," published in 1973 in Flashing Swords! #2, an original anthology edited by Lin Carter. In 1977 DAW published what is widely regarded as the canonical version of Elric’s saga: six books that collected the tales according to their internal chronology (and with the text of Stormbringer restored and revised). These DAW paperbacks all featured cover art work by the same young artist, Michael Whelan, and helped to define the look of both Elric and his sword Stormbringer. Whelan has subsequently done the cover art for other Elric novels, as have many other artists.
A few oddments were collected in Elric at the End of Time (coll. NEL 1984). The novelette "Elric at the End of Time" fits into the saga between The Sailor on the Seas of Fate and The Weird of the White Wolf.
Beginning in 2008, Del Rey Books reprinted the original, classic Elric material as a series of illustrated books: The Stealer of Souls, To Rescue Tanelorn, The Sleeping Sorceress, and Duke Elric (in 2009). 2009's Elric in the Dream Realms reprinted Fortress of the Pearl, and 2010's 'Swords and Roses' will reprint other later material.
In August 2012, Victor Gollancz Ltd. announced their intention to republish all of Michael Moorcock's back catalogue, including all the Elric stories, which will be presented in internal chronological order, along with previously unpublished material. All the stories will be published in both print and e-book formats.
The main sequence, according to the saga's internal chronology, comprises the following books (in those cases where a book is composed of several titled sub-stories, these are listed):
- (I) Elric of Melniboné
- Book 1
- Book 2
- Book 3
- The Fortress of the Pearl
- (II) The Sailor on the Seas of Fate
- Book One: Sailing To the Future
- Book Two: Sailing To the Present
- Book Three: Sailing To the Past
- Elric at the End of Time
- (III) The Weird of the White Wolf
- Prologue: The Dream of Earl Aubec
- Book One: The Dreaming City
- Book Two: While the Gods Laugh
- Book Three: The Singing Citadel
- (IV) The Vanishing Tower (The Sleeping Sorceress)
- Book One: The Torment of the Last Lord
- Book Two: To Snare the Pale Prince
- Book Three: Three heroes With a Single Aim
- The Revenge of the Rose
- (V) The Bane of the Black Sword
- Book One: The Stealer of Souls
- Book Two: Kings in Darkness
- Book Three: The Flame Bringers (aka The Caravan of Forgotten Dreams)
- Epilogue: To Rescue Tanelorn
- (VI) Stormbringer
- Book One: Dead God's Homecoming
- Book Two: Black Sword's Brothers
- Book Three: Sad Giant's Shield
- Book Four: Doomed Lord's Passing
Characters in the Elric series
Cymoril: A Melnibonéan, Elric's cousin and consort. He hopes to one day make her his wife and empress. She tries to understand and help Elric, but like his subjects she has difficulty understanding Elric's motivations and would have him rule as the emperors of old, with no concern for any but himself.
Dyvim Tvar: A Melnibonéan, one of Elric's few friends. He was one of the Dragon Masters, a group of Melnibonéans who can speak to the Dragons of Melniboné. Dyvim Tvar stayed loyal to Elric even after he destroyed Imrryr. Dyvim Tvar also seemed to have more of a moral compass than most Melnibonéans.
Dyvim Slorm: A Melnibonéan, Elric's cousin, son of Dyvim Tvar. He fights alongside Elric in the final war against Chaos, wielding the black sword Mournblade.
Moonglum of Elwher: A short, red-haired human with a cheerfully ugly face, adventuring companion to Elric. He and Elric share many dangers and rewards together. The most steadfast and loyal companion of all the Young Kingdom humans Elric encounters. He assists Elric in completing his fated purpose.
Rackhir, the Red Archer: A human, once a Warrior Priest of Phum but cast out of his order. He and Elric travel and adventure together several times throughout the series.
Theleb K'aarna: A human sorcerer of the Pan Tang isles. After being displaced as Queen Yishana's advisor and chief sorcerer by Elric, he seeks revenge and uses sorcery to hinder several of Elric's plans.
Yyrkoon: Prince of Melniboné, Elric's cousin. He is next in line for the throne, as Elric has no male heir. He is greatly concerned at Elric's behaviour and takes all of Elric's brooding and philosophical talk as a sign of weakness. He yearns for a return to more traditional emperors and secretly plots Elric's demise. Yyrkoon is a great sorcerer who has made many pacts with unholy forces to obtain his sorcerous strength. As further evidence of his decadent ways, he openly desires his sister Cymoril and intends to make her his wife and Empress if his plans ever reach fruition.
Zarozinia: A human of the Young Kingdoms. She falls in love with Elric and eventually marries him, for a time allowing him to experience true love and companionship. For her sake, Elric also gives up his blade Stormbringer and reverts to taking sorcerous herbs to sustain his life.
Appearances in other media
Elric first appeared in comics in 1972, in Conan the Barbarian issues 14–15, an adventure in two parts entitled "A Sword Called Stormbringer!" and “The Green Empress of Melniboné”. The comic was written by Roy Thomas and illustrated by Barry Windsor-Smith, based on a story plotted by Michael Moorcock and James Cawthorn.
First Comics published several Elric mini-series in the 1980s as well.
As well as within comic book adaptations, Elric also appeared in a number of original stories published by DC Comics. Helix, a short-lived science-fiction and fantasy imprint of DC, published the 12-issue Michael Moorcock's Multiverse from 1997. More recently, DC Comics published the 4-issue Elric: Making of a Sorcerer, with art by Walt Simonson, a story about Elric's magical training before the events of the novel Elric of Melniboné.
P. Craig Russell has drawn comics adaptations taken from three Moorcock novels: Elric of Melniboné (with Roy Thomas and Michael T. Gilbert; Pacific Comics), The Dreaming City and While the Gods Laugh (representing the first two-thirds of Weird of the White Wolf; Marvel/Epic Comics), and Stormbringer (Dark Horse). The character has also been separately adapted by Walter Simonson and Frank Brunner, and by George Freeman and others on the long-running Elric series at Pacific which Russell had co-created. (Reportedly tensions between himself and Thomas were the reason for his departure.)
Tom Strong #31 and #32, The Black Blade of the Barbary Coast part 1 & 2, written by Moorcock, feature albino pirate Captain Zodiac seeking the "Black Blade", a black cutlass marked with red runes. This presents as a recurrence of Elric and Stormbringer, with a liberal dash of Monsieur Zenith.
2011 marked the launch of another Elric based comic, Elric: The Balance Lost by BOOM! Studios. The series, written by Chris Roberson and drawn by Francesco Biagini, is available in both traditional hard copy and for digital download.
The Chronicle of the Black Sword, a 1985 album by UK space rock band Hawkwind. Moorcock and Hawkwind had, at this stage, collaborated a number of times. An expanded live album, Live Chronicles, was released in 1986. This included several spoken word interludes by author Moorcock himself in his capacity as on-stage narrator. The live show also included a mime artist portraying Elric himself. A video concert film entitled The Chronicle of the Black Sword appeared on VHS and later on DVD.
The song "Black Blade" was recorded for the album Cultösaurus Erectus (1980) by Blue Öyster Cult, written by singer/guitarist Eric Bloom with lyrics by Moorcock. Moorcock also collaborated on the songs "The Great Sun Jester" Mirrors (1979) and "Veteran of the Psychic Wars", Fire of Unknown Origin (1981).
The German band Blind Guardian has written several songs pertaining to Elric's story and the black blade, Stormbringer, including "The Quest For Tanelorn", "Tanelorn (Into The Void)", and "Fast To Madness".
Wendy Pini published a book documenting her attempt to make an animated film project of the Stormbringer series. Law and Chaos: The "Stormbringer" Animated Film Project (ISBN 0936861045) was published by Father Tree Press of Poughkeepsie, New York in 1987. The book contains original artwork, information on the characters, an overview of the plot, and her personal investment in the project. The film, however, never reached completion.
On May 29, 2007, in an interview with Empire Magazine, directors Chris and Paul Weitz revealed that they are in the process of adapting a trilogy of films based on Elric for Universal Pictures. Chris has stated that he grew up reading the material and has met with Moorcock, who trusted them with the project.
Elric (along with Stormbringer) was listed in the first printing of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) Deities & Demigods rule book. However, Chaosium already had a role playing series in the works based on Elric & Stormbringer and the initial AD&D printing was not fully authorized. A mutually beneficial deal was worked out between Chaosium & TSR, yet TSR chose to remove Elric from subsequent printings of Deities & Demigods.
The world of Elric's Young Kingdoms was the setting of the Stormbringer role-playing game by the publisher Chaosium (Hawkmoon has also been so treated, as has Corum). After a disagreement between Moorcock and Chaosium, the Stormbringer line was discontinued. In 1993 Chaosium released Elric! which still used their BRP system. Its main difference was in the way magic through demon summoning was detailed and the allegiance system that saw characters lean either towards law, chaos or the balance, themes that underscored the books. Subsequently, a new version called "Elric of Melnibone" was published by Mongoose Publishing under their Runequest system.
References in popular culture
- In the Babylon 5 episode "The Geometry of Shadows", the leader of the Technomage order is named Elric in what Michael Moorcock called "clearly straight homage" to his Elric novels.
- In the second to last episode of the TV show Alias, entitled "Reprisal", the password for one of computer engineer's Marshall Flinkman's programs is revealed to be "Moonglum of Elwher".
- The Elric character is affectionately parodied in the Cerebus the Aardvark graphic novels by Dave Sim, as Elrod of Melvinbone, the Albino, with his sword Seersucker. Sim's drawing of Elrod follows Smith's drawing of Elric in Conan the Barbarian, which in turn was based on the US Lancer paperback covers by Jack Gaughan, complete with "tall pointy hat".
- Elric was parodied in the humorous comic strip Thrud the Barbarian. The character Eric of Bonemalone, bearer of the cursed sword Stoatbringer, appeared in the story "The Three Tasks of Thrud". Published in White Dwarf #57 (September 1984). Author / Artist: Carl Critchlow.
- Karl Edward Wagner wrote a short story, "The Gothic Touch", in which his immortal antihero Kane enlists the aid of Elric and Moonglum, which can be found in Michael Moorcock’s Elric: Tales of the White Wolf (ISBN 1-56504-175-5) and in Wagner's Exorcisms and Ecstasies (ISBN 1878252283).
- Michael Moorcock received a songwriting credit for the Blue Öyster Cult song "Black Blade". Blue Öyster Cult notes on their website that lyrical collaborations with Moorcock "inspired ... 'Black Blade'". He has also co-written "Veteran of the Psychic Wars", inspired by the Elric stories.
- Elric's nickname "the White Wolf" inspired White Wolf, Inc. Founders Steven and Stewart Wieck were fans of the character, and named their roleplaying game magazine, and later their company, after him.
- Author Neil Gaiman wrote a short story called "One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock'" about a troubled boy who loves the stories about Elric, and finds escape from the everyday world in them. The story was published in the short story collection Smoke and Mirrors.
- Author Tad Williams features the character in "Go Ask Elric," a short story published in his collection Rite.
- Elric, his homeland of Melniboné, and his sword Stormbringer are featured in German heavy metal band Blind Guardian's song "Fast to Madness" from their "Follow the Blind" album (1989). "Damned for All Time", from the same album, also concerns Elric, as do the songs "The Quest for Tanelorn" from "Somewhere Far Beyond" (1992) and "Tanelorn (Into the Void)" from "At the Edge of Time" (2010).
- Elric is featured in the Spanish Power metal band Dark Moor's song "Fall of Melnibone".
- Elric appears on the cover of UK heavy metal band Diamond Head's 1981 album "Living on Borrowed Time". Elric is depicted standing outside the Gates of Tanalorn.
- The town of Falador in Runescape is named after the Dreamthief's Sixth Land "Land of Madness".
- The New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Tygers of Pan Tang are named after a warrior society in the Elric stories.
- The Grome landscape modeling software is named after Grome, King of the Earth elementals in Elric's world.
- Pronounced "mel-nib-on-ay"
- Moorcock, Michael (1987). Elric of Melniboné. Ace. p. 192. ISBN 0-441-20398-1.
- "Mike's Recommended Reading List". by Michael Moorcock
- Librarything on Elric of Melnibone
- Michael Moorocok, "Aspects of Fantasy" in Darrell Schweitzer, ed. Exploring Fantasy Worlds: Essays on Fantastic Literature. San Bbernadino, CA: Borgo press, 1985, p. 27
- The Kalevala: Rune XXXI. Kullerwoinen Son of Evil
- The Kalevala: Rune XXXVI. Kullerwoinen's Victory and Death
- Elric/Turambar - Moorcock's Miscellany
- Moorcock, Michael (2003-01-25). "Tolkien times two". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2010-05-01.
- Fantasy Magazine » S.T. Joshi, Michael Moorcock
- Lancer pirates? > M. Zenith - Moorcock's Miscellany
- World Famous Comics >> Baker's Dozen - Bill Baker, Jan 05, 2005
- Monsieur Zenith the Albino
- Savoy People: The Most Banned Publishing Company in Britain
- Gollancz announces major new Michael Moorcock publishing project
- Thomas, Roy (w), Windsor-Smith, Barry (p). "A Sword Called Stormbringer!", "The Green Empress of Melniboné" Conan the Barbarian 14, #15 (March, 1972), Marvel Comics
- Empire Staff (2007-05-29). "Weitz Brothers Making Elric". Empire. Retrieved 2008-07-13.
- See the RPGnet brief history of Chaosium for more details, http://www.rpg.net/columns/briefhistory/briefhistory3.phtml
- Babylon 5 - Moorcock's Miscellany
- Alias: Reprisal (1) - TV.com
- "I loved Dave's parody. As he knew. He'd been a little charey of what I'd think of it and I thought it was tremendous. I even bought the Elrod T-shirt." "Jack Gaughan. I never forgave him for that hat." - Michael Moorcock. Moorcock's Miscellany. Image here. Retrieved 2008-03-23
- Blue Oyster Cult - Music Shop - Virgin Radio
- RPGnet : A Brief History of Game #11: White Wolf, Part One: 1986-1995
- Moorcock's Miscellany (formerly Tanelorn, Multiverse.org & Moorcock's Weekly Miscellany)
- Michael Moorcock's Comics Compendium incl. Elric adaptations
- Stormbringer.net, a source of summaries of the novels