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 story|
|Created by||Michael Moorcock|
|Title||Elric VIII, 428th Emperor of Melniboné|
Elric of Melniboné is a fictional character created by Michael Moorcock and the protagonist of a series of sword and sorcery stories taking place on an alternate Earth. The proper name and title of the character is Elric VIII, 428th Emperor of Melniboné. Later stories by Moorcock marked Elric as a facet of the Eternal Champion.
Elric first appeared in print in Moorcock's novella, "The Dreaming City" (Science Fantasy No. 47, June 1961). Moorcock's doomed albino antihero is one of the better known in fantasy literature, having crossed over into a wide variety of media, such as role-playing games, comics, music, and film. The stories have been continuously in print since the 1970s.
Elric is described in 1972's Elric of Melniboné:
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 is the last emperor of the stagnating island civilisation of Melniboné. Physically weak and frail, the albino Elric must take drugs (special herbs) to maintain his health. Unlike most others of his race, Elric has a conscience; he sees the decadence of his culture, which once ruled the known world, and worries about the rise of the Young Kingdoms, populated by humans (as Melnibonéans 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 behaviour as weakness and plots Elric's death.
In addition to his skill with herbs, Elric is an accomplished sorcerer and summoner. As emperor of Melniboné, Elric 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, Elric uses ancient pacts and agreements with not only Arioch but various other beings—some gods, some demons—to help him accomplish 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, allowing him to do away with his dependence on drugs, but it must be fed by the souls of intelligent beings. 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 he 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 1972's Elric of Melniboné 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, 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 Sexton Blake villain whom Moorcock appreciated enough to write into later multiverse stories. Moorcock read Zenith stories in his youth and has contributed to their later reprinting, remarking that it "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, 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.
- "The Dreaming City" (Science Fantasy No. 47, June 1961)
- "While the Gods Laugh" (Science Fantasy No. 49, October 1961)
- "The Stealer of Souls" (Science Fantasy No. 51, February 1962)
- "Kings in Darkness" (Science Fantasy No. 54, August 1962)
- "The Flame Bringers" (Science Fantasy No. 55, October 1962). Retitled “The Caravan of Forgotten Dreams” in some later collections.
After this came four novellas:
- "Dead God's Homecoming" (Science Fantasy No. 59, June 1963)
- "Black Sword's Brothers" (Science Fantasy No. 61, October 1963)
- "Sad Giant's Shield" (Science Fantasy No. 63, October 1964)
- "Doomed Lord's Passing" (Science Fantasy No. 64, April 1964)
The last of these terminated the sequence with the close of Elric's life. After these initial Elric tales, Moorcock periodically published short tales throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, such as 1967's "The Singing Citadel" and 1973's "The Jade Man's Eyes". Meant to be placed in between the initial stories but before the conclusion of "Doomed Lord's Passing", these later stories would frequently be edited, retitled, and combined together with other material to form fix-ups as part of later republication campaigns.
The first original Elric novel, 1972's Elric of Melniboné, was a prequel detailing Elric's origin and how he came to possess Stormbringer. In 1989 came the second original Elric novel, The Fortress of the Pearl, followed in 1991 with The Revenge of the Rose. A decade later Moorcock began an original Elric trilogy, beginning with The Dreamthief's Daughter (2001), followed by The Skrayling Tree (2003) and The White Wolf's Son (2005).
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 (original title: 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 (original title: 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
The first five novelettes were originally collected in The Stealer of Souls (1963) and the later four novellas were first published as a novel in an edited version called Stormbringer (1965). The 1965 novel had about a quarter of the text removed for reasons of length (mostly in the second and third novellas) and the remaining text rearranged with new bridging material added to make sense of the restructuring.
In 1977, DAW Books republished Elric's saga in six books that collected the tales according to their internal chronology. These 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. The DAW edition of Stormbringer restored some of the original structure and text compared to the 1965 release, but other revisions were performed and other material excised. A few oddments were collected in Elric at the End of Time (1984), which became the seventh book in the DAW line when DAW released it in the US in 1985. It includes two Elric-related tales: the title story and 1962's "The Last Enchantment", originally intended as the final Elric story but put aside in favour of those that eventually made up Stormbringer; it was not published until 1978. Both would appear in later collections (with "The Last Enchantment" occasionally retitled "Jesting with Chaos").
In the 1990s, Orion Publishing/Millennium released a two-book collection – Elric of Melniboné and Stormbringer – containing the Elric material then available. White Wolf Publishing released a similar two-volume compilation – Elric: Song of the Black Sword (1998) and Elric: The Stealer of Souls (2001). The White Wolf text has minor revisions when compared to the Millennium release.
The early version of the Elric saga, i.e., the first nine short stories – with "The Flame Bringers" using the later title of "The Caravan of Forgotten Dreams" and the full text of Stormbringer as it appeared in Science Fantasy – was republished in a single volume as Elric (Orion/Gollancz 2001), volume 17 in the Fantasy Masterworks series.
Beginning in 2008, Del Rey Books reprinted the 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 reprinted other later material. The version of Stormbringer featured in the 2008 Del Rey collection restored all the original material missing since the 1977 DAW edition – which had formed the basis for all later editions – as well as Moorcock's preferred versions of all the revised material in an attempt to produce a definitive text. These volumes present the evolution of the character through early fanzine stories, early musings by Moorcock, some Elric stories, some others introducing the reader to the wider "Eternal Champion" theme, stories of other heroes who coexist with Elric in the realm of Melniboné, unpublished prologues, installments of Moorcock's essay "Aspects of Fantasy", a 1970s screenplay, a reader's guide, and notes from an Elric series that never developed.
In August 2012, Victor Gollancz Ltd. announced their intention to republish all of Michael Moorcock's back catalogue, including all the Elric stories, presented in internal chronological order along with previously unpublished material, and in both print and e-book formats. The Elric volumes were released in 2013 and 2014.
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 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.
Dyvim Tvar: A Melnibonéan, one of Elric's few friends. He is one of the Dragon Masters, a group of Melnibonéans who can speak to the Dragons of Melniboné. Dyvim Tvar stays loyal to Elric even after he destroys Imrryr. Dyvim Tvar also has more of a moral compass than most Melnibonéans.
Jagreen Lern: The cruel ruler of Pan Tang, skilled with both magic and the use of a battleaxe.
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 helps 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 worries about 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.
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. In 2004, DC Comics published the four-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 of 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 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 him and Thomas were the reason for his departure.)
Adam Warlock, under artist Jim Starlin, was influenced by Elric and made into a Marvel Comic version of that Superhero, with concepts such as the Soul Gem stealing souls, the introduction of Master Order and Lord Chaos. The premise is similar to the Adam Warlock Soul-stealing gems, which may well have borrowed from Elric.
Tom Strong No. 31 and No. 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 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.
In 2014, The Ruby Throne, the first volume of a new four-volume adaptation of Elric of Melniboné written by Julien Blondel and illustrated by Didier Poli, Jean Bastide, and Robin Recht, was published by Titan Comics. "Stormbringer", the second volume was published in March 2015 by the same team and publisher. Moorcock states that this is his favorite comic adaptation of his Elric stories to date and praises the subtle changes to the original story, saying that he wishes he had made them himself.
The Chronicle of the Black Sword is 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 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)).
In 1974, the UK hard rock band Deep Purple released an album entitled Stormbringer. In a 1974 interview with New Musical Express, David Coverdale said he "never even considered Michael Moorcock's work" writing the song.
Influential new wave of British heavy metal band Diamond Head made Elric one of the primary lyrical subjects of their seminal 1982 release Borrowed Time and featured the character on the cover art. Songs from this release would gain further visibility when they were re-recorded by Metallica.
Washington State Thrash/Black metal band NME released the song "Stormbringer" on their 1986 album Unholy Death.
The German band Blind Guardian has written several songs pertaining to Elric's story and Stormbringer, including "The Quest For Tanelorn", "Tanelorn (Into The Void)", and "Fast To Madness".
The Serbian fantasy metal band Númenor has written several songs on their debut album Colossal Darkness based on Elric of Melniboné stories including: The Eternal Champion, The Sailor on the Seas of Fate and While the Gods Laugh.
Swedish melodic black/death band Sacramentum (band) have referenced characters and themes such as the cult of Slortar on their 1999 album Thy Black Destiny, notably the track "Overlord".
The Greek epic metal band Battleroar has written the song "Mourning Sword" on their debut album Battleroar.
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 29 May 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 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 authorised. A mutually beneficial deal was worked out between Chaosium & TSR, yet TSR chose to remove Elric from later 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.
- The Elric character is parodied in the Cerebus the Aardvark graphic novels by Dave Sim, as Elrod of Melvinbone, the Albino, with his sword Seersucker, and the speech-patterns of Foghorn Leghorn. 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".
- Karl Edward Wagner wrote a short story, "The Gothic Touch", in which his immortal protagonist 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".
- 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 modelling software is named after Grome, King of the Earth elementals in Elric's world.
- The metal band Grand Magus feature part of the Elric saga in the song "Steel vs. Steel" from the "Triumph and Power" album.
- In the TV series Game of Thrones, when Joffrey Baratheon is presented with a new sword at his wedding feast, he asks the crowd what he should name it and someone suggests "Stormbringer".
- The Witcher series' main character, Geralt of Rivia is nicknamed the White Wolf; this is a direct homage to Elric's own identical nickname.
- The Elric brothers from the Fullmetal Alchemist series are named after Elric.
- Pronounced "mel-nib-on-ay"
- Moorcock, Michael (1987). Elric of Melniboné. Ace. p. 192. ISBN 978-0-441-20398-7.
- "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 Bernardino, 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 (25 January 2003). "Tolkien times two". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
- Fantasy Magazine » S. T. Joshi, Michael Moorcock.
- Lancer pirates? > M. Zenith – Moorcock's Miscellany.
- Bill Baker, World Famous Comics >> Baker's Dozen – 5 January 2005.
- E.g.: Monsieur Zenith the Albino, and 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, No. 15 (March 1972), Marvel Comics
- "Jim Starlin's 1975 Warlock series", Remarkable, 2 July 2009.
- "Starlin's Warlock and it's influence on Grant Morrison", 11 O'Clock Comics, 6 May 2012.
- "Elric Movie", The REH Forum, 31 January 2004.
- "Elric of Melniboné vs. Adam Warlock", Who Would Win?
- Rob Bricken, "Michael Moorcock Reveals Why This Elric Comic Is Superior To The Books", io9.com, 25 September 2014.
- Empire Staff (29 May 2007). "Weitz Brothers Making Elric". Empire. Retrieved 13 July 2008.
- See the RPGnet brief history of Chaosium for more details.
- Babylon 5 – Moorcock's Miscellany
- "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 23 March 2008
- 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