La Quête de l'oiseau du temps

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La Quête de l'oiseau du temps (The Quest for the Time-Bird) is a French language fantasy comic series written by Serge Le Tendre and drawn by Régis Loisel (1st cycle) and others (2nd cycle), published by Dargaud since 1983.

Plot overview[edit]

The world of Akbar is in danger. In ancient times, one of the gods, Ramor, rebelled against his peers, but was defeated and imprisoned inside a conch. But over the millennia which have passed since that day, the magic has weakened, threatening to unleash Ramor upon the world once more. The sorcerer-princess Mara has found a way to prevent the god's resurrection and to bind him again to his prison. To succeed during the incantation, however, she needs the legendary Time-Bird, a mythical beast able to control the flow of time. Mara sends her daughter, Pelisse to a past lover, Bragon, once a fearsome warrior, now a gray-haired lord of the manor, to convince the aging hero to embark on one last adventure in order to save the world of Akbar.

Cast of characters[edit]

Protagonists[edit]

Bragon
A widely-traveled, axe-wielding knight, who at the beginning of the original series has retired to an estate until Sorceress-Princess Mara, his former lover, and her daughter Pelisse beseech him to take up the quest to rescue Akbar. He at first does not take an immediate liking to Pelisse, whose stubbornness matches his own, but in the course of the story he begins to accept and love her as his daughter. This proves to be his undoing when her true nature is revealed, and with her disappearance he descends into madness, believing that Pelisse is still with him.
Pelisse
Ostensibly the daughter of Bragon and Mara, she is actually an illusion given a semi-real existence by Mara in order to give Bragon an enticement to take up the quest for the Time Bird. She has been fitted with the personality traits of her father, making her extremely stubborn, yet smart, compassionate, and loyal to her friends. In the course of the series, she even acquires a sentience of her own; but when Mara dies, her spell is broken, and Pelisse dissipates into nothingness. Throughout the series, she uses a Firey Whip, created from the tongue of a Borak, as her principal weapon.
In the first English translation of the series by NBM, Pelisse was renamed Roxanne.
Furry (Le Fourreux)
A small, blue-furred animal who appears to be Pelisse's pet. In actuality, it is the living focus of the spell which maintains her illusionary existence.
The Stranger (L'inconnu)
The man called Stranger was originally Touret, one of Bragon's farmhands who begins lusting after Pelisse when she comes to ask her "father" to search for the Time Bird. Pelisse catches Touret peering down her cleavage, prompting her to slap him; Touret follows her, determined to get back at her. However, just before catching up with her in Ir-Weig, the city of Sorcerer-Prince Shan-Tung, he is captured by Bulrog's Llir mercenaries. Escaping and overpowering one of the Llir, he takes his uniform - complete with a face-hiding helmet - to disguise his identity and get Pelisse; but instead he ends aiding her and Bragon in retrieving Ramor's conch, and subsequently joins them on their quest. For most of the Quest series, he plays the role of the cowardly, self-centered comic relief, but in the final episode he begins to demonstrate wisdom and plays a vital role in the resolution of the story. After Mara's demise, he assumes rulership over Kiskill's people.
Bulrog
Bragon's former student, whose face was disfigured by a wild Borak monster, forcing him to wear a mask. After leaving Bragon, he became a mercenary and member, and later the leader, of the Llir Warriors. After Bragon kills his employer, Shan-Tung, and decimates the Llir, Bulrog swears revenge on him and pursues his troupe on their further quest; but later he experiences a change of heart and, looking for a new sense in life, begins to aid Bragon instead. During their journey back to Mara, when the company is delayed in Tharmine's domain, he is infected with a deadly disease, forcing Bragon to amputate his arm. Bulrog also voluntarily stays behind to partake in the accumulated knowledge he discovers in the Sorcerer-Prince's library, finally finding a sense of purpose. At the end of the Quest series, he is confirmed to be still alive and in frequent contact with the Stranger.

Sorcerer-Princes[edit]

Mara
Sorceress-Princess of the Palfang people in the Marsh of Veils. She and Bragon met when they were young, and became lovers. However, while searching for the incantation necessary to stop Ramor, she is corrupted by the promise of divine power, and plots to absorb Ramor's powers to become the ultimate ruler of Akbar. In order to persuade Bragon to search for the Time Bird, she even creates Pelisse as an enticement, only to betray Bragon in the end by revealing her illusionary nature. But right after claiming Ramor's essence for herself, she is killed by the Nest Guardian.
Shan-Tung
The ruler of the Grey Grelets, the people of the Gaping Lands, wielder of the power of lightning, and custodian of Ramor's conch prison. His hope is that, once Ramor re-emerges, his people will be blessed by the renegade god, regain their former warrior ferocity, and thus lay claim to rulership of all Akbar. However, he is killed by Bragon hurling a sword into his head; and in his death-throes, Shan-Tung's unleashed power ends up destroying most of his city and its people.
Bodias
The pompous but friendly Sorcerer-Prince of the March of a Thousand Greens, a lushly forested area, and Bragon's old rival for Mara's hand. He is asked by Mara to escort Bragon's troupe to the Temple of Oblivion, because only he can read the runes inside the sanctuary which point the way to the Time Bird. Shortly after learning that his fellow Sorcerer-Prince Fjel had attempted to stop Mara because he feared that she is thirsting for Ramor's power, Bodias chastises Fjel harshly and is attacked by the other Jaisirs for his sacrilege. While attempting tp help him, the Stranger accidentally hits Bodias with Pelisse's Firey Whip, dooming Bodias to a slow, painful death. Bragon and the others bring the dying Prince back to his homeland, which has been consumed by fire just as his own body due to their mutual connection.
Fjel
Fjel is the Sorcerer-Prince and ruler of the Jaisirs, the people of the Desert of Sand Lips. Suspecting (as it turned out, rightfully) that Mara wants to seize divine power, he attempts to have the book of spells she needed to imprison Ramor stolen, only for his forces to be beaten back. The retreating survivors stumble upon Bulrog, who offers to train the Jaisirs in the ways of war, in exchange for Bragon's life. However, when fellow Prince Bodias criticizes him and breaks his staff of office, Fjel realizes that his intentions were folly. To atone for his mistake, he sacrifices himself to a voracious desert predator.
Tharmine
Sorcerer-Prince of the Jivrains, the natives of the White March, a snowy hill land. Originally peaceful and noble, the Jivrains all succumb to a deadly disease which drives its victims mad with cannibalistic bloodthirst before killing them. Tharmine, infected but still in command of his mental facilities, shelters Bragon's company from his murderous subjects, but is killed by an arrow through his throat. Following his demise, Tharmine's estate and extensive archives are taken over by Bulrog, who settles himself down as a hermit and sage.

Others[edit]

The Time Bird (L'Oiseau du Temps)
The object of the original quest, a mythical bird-like being embodying the essence of time. When it was first released by the being which later became known as the Guardian of the Nest, it was shot by him before its presence could upset the universal balance; but each time before its demise, it would lay an egg from which another Time Bird would hatch. The repeated slaying of the Bird marks the passage of time on Akbar in the form of the circle of day and night, and its eyes form Akbar's twin moons.
Fol of Dol (Fol de Dol)
A sorcerous, mischievous kobold who rules the Dol, the biggest river and most important landmark of Akbar. While he appears as a rhyme-spouting lunatic at first glance, he is really very shrewd and - with his control of the river's waters - a dangerous enemy to cross. Throughout the Quest series, he challenges Bragon's party with riddles, whose resolution grants them passage to the next section of their search.
The Guardian of the Nest
A godling in the form of a blind child, one of the spawn of the ancient gods of Akbar. In ancient times, he accidentally released the first Time Bird from its egg, upsetting the universal balance; and to make amends for his sin, he regularly slays the bird with bow and arrow, thus creating the circle of day and night on Akbar. When Mara uses the Time Bird's egg to absorb the power of Ramor into herself, he restores the balance before it can be upset by killing Mara with his bow.
Kiskill
A young woman of an unnamed tribe, and the Nest Guardian's companion on the Pointing Peak, a rock spire at the estuary of the river Dol and the resting place of the Time Bird's egg. Rendered immortal, she was tasked with keeping watch over the egg's nest until the first mortal man, destined to be her mate, would arrive and take her virginity, thereby making her mortal again and ending her millennia-long vigil. This very man is the Stranger, who arrives in Bragon's company; she accompanies him for the rest of the quest, and upon its conclusion marries him, making him the new king of Kiskill's people. After a long and happy life, she is confirmed to have passed away from old age at the end of the Quest series.
Riga (Le Rige)
Javin

Publication[edit]

Original story: La Quête[edit]

# Title Year Synopsis ISBN
1 Ramor's Conch (La Conque de Ramor) 1983 Ramor, an evil god imprisoned for millennia, is about to escape his confinement. The Sorceress-Pricess Mara sends her daughter Pelisse to her father and Mara's old lover, Knight Bragon, to seek out the mythical Time Bird, the only being that would enable her to complete the magical imprisonment ritual in time. However, Bragon and Pelissa - joined by the mysterious Stranger - must first retrieve Ramor's prison from the clutches of the ambitious Sorcerer-Prince Shan-Tung. 2-205-02406-X
2 The Temple of Oblivion (Le Temple de l'oubli) 1984 While meeting with Mara, Bragon's company learns that the desert-dwelling Jaisir, keepers of the Temple of Oblivion, have launched an attack on Tha, Mara's city, to steal the book of spells needed to confine Ramor. Accompanied by Bragon's old rival, Prince Bodias, they travel to the Desert of Sand Lips both to question Fjel, the Jaisir Sorcerer-Prince, and to enter the Temple to find the place where the Time Bird resides. However, a vengeful Bulrog has joined forces with Fjel to thwart Bragon; and the Temple itself harbors a deadly menace which threatens to consume the company's minds. 2-205-02576-7
3 The Rige (Le Rige) 1985 In order to reach their destination, the Pointing Peak, Bragon, Pelisse, the Stranger and Bulrog are forced to cross the territory of Riga, an enigmatic old warrior and hunter, who has a secret common past with Bragon. However, even with the existence of Akbar at stake, Riga insists on one challenge: Hunt the companions through his dominion, until they either escape him - or until they die by his hand.
Notes: Winner of the Lucien Award at the Festival of Angoulême the following year. Later editions feature a modified cover eliminating an image of Pelisse, tied up in vines, from the background.
2-205-02952-5
4 The Egg of Darkness (L'Œuf des ténèbres) 1987 The companions reach the Time Bird's lair, where they are met by two immortals known as the Nest Guardian and Kiskill. Despite the Guardian's warnings, they manage to get the Time Bird's egg with Kiskill's aid and return to Mara just in time for the imprisonment ceremony. However, as Mara weaves her spell, another sinister plot begins to unfold. 2-205-03460-X

Second Cycle (prequel series): Avant la quête[edit]

# Title Year Synopsis ISBN
5 Friend Javin (L'Ami Javin) 1998
Notes: A sketchbook (Esquisses - L'ami Javin) was published parallel to the album.
2-205-04394-3
6 The Book of the Gods (Le Grimoire des Dieux) 2007 978-2-205-05633-4
7 The Way of The Rige (La Voie du Rige) 2010 978-2-205-06009-6
8 The Knight Bragon (Le Chevalier Bragon) 2013 978-2-205-06330-1
9 The Grip (L'emprise) 2017 978-2-205-07578-6

Third Circle (sequel series): Cycle troisième : Après la quête[edit]

In 2006 Loisel and Le Tendre announced the upcoming publication of a third circle, planned to consist of only one or two albums. It is set to deal with the final days and death of Bragon, still lost in his madness after Pelisse's demise.[1]

Translations[edit]

The series have been translated into several languages, including Croatian, Spanish, German, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Polish, Czech and Serbian. An English translation titled Roxanna and The Quest For The Time Bird was published in the late 80's by NBM.[2]

In December 2015 Titan Comics released the hardcover collected edition of The Quest For The Time Bird (232 pages, Titan Comics, hardcover, December 2015, ISBN 1-7827-6362-7).[3]

In other media[edit]

A computer game version was released for 16-bit home computers (Amiga, Atari ST, and DOS) by Infogrames.[4]

Sources[edit]