Elric and Stormbringer, fantasy’s most enigmatic hero and his deadly sentient sword.
Fantasy Book Review – Michael Moorcock – Elric. Fantasy Masterworks series #17 Golancz – Millennium
Elric Of Melnibone is one of fantasy fiction greatest creations, the doomed, dammed tall albino warrior destined to save the World by destroying it and himself to pave the way for a new World order. His soul sucking sword, Stormbringer, may be the most famous blade in fantasy literature with the obvious exception of King Arthur’s Excalibur.
Elric initially appeared in a series of short stories, and Stormbringer, the first Elric novel, from 1965, is itself a re-edit of several short stories about Elric. Even after his death at the close of Stormbringer, he would be resurrected for further adventures, with variations on his conflict recurring throughout Moorcock’s Multiverse stories.
The Multiverse and Eternal Champion concepts are Moorcock’s brilliant way of writing alternate history and parallel universe variations on all his own stories and novels, with the same conflict between good & evil (chaos and order) played out throughout time and space. The Eternal Champion figure in various incarnations is destined to save us in each of these epic conflicts. He has no desire for such martyrdom. He often deserts friends in battle to save himself, and tries to escape his fate, but unsuccessfully. He is the ultimate anti-hero.
Elric, among the last sorcerers of his race, is destined to carry the dreadful weapon Stormbringer against waves of enemies. He is strengthened by its energy and weakens badly whenever separated from the sword or when he ever tries to get rid of it. When he casts it into the sea in one story, it refuses to sink. The sword steals the soul from the body of anyone it stabs. Some enemies beg him to kill them with a different blade, though Elric rarely does. If he doesn’t kill his enemies, the sword turns on his friends and lovers, forcing Elric to kill those he loves.
In Stormbringer, Elric learns the magnitude of his fate. He is pursued by agents of both Chaos and Order, hoping to tip the balance in their favour for their final apocalyptic battle. Some seek his alliance. Others want to kill him and take control of Stormbringer for their own ends.
As the World melts round him into oceans of blood, fire and ice, with volcanoes erupting where no volcanoes were before, Elric realizes what he must do – be the last man alive, taking his own life last with Stormbringer to generate a new creation, the World we now inhabit.
The writing has an air of inescapable doom, and despair, a graphic poetry and raw power that make Moorcock rise above so many imitators. This is not the comfortable conservative middle class heroism of Tolkien, but rock and roll generation fantasy fiction with a harsh uncompromising edginess. Moorcock was to write and perform for a time with rock giants, Hawkwind. Elric remains his greatest achievement though.
A film version of the stories seems likely, and has been in the pipelines for many years.
A link to a page about Moorcock and the Multiverse http://www.multiverse.org/