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Elric

Elric of Melniboné is a fictional character created by Michael Moorcock.

Elric is a remarkably vivid iconic figure and a direct parody of Robert E. Howard’s Conan – he is an albino, introspective, haunted, and treacherous. Instead of a mighty thewed barbarian warrior who fights his way to a throne, Elric is a physically weak and sickly but highly cultured emperor who throws his throne away.

Where a conventional fantasy hero rescues fair maidens from evil villains, fights against evil wizards, and saves his home country from invaders, Elric slays his true love, is himself a wizard in league with the demon lord Arioch, and leads invaders to lay waste to Melniboné. He is an intellectual scholar, prone to self-pity and despair, who is compelled to frightful action by his own dark fate rather than through desire for riches or glory.

Elric is hereditary emperor of Melniboné, a servant of the Lords of Chaos, just like his ancestors for countless generations. Melnibonéans are normally elegant but cruel, mostly devoid of sentiment and the gentler passions: alone among them, Elric has modern sensibilities. Melnibonéans are somewhat like elves -- but more like the amoral Ska in Jack Vance's Lyonesse books than J. R. R. Tolkien's majestic peoples -- and "Elric" is a form of the Norse Ælfric which means elf ruler.

Elric is the tool of his evil, sentient sword Stormbringer, which is itself a parody of the normal sword-and-sorcery weapon. In Stormbringer, Elric finds the energy he needs, but at a terrible price – Stormbringer drains the souls of those it slays and gives part of their life force to sustain Elric. Stormbringer is willful: it is by no means Elric’s minion: "This sword here at my side… / Keeps calling me its master, but I feel like its slave" ("Black Blade" by Blue Öyster Cult).

As the saga progresses, Elric’s allegiance turns from Chaos to Law. He eventually comes to hate all gods for their manipulation of mortals and hopes for a world without gods to make a misery of human lives. At the end, he dies attempting to bring such a world into being.

Elric's saga is told over many books, which are, according to their internal chronology:

  • Elric of Melniboné (novel)
  • The Fortress of the Pearl (novel)
  • The Sailor on the Seas of Fate (collection)
  • The Weird of the White Wolf (collection)
  • The Vanishing Tower (aka The Sleeping Sorceress) (novel)
  • The Revenge of the Rose (novel)
  • The Bane of the Black Sword (collection)
  • Stormbringer (collection)

Stormbringer, the first-written volume of the sequence, also terminates it, closing Elric’s angst-ridden life as well; all subsequent volumes are prequels or interjections. Most of Moorcock’s twentieth-century Elric stories are gathered together in two definitive omnibus editions first published in the UK by Millennium within its The Tale of the Eternal Champion series (and later in the US by White Wolf):

  • Elric of Melniboné (1993; vt Elric: Song of the Black Sword 1997 US);
  • Stormbringer (1993; vt Elric: The Stealer of Souls 1998 US).

White Wolf published an anthology of new Elric stories, Michael Moorcock’s Elric: Tales of the White Wolf, ed. Edward E. Kramer, in the US in 1994, and an anthology of new Eternal Champion stories, Pawns of Chaos: Tales of the Eternal Champion, ed. Edward E. Kramer, which includes four new Elric stories, in the US in 1996.

Apart from contributing an Elric story to the first of these two anthologies, Moorcock himself has begun a new Elric trilogy with The Dreamthief’s Daughter (2001). The further volumes will be «The Skrayling Tree» (previously announced as «[The] Silverskin») and «Swordsman of Mirenburg» (previously announced as «Mournblade»).

Elric and Stormbringer have been detailed as a role-playing game by the publisher Chaosium and their licensees. Hawkmoon[?] has also been so treated, as has Corum.



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