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Elric : song of the black sword by Michael…
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Title:Elric : song of the black sword
Authors:Michael Moorcock
Other authors:Kent Williams (Introduction), James Cawthorn (Illustrator)
Info:Clarkston, GA : White Wolf, 1997, c1995.
Collections:First Editions, Your library
Tags:Heroic fantasy, Fantasy, the Eternal Champion, sword-and-sorcery

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Elric: Song of the Black Sword by Michael Moorcock



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My reaction to reading this omnibus in 1999. Spoilers follow.

“Introduction” -- Moorcock talks briefly about some of the inspirations for Elric – who he never considered an anti-hero: Edgar Rice Burroughs, A. Merritt, American Beats, French Existenlialists. James Dean was also an inspiration as was the early Elvis Presley. Moorcock cites a fascination for how the heroic ideal can be used to manipulate people that is reflected in the Elric saga as he initially takes the steps down the road which will lead to the death of his family and friends, the destruction on his home and world, and, eventually, his own death by seeking to rescue his lover. I was surprised to learn Moorcock started working on Elric in the 1950s, a time, he notes, when J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert Howard were available only in small press editions.

Elric of Melniboné -- This book is as compelling, as grim, as foreboding as it was the first time I read it more than 20 years ago. This book is a classic.

The Fortress of the Pearl -- I liked this “new” Elric adventure. Essentially, it’s an allegorical adventure continuing the theme, also in Moorcock’s Oswald Bastable books, of creating reality from dreams – a subject dear to not only novelists but political ideologues which Moorcock seems to be. The adventures of Elric and dreamthief Oone in the dream realm are allegories for the difficulties in converting dreams to reality (and there is speculation that the multiverse, or parts of it, may have been formed and ordered by dreams) and, also, the necessity for abandoning foolish childhood notions. I liked the allegorical realms that Oone and Elric must physically and psychically conquer to get to the Fortress of the Pearl (representations of the snares life holds for those wishing to mold the world according to a unique dream – which sounds fanciful until you realize that every physical and social invention must be a dream before it becomes a reality): the Land of Dreams-In-Common, the Land of Old Desires, the land of Lost Beliefs, the Land of Forgotten Love, the Land of Ambition, the Land of Madness (where the dreamer begins to suspect he is mad because of his dream). The effects of each on Elric reveal his character, his desires, his sorrow and melancholy, and his weaknesses. Often a stern word from Oone, who briefly becomes his lover, is needed to prod him on. The whole journey is a rescue operation to free Varadia, Holy Girl and repository of wisdom for a desert tribe. Varadia, a young girl retreating from the power she is to possess, unsure how to use it, unconsciously created the defenses around the Fortress which Elric and Oone overcome. Yet, she seeks rescue from her dilemma, evokes legendary figures to free her, but it is only the real figures of herself and Oone and Elric that frees her. Dreams, Moorcock is saying, are all very nice but one can not expect fictions to replace reality (which seems to partially conflict with the notion of trying to dream a better world in the first place). The arching theme of this book is power. Oone hates that retreating or hiding from power succeeds only in preserving the self, it never creates a better world. Power and evil must be confronted to create a better world. Another manifestation is the wonderfully decadent city of Quarzhasaat. It is a wonderfully rich city, the only survivor of a former kingdom that warred with Melnibone long ago, and, thorough a sorcerous accident, was reduced to a desert all around. Its decadent inhabitants are inward looking, convinced that Melniboné (who they think was defeated in the war) is long gone, and the biggest prize any of their nobles can conceive is a seat on their city council. It is one such scheming nobleman that blackmails Elric into retrieving the Pearl at Heart of the World (itself created by the avaricious dreams of Quarzhasaat’s Sorceror Adventurers). Elric succeeds, and he and Stormbringer wreak a terrible vengeance on the city killing its army and noblemen. I liked the love and affection between Elric and Oone ( a coupling in the dream realm results in a real pregnancy), but Oone realizes that Elric will come to a bad end and that he’s kidding himself if he thinks he can achieve good with the help of his evil sword, Stormbringer.

"The Sailor on the Seas of Fate -- This is the second I read this story (I love the title) in which Elric finds himself increasingly a tool of Fate. I liked the first part where he encounters a pair of sorcerers (amoral gods feared even by Law and Chaos) from another dimension and Elric merging with Corum, Hawkmoon, and Ereköse (all manifestations of Champion Eternals) to defeating him. I also liked the quest for the Jade Man’s eyes in which we start to get the first fearful signs that Elric can no longer control the growing power of Stormbringer when the sword kills Elric’s friend Duke Avon. It is with this that we start to get the full, fascinating Elric – guilty, self-proclaimed servant of Chaos and evil, melancholy, tortured, self-despising, romantic cynic.

“The Dreaming City” -- A pivotal Elric story. He leads a fleet of Young Kingdom sea raiders and destroys his former throne, the Melnibonean Dreaming City of Imrryr. In the battle, old friends of his are killed. (Most of the fleet does not survive the last gasp of Melnibonean vengeance.) Treacherous Yyrkoon is killed. But Stormbringer kills Elric’s beloved Cymoril. At last, Elric realizes, with horror, he and Stormbringer are now bound together and (he tries, unsuccessfully, to throw the Black Sword in the sea, but it doesn’t sink) despairingly announces that “men will have cause to tremble and flee when they hear the names of Elric of Melniboné and Stormbringer”.

“While the Gods Laugh” -- An allegorical adventure in which Elric goes on a quest for the Dead God’s Book which will supposedly answer Elric’s pondering whether he must “revel in chaos” because existence is pointless, meaningless or whether a benign god exists above the gods of Law and Chaos. When Elric finds the book, he doesn’t find answers. The book is a pile of meaningless dust.

“The Singing Citadel” -- This story sets up, I believe, the sorcerer villain Theleb K’aarna. ( )
  RandyStafford | Oct 2, 2013 |
Good fantasy, but not as mindblowingly awesome as my mother insisted it was. Very, very easy to read. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
It's a classic for a reason. Moorcock's wild inventiveness and somewhat scattershot approach to storytelling all cohere into a compelling universe with interesting characters. Elric's weakness and introspection give him more actual weight as a hero than most of the strapping swordsmen of the genre, and his moral quandaries are genuinely affecting.

There are some downsides - Moorcock is... not exactly a feminist writer, and his female characters are basically quest objectives. That's probably more true in Elric's stories than in some of the others - the main love interest is the classic helpless female who the alpha males fight over, kidnap, quite possibly rape (although it's never stated) and then... well, I won't spoil that bit.

Elric also has an intermittent case of the stupids that's annoying - his "I know, I'll leave my kingdom in the hands of the person who just tried to murder me for it so I can go on walkabout for a year. Oh, he can hang on to my fiance, too. It'll be fine!" is just totally unbelievable and detracts quite a bit from the emotional punch of the finale.

That said, this volume has some great adventures, some excellent characters, and is a coherent collection - there's a second volume of Elric stuff later on that I admit I'm looking forward to. ( )
  JeremyPreacher | Mar 30, 2013 |
  helver | Jun 23, 2012 |
Elric, the last Emperor of Melnibone, started his life in a kingdom he loathed. The only aspect of it he found lovely was his dear cousin, Cymoril, and for her he reluctantly took to his throne, a sickly, frail albino, ruling over a festering, dark, evil empire.

In this, the first White Wolf Omnibus featuring Elric, we get series of stories of everybody's favorite antihero, Elric, presented in internal chronological order.

If you can score this volume, I do so recommend it. But if you cannot, Del Rey has printed five volumes of the Elric in publication order, which, with some added art, is just as good.

But, if you, like me, want to get the best Moorcock sampler (stop snickering!) I highly recommend finding and investing in the White Wolf omnibuses (but only after I've gotten them all, okay?). ( )
  aethercowboy | Dec 9, 2009 |
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"Elric of Melniboné" is the title of this collection in the UK. It is an omnibus version of part of Michael Moorcock's Elric works. It includes the novel "Elric of Melniboné", and a lot of other things too. Do NOT combine with "Elric of Melniboné" (the stand-alone novel ).
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UK title: Elric of Melniboné, vol. 8 in the Gollancz/Millennium series The Tale of the Eternal Champion; US title: Elric: Song of the Black Sword, vol. 5 in the White Wolf series The Eternal Champion. Omnibus edition comprising: Elric of Melniboné (Hutchinson 1972, cut vt The Dreaming City 1972 US) (comprising three untitled books); The Fortress of the Pearl (Gollancz 1989); The Sailor on the Seas of Fate (Quartet 1976) (comprising “Sailing to the Future”, “Sailing to the Present”, and “Sailing to the Past” (a substantial revision of The Jade Man’s Eyes (Unicorn 1973))); “The Dreaming City” (Science Fantasy February 1961, The Stealer of Souls (collection Neville Spearman 1963), The Weird of the White Wolf (collection DAW 1977 US)); “While the Gods Laugh” (Science Fantasy April 1961; The Stealer of Souls (collection Neville Spearman 1963), The Weird of the White Wolf (collection DAW 1977 US)); “The Singing Citadel” (The Fantastic Swordsmen ed. L. Sprague de Camp (anthology 1967 US), The Singing Citadel (collection Mayflower 1970), The Weird of the White Wolf (collection DAW 1977 US)). The Millennium edition has a shorter introduction.
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