Hey there, fiends and friends!
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably ventured through the grim, labyrinthine worlds conjured up by one esteemed gentleman and writer of the Weird – Michael Moorcock. One of fantasy’s grandmasters, Moorcock is the creator of many eclectic characters, but among his numerous creations, Elric of Melniboné stands in a league of his own—pale-skinned, ruby-eyed, a Prince of Ruins, a sorcerer without peer, ever-reliant on the terrifying soul-stealing sword, Stormbringer. And today, The Longbox of Darkness aims to walk you down the Moonbeam Roads and discover (or relive) the dark adventures of fantasy’s most notorious anti-hero. Join me!
Elric’s adventures have been a cornerstone of dark fantasy since their debut. We’re talking about a character who has inspired everything from Dungeons & Dragons campaigns to metal album covers. So, if you’ve been yearning to delve into Moorcock’s rich tapestry but don’t know where to start, or if you’re a seasoned veteran looking to reminisce, you’re in the right place! Specifically, we’ll be listing and discussing five Elric stories that are so jaw-droppingly great, you’ll want to offer your soul to Stormbringer—well, almost.
Alright, without further waffling, here they are!
The Five Essentials
1. “The Dreaming City”
Ah, “The Dreaming City,” where we get our first real taste of the morally complex, fascinatingly enigmatic Elric. Set in the decaying city of Imrryr, this tale dives deep into Elric’s struggle with his heritage and destiny. He’s not just raiding the city for the heck of it; he’s wrestling with his very soul.
Synopsis: Elric, armed with his soul-sucking sword Stormbringer and a fleet of human mercenaries, returns to his birth city Melniboné to slay his usurper cousin Yrkoon and save his beloved Cymoril. Chaos ensues, and Elric becomes… the Womanslayer! He flees with his mercenaries but faces Melnibońean dragons and a gaggle of warships. He tries to ditch his parasitic sword but fails, swimming ashore alone, leaving his flabbergasted crew to their fate.
Why it’s significant: This story sets the stage for everything that follows, introducing us to key elements like Elric’s inner turmoil and the malevolent power of Stormbringer. The air in Imrryr is thick with dread and anticipation, much like our feelings as we navigate through the story.
Thoughts: Man, the ending hits you like a truck. It’s a tale that establishes Elric not as a tragic hero but as a bit of a bastard, shaping his path in stories to come.
2. “While the Gods Laugh”
Ready to get philosophical? Elric sure is, in “While the Gods Laugh.” This story takes our anti-hero on a quest for the “Pearl at the Heart of the World,” a mysterious object said to hold the ultimate wisdom. What he discovers is far more complex, leaving us, the readers, questioning the nature of knowledge itself.
Synopsis: Elric teams up with the enigmatic red-haired Shaarilla to hunt down the legendary Dead Gods’ Book. It’s a real page-turner, but unfortunately, they encounter all sorts of monstrous critters intent on scuppering their quest. On the bright side, they recruit the carefree Moonglum, who would become Elric’s Sancho Panza, to join their merry band. After a treacherous voyage across an underground sea, they finally reach their coveted prize, only to discover that it’s as delicate as a snowflake. Talk about a plot twist! So much for forbidden knowledge.
Why it’s significant: This tale does what Moorcock does best—melding high-stakes adventure with intellectual rigor. It questions whether wisdom is a solution to life’s problems or merely another problem in itself.
Thoughts: I love how this story elevates the Elric saga from pure escapism to a contemplative journey. It’s not just about sword fights; it’s a reflection on the human condition—something you’ll find yourself mulling over long after you’ve turned the last page.
3. “The Stealer of Souls”
“The Stealer of Souls” catapults us into a grander scale of conflict, pitching Elric against a rival sorcerer in a battle that involves not just swords and sorcery, but the warped forces of Nature itself.
Synopsis: In a quest to take down the pesky sorcerer Theleb K’aarna and his fortress, Elric gathers the ragtag remains of his people, the Melnibonéans. Talk about a family reunion! As the battle intensifies, Elric and Theleb engage in a magical arms race, summoning winds and flames like they’re auditioning for a weather control gig. But alas, Theleb finds himself on the wrong end of an unstoppable force. Looks like his sorcery skills were a bit too hot to handle!
Why it’s significant: Aside from the heart-pounding action, this story amplifies the fantasy elements that make the Elric saga so captivating. It also shows off Elric’s frightening magical skills and highlights the consequences of dealing with dark patrons.
Personal thoughts: The tension is palpable in every sentence. When I first read this, I found myself holding my breath, praying for Elric’s success even as I questioned what that success would mean. The lines between hero and villain blur, making this a standout tale in a saga full of them.
Alright, folks, buckle up because “Stormbringer” is a rollercoaster of emotion, philosophy, and sheer fantastical goodness. Serving as one of the concluding arcs in the Elric saga, this story is a cataclysmic crescendo where fate, friendships, and a whole lot of sorcery come crashing together.
In this chaotic tale, Jagreen Lern, a mischievous Chaos wizard, kidnaps Elric’s wife, sending our brooding hero on a quest for vengeance. Along the way, Elric meets the mysterious Nihrain ancient Sepiriz, who reveals that he must wield Stormbringer and Mournblade, its sibling runeblade, to defeat the resurrected Dead God, Darnizhaan.
With Sepiriz’s guidance, Elric gains the ability to summon Stormbringer’s runeblade brothers for assistance. He unleashes their power to banish his patron Arioch and other Chaos Dukes from Earth, wreaking some supernatural havoc at Jagreen Lern’s palace. However, Elric’s capture forces him to rely on Stormbringer’s rescue mission to free himself.
Despite his efforts to gather allies and challenge Jagreen Lern’s forces, Elric suffers a crushing defeat. Seeking advice from Sepiriz, Elric embarks on a quest to obtain the Sad Giant’s Shield, a powerful artifact that shields him from reality-disrupting Hell Ships. Using the Chaos Shield, Elric manages to get close enough to destroy Pyaray, the leader of the Hell Ships, with a touch of dramatic flair.
Tragically, Elric’s beloved Zarozinia sacrifices herself to Stormbringer, leaving him and his remaining friends to retreat to Melniboné.
Then, in yet another heartbreaking twist, Elric is compelled to sacrifice a close friend to gain the strength necessary to blow the Horn of Order, which summons the Lords of Order to battle the Chaos Gods one final time. The resounding blast ushers in a new era of rebirth. However, the price of this victory is steep.
It’s a tale of loss, epic battles, and the cyclical nature of existence. Elric’s journey leads to a transformative climax, leaving a lasting mark on his world, even as he meets his tragic end.
Why it’s significant: In one word? Closure. This tale wraps up several storylines while also delivering a punch to the gut in terms of Elric’s destiny. It’s here we come to terms with Stormbringer’s malevolent nature and Elric’s inextricable link to it.
Thoughts: This story had my emotions on a tightrope. Moorcock masterfully balances epic battles with profound existential questions. And that ending? A masterpiece of storytelling.
5. “The Jade Man’s Eyes”
This tale does not usually make the “Best of Elric” lists, but I love it. Here’s why:
Synopsis: Elric and Moonglum find themselves in the city of Chalal, desperately in need of funds. Duke Avan Astran offers them assistance in exchange for Elric’s help on a quest to the lost city of R’lin K’ren A’a. The city is rumored to be the origin of the Melnibonians and houses a giant jade statue with magical jewels for eyes, the answer to our duo’s pecuniary problems.
Elric predictably agrees to aid Astran, and together they journey to the ruins of R’lin K’ren A’a. They face numerous challenges along the way, including formidable native creatures that are almost invulnerable to Elric’s weapon, Stormbringer. As the story unfolds, Astran learns the hard way that trusting Elric can be dangerous, and even the powerful deity Arioch intervenes in their journey.
Moorcock introduces an intriguing twist involving “The Creature Doomed to Live,” adding further depth to the narrative.
Why it’s significant: Here, Elric’s foibles and vulnerabilities are laid bare. We see a nuanced side of a character, which further defines his inner turmoil and existential crises, making it a uniquely poignant addition to the list.
Thoughts: This happens to be the very first Elric story I read as a kid, so it has a ridiculous amount of sentimental value.
And that wraps up our overview of LOD’s five essential Elric stories. From emotional rollercoasters to philosophical quests, these tales span the gamut, offering a comprehensive look at one of fantasy’s most compelling anti-heroes.
The Wrap-Up: A Journey Through Order and Chaos
If you’ve been with me from the start of this countdown, you’re probably as excited as I am about the mind-bending, soul-stirring adventures of Elric of Melniboné. These five stories showcase the incredible range and depth of Michael Moorcock’s storytelling — each tale is a complex interplay of action, philosophy, and emotional weight.
Whether you’re a newcomer to Moorcock’s universe or a seasoned veteran, there’s always something new to discover in these stories. Elric isn’t just a character; he’s a mirror reflecting the complexities of morality, identity, and the human condition. Each story offers a different facet, from the raw emotional punches of “Stormbringer” to the existential ruminations in “While the Gods Laugh.”
So, if you haven’t plunged into the Elric saga yet, consider this your clarion call. And if you’re already a fan, I hope this short list rekindles your passion for one of fantasy’s most enduring and complex anti-heroes.
As Elric himself might say, “Fate is inexorable,” but your journey through these tales is yours to command. Happy reading, Moonbeam Road travelers, and may your black blades stay ever thirsty and your chaos spells ever potent.
Thanks for reading, folks! If you’re new to the White Wolf and you’d like to sample his bloody adventures, look no further than the following volumes. Each contains a wealth of Elric goodness, and The Longbox of Darkness highly recommends them:
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