Nov 22, 2020

Hawkmoon: The Count Brass Trilogy (1973-75)

Orion/Millennium 1993, Art: Yoshitaka Amano
Previously at Castle Brass...

In 1973, fantasist Michael Moorcock began a new story sequence featuring the further adventures of the science fantasy warrior Dorian Hawkmoon, whose previous adventures had been chronicled in the History of the Runestaff saga, published in four volumes as The Jewel In The Skull (1967), The Mad God's Amulet (1968), The Sword of the Dawn (1968) and The Runestaff (1969). This earlier quartet presented a post-apocalyptic world in which Great Britain (now known as Granbretan, or the "Dark Empire") holds all of Europe under an iron gauntlet, and ruthlessly seeks to conquer the rest of the remaining free world. The resistance fighter Dorian Hawkmoon and his allies (based in the small European province of the Kamarg) use fortitude, bravery and honor in order to eventually overthrow the Dark Empire's rule (although part of the Dark Empire's downfall is actually due to its own corrupted nature). Hanging over the entire affair is the semi-mythical Runestaff, which promises great power to whoever wields it. However in the end, it is actually the bravery inspired by the Runestaff which allows freedom and justice to prevail, rather than some "superpower" granted by the artifact itself.

Grafton 1986, Art: Mark Salwowski
Getting the Band Back Together

In any case, four years after the final Runestaff episode, a novel titled Count Brass appeared, which would ultimately end up as the first episode of a second Hawkmoon trilogy (frequently collected as The Count Brass/Chronicles of Castle Brass trilogy). Aside from completing Hawkmoon's saga, this new sequence also gave longtime fans a true capstone and conclusion to the "first" Eternal Champion cycle (the qualifier of "first" is appropriate here as Moorcock picked up the Eternal Champion concept again several times after the 1970s, and has even published more than one "last Eternal Champion story" in more recent years).

Berkley 1985, Art: Robert Gould
Count Brass (1973)

The first novel of this new sequence catches up with Dorian Hawkmoon and his wife Yisselda five years after the ending of the Runestaff saga. Although now a family man with children of his own, Hawkmoon is called back into adventure when several dead friends of his (Count Brass, Oladahn, D'Averc and Bowgentle) somehow resurface without any memory of their deaths (they have apparently been gathered from various time periods of their pasts). When Hawkmoon and his friends investigate this mystery, they run into some old enemies from the defeated Dark Empire, who have been spending the intervening years plotting revenge on Hawkmoon from a parallel plane of the multiverse. In the end, Hawkmoon regains a lost friend, but at a great cost to his family. 

This new volume differs from the Runestaff quartet in that the conflict has a more personal nature to it (Hawkmoon is essentially the focus of one man's vendetta). Since the Dark Empire had been dismantled in The Runestaff, there are no longer any beast-masked armies marching across the continent. Because of this more intimate conflict the stakes are lower, but the tragic ending is probably the bleakest of all of Hawkmoon's adventures. Also, for the first time, Moorcock uses the mechanism of the multiverse more directly in Hawkmoon's saga, as parallel-but-different versions of Hawkmoon's world are visited. In contrast, the previous quartet had only concerned itself with a single iteration of a future, dystopic Earth (aside from the relatively nondescript "limbo" in which the Kamarg had hidden itself in for a time). 

Wikiverse Entry

Mayflower 1973/75, Art: Bob Haberfield
The Champion of Garathorm (1973)

With Hawkmoon in a mostly dejected state (due to his great loss at the end of the previous novel), agents of the multiverse (namely Corum's friend Jhary-a-Conel and Katinka van Bak, an old friend of Count Brass) conspire to have Hawkmoon's lifeforce temporarily transferred into another incarnation of the Eternal Champion - this time a female warrior named Ilian of Garathorm. Her body rejuvenated, Ilian leads her conquered people against an occupation force made up Chaos creatures, some equipped with Dark Empire technology (courtesy of Baron Kalan). Although faced with dire odds, Ilian draws on Hawkmoon's special nature in order to successfully trigger a sequence of events leading to Garathorm's liberation. Additionally, Hawkmoon regains something of what he had lost in the previous novel.

One of the most welcome elements here is the appearance of the first female Eternal Champion (although one could propose that Una Persson precedes Ilian of Garathorm in that regard). In fact, the battle to retake Garathorm's capitol is led by three female warriors: Ilian of Garathorm, Kathinka van Bak, and Yisselda of Brass. Surprisingly, Ilian has not as of yet returned in Moorcock's fiction (at least not under that particular name). On the other hand, the introduction of Katinka van Bak here is important to the greater Moorcock multiverse in that she is the first introduced relative of the Von Bek family line, whose members would take center stage in many Moorcock novels of the next decade. Finally, readers of Elric are treated to the brief-but-important appearance of the Chaos Duke Arioch, who gives aid to the Chaos leader Ymryl (whose name of course sounds similar to "Imrryr of Melniboné"). 

Wikiverse Entry

Dell 1976-78, Art: Richard Courtney
The Quest For Tanelorn (1975)

Although this third novel is something a "grand finale" to the saga of the Eternal Champion saga up to this point, it's interesting in that it avoids a predictable structure, and its triptych nature is actually somewhat reflective of the Count Brass trilogy as a whole. The first act describes Hawkmoon's search for his missing children, during which time he receives advice from various agents of the multiverse. More importantly, during this act he is tempted by a strangely-familiar ebony-hued entity (which he intuitively regards with some trepidation). The second act stages a great battle between an alliance of four incarnations of the Eternal Champion (namely Hawkmoon, Elric, Corum and Erekosë) against Agak and Gagak, sibling alien forces from without the multiverse who are intent on consuming its multitude of realities for their own sustenance. This episode will also be described from Elric's viewpoint in the following year's The Sailor On the Seas of Fate in a way similar to how Moorcock had portrayed the incident at the Vanishing Tower from two different viewpoints in The Vanishing Tower and The King of the Swords.

The third and final act takes place in the fabled city of Tanelorn, and chronicles the final conflict between the Eternal Champion, the Runestaff, the Black Blade, the Black Jewel and the Cosmic Balance. Although all of Moorcock's books are designed to stand alone as adventures unto themselves, this novel in particular is very rewarding to readers of the previous series. In the first act, Hawkmoon is led by Jhary-a-Conel to a meeting of several notable "Law sages" of the multiverse, namely the Warrior In Jet and Gold from the Runestaff quartet, the black Nihrain rider Sepiriz from Elric's finale in Stormbringer, the Lady of the Chalice from Erekosë/Urlik Skarsol's adventure in The Silver Warriors, Lamsar the Seer from Rackhir's debut tale "To Rescue Tanelorn...", Abaris the Magi from "The Greater Conqueror", Lord Arkyn's Mabden spokesman Aleryn from Corum's Swords Trilogy, and the Druid King Amergin from Corum's second trilogy (The Prince with the Scarlet Hand). For new readers, the four pages describing this gathering may come across as enigmatic (hopefully enticingly so), but for long-time fans this is a nice reunion of sorts. Other "servants" of the Runestaff like Orland Fank and Jehamiah Cohnahlius also appear in the first and last acts.  

"Look for Tanelorn within yourself..."

As in almost all of Moorcock's writing, a subtextual thread can be found beneath the adventure aspects. In The Quest For Tanelorn, the mythic city of Tanelorn appears at first to be populated only by shadows, representing a "city without hope". This of course, is not the Tanelorn that the Eternal Champions have been questing for all this time. Eventually, the sagacious Orland Fank states that "When gods die, self-respect buds. Gods and their examples are not needed by those who respect themselves and, consequently, respect others." Hawkmoon then declares, "Here's Death for gods and Life for men! Let the Lords of Chaos and of Law destroy themselves in pointless conflict. Let the Cosmic Balance swing how it likes, it shall not affect our destinies." After his friends all raise their swords in agreement, the shadow city transforms itself into a paradise. In other words, this pivotal scene implies that only after heroes must question their masters, think for themselves and take responsibility for their own actions will truth be discovered. This is a theme which was featured in Moorcock's very first Eternal Champion story ("The Eternal Champion"), and thus its restatement here at the end of the entire affair is very apt. 

Although The Quest For Tanelorn seems to wrap up many threads, in the following decades Moorcock would go on to chronicle the adventures of several new Eternal Champions, and therefore new "grand finales" would also eventually arrive to firmly tie the fates of the old Champions to the new ones.

Wikiverse Entry

Dell 1981, Art: Ezra Tucker
The Blind Captain and his Dark Ship

The second and third acts also introduce the Dark Ship, which is manned by the mysterious Blind Captain and his Steersman (although modern readers of Elric's books have probably already encountered the Dark Ship in The Sailor On the Seas of Fate, which was actually published a year after The Quest For Tanelorn). The Captain and his Ship seem to serve a purpose higher even than that of the Cosmic Balance, but can only help facilitate events rather than take a direct role in them. In later years, Moorcock has explained that the Captain and his Steersman are meant to represent mankind itself ("In a way, it's how I see man. The blind steersman is, in a sense, how we all stumble through life. It's another poetic image with a number of resonances to it. The blind leading the blind is one of the resonances." - Imagine Magazine #22, January 1985).

Ending Bending

Although every major mystery is essentially addressed (to one degree or another) in The Quest For Tanelorn, one brief vision in the final act sometimes elicits a bit of confusion. Near the end of this volume, the Vadhagh Prince Corum is last seen resisting the temptation of the Black Blade by leaping to his death, taking his own life rather than allowing his fate to be dictated by an outside force. However, in the last volume of Corum's own sequence (The Sword and the Stallion, Corum is depicted as being killed by his own sword ("Traitor"). This contradiction is clearly not an "editorial oversight", since Corum's death in The Sword and the Stallion is even referenced before this final tableau unfolds. So how does the reader account for this double-ending?

One possible reading is that Corum did die at the end of The Sword and the Stallion, but in the scene portrayed in The Quest For Tanelorn (where he simply emerges out of a forest after his death), he has taken on a new incarnation of the Champion (just as Erekosë became Urlik Skarsol in The Silver Warriors). Because he rejects the subsequent temptation of the Black Sword, he thus avoids becoming another "tool" of the gods and so achieves peace in Tanelorn. Perhaps if he had accepted the Black Sword he would have continued another cycle of self-destruction.

Another explanation for this conflict of accounts is that these tales are in effect "legends", and legends tend to differ over the ages. In fact, Moorcock has already portrayed some his writings as "tales told second hand" in the Bastable/Nomad of Time books, and so this aspect might shed some light here. In any case, this slight "jiggling" of continuity is justified because the results serve the stories at hand.  

Grafton 1988/89, Art: Paul Damon
A Disturbance In the Megaflow

In several of Moorcock's books during this era, a great "disturbance" to the multiverse is mentioned, usually as a possible reason behind the occurrence of so many dimensional disruptions and cross-overs. The "Conjunction of the Million Spheres" is described in both Corum's Swords Trilogy as well as in the Oswald Bastable Nomad of Time books, and even referenced in the Dancers At the End of Time sequence. My theory is that the great battle of Tanelorn between the four Eternal Champions and the alien invaders Agak and Gagak is the root cause of this massive, multi-plane upheaval. During this battle, Agak sucks dry several entire universes in order to gather enough energy to defy the Champions. The combined Champions then match their foe's power by doing the same, destroying even more realities. Finally, when Agak is defeated, the Champions' great sword is flung back through the multiverse, restoring life to its many planes. 

And something screamed through the universe.
And something sent a tremor through the universe.
And the universe was dead, even as Agak began to die.
The Four did not dare wait to see if Agak were completely vanquished.
It swept the sword out, back through the dimensions, and everywhere the blade touched the energy was restored.
The sword rang round and round.
Round and round. Dispersing the energy.
And the sword sang its triumph and its glee.
And little shreds of black and golden light whispered

Considering the magnitude of such an event, it's seems logical that a "Conjunction of the Million Spheres" (described by Una Persson in The Steel Tsar as a "reorganization of the planes") should happen in its wake. This kind of event would also allow the thinning of the walls of the multiverse to allow creatures such as the Fhoi Myore to reach Corum's world in the Chronicle of the Prince With the Silver Hand. Even events in the Jerry Cornelius books somewhat connect to this one event: in A Cure For Cancer, Jerry uses his randomizer machine to drain all life from the multiverse, before creating a new one shortly after. It's possible that this transformative episode is simply another perspective on the great battle of Tanelorn, this one from Jerry's point of view. So in short, whenever Moorcock mentions a great threat to the planes of the multiverse in his books, I usually like to think of it as a byproduct of the events in The Quest For Tanelorn. Not bad for 35 pence!

Orion/Millennium 1992, Art: Yoshitaka Amano
The Multiverse in a Nutshell

Since The Quest For Tanelorn functions to some degree as an "ending" to the Eternal Champion saga, here may be a good place to review the entire saga from a bird-eye viewpoint, simply to admire the sheer scale of this literary, multi-series fictional universe.

  • John Daker is called from his banal modern-day existence to become Erekosë, a legendary "Eternal Champion" of a future Earth. The entity responsible for Daker's plight is the Cosmic Balance, a largely mute and inscrutable force which seeks equilibrium between Law and Chaos, and uses the (sometimes unwilling) Champions for this purpose. In the end, Erekosë realizes that he must cleanse the planet of humanity for the greater good, essentially committing genocide against his own race. Shortly thereafter, the Cosmic Balance calls on Erekosë's services once again, separating him from his new Eldren lover, Ermizhad. (The Eternal Champion, The Silver Warriors)
  • A warrior-priest named Rackhir the Red Archer fights a Chaos army in order to save Tanelorn, a semi-mythical city of peace which prefers to remain free from the whims of untrustworthy gods. However, Tanelorn appears in different places and has different guises to different people... ("To Rescue Tanelorn...")
  • A knight named Earl Aubec journeys to the outskirts of the known world on a mission to acquire more lands for his Queen. There, he encounters a Dark Lady named Myshella (an agent of Law), who guides him towards establishing new and habitable territories from regions of unformed Chaos. ("Master of Chaos")
  • For ten thousand years, the sorcery-based empire of Melniboné has dominated the world, although now its power dims. Its last ruler is the albino emperor Elric, who derives his power from a black runesword named Stormbringer, which seemingly has a will of its own. After Melniboné falls (by Elric's own actions), the armies of Chaos reverse Earl Aubec and Myshella's earlier accomplishments and return the world to a hellish state of flux. Switching his sympathies to cause of Law, Elric ultimately resists his people's patron Chaos gods and banishes the Chaos Lords from his world, so that a new, unspoiled race can be allowed to develop. However, before that process can begin, Stormbringer slays Elric and escapes into the void. (The Stealer of Souls, Stormbringer
  • In a post-apocalyptic world thrown back into a technology-starved medieval existence, the Dark Empire of Granbretan oppresses most of the known world. After capturing the Germanic resistance fighter Dorian Hawkmoon, the scientists of Granbretan implant a Black Jewel into his forehead which allows the Dark Empire to exert control over their reluctant slave. Hawkmoon eventually overcomes the Black Jewel, and with the help of supernatural allies eventually overthrows the despotic Dark Empire. Part of his quest also involves the mysterious Runestaff, which is able to somehow influence events in favor of its wielder (or at least inspire victory through its presence). (The History of the Runestaff)
  • On apparently yet another plane of reality (but possibly another era of Elric and Hawkmoon's Earth), Prince Corum of the Vadhagh (a supra-human race now dedicated to internal exploration of the arts) is the last survivor of his race. He fights against barbarians and the forces of the Chaos Lords in his realm in order to bring peace to the new race dominating the land, called the Mabden ("mankind). In the end, he is victorious and mankind is saved but, unwilling to further serve the Cosmic Balance, Corum's life ends in violence. (The Swords Trilogy, The Chronicles of Corum
  • The mysterious Blind Captain and his Steersman navigate their Dark Ship through the planes of the multiverse and pick up four key Eternal Champions: Erekosë, Corum, Hawkmoon and Elric. The Champions are picked up from near the end of their individual sagas (or near the beginning, in Elric's case) and then brought to a version of Tanelorn devoid of hope. There they battle the alien beings Agak and Gagak for the survival of the entire multiverse. In the process, the multiverse is destroyed and then recreated. (The Quest For Tanelorn, The Sailor On the Seas of Fate)
  • After defeating Agak and Gagak, Elric and Corum return to their own planes to continue on to their final fates. Hawkmoon and Erekosë remain amongst the ruins of Tanelorn and vow to defy any future whims of the Cosmic Balance and its gods and demons. The "true" Tanelorn materializes, an idyllic city where all of the Eternal Champions of the multiverse are honored after the end of their adventures. Hawkmoon and Erekosë allow the Black Sword (Stormbringer) to destroy the Cosmic Balance, after which they use the Runestaff to shatter the Black Jewel, which in turn causes the destruction of the Black Sword. Erekosë dies in the process, but Hawkmoon lives out the rest of his life with his wife and children at Castle Brass. (The Quest For Tanelorn)

(The 2013/2014 Michael Moorcock Collection, Gollancz (image from
The Chronicle of the Eternal Champion

New readers sometimes express interest in a "suggested reading order" for Moorcock's Eternal Champion saga. Although the "Tale of the Eternal Champion" has been presented in an official reading order in several omnibus collection series (Orion/Millennium, White Wolf, Gollancz), it might be worth listing my own preferred sequence, which is simply based on the order in which the stories were actually published. Reading the series in this manner might impart a greater sense of the prismatic nature of the multiverse itself (or it might just drive oneself crazy!). 

The below list also includes books from the Jerry Cornelius, Oswald Bastable and "Dancers At the End of Time" series. These are not as directly involved in the Eternal Champion saga as the stories of Elric, Erekosë, Hawkmoon and Corum are (they are also more science fiction than heroic fantasy), but they add to the richness of Moorcock's literary tapestry and are of course, recommended. Most of these are available in novel form, but the short stories can be tracked down in the various omnibus collections mentioned earlier.

  • The Eternal Champion (featuring Erekosë, expanded in 1962)
  • “The Dreaming City” (Elric, 1961)
  • “While the Gods Laugh” (Elric, 1961)
  • “The Stealer of Souls” (Elric, 1962)
  • “Kings in Darkness” (Elric, 1962)
  • “The Flame Bringers” (Elric, 1962)
  • “To Rescue Tanelorn...” (Rackhir, 1962)
  • “The Greater Conqueror” (Simon & Abaris, 1963)
  • Stormbringer (Elric, 1963/64)
  • “Master of Chaos” (Earl Aubec, 1964)
  • The Jewel in the Skull (Hawkmoon, 1967)
  • “The Singing Citadel” (Elric, 1967)
  • The Final Programme (Jerry Cornelius, 1968)
  • The Mad God's Amulet (Hawkmoon, 1968)
  • Sword of the Dawn (Hawkmoon, 1968)
  • The Runestaff (Hawkmoon, 1969)
  • Phoenix in Obsidian/The Silver Warriors (Erekosë, 1970)
  • A Cure for Cancer (Jerry Cornelius, 1971)
  • The Knight of the Swords (Corum, 1971)
  • The Queen of the Swords (Corum, 1971)
  • The King of the Swords (Corum, 1971)
  • The Sleeping Sorceress/The Vanishing Tower (Elric, 1971)
  • The Warlord of the Air (Bastable, 1971)
  • An Alien Heat (Dancers, 1972)
  • Elric of Melniboné (1972)
  • Count Brass (Hawkmoon, 1973)
  • The Champion of Garathorm (Hawkmoon, 1973)
  • The Bull and the Spear (Corum, 1973)
  • The Oak and the Ram (Corum, 1973)
  • The Hollow Lands (Dancers, 1974)
  • The Land Leviathan (Bastable, 1974)
  • The Sword and the Stallion (Corum, 1974)
  • The Quest for Tanelorn (Hawkmoon, Erekosë, 1975)
  • The Sailor on the Seas of Fate (Elric, 1976)
  • The Steel Tsar (Bastable, 1981)
  • The End of All Songs (Dancers, 1976)

Next: The Adventures of Una Persson and Catherine Cornelius in the Twentieth Century (1976)

Previous: The Chronicles of Corum: The Prince with the Silver Hand (1973-74)

White Wolf 2000, Art: Walter Simonson

Detailed Synopsis (Spoilers!)

Nov 11, 2020

The Chronicles of Corum: The Prince with the Silver Hand (1973-74)

Berkley 1986, Art: Robert Gould

The Last Vadhagh Returns

In the 1970s, one of Moorcock's most sympathetic (relatable) heroic fantasy characters was Prince Corum of the supra-human Vadhagh race. Corum was first introduced in 1971's "Swords Trilogy", comprised of The Knight of the Swords, The Queen of the Swords and The King of the Swords. In that initial sequence, after Corum's "elder people" are destroyed by human "barbarians", the last Vadhagh allies himself with the more civilized members of humanity to resist the onslaught of these destructive agents of the demi-godlike Chaos Lords. In the process, he also comes into conflict with the Chaos Lords directly, while receiving aid from both "Dead Gods" and the Lord of Law. At the end of that sequence, the gods have all been banished from Corum's plane, and Corum is apparently set to live "happily ever after" with his beautiful bride, the Margavine Rhalina.

Orion/Millennium 1993, Art: Yoshitaka Amano
Two years later (in 1973), a new Corum sequence began appearing, this one mostly taking place centuries after the events of the first trilogy. Hearing a call for help from Rhalina's descendents, Corum allows them to transport him to their future era (although still essentially in a medieval state by our standards) where an alien force named the "Cold Folk" (unrelated to Law, Chaos or the Cosmic Balance) has descended upon the world, requiring the aid of a Champion to once again take up the sword of resistance against oppression. 

Berkley 1974, Art: David McCall Johnston

A More Cornish Corum

The absence of Law and Chaos Lords in this trilogy (as well as the Cosmic Balance, multiverse, etc) allows Moorcock to develop a mythopoeic epic even more informed by Celtic folklore elements than the first trilogy. Many of the place names identified in the original "Swords Trilogy" were derived from Cornish forms, but "Chronicles" uses more directly identifiable archetypes from Celtic folklore to set up Corum's second great struggle as the "true" source of a mythology (almost definitively identifying Corum's world as our own, but in ancient Druid times). In some ways, the "Chronicles" trilogy is stronger than the "Swords" trilogy because it spends more time working to establish Corum as a unique Eternal Champion. Although for many fans a more "fun" epic, the Swords trilogy was probably best appreciated as an expansion of the Eternal Champion struggle established in Erekosë and Elric's sequences (in fact, both characters appeared as "guest stars" in The King of the Swords). Corum's world of the Sword Rulers is very distinct from Elric's, but both are still highly conscious of "sword and sorcery" devices (the first and foremost being the Hand the Kwll and the Eye of Rhynn) and demi-gods of one type or another. 

In the "Chronicles", Corum has given up his alien Hand and Eye, and sardonic magical superbeings (Arioch, Kwll, Teer) are no longer at large in the world. Supernatural creatures still appear but these are largely made up of mythic archetypes based on Earthly fauna (the stallion Splendid Mane, the Black Bull of Crinanass, the Silvern Ram), flora (an Oak Woman, Brothers to the Pines) or forces coming out of horror traditions (the half-dead Ghoolegh, the vicious Hounds of Kerenos, the inscrutable Cold Folk, ice phantoms, etc.). This element of "fantasy horror" nicely distinguishes Corum's second trilogy from the sagas of Elric, Hawkmoon and Erekosë, whose sequences could be said to hew closer to heroic fantasy, science fantasy, and dark fantasy (to put it somewhat crudely).

(Actually, one source states that the Fhoi Myore are a derivation of "Fomóiri", who are essentially "like the powers of chaos, ever latent and hostile to cosmic order" - so maybe there's some multiverse Chaos in there after all!)

Quartet 1973-75, Art: Patrick Woodroffe


In the introductions to the 1990s omnibus editions of the Chronicles (Orion/Milennium, White Wolf, retitled The Prince With the Silver Hand), Moorcock writes that this second trilogy "draws on images and ideas inspired by the Cuchulain stories and other Irish tales, of a time when the dark Gods of Ireland were still abroad, threatening all we hold dear..." They are also an "acknowledgement of the huge debt I have to both the mythology and the modern literature of Ireland, especially Yeats." He also cites Irish writers like Charles Lever (Cornelius O’Dowd, Dodd Family Abroad, the Harry Lorrequer and Charles D Malley stories), Garrison Ainsworth (tales of Dick Turpin and the Tower of London), the darker stories of C.S. Lewis and Sheridan Le Fanu, Charles Maturin (Melmoth the Wanderer), Jonathan Swift, and Lord Dunsany (The Gods of Pagana, The Sword of Welleran) as early inspirations.

Allison & Busby 1973, Art: Keith Roberts
The Bull and the Spear (1973)

This story begins many years after the end of the Swords trilogy, finding Corum mourning his now-deceased wife Rhalina and without much purpose. However, he soon receives a summons in his dreams (much like Erekosë did in The Eternal Champion and its sequels) and is transported to a future era of Earth where Druid King Mannach and his people are threatened by alien beings called the Fhoi Myore, or "Cold Folk", from Limbo (specifically, "in between" the planes of the multiverse). The Fhoi Myore have at their disposal zombie-like slaves, four-legged beasts and ice phantoms, as well as the ability to freeze entire armies at a glance. Corum goes on a quest to obtain the fabled Spear of Bryionak, a weapon which will help him summon the mythic Black Bull of Crinanass, who will in turn drive off the Fhoi Myore's ghoulish army. Along the way, Corum encounters a devious wizard named Calatin with a ghoul-controlling horn, the ancient Sidhe dwarf-giant Goffanon, and the unexpected return of Prince Gaynor the Damned, last seen serving the Lords of Chaos in The King of the Swords

A ringfort at Grianan of Aileach, probably related in structure to King Mannach's Caer Mahlod.
As mentioned earlier, Corum here encounters creatures more closely aligned with nature, such as the Hounds of Kerenos, Hew Argech (a wooden "brother of the Pines") and the titular Bull of Crinanass (whose spilt blood results in the growth of spontaneous vegetation). Corum also finds new love in the form of Medhbh who, in contrast to the courtly widower Rhalina, is a young, impulsive female warrior (but one with an education in supernatural lore). The tone of this first volume also establishes that the Chronicles trilogy will concentrate less on character grotesques (like the Chaos Lords of the Swords trilogy) and more on a desperate conflict between humanity and truly alien invaders (who generally do not engage in playful banter or make bargains). 

Wikiverse Entry

Allison & Busby 1973, Art: Keith Roberts
The Oak and the Ram (1973)

In this episode, Corum is called upon to rescue the Mabden High King Amergin from Caer Llud, where he is being held captive by the gathered Fhoi Myore. Unfortunately, once rescued, Amergin is discovered to be under an enchantment of idiocy, and the mythic Golden Oak and Silvern Ram are the only objects which might cure him. Reunited with Jhary-a-Conel and Goffanon (and soon joined by another surviving Sidhe giant named Ilbrec), Corum and his friends eventually reach Caer Garanhir where the Oak and the Ram can be found. There, a great battle ensues between the fortress defenders and the Fhoi Myore's tree-folk army. In the final act, the heroes race against time to summon the mysterious Oak Woman to help them restore Amergin before he dies. The highlight of this volume is probably the defense of Caer Garanhir, in which the tides of battle swing back and forth during several pitched battles.

Wikiverse Entry

Allison & Busby 1974, Art: Keith Roberts
The Sword and the Stallion (1974)  

With High King Amergin restored, the Mabden prepare for a final all-out attack on the Fhoi Myore. When Fyean pirates arrive and claim that Corum's "evil double" has been attacking them, Corum and Ilbrec head to the Shadow Isle of Ynys Scaith to investigate. There they find the vengeful Sactric, Emperor of Malibann, last survivor of a lost empire from another plane. In return for his aid against the Fhoi Myore, Corum and his friends reunite Sactric with the head of his sister, Terhali. The last stand against the Fhoi Myore occurs amongst a monumental circle of "standing stones". A final confrontation between Corum, his evil twin, Prince Gaynor and Medhbh finishes off the Chronicles of the Prince with the Silver Hand in epic fashion.

Stonehenge (could this be the circle of standing stones feared by the Fhoi Myore?)
Perhaps fittingly, this final episode finally reaches back into the multiverse to involve some elements seemingly connected to Elric's world. The rogue Malibann Emperor Sactric obviously recalls the name of Elric's father, Emperor Sadric of Melniboné. Sactric's sister Terhali may be the notorius sorcerer-empress of Melnibone featured in "A Sword Called Stormbringer"/"The Green Empress of Melniboné" (Conan the Barbarian #14, 15) and mentioned in Elric of Melniboné (1972). Sactric spends part of the book with his consciousness inside of a cat's body, just as the sorcerer Drinij Bara's soul had been trapped inside a feline form in "The Flame Bringers" ("The Caravan of Forgotten Dreams"). Additionally, Corum's sword "Traitor" is hinted to be yet another incarnation of the black blade, Stormbringer. Putting an even "finer point" on things, Corum meets a final fate not too dissimilar to the one Elric found at the end of Stormbringer.

Wikiverse Entry

Martínez Roca 1994
Alien Tongues and Ancient Archetypes

Of all of Moorcock's books examined so far, the Chronicles probably appear to have the most tongue-twisting proper names. Because the names are derived from Celtic sources, their pronunciation differs dramatically from the more common English methods. For example, "Medhbh" is pronounced "May-ve", and "Sidhe" is pronounced "Shee". On one forum, Moorcock has stated that he personally pronounces "Fhoi Myore" as "Foy ME OR". However, he has also never insisted on any kind of "definitive" pronunciation, and instead merely recommends that a reader "pronounce names the way that suits you." In any case, the more idiomatic pronunciations certainly roll off the tongue a bit better than what I had originally come up with!

As mentioned earlier, some of the characters and creatures in the Chronicles were apparently inspired by figures from Celtic mythology. Below are a few which have been identified (through Wikipedia, Wikiverse (, and luck...).

  • Tuha-na-Cremm Croich ("the people of Corum's Cloak/Mound"): Crom Cruach - "crooked mound", a pagan god worshiped through human sacrifice.
  • Corum Llew Ereint ("Corum of the Silver Hand"): Lludd Llaw Eraint - "Lludd of the Silver Hand", Welsh king who saved Britain from three plagues.
  • Fhoi Myore ("undeRsea ones", re-dubbed here as the "Cold Folk"): Fomóiri - "the undersea ones", destructive beings of nature who opposed the first Irish settlers and are rivals of the more "constructive" Tuatha Dé Danann.
  • Medhbh: Medb - warrior queen of Connacht in the mythological Irish Ulster Cycle (possibly inspiration for "Queen Mab").
  • Goffanon: Goffanon - a blacksmith god in Celtic mythology and Middle Welsh literature.
  • Sidhe: Aes sídhe/Aos sí ("people of the mounds") - comparable to "elves or fairies" in Irish/Scottish mythology, possibly from another plane.
  • Hounds of Kerenos: Cŵn Annwn ("coon anun") - the spectral hounds of Annwn, the otherworld of Welsh myth (dubbed "Dogs of Hell" by Christians).
  • Amergin: Amergin Glúingel - in Irish myth, a bard, druid, judge and king who helped conquer Ireland for mankind by commanding natural forces.
  • Dagdagh: An Dagda - "the good god", a druid king (one of the Tuatha Dé Danann) associated with growth, plays harp, somewhat similar to Odin of Norse mythology.
  • Balahr the One-eyed: Balor of the Fomorians, personifies drought, blight, and the scorching sun.
  • Bress: Bres of the Fomorians - as their king, he betrayed the Tuatha Dé Danann (his mother's side).
  • Kerenos: Cernunnos - “horned one”, the Gaelic god of beasts and wild places (related somewhat to "unicorn", see Martínez Roca covers above).
  • Hy-Breasail: Uí Breasail - a mysterious lost island covered in mist.
  • Ynys Scaith: Isle of Skye(?) - island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, recently featured in the Star Wars movies as the home of the Jedi (opponents of the Sith - i.e. "Sidhe"!).
  • Laegaire: Lóegaire - possibly Lóegaire Búadach, hapless would-be hero of the Ulster Cycle.
  • Craig Don: Don Craig - a fictional character on Days of Our Lives. Don came to Salem as a successful and wealthy attorney. After fourteen years he went to the mail to post a letter and hasn't been seen since. (haha, joke).

Grafton 1989, Paul Damon
The Fates of Corum

One of the funny things about Corum is that he has two endings, one described in The Sword and the Stallion and another described in the last Eternal Champion book of the 1970s, The Quest For Tanelorn. Who knows, maybe the Corum of Quest is an alternate Corum? Anything's possible in Moorcock's Multiverse. I'll revisit this question in the next chapter.

Next Chapter: Hawkmoon: The Count Brass Trilogy

Previous Chapter: Tales From the End of Time (1974-77)

Mayflower 1979 (a Ghoolegh?), Art: Rodney Matthews (1)
Mayflower 1981, Art: Melvyn Grant (2, 3)

Detailed Synopses (Spoilers!)

Nov 3, 2020

Tales From the End of Time (1974-77)

(Mongrove (from "Pale Roses"), the Fireclown's arrival destroys Argonheart Po's edible dinosaurs)
W.H. Allen 1976/77, Art: Rodney Matthews
Legends From the End of Time

In 1972 Moorcock published An Alien Heat, the first of his "Dancers At the End of Time" sequence, which describes technologically-enabled, human demi-gods who spend most of their time competing with one another through extravagant social functions, while at the same time searching for exotic new fashions with which to maintain an interesting existence. Fear, need and the concept of sin have all been banished as barely-remembered artifacts of the past. An Alien Heat and its sequels (The Hollow Lands and The End of All Songs) focus on the young End of Time "antiquarian" Jherek Carnelian and his time-travel romance with Mrs. Amelia Underwood, a "proper" Englishwoman from the year 1896. 

"Una at the End of Time", Rodney Matthews 1981 (Link)
These books were (and are) among Moorcock's most popular works (up there with the Elric and Jerry Cornelius books) and thus his readers were happy to discover End of Time "legends" in New Worlds Quarterly paperback anthologies, appearing in between installments of the main trilogy. Because the main trilogy spends at least half its time away from the End of Time (primarily in 1896, but also the Paleozoic Era), these tales (and one full-length novel) help to flesh out the colorful cast of characters of the future era, and help to lay some groundwork to the main trilogy (although they are not critical in order to enjoy An Alien Heat and its sequels). Some of the characters highlighted in these episodes include the forlorn "Last Romantic" Werther de Goethe, the enigmatic puppet-master Lord Jagged, the enthusiastic Duke of Queens, the pathetically self-absorbed Miss Mavis Ming and the unscrupulous reliquary/prophet collector Doctor Volospion. Jherek Carnelian and Mrs. Underwood however, remain offscreen in these episodes, fully occupied in their own sequence.

("Catherine Gratitude", "The Fireclown")
Ace 1988/89, Art: Robert Gould
All Roads Lead to the End of Time

The fascinating natures of these alien (but comic) human archetypes are revealed mostly through their interactions with time-traveling visitors to the End of Time. These include a lost woman-child waif, a squad of interstellar Terran soldiers, and a woman from a period of Earth's "past" (future for us) even more austere and repressed than Mrs. Underwood's England of 1896. Even more interesting are visitors from two of Moorcock's earlier science-fantasy works, specifically Manny Bloom (the "fireclown" from The Winds of Limbo) and Elric of Melniboné (snatched from in between chapters of 1961's "The Dreaming City"). These last two episodes in particular are an interesting "mash up" (or pastiche?) of some of the different genres Moorcock had been exploring up until this time. Even an element of Breakfast In the Ruins appears in the initial version of Mavis Ming's final tale. 

Star 1979/80

Four of these "legends" first appeared in New Worlds anthologies (7-10, edited at that time primarily by Hilary Bailey and sometimes with Charles Platt). The first three, "Pale Roses", "White Stars" and "Ancient Shadows" (all titles taken from introductory lines of verse) were soon collected in the aptly-named book Legends From the End of Time (1976). The fourth tale, "Constant Fire" was expanded and published as a full-length novel under the title The Transformation of Miss Mavis Ming (1977, sometimes also published as A Messiah At the End of Time). A fifth tale (featuring Elric) was completed in 1977 (after the conclusion of the Dancers main trilogy) but did not see publication until 1981. Ultimately all five of these episodes were published in omnibus editions under the title Legends From the End of Time under the Orion and White Wolf imprints (1993, 1999). More recently, they appear in Gollancz' Michael Moorcock Collection as Tales From the End of Time (2014).

New Worlds 7-10: The Science Fiction Quarterly
(Artists include Eddie Jones and Patrick Woodroffe)
"Pale Roses"

(New Worlds Quarterly 7, Dec 1974, ed. Hilary Bailey, Charles Platt, then Legends from the End of Time 1976, Tales from the End of Time 1989)

This story (taking place at the End of Time while Jherek Carnelian is journeying in 1896 in pursuit of Mrs. Underwood during An Alien Heat) describes Werther de Goethe's "forbidden" love affair with an adopted sea nymph, which ultimately results in one of the actors of this drama plunging off of a windy cliff in a classic Romantic gesture. Since Werther de Goethe's presence is a bit under-served in the main Dancers trilogy (probably due to his similarity in affectation to his protege Mongrove), readers are rewarded here with Werther's own episode. 

It's worth noting that Werther de Goethe's name obviously references the famous proto-Romantic novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe at age 24. In that book, Goethe's Werther suffers from unrequited love and humiliation from society. In a dramatic act of passion (or self-pity), he kills himself in order to prevent further inconvenience to himself or his lost love's romance with another man. Moorcock's Werther de Goethe has taken on Young Werther's burden of heartache as his own identity at the End of Time, although until this episode this affectation has never been so particularly associated with a single lover.

Wikiverse Entry

(The Duke of Queens duels Lord Shark the Unknown)
interior art from New Worlds 8 (1975): Mal Dean
"White Stars"

(New Worlds Quarterly 8, Mar 1975, ed. Hilary Bailey, then Legends from the End of Time 1976, Tales from the End of Time 1989)

This story takes place after Lord Jagged, the Iron Orchid, the Duke of Queens, etc. have returned from 1896 (after The Hollow Lands, while Jherek and Amelia are probably still stuck in the Devonian Period). In any case, here the ever-affable Duke of Queens takes centerstage, as he tries to conjure up an entertaining new fashion to impress his friends with by instigating a sword duel with the anti-social self-exile Lord Shark the Unknown (who also happens to be a weapons expert). This plan becomes a bit more complicated when a squad of star-soldiers appear at the End of Time, apparently snatched away from a military operation against alien "vultures". Although the Duke of Queens appears many times in the main Dancers trilogy, it is here that readers get a greater sense of his essential good nature (as his direct competitor, Jherek tends to paint the Duke somewhat as a "second-rater" in An Alien Heat). This and the previous story set up the Duke of Queens and Werther de Goethe for their "team up" with Elric later on. This story also notably makes one of the soldiers stranded at the End of Time a smart, sympathetic character. This balances out the more satirical portrayal of law enforcement (Inspector Springer, etc.) in the main trilogy.

Wikiverse Entry 

GuildAmerica Books / SFBC 1989, Art: Robert Eastman
"Ancient Shadows"

(New Worlds Quarterly 9, Nov 1975, ed. Hilary Bailey, then Legends from the End of Time 1976, Tales from the End of Time 1989)

Taking place shortly after “White Stars”, this story features Dafnish Armatuce, another time traveler from the past. Like Amelia Underwood, she finds the sensibilities of the Dancers at the End of Time inappropriate, but her distaste comes from her time period's embrace of extreme austerity as a reaction to a just-finished world cataclysm (presumably caused by self-indulgence and over-population). Perhaps more importantly, this story also introduces Miss Mavis Ming, a boorish woman from the 21st-century (Iowa), who latches onto Dafnish like a sex-starved parasite. This episode therefore features a conflict between two time-travelers from the past, with Lord Jagged caught in the middle. It's nice to see Jagged faced with a problem he can't simply deflect away with an enigmnatic bit of verse. Although primarily another character melodrama, its resolution is based on a science-fiction device involving artificially-generated symbiotic relationships and hereditary rights. It also vividly describes what happens when a time-traveler tries to defy the megaflow...

Wikiverse Entry 

Harper & Row 1976, Art: Irving Freeman
"Constant Fire", The Transformation of Miss Mavis Ming (or, the Return of the Fireclown), A Messiah At the End of Time

(New Worlds Quarterly 10, 1976, ed. Hilary Bailey, as “Constant Fire”, expanded to A Messiah at the End of Time, Feb 1977, Tales from the End of Time 1989)

In this novel (expanded from a short story) Miss Mavis Ming is again a main character, but this time she is the pursued instead of the pursuer. A powerful and messianic character named Emmanuel Bloom (the "Fireclown" first introduced in The Winds of Limbo) arrives at the End of Time (this time from space, rather than through a time machine) and tries to save the planet as its new ruler, while at the same time capture Miss Mavis Ming to be his mate. In the ensuing weeks the Fireclown's destructive efforts clash with the aesthetics of the Dancers at the End of Time, until finally a confrontation between the Fireclown and Doctor Volospion (Mavis' forbidding patron) decides the issue. This story helps to distinguish Doctor Volospion as more than a mere "imitation" of Lord Jagged (similar to how "Pale Roses" helped distinguish Werther de Goethe from Mongrove). Where Mavis came across as the clear antagonist in "Ancient Shadows", here the reader is allowed to feel a bit more sympathy for her (at least when juxtaposed with Bloom and Volospion). 

The original version of this story featured a short but pivotal scene in which Mavis is whipped into a bloody state, but later editions replace this BDSM-tinged tableau with one involving a corrosive body oil of some sort. Although Moorcock had earlier explored BDSM play in the grim and brutal Breakfast In the Ruins, the revised ending ultimately fits better with the general tone of the story.

Wikiverse Entry 

Paper Tiger 1987, Art: Rodney Matthews
"Elric At the End of Time"

(completed 1977, 1st publ. Elsewhere, Sept 1981, ed. Mark Alan Arnold, Terri Windling, later Elric at the End of Time (1984))

Written in 1977, this story was originally supposed to be published in a large format book illustrated with full-page color plates painted by Rodney Matthews. That version eventually materialized in 1987, but in the meantime the text of the story was published in an anthology titled Elsewhere (Sept 1981, ed. Mark Alan Arnold, Terri Windling) and then included in the 1984 Elric-themed Moorcock anthology Elric at the End of Time.

Taking place before Mrs. Persson rescues Jherek and Amelia from the Paleozoic in The End of All Songs, it describes a disturbance in the megaflow after Elric is accidentally flung into the plane of the End of Time after a sorcerous conflict. Mrs. Una Persson (of the Guild of Temporal Adventurers) is alerted to the crisis and tries to intercept Elric at the End of Time before the megaflow timestream is further damaged, but her efforts are stymied when Werther de Goethe and the Duke of Queens draft Elric into a self-made adventure for Elric's "benefit". While Elric and his new friends conduct a rescue operation (its dangers conjured up by Werther de Goethe in hastily-fabricated improvisations), Una searches the megaflow for Lord Jagged in order to gain his assistance. 

One of the inspirations for this tale came from M. John Harrison, who once suggested to Moorcock that the Dancers at the End of Time might appear to be "Chaos Lords" from Elric's perspective. Although probably confusing as hell to "completist" Elric fans unfamiliar with the Dancers At the End of Time sequence (such as myself upon first reading this story), for those fans of both series it works as a tour-de-force mash up of comic dialogue and exciting sword and sorcery action.

"Some readers weren’t too happy about my writing what was, after all, primarily a humorous story, but it seemed to me that there was a chance to offer an aspect of Elric which was not one of unrelieved gloom! There’s always a danger, as one’s work grows in popularity, of taking oneself too seriously." (To Rescue Tanelorn, "Introduction", 2007)

Additional Notes from Rodney Matthews

Wikiverse Entry 

DAW 1985, Art: Michael Whelan

(Moorcock also wrote a Dancers at the End of Time-related story in 2008 for Postcripts (Sept 2008) titled "Sumptuous Dress: A Question Of Size At The End Of Time" in which the Iron Orchid and Werther de Goethe meet some characters from the Second Ether sequence. I'll cover that one when I get to the Second Ether books.) 

DAW 1977/78, Art: Bob Pepper

In his introduction to the 1998 White Wolf omnibus Legends From the End of Time, Moorcock notes that the Dancers at the End of Time stories are his "light-hearted homage to George Meredith, in particular, but also to Dowson, Beardsley, Simons, Swinburne and the Irish wits, to all those contributors to The Savoy and The Yellow Book who impressed me with their glorious insouciance and cleverness when I was a boy and wanting to have done nothing more than spend an evening at the Café Royal in their company."

Dancers at the End of Time Wiki Entry

Next Chapter: The Chronicles of Corum

Previous Chapter: The Dancers At the End of Time (1972-76) 

Denoël 1980, Art: Stéphane Dumont

Detailed Synopses (Spoilers!)