Aug 3, 2020

Elric: The Sailor On The Seas of Fate (1976)

DAW 1976, Art: Michael Whelan
Elric Meets Conan
Moorcock's return to Elric in 1972's Elric of Melniboné continued to elevate the Doomed Albino's profile across the world. In America, Marvel Comics decided to have Elric meet his ur-opposite in the heroic fantasy genre, none other than Robert E. Howard's Conan the Cimmerian. In the 60s and 70s, combining characters from different franchises had proven to be successful (King Kong vs. Godzilla, Zatoishi and the One-Armed Swordsman, etc.), and this pairing between the brawny barbarian and the bone-white sorcerer also turned out quite well. Moorcock spoke of this unusual meeting in a 2008 Tripwire interview:
When Roy (Thomas, Conan comic scripter) got in touch with me to draft an Elric/Conan story for the Conan series, I thought it was a great idea but didn’t have a lot of time so, as has often been usual in our working partnership, I asked Jim (Cawthorn) if he wanted to work on the Elric/Conan story with me. He agreed and wound up doing the lion’s share of the work. The idea we sent Roy was more elaborate. Unfortunately, the only reference to Elric that Barry (Smith, comic artist) had was Jack Gaughan’s cover for The Stealer of Souls, with the strange pointy hat. So Barry drew a pointy hat…He apologized later and said he’d like a chance to redraw Elric but so far we’ve both been too busy at different times to do anything.
Taking place before "The Dreaming City", the exiled Emperor Elric is at this point in his story in search of a way to awaken Cymoril from Yyrkoon's sleep spell, whereas Conan is just starting his career as a young soldier of fortune. A synopsis follows:

Art: Barry Smith
"A Sword Called Stormbringer" (Conan the Barbarian #14, Mar 1972)
In search of a way to awaken Cymoril from Yyrkoon’s spell of sleep, Elric quests for the tomb of Terhali (an ancient sorceress of Melniboné). In order to reach it, he invokes a spell to take him to the world of Hyboria, where Terhali’s palace has been exiled to. There, he encounters Conan the Cimmerian barbarian and a woman named Zephra, who is the daughter of a Law wizard named Zukala. Conan seeks to stop the wizard Kulan-Gath from resurrecting Terhali and using her power to cause havoc in Hyboria. Xiombarg, Queen of the Chaos Swords (last seen in The Queen of the Swords), sends Prince Gaynor the Damned and his Chaos Pack to counter Conan and Elric’s efforts. The pair are almost overwhelmed, but Zephra conjures up a sorcerous rain, which dissolves most of the "impure" Chaos Pack. However, Gaynor himself escapes with the remains of his army. Conan and Elric then band together to go in search of Terhali’s tomb.

Art: Barry Smith
"The Green Empress of Melniboné" (Conan the Barbarian #15, May 1972)
After fighting through a forest of hostile creatures, Elric, Conan and Zephra reach Yagala, Terhali’s displaced kingdom, now sunken below water. They take a ship made of bones to Terhali’s castle where they find Kulan-Gath in the middle of a magical ritual. Gaynor and his Chaos Pack reappear to distract the heroes, allowing Kulan Gath time to successfully resurrect Terhali, the Green Empress of Melniboné (as well as her city Zagala). As Gaynor and his pack are banished by Arioch’s intervention, Terhali destroys her benefactor Kulan-Gath for his impudence. Elric and Conan’s blades have no effect on Terhali, but Arkyn, a Lord of Law empowers Zephra with eldritch power. Zephra destroys Terhali, but is herself burnt out by the burden of Arkyn's power and perishes. Elric returns to his own world empty-handed, as Conan carries Zephra’s body back to her father.

Although perhaps not as well-known these days as in the 70s, I really enjoyed this story, despite Barry Smith's inaccurate visual portrayal of Elric's headgear. The appearance of Gaynor and Xiombarg is a treat for Corum fans, and many years later Elric would encounter Gaynor and Terhali again (although King Conan has yet to appear on the Moonbeam Roads).

Elric: The Return to Melniboné (1973)
1972 Elric Portfolio by Philippe Druillet
Moving from America to France, Elric's popularity in Europe was helped by French translations adorned with the bio-mechanical baroque stylings of Philippe Druillet. In 1969, Elric's first two novels, The Stealer of Souls and Stormbringer appeared together in an Elric compendium (Elric le necromancien), which included new Druillet spot illustrations as well as black and white samples from Druillet's 1966 adaptation of "The Dreaming City" ("La Cité Qui Rêve").
Over the years, since Jim Cawthorn’s first (and still in many ways the finest) portraits of Elric, there have been a number of interpretations of the albino. The first strip version to be published was actually in French, by Philippe Druillet, in an obscure magazine called Moi Aussi in the mid-’60s (reprinted as a portfolio, 1972; in English, 1973) which was given an altogether idiosyncratic cast, since Druillet spoke no English and the stories were told to him by a friend, whereupon he drew his interpretation!
  -  Moorcock, "Elric: Intro To The Graphic Adaptation" (1986)
In 1973, most of Druillet's illustrations from the 1972 portfolio Moorcock mentions above ("La Saga D'Elric Le Necromancien") were eventually collected into an English adaptation published by Unicorn Books titled Elric: The Return to Melniboné, with Moorcock providing new text narration. Apparently, since the plot of Druillet's adaptation of "The Dreaming City" diverted so dramatically from the original story, Moorcock ended up overlaying an entirely new narrative on top of Druillet's artwork and renamed the story "Elric: The Return to Melniboné".

In this new sequence, Elric returns to Melniboné after his sojourn amongst the people of the Young Kingdoms. He finds that the influence of Chaos has grown in the Bright Empire. He arrives at the palace to see a scene of gross debauchery, hosted by his cousin Yyrkoon. Cymoril finally appears and after briefly visiting the Phoorn (dragon) Flamefang they retreat to a bridal room – a room originally intended to have been shared by Yyrkoon and Cymoril that very night. Elric and Cymoril make love as Arioch looks on from the shadows. At the same time Yyrkoon begins searching for a way to recover Mournblade (which he had lost at the end of Elric of Melniboné).

This fascinating depiction of Elric's discovery of Yyrkoon's plotting leading up to "The Dreaming City" has never seen print in novel form, making it something of an apocryphal episode. However, in the 2005 Audiorealms audio book of The Sailor On the Seas of Fate, Moorcock reads a new Prelude which summarizes the events of The Return to Melniboné as a dream Elric has while still wandering amongst the humans of the Young Kingdoms.

More details about this publication's history can be found here.

More Druillet illustrations from this project can be seen here.
Art: Philippe Druillet, from the French translation of "The Dreaming City"

The Jade Man’s Eyes (1973)
Unicorn 1973, Art: James Cawthorn
Meanwhile back in the U.K., Moorcock submitted an Elric short story (possibly written in the late 1960s for Science Fantasy/SF Impulse) titled "The Jade Man's Eyes" to Bill Butler for inclusion in Butler's Unicorn Books imprint in Brighton (which also initially printed the English version of Elric: The Return to Melniboné). Ultimately this was a relatively low-profile affair seeing limited distribution, so the story was later rewritten to fit into the 1976 Elric novel, The Sailor On the Seas of Fate (see below).

In this adventure, Elric and Moonglum join the Vilmirian fortune-hunter Duke Avan on a quest for the legendary Jade Man's Eyes, located somewhere in the lost ancestral home of the Melnibonéans, R’Lin K’ren A’a. This adventure introduces the "Creature Doomed To Live", an ancient Melnibonéan ancestor named J’osui C’reln Reyr (an anagram of Jerry Cornelius). After another series of bloody events, Elric and Moonglum escape the lost city of R’Lin K’ren A’a, and following a message from Arioch head towards Pan Tang to seek out its Theocrat, Jagreen Lern (who features prominently in Stormbringer). This essentially situates "The Jade Man's Eyes" sometime in between The Singing Citadel and The Stealer of Souls (during Elric's hunt for Theleb K’aarna). Interestingly, it is also mentioned in this story that part of the original inhabitants of R’Lin K’ren A’a emigrated to Pan Tang, while the rest settled on Imrryr. This would make the Melnibonéans and the Pan Tang-ians much closer blood relations than previously thought.

A full synopsis can be found at the bottom of this page.

DAW 1976-77, Art: Michael Whelan

DAW 1970s Frontispiece, James Cawthorn
The Sailor on the Seas of Fate (1974-76)
In 1976, Moorcock published a new Elric novel, The Sailor On The Seas of Fate. This new installment first appeared in America as part of DAW Books' popular 1976-77 Elric collection in 6 volumes, each adorned with new Michael Whelan covers and with newly-approved text by Moorcock himself. For many American readers like myself, this is the edition which stands out most in our teenage years.

The Sailor on the Seas of Fate follows on from the end of Elric of Melniboné, as Elric spends time "incognito" getting to know more about the people of the Young Kingdoms on a kind of international fact-finding mission. In this book Moorcock continues to use the same techniques he so successfully employed in writing all of his previous fantasy novels, and divides the book into three distinct "Books" (acts). In contrast to the stories taking place after "The Dreaming City", at this point Elric is not yet known as the infamous kin-slayer who destroyed his lover and his people. Thus, as in the preceding novel, Elric is here less of a depressed sociopath, and a bit more child-like in his openness to these unknown lands (at least in the first two acts).
Berkley 1983, Art: Robert Gould
Book One: Sailing to the Future: In this first adventure, Elric teams up with three other incarnations of the Eternal Champion to defeat a mighty foe from beyond the Multiverse (quite a mind-boggling concept!). This story is a retelling of an adventure originally featured in the 1975 novel The Quest For Tanelorn, the third and final volume in the "Castle Brass" sequence (Hawkmoon's second trilogy). This technique of retelling the same story from two characters' points of view was used earlier in 1971's "The Vanishing Tower" (The Sleeping Sorceress) and The King of Swords, and in both of these instances this "multi-narrative" technique enhances the feeling that the multiverse is intimately connected, yet at the same time assembled in a non-linear chronological fashion.
Elric confronts the strange creatures inside the fleshy structure.
(DAW 1976, Art: Michael Whelan)
In this episode, Elric does not recognize Corum here because he has not yet experienced the adventure Corum has experienced in his own past (described in "The Vanishing Tower"). This manages to create an interesting paradox in that Elric's first encounter with Corum is not the same episode as Corum's first encounter with Elric... In any case, the plot is relatively straightforward: the combined might of the Four Eternal Champions is required to defeat a completely alien entity from beyond all realities. In "The Vanishing Tower", Elric, Corum and Erekosë had used a "linked arms" formation to defeat Voilodion Gagnasdiak's creatures. Here, their union as a quartet (with Hawkmoon as a fourth member) is a somewhat more intimate affair, as their bodies literally fuse together into an 8-armed being and they proceed to "possess" one of the monolithic aliens. The climax involves the virtual destruction of the multiverse, followed by its restoration upon the alien invaders' defeat. Although all four of the Eternal Champions are somewhat traumatized by the bizarre experience, Elric continues on to his next adventure, while Hawkmoon and Erekosë's story continues on as described in the previous year's The Quest For Tanelorn.
Flashing Swords! #4, 1977, Art: Don Maitz
Book Two: Sailing To the Present: In this tale (after Corum has made an off-stage exit to continue his saga in The Sword and the Stallion and The Quest For Tanelorn), Elric finds himself in a strange ocean realm and eventually allies himself with the similarly-stranded Count Smiorgan Baldhead. They then participate as side characters in a Shakespearean love triangle set between an ancient Melnibonéan Earl, a reincarnated damsel in distress, and a ghostly riderless horse. Earl Saxif D'Aan is the closest we have come at this point to meeting another Melnibonéan ruler, but it just so happens that his un-Melnibonéan feelings of "love" are a kind of historic predecessor to Elric's own curious embrace of human feelings. Although they are pitted against each other in this story, they actually have quite alot in common as far as their progressive tendencies towards non-Melnibonéans. In any case, Elric and Smiorgan eventually return to their own plane in one piece, poised for another adventure.

This second "book" in The Sailor On The Seas of Fate also appeared the following year as a novelette titled "The Lands Beyond the World" in Lin Carter's 1977 sword and sorcery anthology Flashing Swords! #4.

Flashing Swords #4, Art: Rick Bryant

Book Three: Sailing to the Past: This episode is a rewritten version of "The Jade Man's Eyes", the 1973 novella published by Unicorn Books in 1973 described above. Like "Sailing To the Present", this story also appeared in one of Lin Carter's Flashing Swords! anthologies (#2). In both Carter's 1973 anthology and in The Sailor On The Seas of Fate, Moonglum's role in the Unicorn version is replaced by Count Smiorgan Baldhead. Fortunately, "The Jade Man's Eyes" fits into this new chronological placement without too much trouble. However, there are a few bits of dialogue where Elric sounds a bit more cynical than he does in other sections of the book.
“Yet few of the dangers I have faced have helped me forget,” Elric pointed out. “Rather they have strengthened the reminder of what I am—of the dilemma I face. My own instincts war against the traditions of my race.” Elric drew a deep, melancholy breath. “I go where danger is because I think that an answer might lie there—some reason for all this tragedy and paradox. Yet I know I shall never find it.”
The reason for this more fateful tone is of course because "The Jade Man's Eyes" was originally written to take place shortly before "The Stealer of Souls". However, it may be worth wondering if this seeming incongruity might be explained by a more subtle development...

One of the most puzzling twists in Elric's saga occurs when, at the end of Elric of Melniboné, Elric places his nemesis Yyrkoon as Regent ruler of Melniboné, while Elric travels abroad alone and incognito. This seems to be an incredibly naive act of trust, verging on lunacy, but it may be that this move was more calculated than it first appears. The Elric which Smiorgan meets in "Sailing to the Past" is much more resigned to fate than in the previous acts, and his spoken belief in a brighter future for his people seems to be a bit forced. Within this new ret-conned continuity, one could theorize that after the acquisition of Stormbringer in the Pulsing Cavern and his return home to Imrryr, Elric had already decided that Melniboné was destined to fall. Also, although Elric seemed to have mastered Stormbringer in the Pulsing Cave, it's entirely possible that the rune blade had then proceeded to influence Elric in more subtle ways (note that in this episode Stormbringer apparently speaks for the first time...). In any case, if we suppose that on some level Elric had already known that Melniboné would burn in the near future, then his odd decision to make Yyrkoon regent ruler would make perfect sense as an excuse to later attack his own home (even if as an unconscious decision). This unspoken ulterior narrative would also explain some of Elric's more somber statements in Sailor:
Had his ancestors felt this agony of knowledge, this impotence in the face of the understanding that existence had no point, no purpose, no hope?
Quartet 1976 -  UK HC, Art: Patrick Woodroffe
Nonetheless, despite having just made a psychologically-driven case for the journey to R'Lin K'ren A'a to take place before the burning of Imrryr, I still think I prefer "The Jade Man's Eyes" as taking place where it was originally intended to take place (preceding Stormbringer), mostly because Smiorgan's dialogue seems better suited to its original speaker (Moonglum), and because of passages like this one below:
Arioch replied, “When the Jade Man ceases to guard the place where the High Ones meet, then the great struggle of the Upper Worlds begins on this plane...The curse is lifted from R'lin K'ren A'a and from J'osui C'reln Reyr—but a greater curse now lies upon your whole plane.””
The Sailor On The Seas of Fate would be the last Elric last novel for the next 13 years (although Elric does appear as a featured guest in the 1981 genre mash-up "Elric At The End of Time"). A full synopsis of The Sailor On The Seas of Fate can be found farther down below.

All of Moorcock's works are intended to have an allegorical subtext, although in the The Sailor On The Seas Of Fate this element seems a bit more elusive. In the first episode where Elric physically bonds with his other Eternal Champion incarnations, the horror and revulsion they express at the prospect of such an intimate bonding may suggest a fear of getting to know oneself too well (for fear of discovering some uncomfortable truths). The tragic love story of the Melnibonéan Earl Saxif D'Aan in Book Two may be warning that blithely surrendering to one's passions may lead to obsession and insanity. The story taking place in R'Lin K'Ren A'a doesn't immediately inspire any allegorical insights for me, but the below passage below (spoken early in the act by Smiorgan aboard Duke Avan's ship) seems to have some kind of moral import:
“Humanity!” grunted Count Smiorgan Baldhead. “That is what your race has lost, Prince Elric. I say nothing of you—but look at Earl Saxif D'Aan. How can one so wise be such a simpleton? He lost everything—pride, love, power—because he had no humanity. And what humanity he had—why, it destroyed him.”"
"“Some say it will destroy me,” said Elric...
This passage probably resonates most with readers who have already read "The Dreaming City", since by that time Elric has given up on trying to revitalize "humanity" in the Melnibonéans, and has begun his plans to "put his own people out of its collective misery". However, in The Sailor On The Seas of Fate the hand of destiny generally seems to be a bit lighter than it was (or will be) in that important story.
Quartet, Orbit, 1976

What Canon?
Finally, if one were forced to put all of these stories in narrative order (regardless of "canonicity"), it might go something like this:
  • Elric of Melniboné
  • The Sailor on the Seas of Fate
  • "The Return to Melniboné"
  • "A Sword Called Stormbringer/The Green Empress of Melniboné"
  • "The Dreaming City" (The Stealer of Souls)

Next Chapter: Breakfast in the Ruins

Previous Chapter: Elric of Melniboné

    Detailed Synopsis

    The Sailor On The Seas of Fate (1976)

    On the Dark Ship, Against the Creatures of Gagak
    Art: James Cawthorn, for 1979 German edition
    Book One: Sailing to the Future
    1. After escaping from a Ryfel prison (jailed as a Melnibonéan “spy”), Elric reaches a beach, hoping to evade his pursuers. He eventually encounters a strangely-designed, mist-encircled ship and offers his services. The man at the railing (Brut of Lashmar) tells him that they have been waiting for him.
    2. On board, Elric meets Erekosë and the mysterious blind Captain of the ship, who hints at a mission on behalf of humanity.
    3. Elric is introduced to Hawkmoon and Corum. Corum remembers Elric from their adventure described in “The Vanishing Tower”, but since Elric has not yet experienced that episode at this time in his history he does not recognize Corum. The blind captain tells the Four that they are to fight against Agak and Gagak, two sorcerers from another, alien dimension. They prepare for battle.
    4. They disembark on a strange island under a red sun, populated with sourceless shadows. Soon they come across ruins, with one pair of connected buildings looking strangely mechanical, or like some kind of musical instrument. Inside the fleshy interior of one of the paired structures, they are attacked by foul-smelling rodents, giant apes, parasitic worm-snakes and swarms of flying insects. As they struggle up the interior of the structure they hear an outraged voice coming from all around them.
    5. Reaching the an octagonal chamber at the top of the structure, they hear the voice of Gagak coming from a central pool of viscous liquid. The Four avatars of the Eternal Champion reluctantly merge into a single multi-limbed being bearing one great sword, and plunge the sword into the pool, killing Gagak (who was in fact, embodied by the building itself). The Four then descend into the pool to impersonate Gagak herself. Agak (the connected building) wakes and the Four transform Gagak’s body into a giant version of its multi-limbed form. As the Four engage Agak in a great battle, Agak takes energy from the surrounding planes of the multiverse (causing destruction on an untold number of worlds in the process) in order to defend himself. Overpowered, the Four are forced to also use their great sword to suck energy from the surrounding planes. Agak tries to reform himself into another multi-limbed Four, but is too late. After striking Agak’s eye-pool (and killing the multiverse), the great sword flings the energy back, bringing the multiverse back to life. Gagak returns to her original shape and the Four separate in the eye-pool room. Returning to their landing site on the shore, Elric and Corum return to the ship, while Erekosë and Hawkmoon elect to search for Tanelorn on their own in this strange land.
    Discovery of Vassliss on Smiorgan's Ship, Smiorgan Attacked by Saxif D'Aan's Demon
    Art: James Cawthorn, for 1979 German edition
    Book Two: Sailing to the Present
    1. After Corum has departed, the Dark Ship passes through a disturbing region tenuously intersecting with Elric’s world in the future (likely during Jagreen Lern’s Chaos War in Stormbringer). Probably unwilling to drop off Elric in the wrong time period, the Dark Ship's Captain eventually drops his albino passenger off in an alternate plane where Elric must find a Crimson Gate in order to get back to his proper plane and time period.
    2. After waking up from a nap, the previous events of the first act begin to fade from memory. Moving inland on a strange beach, Elric engages greedy pirates, but is aided by Count Smiorgan Baldhead of the Isle of the Purple Towns. Smiorgan possesses a rare Melnibonéan coin which he explains came to him from a mysterious woman who had booked passage on his ship, but then disappeared when the pirates attacked. 
    3. Travelling toward the coast, the pair frequently spy a ghostly horse. Reaching Smiorgan’s abandoned ship, they find the mysterious woman, Vassliss, who claims that she escaped from the legendary Melnibonéan Earl Saxif D’Aan. She had fled to Elric’s plane through the Crimson Gate, but Saxif D’Aan had managed to draw Smiorgan’s ship back to this plane. Elric explains the legend of Saxif D’Aan to Smiorgan: The ancient Earl had once fallen in love with and then captured a woman engaged to another. D’Aan had then banished the other lover. However, after thinking that the girl had betrayed him, he killed the girl as well. However, on her dying breath the girl managed to profess her love to him. Racked with guilt, the Earl soon went into self-exile and then disappeared from history. Now, D’Aan has decided to pursue Vassliss, believing her to be his lost lover reincarnated. Elric asks Vassliss to help them sail back through the Crimson Gate.
    4. With greater difficulty than usual, Elric calls on wind elementals to help propel Smiorgan's ship into the open sea. As they approach the Crimson Gate, the white horse appears on the ship, and Saxif D’Aan’s golden battle barge approaches in the distance.
    5. Saxif D’Aan’s battle barge catches Smiorgan’s vessel and D’Aan confronts Elric. D’Aan requires the girl to come willingly but she refuses. The white horse appears on Elric’s ship, and D’Aan has everyone retreat to his battle barge, after which he sinks Smiorgan’s ship, hoping to kill the ghostly horse.
    6. Saxif D’Aan tries to intimidate Elric into freely giving up the girl, but Elric surprises him with a blow to the head. Before D’Aan can recover his senses, Elric manages to use sorcery to summon Prince Carolak, the legendary rider of the horse, and the banished lover of the woman D’Aan had once killed. In a duel, Carolak scores a fatal blow to Saxif D’Aan, and departs with Vassliss. Glad of finally achieving a form of peace, Saxif D’Aan gives Elric a red gem will help him safely pass through the Crimson Gate. 
    7. Once through the Crimson Gate, D’Aan’s battle barge begins to disintegrate, as its magic will not work on Elric’s plane. Elric and Smiorgan are eventually rescued by a Vilmirian ship captained by Duke Avan Astran of Old Hrolmar.
    The Dark Ship Navigates through Chaos, Elric Summonses Arioch to Enter the Jade Man
    Art: James Cawthorn, for 1979 German edition
    Book Three: Sailing to the Past
    1. The renowned explorer Duke Avan Astran of Hrolmar (Vilmar) proposes a journey to the fabled ancestral home of the Melnibonéans, R’Lin K’ren A’a. In this legendary city is also supposedly the Creature Doomed to Live, a man who had spied on the Higher Lords in the ancient past. Avan however, desires the gigantic eyes of the “Jade Man”, two valuable gems embedded in the head of a giant statue of Arioch. Avan shows Elric an ancient Melnibonéan map-scroll (sealed by a strange ruby jewel), obtained from traders in Imrryr. Elric agrees to accompany him on the quest, despite Count Smiorgan’s misgivings. Departing from Lormyr, they take a Vilmirian schooner through the Boiling Sea. They eventually reach the mouth of a river leading into the dark jungle continent of the West. Elric wonders about the genesis of his Melnibonéan race. Penetrating deeper into the jungle, they are eventually attacked by reptile-men who somewhat remind Elric of his own race (to his disgust). Elric calls upon an insect elemental (King Nnuuurrrr'c'c of the Insects) and the reptile-men are repulsed by swarms of carnivorous dragonflies. Elric, Avan and a small group arduously hack their way through the jungle, which is strangely silent and devoid of animal life. A figure is glimpsed but quickly disappears.
    2. The group arrives at the long lost city of R’Lin K’Ren A’a (now in ruins). In the distance, they see a giant statue of a naked youth, but with missing eyes. The reptile-men renew their attack and Elric calls on Arioch for aid. Arioch however advises Elric to abandon his friends and escape by himself. Hiding in the ruins, they find a cryptic message and a destroyed library. Reaching the site of the Jade Man statue, they find glass orb-like structures at its feet and enter one of them. Elric soon finds himself alone in the maze.
    3. Elric is visited by a sad phantom of Erekosë, followed by a parade of Eternal Champion incarnations. Elric exits the domed structure to find himself in a ghostly representation of the city during its zenith when it was populated by peaceful ancestors of the later cruel Melnibonéans, before the knowledge of the Higher Ones corrupted them. Returning to one of the domes, Elric again emerges in the present to meet the Creature Doomed To Live, a thin Melnibonéan-like figure named J’osui C’reln Reyr. Reyr takes the group to an underground room safe from the reptilian Olab. He tells Elric that the domed structures are the Jade Man’s eyes.
    4. Elric learns that in ages past, a giant jade manifestation of Arioch had once walked into the city of R’Lin K’Ren A’a and told the citizens that they had to abandon the city so that the Higher Lords could use it as a meeting place to discuss the rules of Law and Chaos. In return, Arioch would became the Melnibonéans' patron god and lead them towards a great future (Elric surmises that this bargain is what had originally  “corrupted” these simple people and then set them on a path towards Melnibonéan cruelty). When J’osiah had emerged from hiding after the meeting of the Higher Lords, Arioch then cursed him, let drop his faceted eyes, and then departed the statue. J’osiah tells Elric that the gem on the seal of Avan’s scroll-map gives the owner the power to command the Jade Man. Elric agrees to summon Arioch, but Stormbringer reaches out and kills Avan in order to provide a sacrifice for the summoning. Arioch comes, and is reluctantly commanded to again reanimate the giant jade statue. He warns Elric that this forced action has initiated the great struggle of the Higher Worlds on this plane. After the gigantic Arioch has walked off (scaring off the Olab and lifting the Doomed Man’s curse). Stormbringer puts J’osiah out of his misery. Elric and Smiorgan decide to depart in J’osiah’s secret launch, being the only survivors of the expedition. Elric then agrees to stay with Smiorgan in the Purple Towns for a while.

    Sailing Towards the Ancient Lost City of R'Lin K'Ren A'a
    Art: James Cawthorn, for 1979 German edition
    "The Jade Man's Eyes (1973) Synopsis
    1. In the beautiful city of Chalal in Pikarayd, Elric and Moonglum are hosted by the renowned traveler Duke Avan Astran of Hrolmar in Vilmar. He proposes a journey to the fabled ancestral home of the Melnibonéans, R’Lin K’ren A’a, and the fabled home to the Creature Doomed to Live, a man who had spied on the Higher Lords in the ancient past. Avan desires the eyes of the Jade Man, a giant statue of Arioch there. Avan shows Elric an ancient map and a strange jewel that he’d salvaged from the ruins of ruined Imrryr, and Elric agrees to accompany him on the quest.
    2. Departing from Lormyr, they take a Vilmirian schooner through the Boiling Sea. They eventually reach the mouth of a river leading into the dark jungle continent of the West. Elric wonders about the genesis of his Melnibonéan race.
    3. Penetrating deeper into the jungle, they are eventually attacked my reptile-men who somewhat remind Elric of his own race, to his disgust. Elric calls upon an insect elemental and the reptile-men are repulsed by swarms of dragonflies.
    4. Elric, Avan and a small group arduously hack their way through the jungle, which is strangely silent and devoid of animal life. A figure is glimpsed but disappears.
    5. The group arrives at the long lost city of R’Lin K’ren A’a (now in ruins). In the distance, they see a giant statue of a naked youth, but with missing eyes. The reptile-men renew their attack and Elric calls on Arioch for aid. Arioch however advises Elric to abandon his friends and escape by himself. Hiding in the ruins, they find a cryptic message and a destroyed library. Reaching the site of the Jade Man statue, they find orb-like structures at its feet and enter them. Elric soon finds himself alone in the maze.
    6. Elric is visited by a sad phantom of Erekosë, followed by a parade of Eternal Champion incarnations. Elric exits the domed structure to find himself in a ghostly representation of the city when it was populated by peaceful ancestors of the cruel Melnibonéans, before the knowledge of the High Ones corrupted them. Returning to a dome, Elric again emerges in the present to meet the Creature Doomed To Live, a thin Melnibonéan-like figure named J’osui C’reln Reyr. Reyr takes the group to an underground room safe from the reptilian Olab. He tells Elric that the domed structures are the Jade Man’s eyes.
    7. Elric learns that in ages past, the giant Arioch had walked into the city of R’Lin K’ren A’a and told the citizens that they had to abandon the city so that the Higher Lords could use it as a meeting place. In return, Arioch became their patron god and led them towards a great future. When J’osiah had emerged from hiding, Arioch cursed him, let drop his eyes, and then departed the statue. J’osiah tells Elric the strange gem that was with Avan’s map gives the owner power to command the Jade Man. Elric agrees to summon Arioch, but Stormbringer reaches out and kills Avan in order to provide a sacrifice. Arioch comes, and is reluctantly commanded to reanimate the giant jade statue. Arioch warns Elric that this forced action will start the great struggle of the Higher Worlds. He then announces that he must now go to Pan Tang in answer to the Theocrat’s summons. Stormbringer then puts J’osiah out of his misery. Elric and Moonglum depart in J’osiah’s secret launch, being the only survivors of the expedition.

      Jul 26, 2020

      Elric of Melniboné (1972)

      Art: Robert Gould, Print from artwork for Elric of Melniboné, Berkley 1983
      Elric of Melniboné
      The 1972 installment of Michael Moorcock's Elric sequence, Elric of Melniboné, was the first Elric book written directly for the novel market, whereas most of the earlier books were assembled from linked short stories published as installments in science-fiction/fantasy magazines. In the early days of sci-fi, magazines paid better than novels, although this eventually changed once better deals began to be worked out for novel writers. In any case, the two previous Elric books (The Singing Citadel and The Sleeping Sorceress) had filled in the remaining narrative story gaps from the two "original" Elric novels, The Stealer of Souls and Stormbringer. This left open only Elric's history before "The Dreaming City" (the first episode in The Stealer of Souls). Elric of Melniboné and its sequel, The Sailor On the Seas of Fate, therefore exist as a true prequel sequence to the Elric saga, at least as it stood up to that time.

      Hutchinson 1972, Laurence Cutting
      Twilight of the Demons
      Moorcock had already begun musing upon life in twilight-era Melniboné after completing the 1967 short "The Singing Citadel", and by the early 1970s a full-blown Melnibonéan culture had been developed in his imagination. Usually more interested in character and allegory than alien "world-building", this novel nonetheless skillfully sketches out the "inhuman" air of a still-thriving Melniboné, and lays the groundwork for future explorations of this period (most notably found in the 2004/2007 comic series "Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer"). Some characteristics of Melniboné in decline were explored in "The Dreaming City", but here Moorcock spends a bit more time on the Bright Empire's island stronghold, and describes a more hopeful period when Elric still sat on the throne.

      In fact, this is the only time in the entire Elric saga where the reader can encounter a relatively "happy" Elric, as opposed to the bitterly depressed, self-pitying kin-slayer who surfaces in "The Dreaming City". Here, Elric is blissfully in love with his cousin Cymoril, and has yet to become dependent on (and damned by) a certain Black Blade. Although his nature as a physically-weak, drug dependent albino still assures that his character will never follow in the brawny footsteps of Robert E. Howard's "King Conan", he begins the novel with the potential to be a fair leader, who might yet form a dialogue between the feared "old guard" of ancient Melniboné and the emerging Young Kingdoms of humanity. In fact, the novel opens with Elric having just ascended to the throne in the last year, and mythically-speaking he seems poised to take a Campbell-ian "hero's journey" towards a fall and then a triumphant victory against fearful adversity. Of course, by the time "The Dreaming City" arrives, Elric's progressive (un-Melnibonéan) policies have turned his own people against him, laying the seeds for the Bright Empire's downfall. Come to think of it, there's actually no shortage of allegory in this novel, either.

      This early setting also gives Moorcock the opportunity to explore Melnibonéan court intrigue, which contrasts somewhat with the "open-warfare" flavor of back-stabbing found in the Dark Empire courts of the Hawkmoon books, or the more psycho-sexual conflicts found in the more literate-minded fantasy novel Gloriana. Although the conflicts here are generally held in reign by throne-room etiquette (aside from Yyrkoon's more impulsive overtures) the degenerate and bloodthirsty rituals of Melnibonéan tradition (implied human sacrifice, rape festivals and cannibalism) still cast an inhuman light on the affair.
      Lancer 1972, Charles Moll. Inexplicably renamed The Dreaming City.
      "Blood and souls for my lord Arioch!”
      Because Elric's first appearance in 1961's "The Dreaming City" starts "in media res" (mid-story), many of Elric's first encounters with his friends and enemies were not depicted in that story or any others leading up to the final novel, Stormbringer. As a prequel, Elric of Melniboné is able to present some of these "missing episodes". For example, Rackhir the Red Archer first appeared in the non-Elric story "To Rescue Tanelorn..." and is first introduced as Elric's friend in Stormbringer, but this novel shows how Elric first met the warrior Priest of Phum in a strange and bleak netherworld. More importantly, it also describes how Elric first came into the possession of (or perhaps "under the possession of") the runeblade Stormbringer. Other scenes describe Elric's first encounters with the Chaos Duke Arioch and the Elemental sea king Straasha, both of whom would later play key roles in Elric's greater destiny. Although Arioch's earliest appearances in "The Dreaming City" and "While the Gods Laugh" mostly depicted him as a taciturn presence exuding an alien, Lovecraftian malevolence, Moorcock eventually made him into more of a seductive, snake-tongued figure. Therefore, this later novel continues with the more recently-characterized "sardonic" depiction of the Chaos Duke.
      “Oh, you are surely the sweetest of all my slaves,” said the Lord of Chaos.
      DAW 1976, Michael Whelan
      Towards Other Planes
      Although written as a complete novel, Elric of Melniboné is split into three "books", each with its own distinctive genre characteristics. Book One is a relatively straightforward tale of waning imperial rule, with Emperor Elric pitted against enemy forces both at court and at sea. From a technical standpoint, this story could almost be considered an historical drama. Book Two shifts into supernatural territories, as Elric begins to call on the aid of newly-met Elemental friends and summonses the Chaos Lord Duke Arioch for the first time. Magic mirrors and "Homeric" vessels which "Travel Over Land and Sea" come into play. In other words, this middle section begins to embrace the conventions of modern mythology ("sword and sorcery"). Book Three however, begins to dabble in a bit of sci-fi surrealism, as Elric visits an alternate plane of the multiverse and encounters Chaos creatures uttering Brechtian dialogue as well as geometrically-diverse architecture somewhat reminiscent of the kind found in German Expressionist cinema (the climax takes place after Elric makes his way through a sphincter at the end of a pulsating intestinal "flesh tunnel"). All of these elements contribute towards a more modern sense of existential horror in the final Book (although there is still a sense of innocent playfulness present as well).
      It was a world which seemed to have been drained of all life, where Law and Chaos had once battled and, in their conflict, destroyed all. Were there many planes such as this one? Elric wondered.
      Nonetheless, the end of the book returns to the environs of Melniboné, and Moorcock leaves room for Elric to have at least one more prequel novel installment before bringing him up to the events of "The Dreaming City".

      Arrow 1973, Chris Yates

      Brief Summaries

      Book One: Elric is the albino ruler of Melniboné, an inhuman empire which has dominated the world for thousands of years from its island capitol of Imrryr. When the mainland "Young Kingdoms"(characterized as xenophobic "barbarians" cut from the same cloth as King Rigenos' people in The Eternal Champion) mount a naval attack on the island, Elric leads the Melnibonéan fleet against these upstart invaders. However, during the battle he is betrayed by his scheming cousin Yyrkoon.

      Book Two: Elric's life is saved by the Elemental sea king Straasha, who knows that Elric has a greater destiny in store. When Elric returns to Imrryr and exposes Yyrkoon for his crimes, the devious would-be usurper uses sorcery to escape into the Young Kingdoms, and secretly builds his own invasion fleet at his hideout in Dhoz-Kam, a jungle realm located within the precincts of Oin and Yu (an uncivilized territory somewhat reminiscent of Cambodia). In order to locate Yyrkoon and rescue his kidnapped lover Cymoril, Elric is forced to make a fateful bargain with the Chaos Lord Duke Arioch. As Elric closes in on Yyrkoon's forces, Yyrkoon himself escapes to another plane.

      Book Three: With Duke Arioch's aid, Elric follows Yyrkoon to the multiverse-connected city of Ameeron. There, he befriends Rackhir the Red Archer, and together they locate Yyrkoon in a cavern underneath a swamp (reached by a kind of "digestive pathway"). Inside this "Pulsing Cavern", Elric and Yyrkoon engage in a final duel, each now armed with the powerful runeblades Stormbringer and Mournblade, respectively.

      A more detailed synopsis can be found at the end of this article.

      Art: Frank Brunner, from his 1979 Heavy Metal magazine adaptation.
      Beyond the Shade Gate
      Although Elric of Melniboné is not as rifled through with references to the Cosmic Balance and the Multiverse as Corum and Erekosë's novels are, it's worth mentioning that throughout most of the novel Elric is armed with the sword of Earl Aubec of Malador, whose drama was described in "Master of Chaos". Additionally, in the bizarre multi-dimensional city of Ameeron, Elric meets a minor sorcerer named Niun Who Knew All, who names "Orland of the Staff" as his jailer. This is likely Orland Fank, a character from the History of the Runestaff (the first Hawkmoon sequence). Additionally, the name Orland is traditionally a variation of "Roland", referring to a legendary character Elric meets in Stormbringer. Niun has been exiled for having "too much knowledge", and a similar transgression would also be made by a character in the following novel, The Sailor on the Seas of Fate. A third instance of multiversal cross-reference occurs when one of the Chaos creatures Elric defeats in Ameeron utters the name "Frank" with its last breath. This is likely intended to imply that this creature is (or was) an incarnation of Frank Cornelius, Jerry Cornelius' nemesis-brother from The Final Programme.

      As an incarnation of the Eternal Champion, Elric naturally gets a Companion figure. In this particular tale, that role is essentially filled by the Melnibonéan Dragon Master Dyvim Tvar. In the following novel, The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, this role is taken up by Count Smiorgan Baldhead, and a couple episodes later the cheerful Moonglum becomes Elric's primary Companion (starting from the story "While the Gods Laugh"). Of course, all three of these figures perish on the way towards Elric's final destiny...

      AudioRealms 2003 audiobook, Dalmazio Frau
      “And So the Great Emperor Received His Education...”
      The Elric of this "innocent" age is further explored in Moorcock's 2003 "prelude" to the audio book version of this novel, read aloud by Moorcock himself for that particular production (the prelude, not the novel). Appearing 30 years after the novel's initial publication, it opens up future story possibilities by describing the Melnibonéan "dream couches", which allow the dreamer to live out a thousand years as a virtual time-space traveler for every hour spent lying on the couch in "real time". These astral journeys explain how the sorcerers of Melniboné were able to acquire so much arcane lore even at a young age. Thus, a further contrast is drawn between Elric and other fantasy heroes of the era by reinforcing the scholarly nature of Elric's upbringing.

      This aspect of Elric's life is even further explored in the DC comic series Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer, which explicitly depicts Elric's virtual journeys into the past history of Melniboné to explain not only Elric's early training, but also the beginnings of Melniboné's own history and its relationship with Chaos and the Elementals. Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer will be further described in a future chapter, but one thing I noticed upon rereading Elric of Melniboné is that one part of the spell Elric uses to summon King Straasha in this novel will be explained in that comic series.
      Straasha, eternal king, eternal sea
      Thine aid is sought by me;
      For enemies of thine and mine
      Seek to defeat our destiny, and drain away our sea.
      Arrow 1975
      The Final Analysis
      Because DAW books repackaged and re-marketed the Elric saga into six chronologically-ordered paperback volumes in 1977 (each adorned with an eye-catching Michael Whelan cover), for many American readers in the 1970s this novel was their first introduction to Elric. For this reason, it's slightly ironic that this novel has a somewhat more mainstream sword and sorcery flavor to it than Elric's actual first appearance in the genre-subverting short story "The Dreaming City". Although Elric of Melniboné doesn't go out of its way to upend the expectations of fantasy readers like that original Science Fantasy short story did, it works amazingly well simply as a great adventure tale, and could be considered to be Moorcock's most polished fantasy novel up to that particular point in his bibliography. One could argue that Moorcock "perfected" his version of the form here, and his further entries in heroic fantasy would spend more energy pushing the genre itself into new experimental variations (for example towards more overtly humorous, allegorical, and/or post-modern arenas).

      P. Craig Russell, Graphic Novel collection
      P. Craig Russell and Michael T. Gilbert
      Although this online Moorcock project is not particularly focused on the comic adaptations of MM's works, the 1983 Pacific Comics adaptation (with artwork by P. Craig Russell and Michael T. Gilbert) has so much nostalgic value for me that I think I've included a cover gallery. Click on the images below to see them in their full glory. There is also a fine tribute to this series at this site:

      James Cawthorn
      As one of the primary artists involved in Elric's creation, it's always enjoyable to see his interpretations of the Doomed Albino's exploits. These plates come from a late 1970s German edition of Elric of Melniboné (the captions are my own).

      Frank Brunner
      As seen earlier in the image from Heavy Metal, the comic artist Frank Brunner is also known for his Elric renderings. Below are two more fine examples of his work. Brunner's site can be found here.
      Elric summonses Arioch.

      King Grome halts the Ship Which Sails Over Land and Sea.

      Piotr Jabłoński
      More recently, Centipede Press has published a deluxe limited edition of Elric volumes, with the first installment containing the exquisite illustrations of Piotr Jabłoński. More of his work for this project can be seen here.
      A Melancholy King (Yyrkoon approaches the Ruby Throne)
      A Battle: The King Proves His War-Skill (Elric at Sea)
      The Thing (Elric against "Frank" in Ameeron).
      Wikiverse Entry

      Next Chapter: Elric: The Sailor on the Seas of Fate

      Previous Chapter: Elric: The Sleeping Sorceress

      P. Craig Russell, 1983, Pacific Comics

      A detailed synopsis of Elric of Melniboné follows:
      Arrow 1983, Julek Heller

      Book One

      1: A Melancholy King: A Court Strives to Honour Him
      A year after Melnibonéan Emperor Sadric’s death, his albino son Elric sits on the ruby throne of Imrryr as its 428th Emperor. During a court masque, Cymoril invites Elric to a morning outing, and questions his strange curiosity about “guilt”. Prince Yyrkoon, Elric’s power-hungry cousin (and Cymoril’s brother) arrogantly moves to confront Elric.

      2: An Upstart Prince: He Confronts His Cousin
      Despite Dragon Master Dyvim Tvar’s concerns, Elric humors Yyrkoon, and then abruptly leaves, cutting Yyrkoon off. Yyrkoon moves to seat himself on the Ruby Throne in an act of treason, but is blocked by Dyvim Tvar’s soldiers, and eventually leaves.

      3: Riding Through the Morning: A Moment of Tranquility
      The next morning, Elric and Cymoril ride out to the beach outside the city proper, and have an intimate tryst. However, during a storm-driven return flight, Cymoril has a premonition of doom.

      4: Prisoners: Their Secrets Are Taken from Them
      Elric meets Doctor Jest at the Tower of Monshanjik to interrogate captured spies from the southern Kingdoms. He learns of a planned raid, and orders preparations to intercept the invaders.

      5: A Battle: The King Proves His War-Skill
      After a war council, Elric’s battle armor is presented to him, including the legendary sword of Earl Aubec. Aboard the battle barge The Son of the Pyarray, Elric and Admiral Magum Colim lead an ambush in the dark sea maze entrance to Imrryr. During one battle exchange, Elric is taken aback by the disgust the enemy captain has for Melniboné’s people and rule.

      6: Pursuit: A Deliberate Treachery
      Yyrkoon pressures Elric into pursuing some escaped invaders, despite Elric’s pressing need to replenish his strength with drugs. The battle barges hit the galleys with catapulted flames, but one flaming vessel rams Elric’s flagship, allowing the other ships to board in the confusion. After Elric is further weakened in a duel with two boarders, Yyrkoon kicks him overboard, intending to take the throne for himself.

      Straasha saves Elric, Art: Michael Whelan, DAW edition

      Book Two

      1: The Caverns of the Sea-King
      Elric sinks beneath the waves but involuntarily invokes a spell which brings him to the plane of King Straasha the water elemental. Straasha restores him and they discuss Elric’s hidden destiny, after which Elric is transported back to Imrryr.

      2: A New Emperor and An Emperor Renewed
      As Yyrkoon commands the battle barges back to Imrryr, Dyvim Tvar (on the ship Terhali’s Particular Satisfaction) thinks about the week-long Wild Dance of Melniboné (and Misery) to follow the death of Elric. Upon landing, Cymoril commands a soldier to kill Yyrkoon but the soldier’s own captain cuts him down. Yyrkoon parades to the Tower of D’a’rputna to ascend the Ruby Throne, but when he gets there he finds a sardonic Elric waiting there for him.

      3: A Traditional Justice
      Elric declares a cruel punishment for Yyrkoon and the Captain, despite his own disgust for the Melnibonéan tradition. He has mixed emotions about giving in to the expected cruelty of Melnibonéan tradition. That night, a bloodied Dyvim Tvar arrives with news of Yyrkoon’s escape and kidnapping of Cymoril. Yyrkoon’s sorcerous “groaning mist” brings Elric to his knees.

      4: To Call the Chaos Lord
      With Cymoril and Yyrkoon nowhere to be found among the Young Kingdoms, Elric strengthens himself physically and mystically. With a great effort, he makes contact with Arioch, a Duke of Hell, and pledges his service to the Chaos Lord (and giving the Chaos Lords a footing on Elric’s plane once again). Arioch informs Elric that Yyrkoon has hidden in the southern kingdoms of Oin and Yu, with the help of the Mirror of Memory.

      5: The Ship Which Sails Over Land and Sea
      Elric summons aid from King Straasha once again, who promises to deliver the Ship Which Sails Over Land and Sea, which will aid Elric in pursuing Yyrkoon. Dyvim Tvar feels a sense of foreboding in the sequence of events. The Ship eventually arrives in the morning.

      6: What The Earth God Desired
      Elric and Dyvim Tvar assemble a crew for the Ship and they launch (with a false start or two). Grome of the Earth seems to resent the passage of the Ship over land.

      7: King Grome
      Stopping at the coast of Lormyr, they gather information about Oin and Yu. They spy the Mirror of Memory at the joint capital of the two regions, Dhoz-Kam, mounted and ready to be used to steal the memories of any who come into its range. They decide to sail over land in order to make a surprise rear-attack, but are stopped by Grome. Grome forbids further sailing over land, and so the rear-attack plan is abandoned.

      8: The City And the Mirror
      As Yyrkoon gloats before a drugged Cymoril, he is interrupted by news of elemental fire creatures attacking his men in the streets. When Yyrkoon directs the memory-sapping Mirror at the Elric’s invading warriors, Elric deploys blind warriors. Yyrkoon has his Captain smash the Mirror of Memory, which causes seizures among Elric’s force and kills most of his men. Finding Cymoril under Yyrkoon’s spell of sleep, Elric accepts help from Arioch to pursue Yyrkoon into the Shade Gate (and take possession of the legendary runeblades, Stormbringer and Mournblade).

      Arrow 1979, Art: Peter Andrew Jones

      Book Three

      1: Through The Shade Gate
      Elric enters the Shade Gate and arrives in a stark, shadowy world with a cavernous sky. He meets Rackhir the Red Archer, Warrior Priest of Phum, exiled by Chaos for turning his back on them.

      2: In The City of Ameeron
      Arriving in the morose city of Ameeron, the pair are attacked by animal-men and a shapeshifting “thing” (later crying out “Frank”). The ancient and smallish sorcerer Niun Who Knew All helps them defeat their attackers and points out where they must go to find the runeblades.

      3: The Tunnel Under The Marsh
      Crossing a hazardous black march, they enter a moist, fleshy tunnel. Elric eventually passes through a sphincter into the Pulsing Cavern, where he finds Yyrkoon and the two runeswords.

      4: Two Black Swords
      The two swords fly into the grips of the Melnibonéan Princes and they duel. Elric manages to assume a kind of domination over Stormbringer, and prevents the sword from outright killing Yyrkoon. With Yyrkoon disarmed, Mournblade vanishes (as well as Aubec’s sword which Elric had arrived with). In order to escape from the Pulsing Cavern, Elric is forced to summon and challenge Arioch’s will, and wins. They are transported back to Imrryr.

      5: The Pale King’s Mercy
      Yyrkoon awakens Cymoril from his spell. During a celebration ball, Elric asks Cymoril to accompany him on a year-long tour of the Young Kingdoms. She refuses, but Elric feels he must continue anyways. Naively (and perversely), he decides to put Yyrkoon on the throne while he is away. Later, on the Isle of the Purple Towns, he parts from Rackhir, who heads for Tanelorn.

      Art: Rodney Matthews