Review: Elric Melniboné - Michael Moorcock

Title Elric Melniboné
Author Michael Moorcock
Year 1961
Stand Alone or series 1/6 (and several short stories inbetween)
Pages 192
Rating 10/10

Title The Sailors on the Seas of Fate
Author Michael Moorcock
Year 1976
Stand Alone or series 2/6 (and several short stories inbetween)
Pages 160
Rating 9/10

Title The Weird of White Wolf
Author Michael Moorcock
Year 1977
Stand Alone or series 3/6 (and several short stories inbetween)
Pages 160
Rating 9/10

Elric of Melniboné was the last emperor of the stagnating island civilization of Melniboné. Physically weak and frail, the albino Elric must take drugs - later retconned to mean special herbs - in order to maintain his health. Elric turns as well an accomplished sorcerer and summoner, able to summon powerful, supernatural allies by dint of his royal Melnibonéan bloodline. Unlike most others of his race, Elric possesses something of a conscience; he sees the decadence of his culture, and worries about the rise of the Young Kingdoms, populated by humans (as Melniboneans do not consider themselves such) and the threat they pose to his empire. Because of his introspective self-loathing of Melnibonéan traditions, his subjects find him odd and unfathomable, and his cousin Yyrkoon (next in the line of succession, as Elric has no heirs) interprets his behavior as weakness and plots Elric's death.
As emperor of Melniboné, Elric wears the Ring of Kings, Elric is able to call for aid upon the traditional patron of the Melniboné emperors, Arioch, a Lord of Chaos and Duke of Hell. From the first story onwards, Elric is shown using ancient pacts and agreements with not only Arioch but various other beings - some gods, some demons - to assist him in accomplishing his tasks.
Elric's finding of the sword Stormbringer serves as both his greatest asset and greatest disadvantage. Forged in the distant past, the sword confers upon Elric strength, health and fighting prowess but must be fed the souls of those struck with the black blade. In the end, the blade takes everyone close to Elric and eventually Elric's own soul as well. Most of Moorcock's stories about Elric feature this relationship with Stormbringer, and how it - despite Elric's best intentions - brings doom to everything the Melnibonéan holds dear.

The First Book tells us the epic saga of Elric, the albino emperor of the Dragon Isle. Elric rules the island empire of Melniboné, the homeland of his strange semi-human race, from the Ruby Throne in dreaming Imrryr. The Melniboneans ruled the world with massive battle fleets, fighting dragons, and sorcery from the pits of hell. Now they are confined to their island, living in decayed splendor. Elric seeks to revitalize Melniboné but with his frail body is not strong enough to change. He has the love of Cymoril but also the hate of Cymorils Brother Yrkoon (his cousin) who thinks that Elric abhorrence of needless sociopathic violence as a most un-Melnibonéan deviation. Thus the stage is set. As Elric grapples with foreign invaders and Yrkoon’s hostility he finds support in the most unlikely places. He forges an alliance with Arioch, the most bloodthirsty of the Chaos gods/demons and the ancient patron of Elric’s race. The Albino emperor also finds the black Runesword, Stormbringer. A weapon of awesome potential, it literally steals the soul of its victims and feeds them to its wielder.

The Second Book Elric who wants to revitalize the kingdom he rules venture forth to visit the human kingdoms who have freed themselves from the hated despotism of Melniboné. The books opens with Elric alone and hunted on the shore of a human kingdom whither he has gone to learn new things, but has found only hatred and violence. First he is recruited into an all-star cast of Michael Moorcock heroes sailing on a ship of the damned to save the many universes from a terrible doom. Next he’s on an island of the damned, presided over by an insane black sorcerer who might just be kin. Finally he’s a hired sword for a band of merchant adventurers on a trek that may reveal the origins of Elric’s people.

The White Wolf (the third book) is the part of the Elric sage where things begin to turn. Elric has his final, fateful confrontation with Yrkoon, in a hellishly dramatic battle that wrenches the story loose from all your comfortable assumptions. It’s also the part where Elric is free to be a picaresque hero, albeit a doomed and tormented one, His sidekick, Moonglum, appears. Moonglum plays a knowing Sancho Panza to Elric’s Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance, perhaps deliberately, for Moorcock’s heroes are echoes of all the other heroes that have lived. Free (as in having nothing left to lose), Elric journeys on a quest for a mystic tome of great power and skirmishes with an arrogant sorcerer and a renegade deity on behalf of a lovely human princess (never forget, Elric is not human).

Undoubtly one of the most invitive and interesting epic stories of fantasy out there. I will read them again because I have three hardbacks with all the tales and plus a later trilogy published in the 00's. If Tolkien was inexistent in a paralel universe I can see these tales being the center of all fantasy. The only problem is the published tales. There are so many out there that it's difficult to own them all. And do not forget that Moorcock sometimes wrote others stories in another universes where these characters meets and such...A sad tale for all people. Don't expect happy endings... As I said I will read them in a near future with a better review.

Notable Quotes/ Parts
It is the color of a bleached skull, his flesh; and the long hair which flows below his shoulders is milk-white. From the tapering, beautiful head stare two slanting eyes, crimson and moody, and from the loose sleeves of his yellow gown emerge two slender hands, also the color of bone. (From the first book Elric of Melniboné)

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