First published on Fantasy Faction
Unlike many people who’ll see this post, I am a total newbie to the character and world of Elric and indeed to author Michael Moorcock. Lest I be burned by the fantasy community for heresy, I decided to seek out the Elric books, but quickly discovered that finding a place to begin wasn’t so simple. Many describe Moorcock’s Eternal Champion as a mythology and the only comparison I have is Tolkien. Where, for example, would one begin a journey into Middle Earth? The Silmarillion recounts the formation of the world, but it’s a dense, episodic book and I’d hesitate to recommend it to a new reader. Instead I’d opt for The Hobbit, or The Fellowship of the Ring, more plot-driven novels, which set about creating a mythology through character rather than the accretion of history.
So, returning to Elric, I finally settled on Gollancz’s Elric of Melniboné and Other Stories, book one of a series that attempts to chronologise the Elric tales. The book opens with several introductions and a short article on epic fantasy by Moorcock. And then follows a great short story featuring the hero Aubec of Malador and his journey to the mysterious castle Kaneloon. Its placement at the beginning works well; it introduces us to the eternal struggle between Law and Chaos and plants the roots of the Young Kingdoms, whose humans pose such a threat to Melniboné in later years. And of course Elric himself wields Aubec’s sword. This tale is so reminiscent of Lord Dunsany’s “How One Came, as Was Foretold, to the City of Never” – a short story in The Book of Wonder, which is well worth a read. Kaneloon and the City of Never share a sense of isolation and each seems strange and unchanging, situated as they are on the edge of the world. Moorcock’s writing manages to be rich and vivid while avoiding the elaborate and I found it easy to read.