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Elric of Melniboné
Elric of Melniboné is a fictional character created by Michael Moorcock.
Elric is an introspective, haunted and treacherous anti-hero. A remarkably vivid iconic figure and a direct antithesis of Robert E. Howard's Conan, while strongly influenced by the character of Monsieur Zenith created by pulp author Anthony Skene and Kullervo from the Finnish epic Kalevala. Moorcock's character of Elric is a doomed hero based heavily upon Scandinavian mythology, a person whose actions lead to ruin, and ultimately death.
Instead of a mighty thewed barbarian warrior who fights his way from obscurity to achieve fame and power, Elric is a frail, sickly albino, a highly educated and cultured emperor who abandons his throne. Whereas the conventional fantasy hero rescues fair maidens from evil wizards, and defends his country from invaders, Elric (inadvertently) slays his true love, is himself a powerful wizard, in league with the Chaos lord Arioch, and leads a successful invasion against his homeland of Melniboné. He is a complex character, prone to self-loathing, brooding and despair, compelled to adventure by his own dark fate rather than a desire for riches or glory.
His official name is Elric VIII, the 428th Emperor Melniboné, a servant of the Lords of Chaos. Unlike his fellow Melnibonéans, who are decadent and cruel, mostly devoid of sentiment and the gentler passions, Elric is plagued by his conscience, has modern sensibilities and is very curious of the outside world. Melnibonéans are somewhat like elves---but more like the amoral Ska in Jack Vance's Lyonesse books than J. R. R. Tolkien's majestic peoples---and "Elric" is a form of the Norse Ælfric which means elf ruler.
Elric is the tool of his evil, sentient sword Stormbringer, which is itself a parody of the normal sword-and-sorcery hero's weapon. In Stormbringer, the sickly Elric finds the energy he needs, but at a terrible price – Stormbringer feeds on the souls of those it slays and gives part of their life force to sustain Elric. Stormbringer is willful, and by no means under Elric's control:
- This sword here at my side…
- Keeps calling me its master, but I feel like its slave
- ―"Black Blade" by Blue Öyster Cult
As an embodiment of the Eternal Champion, which mainly takes the form of a champion of law, Elric of Melniboné is torn between his ancestory and his destiny. As a result, while the saga progresses Elric’s allegiance turns from Chaos towards Law. He eventually comes to represent a balance between these forces as he develops a hatred for all gods, both of Law and Chaos, for their manipulation of mortals. At the end, Elric's hopes for a world without gods to make a misery of human lives results in his death while attempting to bring such a world into being.
Elric's saga is told over many books, which are, according to their internal chronology:
- Elric of Melniboné (novel)
- The Fortress of the Pearl (novel)
- The Sailor on the Seas of Fate (collection)
- The Weird of the White Wolf (collection)
- The Vanishing Tower (a.k.a. The Sleeping Sorceress) (novel)
- The Revenge of the Rose (novel)
- The Bane of the Black Sword (collection)
- Stormbringer (collection)
Stormbringer, the first-written volume of the sequence, also terminates it, closing Elric's angst-ridden life as well; all subsequent volumes are prequels or interjections. Most of Moorcock's twentieth-century Elric stories are gathered together in two definitive omnibus editions first published in the UK by Millennium within its The Tale of the Eternal Champion series (and later in the US by White Wolf):
- Elric of Melniboné (1993; vt Elric: Song of the Black Sword 1997 US);
- Stormbringer (1993; vt Elric: The Stealer of Souls 1998 US).
White Wolf published an anthology of new Elric stories, Michael Moorcock’s Elric: Tales of the White Wolf, ed. Edward E. Kramer, in the US in 1994, and an anthology of new Eternal Champion stories, Pawns of Chaos: Tales of the Eternal Champion, ed. Edward E. Kramer, which includes four new Elric stories, in the US in 1996.
Apart from contributing an Elric story to the first of these two anthologies, Moorcock completed a new Elric trilogy in 2004:
- The Dreamthief's Daughter (2001)
- The Skrayling Tree (2003) (previously announced as [The] Silverskin)
- The White Wolf's Son (2005) (previously announced as Mournblade and Swordsman of Mirenburg)
The British rock band Hawkwind detailed Elric's story on their album Chronicle of the Black Sword .
References to Elric
The family name of the Fullmetal Alchemist characters Edward Elric and Alphonse Elric may be a reference to Elric of Melniboné.
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