Tag Archives: Elric of Melniboné (Fictitious character)

The Citadel of Forgotten Myths

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Citadel of Forgotten Myths [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Michael Moorcock, related to The Elric Saga series.

Moorcock the Citadel of Forgotten Myths

While promotional copy insists that this latest addition to Moorcock’s tales of the last Emperor of Melniboné “takes place between the first and second books of the Elric Saga,” that refers to their current packaging in the Saga Press edition. For those of us more familiar with the old mass market paperbacks and their omnibus collections, that makes it fall between “The Weird of the White Wolf” and “The Vanishing Tower.” Elric’s peregrinations with Moonglum in the Young Kingdoms are interrupted with a trip to “the underside of the world,” where the moody kinslayer traces the origins of the Melnibonéan race and their relationship to the dragons with whom their culture is in symbiosis.

The first half of the book consists of two novellas previously published under other titles. I had read “How Elric Pursued His Weird into the Far World” when it was called “Red Pearls” in the 2010 collection Swords & Dark Magic. I liked it then, but it was too long ago for me to assess how “substantially revised” (per the appended note) this new version is. The story here is interesting, but often told at a somewhat chilly level of abstraction. The second novella is “How Elric Discovered an Unpleasant Kinship,” published before revision as “Black Petals,” serialized in Weird Tales (2008-9) and collected in Elric: Swords and Roses. Despite owning the latter volume, I had never read this story. It felt very much like a return to form, with a mood that matched “The Stealer of Souls.”

The second half of The Citadel of Forgotten Myths is centered on the citadel of the title, the stronghold of Kirinmoir. This polity in the World Below compares to Elric’s own Imryrr as an age-old capital of his race. It is matriarchal, however, with an apiary-centered economy. The story starts with some adventuring, and it builds to a great military conflict driven by Melnibonéan grudges and the scheming of gods of Chaos.

Particularly in the final part, this book has many “Easter eggs” for longtime readers of Moorcock, and not merely of the crossover variety that tie this story into his multiversal hyperwork of the Eternal Champion, Cosmic Balance, and moonbeam roads. For example, he alludes to his own song lyric in mentioning “veterans of those dreadful psychic wars” (184) and to his recent autobio-fantasy in “a whispering swarm constantly reminding him of his own mortality” (185).

Some contemporary political sarcasm is evident in naming a throwaway character G’nilwab Sirob–an anagram of “Bawling Boris” (205). (I suspect that I failed to catch yet other references built into character names.) Moorcock also has deranged Chaos Queen Xiombarg extol herself as “Goddess made Great Again” (284), and Elric expresses his resentment that his countrymen wanted him to “make Melniboné great again” (314).

The inhuman Elric is veritably the apotheosis of the sword & sorcery murder hobo. As an inversion of Robert E. Howard’s Conan, the point that stands out in these particular tales is the ineluctable net of dependencies and obligations that bind Elric to his race, his cursed sword, and his patron demon. Where Conan prizes his freedom and independence, Elric seems unable even to conceive of such a condition. I don’t think this book would make an especially effective point of entry for the Elric stories, let alone the larger Eternal Champion quilt. Still, I enjoyed it, and it fueled my appetite for re-reading Moorcock’s prince of ruins.

The Dreaming City

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Dreaming City [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Julien Blondel, Jean-Luc Cano, and Julien Telo, foreword by Jean-Pierre Dionnet, vol 4 of the Elric series.

Blondel Cano Telo The Dreaming City Elric

This newly-released (in English) fourth volume completes the “first cycle” of Julien Blondel’s bandes dessinées adaptation of Michael Moorcock’s Elric stories. Blondel takes a lot of liberties with the original texts–something on the level of a typical cinematic adaptation of a novel–but his choices are generally very good and have reportedly met with Moorcock’s own approval. One of the biggest changes was introduced at the end of the third volume and is central to this one. . . . . . . . [hover over to reveal spoilers] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I like the gloomy, shadow-heavy art by Telo in this book, but some of the compositions are hard to “read” in narrative terms, especially during the climactic confrontation among Elric, Cymoril, and Yrkoon. In some panels for example, I didn’t know which of the rune-swords is being shown: is that Stormbringer or Mournblade? These stumbles “work” impressionistically, reflecting Elric’s own confusion, but they are still a little frustrating for the reader.

The foreword by Jean-Pierre Dionnet (co-founder of Métal hurlant, who asks that you read his essay after The Dreaming City to which it is prefaced) is the least of these in the series, but like the others it contains some piquant autobiographical reflections and musings on international culture and the role of fantasy. It does include one amusing double-translation through French: the Moorcock novel “Here’s the Man” (i.e. Behold the Man, which is the biblical ecce homo).

The claim to have finished a cycle of the larger saga is a fair one here. Most of the story threads have been tied off, if not ruthlessly cut and burned, by this point. The issuance of these volumes has been at a pretty leisurely pace, and I hope that they continue without an even longer intermission than the ones before.