The Elric Saga

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Arioch! Arioch! Blood and Souls for my Lord Arioch!
"It is the colour 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 colour of bone, resting on each arm of a seat which has been carved from a single, massive ruby."
—The first lines of Elric of Melnibone, Michael Moorcock

"I have this feeling that my luck is none too good
This sword here at my side don't act the way it should
Keeps calling me its master, but I feel like its slave
Hauling me faster and faster to an early, early grave
And it howls! It howls like hell!
I'm told it's my duty to fight against the Law
That wizardry's my trade, and I was born to wade through gore
I just wanna be a lover, not a red-eyed, screaming ghoul

I wish it picked another to be its killing tool"
—"Black Blade", as performed by Blue Öyster Cult

Originally a six book series by Michael Moorcock, the story follows the titular Elric of Melnibone in his journey from a sickly king to a top class warrior and sorcerer involved with the affairs of the gods. His weapon is Stormbringer, one of two evil demonic runeblades that feast upon the souls of those their wielders slay with them, have wills of their own, and tend to take over their wielders on occasion.

The Table Top Role Playing Game Stormbringer is based on these books.

Elric was parodied in the infamous comic book, Cerebus via the character, Elrod of Melvinbone; Elrod looked like Elric (and at least claimed to have a similar back-story), but had the personality and mannerisms of The Foghorn Leghorn.

Note that it has nothing to do with the saga of the Elric Brothers.

Installments:[edit | hide | hide all]

The series contains many books and stories, not written in the same order as the internal chronology. Additionally, several of the Elric novels are fix-ups of short stories published years or decades earlier.

Original series[edit | hide]

  • Elric of Melniboné (novel, 1972)
  • The Sailor on the Seas of Fate (collection, 1976)
    • Sailing to the Future
    • Sailing to the Present
    • Sailing to the Past
  • The Weird of the White Wolf (collection, 1977)
    • The Dream of Earl Aubec (aka Master of Chaos)
    • The Dreaming City
    • While the Gods Laugh
    • The Singing Citadel
  • The Sleeping Sorceress (novel, 1971, also released as The Vanishing Tower)
  • The Bane of the Black Sword (collection, 1977)
    • The Stealer of Souls
    • Kings in Darkness
    • The Flamebringers (aka The Caravan of Forgotten Dreams)
    • To Rescue Tanelorn
  • Stormbringer (novel, 1965)

Later novels[edit | hide]

  • Fortress of the Pearl (novel, 1989)
  • Revenge of the Rose (novel, 1991)

Later trilogy[edit | hide]

  • The Dreamthief's Daughter (2001)
  • The Skrayling Tree (2003)
  • The White Wolf's Son (2005)

Collections[edit | hide]

  • Elric at the End of Time (1984)
  • Michael Moorcock's Elric: Tales of the White Wolf (1994)
  • Pawns of Chaos: Tales of the Eternal Champion (1996)

Graphic Novels[edit | hide]

  • Michael Moorcock's Multiverse (with Walt Simonson and John Ridgway) (1999)
  • Elric: Making of a Sorcerer (with Walt Simonson) (2007)
  • Elric: The Balance Lost (2011)

Tropes used in The Elric Saga include:
  • Exclusively Evil: The Melniboneans, who are almost all decadent sadists.
  • Anachronic Order: As one can see from the list above, the conclusion of the saga was the first part to be published in novel form.
  • Anti-Hero: Elric all the way. Varies between Types II, III, IV, and V depending on the story, but is most commonly Type IV.
  • Artifact of Doom, BFS, Cool Sword and Evil Weapon: Stormbringer and its twin sword Mournblade.
  • Badass Bookworm: Elric has read every book in his library, which in turn taught him the ways of the sorcerer.
  • Balance Between Good and Evil: Elric's eventual destiny, as the last king of a chaotic race, is to use the weapons of Chaos in order to fight the forces of Chaos, to as to restore Balance to the Earth and allow the powers of Law a chance to create something safer for the younger races.
  • Body Horror: Zarozinia.
  • Byronic Hero: By the Gods, Elric.
  • Canon Welding
  • Character Alignment: Invoked; some versions of Dungeons and Dragons use an alignment system that is based (in part) on The Elric Mythos' concepts of Law vs. Chaos and Good Vs. Evil.
  • Chick Magnet: Elric's had quite a few women after him.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: It's set in that kind of universe.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Anyone who deals with the Gods ends up as one.
  • Crossover: With Conan the Barbarian in Marvel Comics.
    • And with all the other Eternal Champion characters.
  • Dark Fantasy: In spades.
  • Deconstruction: Of The Lord of the Rings, Conan the Barbarian, and heroic fantasy in general.
  • Defector From Decadence: Elric, who has to fight his cousin for his throne, as he was seen as being weak and unworthy of his title since he was less willing than his countrymen to indulge in pointless cruelty.
    • The key word here being pointless. Elric could be a Total Bastard given proper motivation.
  • Determinator: Oh, yes.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Stormbringer can even kill gods.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Elric also uses this from time to time. Evil cousin take your throne, and, more importantly, your girl? Burn the entire nation to the ground, abandoning your race and countrymen to the men of the Young Kingdoms.
  • Doom Magnet
  • Dungeons and Dragons: The original edition of Deities & Demigods had a chapter devoted to the Elric Mythos (and another chapter devoted to the Cthulhu Mythos), but copyright disputes prevented these chapters from appearing in later editions of the book (the Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser chapter got to stay, though).
  • Dying Race: Elric's.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Chaos Gods qualify.
    • One of the Sailor On The Seas Of Fate stories also includes two creatures even more alien, from outside of the multiverse entirely. The heroes mistake them for buildings and wander through a Womb Level before they figure it out.
    • In one short story, one of the Gods of Law is this. However, it's also mentioned that that particular Law God had been fighting Chaos for far too long.
  • Empathic Weapon: Elric's sword Stormbringer is sentient and capable of compelling Elric to certain actions.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Initiating this is Elric's final act, destroying the current world in order to create a new one -- ours.
  • Evil Albino / Heroic Albino: Elric jumps between the two.
  • Evil Prince: Yyrkoon.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Theleb K'aarna, Yyrkoon and Jagreen Lern.
  • The Fair Folk: Melniboneans are beautiful, elfin amoral hedonists that traffic with the Lords of Chaos and are universally feared by ordinary humans. Exclusively Evil is almost putting it mildly. Sadism is in their blood to the point that they make music in which each note is a scream from a tortured (human) slave, whose vocal cords have been mutilated such that they can produce only that particular note.
  • Fog of Doom: Yyrkoon invokes it to escape Melniboné after his first defeat.
  • God Is Evil: The Gods of Chaos are pretty much Exclusively Evil, though one may come up now and then that's Chaotic Neutral.
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: The Lords of Order are too weak to intervene in the collapse of the universe itself until the very end of the saga.
  • Gotterdammerung: Elric's ultimate destiny is to create a world free of the influence of gods or cosmic powers, resulting in The End of the World as We Know It.
  • Heavy Mithril: Moorcock wrote the above-quoted Black Blade for Blue Oyster Cult, and additionally saw his saga reworked by Hawkwind into the album The Chronicle of the Black Sword.
    • Deep Purple was aware of the Elric books when they wrote "Stormbringer" and chose the name for the song because of this, but the song itself isn't about the eponymous sword (they figured that Moorcock got the name from mythology, but he actually made it up himself).
    • The Power Metal band Domine has a large number of Moorcock related songs. Elric himself even being on multiple album covers.
    • Blind Guardian also have a couple of songs based on the series.
  • Here There Were Dragons: Most of Melnibone's dragons have died off, and the few remaining are weak to the point that they must sleep for centuries between flights.
  • The Hero Dies: At the end of Stormbringer.
  • Historical In-Joke: Roland, the semi-mythical French paladin who served under Charlemagne, is implied to be a future incarnation of Elric.
    • Tie-ins from other Moorcock stories indicate that so is King Arthur.
  • Ill Guy: Until he acquires Stormbringer, Elric requires constant medicinal treatments just to be able to stand upright or dress himself.
  • Jerkass: Elric often acts like one. His patron god, Arioch, is also a major Jerkass. In fact, all the Gods pretty much are Jerkasses.
    • For a Melnibonéan he's positively humanitarian. That's not saying much, of course, but his cousins hated him and plotted against him for being too philosophical and soft-hearted and insufficiently sadistic and maniacal to be worthy of the throne.
  • Kissing Cousins / Incest Is Relative: Elric's betrothed, Cymoril, is actually his cousin. Apparently this isn't unusual for Melnibonean royalty -- Yyrkoon, Elric's rival and Cymoril's brother, also lusts after her (to spite Elric more than anything else). It's not been all that uncommon for real-world royalty, either.
  • King Trope the Nth: Elric VIII, 428th emperor of Melnibone, son of Sadric LXXXVI.
  • Life Drinker: Elric, via Stormbringer.
  • Loyal to the Position: Valharik, the captain of the guard in Melnibone in the first novel, claims this as his reason for betraying his mistress Cymoril and following Yyrkoon's evil orders when he takes power in Melnibone, including cutting down one of his own men who tried to defend her against Yyrkoon and feeding the poor guy to Cymoril's slaves. Needless to say, Elric doesn't buy it.
  • Magitek: In The Sleeping Sorceress Elric rides a sentient, talking mechanical bird.
  • One-Man Army: Pretty much anyone who wields The Black Sword, be it Mournblade, Stormbringer, or one of their equivalents in other stories of the Champion Eternal. Justified, since the Black Sword is a Soul Drinker and can pass on the stolen vitality of its victims onto the wielder, providing them with supernatural strength and endurance for as long as they keep killing. Elric, however, takes it Up to Eleven, since not only does he have Summon Magic, he's also known as one of the most powerful sorcerors in the world, effectively making him a Person of Mass Destruction.
  • Order Versus Chaos: The Melniboneans follow the Lords of Chaos; Elric does, too, until he realizes he's upset the Balance Between Good and Evil and begins to serve the Lords of Order, or maybe fated to restore the Balance Between Good and Evil, or both.
  • Planar Champion: Elric, as an incarnation of the Champion Eternal, is one of the best-known examples, possibly even the Trope Codifier.
  • Plea of Personal Necessity: Darnizhaan tells Elric and Dyvim Slorm that killing him will begin the death of the world they know. When they decide to do so anyway, he says, "Fools! In destroying me, you destroy yourselves!"
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Pan Tang's war machine is fueled by conscripting the adult men of their tribute states, then sacrificing their wives and children, on arcane altars which are in operation 24 hours a day, depopulating an entire continent in the process, to summon the Lords of Chaos
  • Precursors: All the civilizations of the "Young Kingdoms" were built on the ruins of the old Melnibonean empire.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning
  • Soul Cutting Blade: Stormbringer.
  • Squishy Wizard: Elric starts out as one, but gets better once he gets Stormbringer and ultimately gives it up.
  • Storm of Blades: At one point, Elric and his comrades are set upon by three Chaos Gods - including Arioch - and in order to kill them, Elric uses Stormbringer and Mournblade to summon over one hundred of their brother and sister swords from alternate realities.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Smiorgan in Weird of the White Wolf.
    • To be fair, the story that Smiorgan died in was written before the one in which he was introduced. You could call this "Sudden Prequel Life Syndrome" instead.
  • Summon Magic: All magic in Elric's world is based upon summoning various demons and elemental spirits, and asking them for a favor. Elric is lucky that the Melnibonians have made ancient pacts with practically every single spirit and demon.
    • It's also noted that Nature Spirits have much lower "costs" than Gods of Law or Chaos, and indeed Elric calls for help from the former more often than he does the latter.
  • Summon to Hand
  • Tanks for The Memories
  • Torture Technician: Doctor Jest is the chief torturer of the Melnibonean empire, in charge of making spies spill their secrets for the Emperor in nightmarish fashion. He also serves as chief carver for the Emperor's table, using those same spies before they die. They must be able to see the parts he removes being cooked and devoured.
  • Unstoppable Rage: You might say Elric has anger issues.
  • Vestigial Empire: Melnibone.
  • Villain Protagonist: Elric actually starts out this way; before "upgrading" to a Type V Anti-Hero.
  • Walking the Earth: Elric
  • Where I Was Born and Razed: It takes three books, but Elric's eventually the one who destroys Melnibone.
  • White-Haired Pretty Boy: The Trope Maker.
  • Wretched Hive: There's a city made up entirely of thieves, murderers, and beggars.
  • You Just Told Me: how Elric discovers Yyrkoon's plans about the two Black Swords.
  • Your Soul Is Mine: What Stormbringer and Mournblade do to anyone killed with them.

"Farewell, troper. I was a thousand times more evil than thou!"