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Elric & Moonglum

Started by jburneko, November 28, 2007, 03:17:58 PM

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So, this is a topic I've wanted to discuss in this forum for a while but haven't really gotten around to it.  I've read the "core" Elric saga twice.  By "core" I mean the original nine novellas and the later prequel novel: Elric of Melnibone.  Of what I've read of the material on Sorcerer & Sword Elric is my second favorite coming in just behind Wagner's Kane stories.  I've read around here in these forums Ron's discussion of Humanity relative to Elric being about Love and how Stormbringer behaves like a jealous lover.  Now, normally, when Ron pro-offers a viewpoint on fiction I can see where he's coming from.  With Elric, I just can't.


So I wanted to talk about a different angle on the material.  I often joke that the Elric saga is about a man who should have just put down the sword and gone home.  I see the whole thing as being more or less about fatalism.  Elric has no idea who is or what he wants and bounds around doing whatever any sage or seer who pops up tells him to do.  Elric and other Melnibonians refer to this as "Their Doom."

So to me the single most significant scene in the whole saga is when Elric goes to get the shield from the giant.  He's told that this giant is destined to die when he comes to get the shield.  The giant knows this, doesn't want to die and just hands over the shield.  For once, in the entire saga Elric does the right thing.  He basically says, "Fuck this fate shit, I'm going home."  And then out of the blue Moonglum comes diving in and kills the giant because he doesn't want to "tempt fate."

That scene haunts me.  More so than the death of Cymoril.  More so than the death of Zarozinia.  In the same scene that Elric does the most heroic thing, Moonglum does the most disappointing.  I was shocked when I read it.  A part of me wonders, "What would have happened if Moonglum HADN'T killed the giant."

THAT to me is what the whole Elric saga seems to be all about: Being your own man.  Elric is buffered around by man and demon alike until he and his whole world is overwhelmed because even when he's "fighting back" he's doing the bidding of others.  Even self-made, free spirited Moonglum sells out in the end. :(




Hi Jesse,

I think that analysis is great. I particularly agree about the scene with Moonglum killing the giant. It definately stood out for me as well.

What I see is that "being your own man" is the flipside of being tied to a jealous lover. On the big stage, Elric stuggles to move away from his fate; on the personal stage, he has a relationship with a sword he can't get himself to set aside. These are different angles on the same theme.

There are two more angles on the Elric saga--Elric's personal journey and Stormbringer's personal journey (which we don't see much of, of course). I'd suggest that instead of being used and user, they are both conflicted with fate, but one finds sorrow in what must be done while the other finds joy in its destiny.

This comes from my belief that every great story has four basic perspectives: I (Elric), you (Stormbringer), us (relationship), and everybody (The End time of Elric's world).

Sorcerer character generation defines the "I," demon creation, the "you," sorcerery rules, the "us" and the GM and the kickers define the "everybody" perspective.
- Alan

A Writer's Blog:

Ron Edwards

Hi Jesse,

Good question. The issues you raised are certainly really there in the text. I see three possible conclusions.

1. Throw out my "love as Humanity" entirely and replace it with your description. I don't agree with this; I can make a pretty damn strong case for the love issue, as I'm sure you can see from the text as well. Elric's always in a triangle. But hey! That might just be a function of Stormbringer's Need (for love), and therefore Humanity can be entirely different, as described by you. Valid? Definitely arguable.

2. Keep my "love as Humanity" and bump your described content upwards and outwards to the issues of scenarios and situations - in other words, the society/self issues you describe are present as very large phenomena in which Elric's more personal love-Humanity issues play out. So yeah, it's important, but it's not Humanity. I'm not so sure about this option; I can make a case for it, but it doesn't account for the visceral power of the scene you describe, and for which my reaction is similar to yours and to Alan's. Granted, though, that's only one scene ...

3. Get really complex and go for the dual Humanity concept in Sex & Sorcery. There'd be love, in its simplest and nicest form; and there'd be service to cosmic/greater justice, which is called Balance in the story. Therefore Moonglum's action would rate a Humanity check for love and a Humanity gain roll for cosmic justice. That works pretty well for me, because the action is, indeed, quite awful in many ways and yet also justifiable in others - which is what the dual (or better, orthogonal)Humanity concept is for.

Best, Ron


Alan's point about "being your own man" being the flip-slid of a jealous lover is an interesting one I hadn't considered.  And Ron's option number 3 is certainly the most accommodating to both viewpoints.  However, I don't see under what circumstances Moonglum's actions are justified.  But that might be because I HATE Moorcock's cosmology.  I think it's the worst thing about his writing in general and I find it obfuscates everything else.  To the point that I literally do not understand the ending of Stormbringer.  I've read the whole thing twice.  I've read the last chapter more than that.  Like.... what actually HAPPENS, logistically.  Emotionally and thematically I think I'm all cool but I admit Stormbringer's ending packed no punch because I was too distracted by the weird ass Law, Chaos, Balance shit.  It left a very similar feeling with me as the ending of William Gibson's Neuromancer to draw one comparison.

I also really want to dive into this idea that Stormbringer's Need is Love because I still don't see it.  And, oh, man maybe I'm about to expose some underlying psychological disorder in myself but here's why:  I get that Stormbringer relishes killing those closest to Elric.   But then the Joker relishes harming those closest to Batman.  What I don't see is Elric doing anything towards Stormbringer that constitutes Love.  I don't see Elric in anyway PRIORITIZING Stormbringer over his relationships with others (unless you count not getting rid of Stormbringer) or doing anything with Stormbringer that to me would be gestures of love.  I see him mostly losing control of Stormbringer who lashes out and kills someone.