Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Evolution of Elric Part 1

I was wandering through a bookstore in Johannesburg and saw a book simply titled, "Elric." It looks like it is a reprint of the original Elric stories as they were first published in magazines, before they were expanded into the novels.

It's interesting to see how the trappings of Elric and the world evolve not just when comparing these original stories to the novels, but actually within these short stories as they progress. This post is "part 1" because I'm about halfway through the book, and I want to put down some thoughts as I'm encountering them. I'll post part 2 when I'm finished reading it.

One of the first differences I noticed is that the kingdom of Melnibone is not described in as great of detail in the original stories. We get the overall gist, which is that it is a decadent society. In addition, the first stories seem to indicate that the Melniboneans are simply humans of an old society, and as the stories progress there is some brief description later about the features of Melniboneans, that they have slightly narrow and long skulls, no ear lobes, and slightly pointed ears, but the implication seems to be that these are "racial" traits, not traits of a separate "species" as they are in the expanded novels.

Another thing that is different, which surprised me the most, is that in the earlier stories Elric's sword Stormbringer is simply an evil blade that likes to kill, but as I get further into the book Moorcock is altering his descriptions so that instead of simply sending its victims "to hell," the sword is now "drinking souls." Also there was no epic struggle between Stormbringer and it's "brother" Mournblade. In the original short stories Elric's cousin simply already had the sword, it was noted that the swords were of a simlar type, and left at that. No funky cosmic struggle, which was ok with me.

Even though I'm only halfway through, I can say so far that there is no indication of an "Eternal Champion" nonsense which turns me off of the Elric stories. I'll have to wait and see if it surfaces later. These stories lack a lot of the detail that was fleshed out in the novels, and so far I don't feel like the original stories are worse for it. A lot of the fleshing out, as far as I can tell, takes things in different directions that I personally don't care for. I like the idea of the struggle of Law and Chaos, and I like that so far it hasn't gotten too bloated with pseudo philosophical nonsense as it does in the books.

One final thing I'll say is that something that is difficult to stomach in the books is that in many cases the writing, with all due respect to Moorcock, sucks. It flows poorly and leaves an amateurish impression. In the original short stories, though, I don't get this at all. So I'm left wondering if the poor writing is the result of Moorcock either rushing to write the novels or is it from a labored effort of trying to flesh out the stories in new directions. I have no idea, maybe it's some combination.

More later.


James Maliszewski said...

Your thoughts here (mostly) mirror my own.

S'mon said...

I believe Moorcock at his peak was dashing out novels in a week or so, hence possibly their amateurish feel? Personally I much prefer early Elric novels 'Stormbringer' 'Elric of Melnibone' et al to his recent Elric novels such as Fortress of the Pearl and Revenge of the Rose.

Dan of Earth said...

Wow, a novel a week is some furious writing! I haven't explored his recent stuff at all, and likely won't. There are far too many older novels out there I have neglected.