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Elric of Melniboné is a fictional character created by Michael Moorcock, and the antihero of a series of Sword and Sorcery books centering in an alternate Earth. The proper name and title of the character is Elric VIII, 428th Emperor of Melniboné. Later novels by Moorcock mark Elric as a facet of the Eternal Champion.

Elric first appeared in print in 1961 in Michael Moorcock’s novella, "The Dreaming City" (Science Fantasy #47 June 1961); subsequent novellas were reformatted as the novel Stormbringer (1965), buthis first appearance in an original novel wasn't until 1973 in Elric of Melniboné. Moorcock's albino character is one of the better known in fantasy literature, having crossed over into multimedia, such as comics and film, though efforts towards the latter stalled over the years. The novels have been continuously in print since the 1970s.

Fictional history

Thus described by author Michael Moorcock in the first book, Elric of Melniboné, Elric was the last emperor of the stagnating island civilization of Melniboné. Physically weak and frail, the albino Elric must take drugs - later retconned to mean special herbs - in order to maintain his health. In addition to herb lore, his character becomes an accomplished sorcerer and summoner, able to summon powerful, supernatural allies by dint of his royal Melnibonéan bloodline. Unlike most others of his race, who are described as being psychologically based upon cats , Elric possesses something of a conscience; he sees the decadence of his culture, and worries about the rise of the Young Kingdoms, populated by humans (as Melniboneans do not consider themselves such) and the threat they pose to his empire. Because of his introspective self-loathing of Melnibonéan traditions, his subjects find him odd and unfathomable, and his cousin Yrkoon (next in the line of succession, as Elric has no heirs) interprets his behavior as weakness and plots Elric's death.

As emperor of Melniboné, Elric wears the Ring of Kings, also called the Ring of Actorios, Elric is able to call for aid upon the traditional patron of the Melniboné emperors, Arioch, a Lord of Chaos and Duke of Hell.From the first story onwards, Elric is shown using ancient pacts and agreements with not only Arioch but various other beings - some gods, some demons - to assist him in accomplishing his tasks.

Elric's finding of the sword Stormbringer serves as both his greatest asset and greatest disadvantage. Forged in the distant past, the sword confers upon Elric strength, health and fighting prowess but must be fed the souls of those struck with the black blade. In the end, the blade takes everyone close to Elric and eventually Elric's own soul as well. Most of the Moorcock's stories about Elric feature this relationship with Stormbringer, and how it - despite Elric's best intentions - brings doom to everything the Melnibonéan holds dear.


The story of Kullervo from Finnish Mythology contains elements similar to Elric's story, such as a talking magic sword and fatal alienation of the hero from his family. Kullervo has been proposed as having influence on Poul Anderson's 1954 novel The Broken Sword, Elric, and J.R.R. Tolkien's story of Túrin Turambar, which appeared in The Silmarillion and subsequent works. Moorcock has stated that "Anderson's a definite influence [on Elric], as stated. But oddly, the Kalevala was read to us at my boarding school when I was about seven." and "from a very early age I was reading Norse legends and any books I could find about Norse stories" Moorcock in the same posting stated "one thing I'm pretty sure of, I was not in any way directly influenced by Prof. T[olkien]". The Silmarillion was not published until 1977, sixteen years after the first Elric story. Moorcock has publicly written that he preferred Anderson's work to Tolkien's.

Elric's albinism appears influenced by Monsieur Zenith, an albino villain who used a sword cane, who Moorcock appreciated enough to write into later multiverse stories. Moorcock read Zenith stories in his youth, and has contributed to their later reprinting, remarking "took me forty years to find another copy of Zenith the Albino! In fact it was a friend who found it under lock and key and got a copy of it to Savoy who are, at last, about to reprint it! Why I have spent so much energy making public the evidence of my vast theft from Anthony Skene, I'm not entirely sure... ". Moorcock later said "As I've said in my introduction to Monsieur Zenith: The Albino [ISBN 0861301099], the Anthony Skenes character was a huge influence. For the rest of the character, his ambiguities in particular, I based him on myself at the age I was when I created Elric, which was 20" The influence of Zenith on Elric is often cited in discussions of Zenith (e.g.,)


Original saga

DAW series (1977)
  • Elric of Melniboné (novel, Hutchinson 1972, cut vt The Dreaming City 1972 US; DAW 1977) ISBN 042508843X
  • The Sailor on the Seas of Fate (collection, Quartet 1976; DAW 1977) ISBN 0441748635
  • The Weird of the White Wolf (collection, DAW 1977) ISBN 0441888054
  • The Sleeping Sorceress (novel, NEL 1971; Ace 1971 as The Vanishing Tower; DAW 1977) ISBN 0441860397
  • The Bane of the Black Sword (collection, DAW 1977) ISBN 0441048854
  • Stormbringer (novel, fix-up, cut, Herbet Jenkins 1965; restored, DAW 1977, Berkeley 1984) ISBN 0425065596

Del Rey reprint (2008)
  • The Stealer of Souls
  • To Rescue Tanelorn
  • The Sleeping Sorceress

Later novels

  • Fortress of the Pearl (novel, Gollancz 1989) ISBN 0441248667
  • Revenge of the Rose (novel, Grafton 1991 as The Revenge of the Rose: A Tale of the Albino Prince in the Years of his Wandering) ISBN 0441001068

Later trilogy

  • The Dreamthief's Daughter (2001) ISBN 0446611204
  • The Skrayling Tree (2003) ISBN 0446531049
  • The White Wolf's Son (2005) ISBN 0446617458


  • Elric at the End of Time (1984) ISBN 1850280320
  • Michael Moorcock’s Elric: Tales of the White Wolf (1994) ISBN 1565041755
  • Pawns of Chaos: Tales of the Eternal Champion (1996) ISBN 1565049330

Graphic novels

Publishing history

Elric first appeared in print in 1961 in Michael Moorcock’s novelette "The Dreaming City" (Science Fantasy #47 June 1961). A further four novelettes ("While the Gods Laugh", "The Stealer of Souls", "Kings in Darkness", "The Flamebringers") and four novellas ("Dead God's Homecoming", "Black Sword's Brothers", "Sad Giant's Shield", "Doomed Lord's Passing") followed, the last of these terminating the sequence with the close of Elric’s angst-ridden life. The five novelettes were collected in The Stealer of Souls (collection, Neville Spearman 1963) and the four novellas were first published as a novel in Stormbringer (op. cit.). (This early version of Elric’s saga, i.e., these nine short stories – with the full text of Stormbringer, as it appeared in Science Fantasy – has recently been republished in a single volume as Elric (Orion/Gollancz 2001), Volume 17 in the Fantasy Masterworks series.)

Moorcock published further Elric tales throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. One of these was "The Jade Man's Eyes," published in 1973 in Flashing Swords! #2, an original anthology edited by Lin Carter. In 1977 DAW published what’s widely regarded as the canonical version of Elric’s saga: six books that collected the tales according to their internal chronology (and with the text of Stormbringer restored and revised). These DAW paperbacks all featured cover art work by the same young artist, Michael Whelan, and helped to define the look of both Elric and his sword Stormbringer. Whelan has subsequently done the cover art for other Elric novels, as have many other artists.

A few oddments were collected in Elric at the End of Time (coll. NEL 1984). The novelette "Elric at the End of Time" fits into the saga between The Sailor on the Seas of Fate and The Weird of the White Wolf.

In 2008, Del Rey Books reprinted the original, classic Elric material as a series of three illustrated books: The Stealer of Souls, To Rescue Tanelorn, and The Sleeping Sorceress. Subsequent volumes appearing in 2009 (Duke Elric and Elric in the Dream Realms) and 2010 'Swords and Roses' will reprint later material.


The main sequence, according to the saga's internal chronology, comprises the following books (in those cases where a book is composed of several titled sub-stories, these are listed):

  • (I) Elric of Melniboné
    • Book 1
    • Book 2
    • Book 3
  • The Fortress of the Pearl
  • (II) The Sailor on the Seas of Fate
    • Book One: Sailing To the Future
    • Book Two: Sailing To the Present
    • Book Three: Sailing To the Past
  • (III) The Weird of the White Wolf
    • Prologue: The Dream of Earl Aubec
    • Book One: The Dreaming City
    • Book Two: While the Gods Laugh
    • Book Three: The Singing Citadel
  • (IV) The Vanishing Tower (The Sleeping Sorceress)
    • Book One: The Torment of the Last Lord
    • Book Two: To Snare the Pale Prince
    • Book Three: Three heroes With a Single Aim
  • The Revenge of the Rose
  • (V) The Bane of the Black Sword
    • Book One: The Stealer of Souls
    • Book Two: Kings in Darkness
    • Book Three: The Flamebringers (aka The Caravan of Forgotten Dreams)
    • Epilogue: To Rescue Tanelorn
  • (VI) Stormbringer
    • Book One: Dead God's Homecoming
    • Book Two: Black Sword's Brothers
    • Book Three: Sad Giant's Shield
    • Book Four: Doomed Lord's Passing

Characters in the Elric series

See also: Deities in the Elric series

Cymoril: A Melnibonéan, Elric's cousin and consort. He hopes to one day make her his wife and empress. She tries to understand and help Elric, but like his subjects she has difficulty understanding Elric's motivations and would have him rule as the emperors of old, with no concern for any but himself.

Dyvim Slorm: A Melnibonéan, Elric's cousin, son of Dyvim Tvar. He fights alongside Elric in the final war against Chaos, wielding the black sword Mournblade.

Moonglum of Elwher: A short, red-haired human with a cheerfully ugly face, adventuring companion to Elric. He and Elric share many dangers and rewards together. The most steadfast and loyal companion of all the Young Kingdom humans Elric encounters. He assists Elric in completing his fated purpose.

Rackhir, the Red Archer: A human, once a Warrior Priest of Phum but cast out of his order. He and Elric travel and adventure together several times throughout the series.

Theleb K'aarna: A human sorcerer of the Pan Tang isles. After being displaced as Queen Yishana's advisor and chief sorcerer by Elric, he seeks revenge and uses sorcery to hinder several of Elric's plans.

Yyrkoon: Prince of Melniboné, Elric's cousin. He is next in line for the throne, as Elric has no male heir. He is greatly concerned at Elric's behaviour and takes all of Elric's brooding and philosophical talk as a sign of weakness. He yearns for a return to more traditional emperors and secretly plots Elric's demise. Yyrkoon is a great sorcerer who has made many pacts with unholy forces to obtain his sorcerous strength. As further evidence of his decadent ways, he openly desires his sister Cymoril and intends to make her his wife and Empress if his plans ever reach fruition.

Zarozinia: A human of the Young Kingdoms. She falls in love with Elric and eventually marries him, for a time allowing him to experience true love and companionship. For her sake, Elric also gives up his blade Stormbringer and reverts to taking sorcerous herbs to sustain his life.

Appearances in other media


As well as within comic book adaptations, Elric also appeared in a number of original stories published by DC Comics. Helix, a short-lived science-fiction and fantasy imprint of DC, published the 12-issue Michael Moorcock's Multiverse from 1997. More recently, DC Comics published the 4-issue Elric: Making of a Sorcerer, with art by Walt Simonson, a story about Elric's magical training before the events of the novel Elric of Melniboné.

P. Craig Russell has drawn comics adaptations taken from three Moorcock novels: Elric of Melniboné (with Roy Thomas and Michael T. Gilbert; Pacific Comics), The Dreaming City and While the Gods Laugh (representing the first two-thirds of Weird of the White Wolf; Marvel/Epic Comics), and Stormbringer (Dark Horse). The character has also been separately adapted by Walter Simonson and Frank Brunner, and by George Freeman and others on the long-running Elric series at Pacific which Russell had co-created. (Reportedly tensions between himself and Thomas were the reason for his departure.)


Unproduced film

Wendy Pini published a book documenting her attempt to make an animated film project of the Stormbringer series. Law and Chaos: The "Stormbringer" Animated Film Project (ISBN 0936861045) was published by Father Tree Press of Poughkeepsiemarker, New Yorkmarker in 1987. The book contains original artwork, information on the characters, an overview of the plot, and her personal investment in the project. The film, however, never reached completion.

Upcoming films

On May 29, 2007, in an interview with Empire Magazine, directors Chris and Paul Weitz revealed that they are in the process of adapting a trilogy of films based on Elric for Universal Pictures. Chris has stated that he grew up reading the material and has met with Moorcock, who trusted them with the project.

Role-playing Games

Elric (along with Stormbringer) was listed in the first printing of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Deities & Demigods rule book. However, Chaosium already had a role playing series in the works based on Elric & Stormbringer and the initial AD&D printing was not fully authorized. A mutually beneficial deal was worked out between Chaosium & TSR, yet TSR chose to remove Elric from subsequent printings of Deities & Demigods.

The world of Elric's Young Kingdoms was the setting of the Stormbringer role-playing game by the publisher Chaosium (Hawkmoon has also been so treated, as has Corum). After a disagreement between Moorcock and Chaosium, the Stormbringer line was discontinued. Subsequently, a new version called "Elric of Melnibone" was published by Mongoose Publishing under their Runequest system.

References to Elric in popular culture

  • In the second to last episode of the TV show Alias, entitled "Reprisal", the password for one of computer engineer's Marshall Flinkman's programs is revealed to be "Moonglum of Elwher".

  • Elric was parodied in the humorous comic strip Thrud the Barbarian. The character Eric of Bonemalone, bearer of the cursed sword Stoatbringer, appeared in the story "The Three Tasks of Thrud". Published in White Dwarf #57 (September 1984). Author / Artist: Carl Critchlow.

  • Karl Edward Wagner wrote a short story, "The Gothic Touch", in which his immortal antihero Kane enlists the aid of Elric and Moonglum, which can be found in Michael Moorcock’s Elric: Tales of the White Wolf (ISBN 1565041755) and in Wagner's Exorcisms and Ecstasies (ISBN 1878252283).

  • Michael Moorcock received a songwriting credit for the Blue Öyster Cult song "Black Blade". Blue Öyster Cult notes on their website that lyrical collaborations with Moorcock "inspired ... 'Black Blade'". He has also co-written "Veteran of the Psychic Wars", inspired by the Elric stories.

  • UK space rock band Hawkwind released the studio album The Chronicle of the Black Sword in 1985, based upon the Elric stories. An expanded live album (Live Chronicles) was released in 1986 and includes several spoken-word links by author Michael Moorcock, appearing on-stage as narrator. The live show, complete with mime artist dressed as Elric, was also released on VHS and DVD as The Chronicle of the Black Sword"

  • Author Neil Gaiman wrote a short story called "One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock'" about a troubled boy who loves the stories about Elric, and finds escape from the everyday world in them. The story was published in the short story collection Smoke and Mirrors.

  • Author Tad Williams features the character in "Go Ask Elric," a short story published in his collection Rite.

  • Elric and his homeland Melniboné and his sword "Stormbringer" both feature in German heavy metal band Blind Guardian's song "Fast to Madness" from their "Follow the Blind" album (1989).


See also

External links

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