Tuesday, November 30, 2010


For the dojo Halloween party Frite Nite this year I went as Elric. I'm sure not too many people understood the character I was supposed to be so I thought I'd do a short blog on this. Elric is a sword and sorcery character created by the British author Michael Moorcock. Of that genre, he is definitely by far my favorite. It is unique that Elric cannot be really listed separately from his blade, the black runesword Stormbringer. They really exist together and cannot really be separated.
In the stories Elric exists in a prior age ruled by the Gods of Chaos. This is where magic ruled over science. Elric is the last of a long line of sorcerer/kings of the Melnibonean race. He has the power to command the elementals of wind and wave. He understands and can speak the language of the great dragons. When they are active(and they hibernate a lot) he rides them across the sky. He is an albino and so lacks natural reserves of energy. However he wields the black runesword Stormbringer which is a magical blade. When he kills the sword feeds him the life essence of his victim. So this energy gives Elric great power and more than makes up for his albinoism....So Elric will not only kill you, he will steal your soul. In fact both Elric and the blade are sometimes referred to as the Stealer of Souls.

Elric exists at the time when the age of the gods of chaos is about to end, hopefully issuing in a new age of order where science will rule over sorcery and magic. Elric is the agent by which the shift from one age to another will be accomplished. He must face his own gods:Arioch, Xiombarg and others in battle. And through all this he is pulled onward by his sword. As the age of chaos nears its end Stormbringer grows stronger and stronger. It pulls Elric along to his eventual fate. Those interested will find the stories quite entertaining, so I won't give away the ending. There is some talk about an Elric movie, given the success of the Lord of the Rings films.

Elric is the first of many of Moorcock's character to bear the mantle of the archetype "The Eternal Champion". Instead of a universe we have a multiverse where the same themes are played about in different universes. Elric meets on occasion other aspects of himself. I never found the others to be as good as Elric.

I discovered him when I was in grad school at UC Davis. His adventures kept me going at what for me was a low time in my life. My sense was that I wanted to do aikido, and yet I felt I needed to get a graduate degree for my parents. I suceeded in getting my Masters then headed off for Japan. But the period in Davis for me was very slow. So Elric was one of the ways I kept going. He is very similar to the Nemuri Kyoshiro character. Instead of Kyoshiro's magical full moon cut Elric wields a magic sword. But they are both very dark characters who face the real dregs of an evil world and somehow their darkness helps restore balance where in Elric's world the Chaos Gods and in Kyoshiro's the decadent nobility and upper class create suffering and pain for those less fortunate.

Elric and Stormbringer face off against and kill incredibly dark and evil forces and the people they act through. But the sword also has a taste for the souls of those close to Elric and on more than one occasion kills a lover or a wife. Stormbringer is depicted as sentient and in its own way intelligent. That is why I say that they are one character. They can take on armies and win. My favorite stories include where the sword emits a dark radiance and has its own song of destruction that it sings as armies of dark and evil beings are being killed. I know this is rather dark, but when you are in seminars about 18th century Russian Classicism and studying the memoirs of Catherine the Great you'll take entertainment in any form.

One of Osensei's major Shinto Gods was Susano the storm god. Early on in the creation myths he is depicted as a destructive force. Yet as the age of the gods unfolds he becomes a guardian/protector of earth. Maybe I saw some of Susano in Elric. And Susano slays an evil dragon and from its tail finds the magical sword Ame no Murakumo.

I found the following clip on Youtube. Initially this song was given to me on audiocassette by Harry Concepcion. I found the song on youtube with a lot of Elric based art. I hope you enjoy it.


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