Elric is a fascinating creation, not least because he is a considerable change from the brawny Neanderthal hero tradition in fantasy begun with Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Cultured, brilliantly intelligent, and physically delicate though immensely psychologically powerful, Elric starkly contrasts with the brutal simplicity of Conan. Where Conan is a wild barbarian warrior, Elric is the highly cultured product of a dying civilization. Where Conan grows quickly bored and irritated with philosophical questions, Elric is forever seeking the answers to the mysteries of life. Where Conan is direct and simple in his desires, Elric is subtle and inwardly tortured by his conflicting emotions.
A mighty sorcerer, Elric dislikes invoking supernatural aid, though he resorts to it frequently. In his questing after truth instead of power or wealth, he again differs from the typical hero of sword and sorcery fantasies. When angered he can be horrifyingly merciless, but he is reluctant to use force, again in contrast to typical heroes of fantasy. He is capable of compassion and pity, but also of demoniac cruelty. Ironically, it is his compassion for his people that alienates him from them.
Irony is an abiding characteristic of Michael Moorcocks work, particularly the Elric Saga. It is ironic that Elric leaves the Bright Empire to seek freedom only to fulfill his destiny, that he seeks to free himself with a sword that only enslaves him, that in...
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