(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser were actually created by Harry Otto Fischer, but, with the exception of ten thousand words of “The Lords of Quarmall,” Fritz Leiber wrote all the stories. The authors presence is felt through the somewhat archaic device of a narrator, whose comments, in the hands of a lesser writer, might have prevented total immersion within the fictional world. Leibers mastery of narrative, pacing, dialogue, and character grab the reader and force him or her headfirst into fog-shrouded Lankhmar, or wherever Fafhrd and the Gray Mousers wanderings take them.

The early stories in the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser series helped spawn an entire genre of fantasy stories whose protagonists are likable antiheroes. Leibers literary influence on fantasy in the twentieth century has been exceeded only by J. R. R. Tolkien. L. Sprague de Camp was a contemporary and mined the same vein. Fantasy writers who appear to have been influenced strongly by Leiber include P. C. Hodgell, Michael Moorcock, and Roger Zelazny. The Thieves World series of anthologies, edited by Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey, could never have existed had not Leiber helped invent the genre to which it belongs. Fantasy role-playing games owe their existence in part to this genre and, therefore, indirectly to Leiber.

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser were explicitly a reaction to improbable fantasy heroes such as Robert E. Howards Conan; Leiber said as much in an authors note in The Swords of Lankhmar. Indeed, in some ways they are almost parodies. Leiber made a point in his introductions to most of the books of asserting that Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser were the best swordsmen in all the worlds. In what he called “Induction,” at the beginning of the first book, Swords and Deviltry, Leiber even claimed that Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser were the two reincarnated halves of a greater hero. This cannot be taken seriously, and the idea was used in only one of the stories ( The Curse of the Smalls and the Stars, one of the latest). Even the name of the world is a joke: It is Nowhen backwards, a reference to the famous novel Erewhon (1872) by Samuel Butler, but one evidently used only to amuse...

(The entire section is 896 words.)