Monday, September 27, 2010

If Tolkien glorified war in his stories, did Moorcock glorify drugs, incest and genocide, in the Elric series?

Some of you who have read The Cimmerian will know about an essay written by Michael Moorcock entitled "Epic Pooh". Brian Murphy did an excellent job picking the essay apart, check it out here.

One of my favorite characters that Michael Moorcock created was Elric the 428th sorcerer emperor of Melnibone. Being an albino, he's a sickly king who is kept alive through drugs and sorcery. He's charged with keeping many traditions, many so vile and cruel it makes Drow look civilized. He's also deeply in love with Cymoril who is his cousin. An unlikely character for swords & sorcery fiction. Through the course of the series, Elric finds himself at odds with the evil ways of his people, and his cousin Yrkoon who has been plotting to take the throne by force or treachery.

Elric leaves his homeland, his beloved Cymoril, and leaves his cousin Yrkoon in charge of Imrryr. Yrkoon sits in the throne and rules like a tyrant, but Elric knew that he would be a cruel emperor, and wasn't that the way of things in Imrryr? When Elric finally returns to his homeland he leads an army of barbarians, The Young Kingdoms in fighting Yrkoon and his fellow countrymen. The result is the genocide of Elric's race as well as his lover Cymoril.

Does this mean that Moorcock glorifies these horrific qualities like cruelty, incest, drug use, and genocide? No, not anymore than Tolkien glorified war.


Brian Murphy said...

Thanks for the linkage, Atom Kid.

You're right of course; MM does not present drug use and incest and genecide as an ideal, he was demonstrating how a powerful ruling class could evolve (devolve?) to such a state that these practices could become acceptable. You and I and most semi-discerning readers understand that, but unlike Moorcock we can approach books with an open mind, not with a rigid Marxist view of the world. His hatred of Tolkien's world view (which I don't even think he understood--Tolkien had some pretty radical ideas about the natural world and was hardly a staunch conservative) blinds him to perceived faults in the work that don't exist.

Atom Kid said...

Exactly! You did a better job picking his essay apart, but I just wanted to add a couple of ideas. I'm still a fan of his work just not his criticism of Tolkien.