Remembering Corum

CorumI’ve spent a lot of time talking about how I discovered sword-and-sorcery, and how I went to the local library, then the local bookstore, then the local used bookstore, before I found ANYTHING listed in the famed Appendix N at the back of the DM’s Guide. This was the very early 1980s, when I was still in junior high and riding my bicycle all over the city.

I couldn’t latch onto much of anything from that recommended reading list except, in the library, some Zelazny. Every regular visitor knows about my love for a lot of Zelazny work. The used bookstore had Leiber’s Swords Against Death, for which I am eternally grateful. And they ALSO had three beat up paperbacks by Michael Moorcock.

corumThey’re full of wild color and inventive world building and some lovely prose and gripping action, and if the plot line to each is pretty similar, well, so be it, it’s a fun ride. Maybe this trilogy doesn’t hit the absolute highs of the Elric saga, but it never sinks to the low spots of the Elric saga either, which is, let us be fair, a little inconsistent.

I’ve read a lot of Moorcock and while I haven’t read all of his sword-and-sorcery books, I’ve at least sampled all of his heroic fantasy cycles, and these three books remain my very favorite of those series.

I only read the sequel trilogy once, and recall that as a kid I found them too dark and sad. Maybe I’d enjoy them more now that I’m older. What’s your take? Are there any other Corum fans out there?

7 Comments on “Remembering Corum

  1. I don’t remember if Corum was the first Moorcock I read, but it was at least the first Moorcock I bought — at a Waldenbooks (or was it a B. Dalton’s?) in Apache Mall in Rochester, MN, I believe; they had the mass-market Swords Trilogy omnibus on the shelf, so I bought it and had made significant progress by the time we got back home (about an hour away). As I said on FB, I think I also might like Corum slightly more than Elric — for one thing, since they were written as novels as parts of a trilogy, they’re a little tighter and more focused than Elric.

    The second trilogy is definitely darker and sadder; I also found it interesting because it was much more explicitly Celtic.

    • I remember being so disappointed in the bleak, bleak end of the second series that I found myself wishing I hadn’t read it. I can’t recall too much else about it except that I had never trusted Corum’s new love, whom I believe betrayed him. Maybe it’s time for a re-read.

  2. Corum is more likeable, but I don’t like the series as much. Though it has its high points. I remember him visiting the Chaos Lords and Arioch being that fat fleshy giant that was being fed off of by his “servants” and the giants he battles towards the end of the series. I do like the alien hand and the alien eye.

    • Oh yeah, I loved the hand and eye of the alien gods. Certainly it didn’t hit some of the great highs of some of the best points of the Elric series, but it’s more consistent. And I rooted for Corum more than I ever did for Elric, which is why the end of the second series felt like such an unnecessary punch in the gut. But maybe I’d like it better now.

      • I’ve only read the first four swords books, but Moorcock is one of those writers who mistake dark for deep and meaningful. He famously criticized Tolkien for being twee, even though the Lord of the Rings has some pretty dark parts. I’m pretty sure Moorcock never finished the first book before criticizing it. (Though to be fair the first part of Fellowship was a bit twee.)

        Frankly, his dark view worked better in the Elric series particularly Stormbringer. Howard could do dark well, too, but for all his pessimism Howard clearly believed in things like courage, loyalty and personal responsibility.

        • It’s been a decade since I read Moorcock’s criticism, and probably 35 years (?!) since I read Corum. I feel a little too out-of-touch to comment with authority.

          I’m personally not as huge of a fan of Tolkien as, well, nearly everyone else, but I did read and enjoy the trilogy and I also recognize its importance, and I recall thinking that Moorcock’s assessment wasn’t entirely accurate.

          As to how to judge his own work as to the reality of his darkness, I’m just not sure. It’s been too long. I recall reading that he’d planned Elric as sort of an anti Conan, but I’m not sure how much Conan he’d had access to. Parts of the Elric saga I thought flat out brilliant, and great adventure, and others felt like he was in such a rush to get to the end that he tripped over himself.

          What I remember was that after reading all of Elric, parts of Hawkmoon and a number of others, and all of Corum,that I most enjoyed the feel of the first three Corum books. But, heck, I wasn’t even 20 yet. I’ve re-read parts of Elric and found it even more wildly divergent in quality from point to point than I’d remembered it. I may yet try to finish Hawkmoon because it started with such promise.

          But I was fond of Corum. I don’t put it up there with the best of Leiber or Amber or –once I finally got to read the undiluted original — Conan, but I recall that it’s consistently enjoyable. I look forward to finding out.

          • Parts of the Elric saga I thought flat out brilliant, and great adventure, and others felt like he was in such a rush to get to the end that he tripped over himself. —

            That’s the way I felt. I liked the Elric saga better; though I do think I’d prefer to know Corum. If I was around Elric I have to keep my eye on Stormbringer.

            I’m a pretty big Tolkien fan and Moorcock’s opinion always annoyed me. I don’t think Tolkien is beyond criticism. Nothing is beyond criticism. On the other hand, Moorcock promoted Mervyn Peake and Leigh Brackett so that makes up for a lot.

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