Swords In the Mist Re-Read: “The Wrong Branch”

Swords_in_the_MistBill Ward and I are continuing our read through of Fritz Leiber’s collection of Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories, Swords in the Mist. This week we’re looking at the fifth tale in the collection, “The Wrong Branch.”

mist6Howard: I’m starting to remember why I never liked this book quite as well as Swords Against Death. The actual stories in it are quite strong, but there is a lot of filler. Satisfying adventure to page ratio is much higher in Swords Against Death than it is in any of my other favorite volumes (that includes this one, Swords Against Wizardry, which has two novellas and a couple of linking tales, and The Swords of Lankhmar, which is two novelettes stitched together into a continuous narrative.

And of course we have “Adept’s Gambit” looming before us, one I never liked well enough to re-read. I suppose I’ll see why here very soon.

mist3Bill: I think the best way to approach “Adept’s Gambit” is how we see the Twain themselves approach their upcoming journey in “The Wrong Branch:” don’t worry so much about the things that don’t make sense, just enjoy it as another adventure.

Howard: I’ll try to do that. As to “The Wrong Branch,” it’s even more of a linking tale than anything else in here. It’s charming because it’s crafted with love for the characters. It doesn’t really tell a tale, and I think, were this a novel, it would just be a couple of pages happening while the characters are on their way from here to there.

Bill: It’s fun and light-hearted, and does a good enough job introducing the very odd change in setting by having a few historical terms intrude into the fantasy setting.

Jonquil & Fritz Leiber.

Jonquil & Fritz Leiber.

Howard: I wonder if Leiber actually meant, one day, to take Fafhrd and the Mouser to some other world or time via this method, or if this little segue through the wrong branch was just a way to include this early tale written about them set in this particular historical period of Earth.

Of course, it turns out that they didn’t actually take the wrong branch, since Ningauble seems to have planned for them to go that way…

Bill: I had always assumed Leiber had intended more Earth adventures when I read it the for first time. Seemed like a lot of trouble to go through just to move them for one story. Of course, at that time I didn’t know “Adept’s Gambit” was the first Fafhrd and Gray Mouser story, and that Lankhmar only came along afterwards. I’m guessing most of us resented “Gambit’s” setting change going into it, but that’s something to talk about next week.

 

6 Comments on “Swords In the Mist Re-Read: “The Wrong Branch”

  1. As far as I know, this is the right explanation, but I don’t know if I read that somewhere or surmised it by the fact that Leiber wrote “The Wrong Branch” specifically as an intro to “Adept’s Gambit” when the stories were being collected in sequential order. “Gambit” was a F & GM story before Lanhkmar had been created:
    “this little segue through the wrong branch was just a way to include this early tale written about them set in this particular historical period of Earth.”

    Maybe it would be best to go into “Gambit” pretending it’s a Lord Dunsany story. Then the pacing will almost seem modern. 🙂

    • Hah! I’ll give it a try. I seem to remember reading that information about the story’s origin myself, but like you, I can’t recall where.

  2. I have loved “Adept’s Gambit” since I first read it long ago. Generally I have found I like more as I age; couldn’t stand “Stardock” when I first read it, now it’s a favorite.

    Looking forward to your reactions!

    • Hi Kerstan — thanks for joining in. Well, you give me hope then. Maybe I’ll like it more on revisiting.

  3. I also love “Stardock” — looking forward to it when we resume our Lankhmar re-read.

    “Adept’s Gambit,” well, you can see mine and Howard’s full thoughts on that one in the latest post, I’ll just say that my limited enjoyment of it stems from it’s position in the F&GM canon and not really for the story itself.

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