Swords in the Mist Re-Read: “Their Mistress, The Sea”

mist3Bill 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 third tale in the collection, “Their Mistress, The Sea.”

Howard: “Their Mistress, the Sea” can’t properly be called a linking story — it’s more like a linking interlude, an explanation as to what happened between the preceding story and the one that follows. Yet it’s not without some charm. Leiber clearly loved this world and his characters, and it shows in many of the small details.

mist2Bill: The metaphysical musings and arguments, the different ways the two got back into adventuring shape, and the rather considerate nature of their piracy were the standout moments for me.

Howard: Those were the moments that I remembered best myself. Short as this tale is, it doesn’t outstay its welcome, which can’t be said of all of Leiber’s linking efforts. We’re treated to mentions of the pair’s services for the Mad Duke (never depicted by Leiber) and the white-furred giant worm. We also witness the departure of Ourph the Mingol. I remembered him as a recurring character, and I can’t recall if he turns up in later stories or not. I kind of hope that he does.

Bill: As do I, but I can’t recall if he ever does or not. And, as much of an interlude as this is, and as little really as there is to prompt discussion when compared to any of the stories proper, Leiber is still Leiber; take this wonderfully written paragraph near the end of the piece for example:

But chiefly they talked of their mistress, the sea, whose curving motions they loved again, and to whose moods they now felt preternaturally attuned, particularly in darkness. They spoke of her rages and caresses, her coolths and unending dancings, sometimes lightly footing a minuet, sometimes furiously a-stamp, and her infinitude of secret parts.

mist5They go from miserable and sea-sick, weak from civilized life, back to their true, adventuring selves. It’s great stuff, it’s what they’re all about as characters.

Howard: Leiber seems to have an affinity for the ocean and sea travel and always brings it brilliantly to life.

Next week we’ll see “When the Sea-King’s Away,” the last tale in this particular volume I remember reading with any great pleasure. I hope that my memory’s simply faulty and that “Adept’s Gambit” proves stronger than I recall.

Bill: I’m apprehensive of “Adept’s Gambit” as well. Reading a little background on it should hopefully improve my perspective on it this time around.


5 Comments on “Swords in the Mist Re-Read: “Their Mistress, The Sea”

  1. Yeah, there wasn’t much here story-wise, but as you mention, Leiber’s wit and prose make up for that. I especially like the description of the raid on the ship of witches.

  2. This is a more of a vignette than a story and that’s just fine. His beautiful prose and love of and feel for the sea and sailing come through. How many writers of fantasy can write something that has no real “plot” and make it so dreamy and engrossing?

    As for Adept’s Gambit, I can’t offer any hope. It’s the only Lankhmar story I don’t care for an never re-read! Leiber was trying to find the feel for the stories and the world at that point, and it shows. It’s far too ponderous and Dunsanian for me (though I like Dunsany). Far too much about the other characters instead of Fafhrd and Mouser in that story.

    • Yikes. You don’t give me much hope, Robert… And it’s a LONG one, too.

  3. Sorry. I cannot lie. Well, I could, but it wouldn’t help. It is not without interesting spots. But the story of the secondary characters goes on and on, from what I remember. Even Leiber was human.

Leave a Reply to Robert Zoltan Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.