Corum as depicted by Mike Mignola.
"By creating Man, the universe had betrayed the Old Races..."
A series of novels by Michael Moorcock
. It's set in the same multiverse as The Elric Saga
, and it's very much influenced by Canon Welding
. The main character, Corum Jhaelen Irsei, is the same kind of Tragic Hero
as Elric, and is a different incarnation of the Eternal Champion.
The Corum series is composed of two distinct trilogies. The first trilogy involves the war of Order Versus Chaos
, with the Lords of Chaos warring with the Lords of Law for control of the world. Having seen his entire race destroyed at the whim of the Knight of the Swords and the hands of the newly arrived race of Man (or Mabden, as the series refers to them) — with he left alive but maimed as the Last of His Kind
— Corum and later his allies, find themselves caught in the middle of a war between Gods and primal forces, with only their wits — and some strange gifts Corum recieved from a sorcerer — to aid them. Major themes of the series include — in addition to the obvious Order Versus Chaos
— civilisation vs barbarism, the whims of the gods, and whether one person can in fact, challenge a blind and deaf universe.
In the second trilogy, the enemies are a rather different kind of Eldritch Abomination
, a group of beings called the Fhoi Myore who make the world cold and thus uninhabitable to humans. The second trilogy is somewhat different in tone, because it (unlike the first trilogy) draws heavily from Celtic mythology.
The books in order:
- The Knight of the Swords (1971)
- The Queen of the Swords (1971)
- The King of the Swords (1971)
- The Bull and the Spear (1973)
- The Oak and the Ram (1973)
- The Sword and the Stallion (1974)
- The Vanishing Tower (1971)
- The Sailor on the Seas of Fate (1976)
- The Quest for Tanelorn (1976)
This book series provides examples of:
- A God Am I: The delusion of Evil Sorcerer Shool.
- Above Good and Evil: Kwll and Rhynn see one another this way.
- Action Girl/ Faux Action Girl: Rhalina really tries. Which she qualifies as is best left up to the reader.
- Affably Evil: Arioch in one of his guises, as the epitome of Aristocrats Are Evil. He shows Corum around his castle, while explaining that he doesn't really hate Corum—or anyone else for that matter—he just wants to be left in peace, and wiped out the Vadhagh because they weren't his. He even promises to entertain Corum, before killing him, not out of malice mind you, but for his own peace of mind. In his other guise as the bloated parasitic giant we first meet he's far more traditionally evil, but even then he's not malicious, just bored and totally amoral.
- All-Powerful Bystander: Lord Arkyn is prevented by the Cosmic Balance from simply wiping Glandyth and his men from existence and restoring the Vadhagh. Of course, even if the balance weren't present, there would be the small problem of his intervention allowing Xiombarg and Mabelrode to do the same.
- And I Must Scream: The men frozen by the power of Arioch's heart (later freed by Corum, though unfortunately some of them don't have long to enjoy their freedom).
- The Frozen Army, comprising hundreds of men rendered immobile as statues by Xiombarg a century before Corum encounters them. Their ultimate fates are unknown.
- Arguably, the god Kwll, who when found by Corum appears to be paralysed, until his hand is reattached.
- Archenemy: Glandyth-a-Krae is Corum's most frequent and most implacable enemy in the first trilogy.
- An Axe to Grind: Glandyth and many other Mabden.
- Badass: Corum becomes quite the badass by the end of the series. His archenemy Glandyth is a horrific psychopath, but no one can claim that he isn't a badass as well. Kwll and Rynn are so badass that other gods fear them.
- Badass Beard: Glandyth.
- Baleful Polymorph: The Chaos pack, which is composed of former humans mutated into animals courtesy of their allegiance to Chaos.
- Big Bad: In order in the original trilogy: Duke Arioch (the Knight of the Swords), Queen Xiombarg (the Queen of the Swords), and King Mabelrode the Faceless (the King of the Swords). One could argue that as the greatest of the Sword Rulers, and Chaos' main representative, Mabelrode is The Big Bad of the trilogy as a whole, though he does not take a direct hand in things until the final book.
- Bigger Bad: Chaos proper in the original trilogy.
- Bittersweet Ending: Corum finds that a race of distant relatives is still alive, and after the gods of both Law and Chaos are wiped out, his world is left in peace and he is free to settle down with Rhalina. He's still gruesomely maimed and left a Stranger in a Familiar Land, but on the whole he's better off than Elric was...
- The Blank: Mabelrode the Faceless, the King of the Swords. There's a reason he's called that. It's because he has no face!
- Body Surf: Shool switches bodies constantly.
- Carry a Big Stick: The Army of the Horned Bear are all armed with gigantic spiked clubs.
- Crossover: In The King of the Swords, Corum runs into Elric of Melniboné, and Erekose, two other aspects of the Eternal Champion. The experience is rather trippy for all involved, especially Erekose who clearly remembers being the other two. We also briefly spot Dorian Hawkmoon, another of Moorcock's heroes, although he plays no active part in the story.
- The Dragon: Prince Gaynor the Damned to Xiombarg; arguably Glandyth-a-Krae to King Lyr-a-Brode.
- Dragon Ascendant: Glandyth manages to become Mabelrode's chief agent following the death of King Lyr, and the defeat of Xiombarg, The Dog, and The Horned Bear. This makes him The Heavy of the novel, and The Dragon to Mabelrode.
- Evil Hand: The Hand of Kwll, which Shool grafts onto Corum's arm. It has Super Strength, beckons to the dead, and often seems to have a mind of its own.
- Evil Overlord: King Lyr-a-Bode of the Mabden.
- Evil Sorcerer: Prince Shool, who fancies himself a god, grafts the Eye of Rhynn and the Hand of Kwll onto Corum, seeks universal domination, and tries to seduce Rhalina by impersonating Corum.
- Eyepatch of Power
- Fantastic Racism: Glandyth really, really hates the Vadhagh and Nadragh, or as he terms them, Shefanhow (fiends). The Vadhagh themselves treated the Mabden this way, seeing them as little more than animals.
- Final Solution: Glandyth committed genocide against the Vadhagh.
- Hate Plague: the Cloud of Contention, in The King of the Swords.
- Heroic Albino: Elric in the Crossover.
- Hordes from the East: The Mabden.
- Humans by Any Other Name: The Mabden again.
- Human Resources: Duke Teer's castle is built of blood.
- Interspecies Romance: Sort of expected given that Corum's the last of his kind. His falling for the Margravine Rhalina, a Mabden woman, seriously helps him to alter his views of the species.
- Last of His Kind: Corum is the last of the Vadhagh, courtesy of Glandyth's depredations. Though he does meet up with a community of Vadhagh descendants who had left this world in the distant past.
- Magical Eye: The Eye of Rhynn which looks into other planes, and in conjunction with the Hand of Kwll, summons the dead. Grafted into Corum's empty eye socket by Shool.
- Mayfly-December Romance: Corum and Rhalina. He might well live to be a thousand. She'll be lucky to reach one hundred.
- Necromancer: Corum's big advantage thanks to the Eye of Rhynn and the Hand of Kwll. He is able to trap his slain enemies in limbo; when they are summoned, they must fight for him, taking new prizes to replace them in Limbo and allowing themselves to truly die.
- Never the Selves Shall Meet: in The King of Swords, while lost in an unknown plane, Corum almost meets another incarnation of himself. Jhary intervenes and pulls him away, explaining that it'd be bad for the two of them to meet.
- New Wave Science Fiction: More so even than Elric, the Corum stories were a part of this new movement (which also covered fantasy) that Moorcock was spearheading.
- Omnicidal Neutral: Kwll and Rhynn.
- Order Versus Chaos: What the original trilogy is built around. The coming of the Lords of Chaos led to the destruction of the Vadhagh and Nadragh as Arioch, Xiombarg, and Mabelrode wiped the slate clean of creations they felt had grown stagnant. This puts the balance so far out of whack however, that the Chaos Lords are free to do as they please, resulting in constant social change and violence in Arioch's realm to an entire world that constantly shifts form in Mabelrode's. Corum and his allies struggle to restore the Lords of Law in an effort to end this, while the neutral Cosmic Balance ensures that no one on either side gets too far out of line.
- Our Elves Are Better: The Vadhagh are long-lived, magically talented, artistic, and peaceful rather than the creepy amoral Fair Folk the Melniboneans are. The Nhadragh also seem to be elf or High Men types.
- Physical God: Arioch, Xiombarg, and Mabelrode of Chaos; Arkyn and his fellow Lords of Law; The Dog and The Horned Bear (the Mabden gods); Kwll and Rhynn.
- Pride Before a Fall: The Vadhagh and Nhadragh were destroyed because they could not believe that the Mabden, whom they saw as little more than animals— Corum even refers to a group of them as a herd— could ever threaten them. This caused them to ignore the rumours of Mabden attacks on their neighbours, dismissing the stories until it was too late.
- The Punishment: Prince Gaynor the Damned. After betraying Law in some long-forgotten conflict he is doomed to a) never die, and b) serve Chaos for eternity.
- Revenge: Let's see: Corum wants revenge on Glandyth for his maiming and the deaths of his family. Glandyth wants revenge on Corum for escaping him, making him look like a jackass, and subsequently, destroying his kingdom and driving him into hiding. Queen Xiombarg wants revenge on Corum for the death of Duke Arioch. King Mabelrode subsequently needs to avenge himself on Corum for the death of Xiombarg. Needless to say, there's a lot of revenging going on here.
- Shapeshifter: Many of the Lords of Chaos, most notably Arioch, who transforms from a fat, naked, drunken giant into the quintessential Evil Aristocrat in about ten seconds flat.
- Sibling Team: Kwll and Rhynn make the ultimate Bash Brothers.
- Sidekick: Jhary-a-Conel, Companion to Champions. Just as Corum is a part of the Eternal Champion, Jhary is an incarnation of the Eternal Companion. Unlike Corum, he remembers his past lives (or at least he does this time around).
- Significant Anagram: Corum Jhaelen Irsei == Jeremiah Cornelius, another Eternal Champion aspect.
- Sociopathic Soldier: Glandyth-a-Krae and his Dendledhyssi. The name actually translates as murderers.
- Summoning Artifact: The Hand of Kwll and the Eye of Rhynn act as these for Corum.
- The Unfettered: Kwll and Rhynn, two ancient gods who are not constrained by the Cosmic Balance, or anything else, save their oaths to one another.