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Literature / Corum

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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:

First trilogy:
  • The Knight of the Swords (1971)
  • The Queen of the Swords (1971)
  • The King of the Swords (1971)

Second trilogy:
  • 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:

  • 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.
  • Alien Blood: The Ghanh bleeds green when injured
  • 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.
    • Prince Gaynor is implied not to be dead but suffering forever in some Chaos dimension.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Implied to be the case with the Vadhagh and the Nadragh as Corum is shocked that Mabden kill other Mabden.
  • Archenemy: Glandyth-a-Krae is Corum's most frequent and most implacable enemy in the first trilogy.
  • Arcology: Castle Erorn is a functional city in one building capable.of housing 500 hundred people.
  • Automaton Horses: Corum's horse can run continuously for three days before needing a rest.
  • An Axe to Grind: Glandyth and many other Mabden.
  • Backup from Otherworld;
    • Rhalina summons her dead husband to chase off Glandyth's forces.
    • Corum can use his eye to summon people he's killed to fight for him. They'll kill someone else to take their place so they can move on.
  • Badass Beard: Glandyth.
  • Baleful Polymorph: The Chaos pack, which is composed of former humans mutated into animals courtesy of their allegiance to Chaos.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: Corum muses that the other Vadhagh would see his relationship with Rhalina as they would a Mabden having feelings for a horse.
  • Big Bad:
    • In order in the original trilogy: Duke Arioch (the Knight of the Swords), Queen Xiombarg (the Queen of the Swords), and King Mabelode the Faceless (the King of the Swords). One could argue that as the greatest of the Sword Rulers, and Chaos's main representative, Mabelode is the Big Bad of the trilogy as a whole, though he does not take a direct hand in things until the final book.
    • The Fhoi Myore collectively serve as the main antagonists of the second trilogy, though none of them is especially fleshed out individually; Kerennos is their leader, but even he doesn't get much more focus than the rest of them.
  • Big Good;
    • The god Arkyn backs Corum's mission in the second book.
    • The Cosmic Balance steps in to kill Xiombarg when she intrudes on a Law plane.
  • 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!
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The Fhoi Myore aren't evil per se, they're trapped in a world that's poisonous to them and trying to change into one more suitable to them. They are "defeated" by returning them to their own world.
  • Body Backup Drive: Shool can't be killed because he keeps moving into new bodies. He keeps a few to wear as he sees fit.
  • Body Surf: Shool switches bodies as often as we change clothes.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Corum realizes Arioch bore no malice in wiping out the Vadhagh and thinks of him as a painter wiping a canvas cleans before starting a new picture.
  • But What About the Astronauts?: Corum eventually meets Vadhagh whose ancestors left Corum's dimension millennia ago.
  • Carry a Big Stick: The Army of the Horned Bear are all armed with gigantic spiked clubs.
  • Cast from Lifespan: It costs the Nhadragh, Ertil a year of his life every time Glandyth makes him summon Yrkoon.
  • Cats Are Magic: Jhary, Corum's Companion, has a companion of his own, a winged cat with whom he has a telepathic link.
  • Cavalry of the Dead: The Margrave's crew chase of Glandyth's invading forces though Corum accuses them of not being able to do anything other than look scary.
  • Cessation of Existence: The dead that Corum summons are implied to stop existing if they can find someone to take their place in the Caverns of Limbo.
  • Character Overlap: The Knight of The Swords is also Arioch. One of the Dukes of Hell from The Elric Saga.
  • Child Eater: The god that used to rule Shool's island liked to eat children so Shool overfed him children and captured him while he was asleep.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: First Comics published The Chronicles of Corum which adapted the Swords Trilogy and The Bull and The Spear.
  • Crossover: In The King of the Swords, Corum runs into Elric of Melnibone, 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.
  • Deal with the Devil: To repel Glandyth's invasion, Rhalina summons her dead husband and promises to go off with him and his undead crew.
  • Death of the Old Gods: Rhynn and Kwll were two god's who oredate Shool and the Sword Rulers but disappeared for unknown reasons.
  • Deity of Human Origin: Not human but Shool originated from some long extinct mortal race.
  • Demon of Human Origin: Yrkoon used to be human. He says Glandyth will turn into a demon if he makes to many Deals With The Devil.
  • Dimension Lord: Each Sword Ruler has a five-plane Layered World.
  • The Disembodied: Shool can change bodies at will and claims to be pure mind.
  • 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.
  • Endless Daytime: The sun doesn't move in Xiombarg's realm. It's mentioned she's used chaos to stop time from working.
  • 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.
  • Eldritch Location: When testing the Eye of Rhynn, Corrum sees onto a plane with dark, shifting images, land turning into liquid and size-changing beasts.
  • Extra Digits: Kwll had six fingers on each hand or at least the one Corrum got.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Corum's jeweled eyepatch is a Restraining Bolt to stop him constantly seeing things from other dimensions.
  • Eye Scream: The Mabden gouge out Corum's right eye.
  • 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.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Pony Tribes are vaguely Brythonic Celtic, with their Welsh sounding names, blond hair and use of chariots.
  • Fetch Quest: To get Rhalina back, Corum has to get The Knight of The Swords' heart.
  • Fictional Color: When summoned, The Dog appeared "wreathed in radiance of unpleasant and unnameable colours".
  • Final Solution: Glandyth committed genocide against the Vadhagh.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: Some Mabden believe in netherworld that burn in eternal flame like Flameland
  • Flat World: Corum and Hanafax discuss legends that the world used to be found as opposed to dish-shaoed like it is now.
  • Flying Seafood Special: The Ghanh is basically a winged shark.
  • Forced Sleep;
    • Shool forces Corum to sleep with magic before surgically implanting the new hand and eye.
    • Arioch forces Corum to sleep at the table when they're done eating.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Arioch turns from a gigantic fat man into a more handsome human-sized form when he notices Corum.
  • Fusion Dance: The Quest for Tanelorn has Corum, Elric, Hawkmoon and Erekosë fuse into a giant eight-armed eight-legged monstrosity to beat Agak and Gagak.
  • Ghost Pirate: Not pirates but the Margrave and his undead crew serve Shool on their ship. He implies everybody who drowns in Shool's waters ends up the same way.
  • Giant Woman: Xiombarg grows one hundred feet tall and stays that way shortly after appearing.
  • A God Am I: Shool considers himself to be one and is furious that the Sword Rulers don't agree.
  • A God I Am Not: Corum says he isn't a god when Shool says they're similar though Shool does call him a demigod after his upgrades.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Chaos proper in the original trilogy.
  • Groin Attack: A cow-like member of the Chaos Pack kicks Jhary in the balls.
  • Hard Light: A spiral ramp leading to Alrioch's heart is made from solid light.
  • Hate Plague: the Cloud of Contention, in The King of the Swords.
  • Home Field Advantage: Shool has a minor god imprisoned on his island. The Sword Rulers can't kill him there without blowing up the island and killing the god. Hence Shool is effectively invincible there but would be smote pretty quickly if he left.
  • Hordes from the East: The Mabden.
  • Hot Goddess: Xiombarg is said to be the most beautiful woman Corum has ever seen.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Giant of Laahr, his body refuses light and no detail of it can be observed.
  • Humans Advance Swiftly: The Mabden have been exploring and colonising in the millennia when the Vadhagh and the Nadragh were growing stagnant.
  • Humans Are Insects;
    • The Vadhagh and the Nadragh make the mistake of dismissing the Mabden as a type of animal.
    • Arioch seems to have this attitude to all mortal races. His wiping out of the Vadhagh is compared to a painter wiping his canvas clean.
  • Humans by Any Other Name: The Mabden again.
  • Human Resources: Duke Teer's castle is built of blood.
  • I am a Humanitarian: The Dog and The Bear have to be summoned with a cage full of burning humans they will then eat.
  • I Love the Dead: Corum finds a terrified Rhalina in bed with her undead husband wrapped around her as part of their bargain. It's implied Shool stopped it before anything really happened.
  • Immortality Inducer: Shool mentions that he can make people immortal if he chooses to.
  • Inevitable Waterfall: Corum has to abandon his boat before it goes down one in Xiombarg's realm.
  • 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.
    • Shool is the last of an even older unnamed precursor race.
  • Layered World: Corum's version of Earth exists in five dimensions at once.
  • MacGuffin Delivery Service: Turns out the Sword Rulers hearts are inaccessible to them to keep them anchored to one plane and Corum was doing Alrioch a favour by stealing his heart.
  • 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.
  • Magic Music: The Summoning that Rhalina does to get the Margrave to come in his ship involves singing an unearthly language while in a transe.
  • Man-Eating Plant: The plants on Shool's island live off meat, he feeds them by causing shipwrecks.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Corum and Rhalina. He might well live to be a thousand. She'll be lucky to reach one hundred.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: The Ghanh is a shark like creature with several rows of fangs.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: The god, Kwll had four hands. One of which was cut off by his brother, Rhynn and now belongs to Corrum.
  • Multiversal Conqueror: Shool flirts with the idea of being omnipotent as ruling the whole multiverse.
  • The Multiverse: The fifteen planes are basically three Layered Worlds with five layers each. Each world ruled by a Sword Ruler. There are also countless other planes inhabited by Moorcock's other characters.
  • 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 the 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.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Shool loses his powers when Alrioch is defeated, not realising that Alrioch gave him his powers because he wanted a chellange.
  • 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 Different: 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.
  • The Omnipotent: Shool says no gods are truly omnipotent. Some can do anything with certain things like The Dog and The Bear having complete control over the Mabden but nothing else.
  • One-Winged Angel: Arioch turns back into his huge fat man form for his fight with Corum.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger;
    • The first page of the introduction establishing The Time of Myths setting mentions there were giants that could Walk on Water.
    • The Giant of Laahr is a twelve foot tall Humanoid Abomination whose body rejects light with no details other than his face being observed. He's thought to be ancient, predating Mabden and Vaghagh.
    • One far larger one causes waves at sea that knock Corum of course from retreating the heart.
  • People Zoo: The only previous contact Corum's family had with a Mabden before was a woman they kept in a menagerie for 50 years.
  • 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.
  • Pointy Ears: Being related to the Eldren and the Melnibonéans, Vadhagh have them
  • 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.
  • Purgatory and Limbo: Whoever Corum kills ends up in the Cavern of Limbo until they can be summoned to kill someone else to take their place.
  • Reactionless Drive: The Margrave's ship moves on its own through some magical method with no wind or other visible method of propulsion.
  • Shapeshifter Swan Song;
    • Xiombarg briefly shifts through a few forms before becoming a Giant Woman.
    • As Prince Gaynor dies, he shifts through various forms he took over the million plus years he was alive. Including mimicking Corum.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Xiombarg is described as the most beautiful woman Corum has ever seen and as tall and elegant. She goes full on Giant Woman shortly after she appears.
  • Summon Magic: King Lyr-a-bode summons The Dog and The Bear by burning a cage load of prisoners.
  • Thinking Up Portals: With difficulty, Arkyn creates one to send Corum and the gang to Xiombarg's plane.
  • Villains Want Mercy: Prince Gaynor begs Corum to spare him. Though Corum wants to, he knows Gaynor has to obey Xiombarg and will never surrender.
  • Was Once a Man: Xiombarg's Chaos Pack look like Beast Men but were originally her human followers warped by Chaos.

Alternative Title(s): The Chronicles Of Corum


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