The Eternal Champion saga

While we don’t normally take minutes or do meeting reports, I thought the last meeting went so well that I’d pen some thoughts about Moorcock’s Eternal Champion books.

I think we all agreed that the books aren’t great literature, though Moorcock is a good writer and the books are very competently written. But what made them so fascinating for me is the way Moorcock weaves the different series together. There are four main series:
Elric: the nine original short stories and about a dozen follow up novels
Corum: two trilogies
Hawkmoon: four books plus a follow trilogy
Erekosë: two novels
and various occasional Eternal Champions e.g. Ulrich von Bek is kind of an incarnation of the Champion.

The various Eternal Champion series almost but don’t quite mesh with each other. I don’t know if this was deliberate, but if so I think it’s a clever ploy as it makes the books more interesting. If they all meshed perfectly I think that would be a bit boring.

The impression I get, and again this is left vague in the books, is that the multiverse goes through cycles in time. So the various incarnations of the Champion aren’t contemporaries from parallel universes, but succeed each other. The overall scheme, and yet again this is left vague, is that the Gods of Law and Chaos struggle for control of the multiverse. When one side dominates there is eventually a battle and the multiverse comes to an end to be reborn under the control of the other side. The Champion is normally involved in the struggle: usually against his/her (Ilian of Garathorm was a female incarnation of the Champion) wishes.

Ruling over everything is the Cosmic Balance. The Champion isn’t an agent of Law or Chaos (though he usually fights on the side of Law) but rather an unwitting agent of the balance. The balance ensures no side completely dominates, because the multiverse needs a blend of Law and Chaos to progress.

Anyhow, give that everyone enjoyed the Elric books you might be interested in reading a bit more in the Eternal Champion saga. I would start with the first three Corum books as I think they’re well written and entertaining (though still not great literature!). Then if you like those, read the seven (!) Hawkmoon books. The number of books sounds intimidating, but they are all only 160-170 pages long. If you added all the Champion books together they’d still be shorter than the typical modern epic series – did someone mention The Game of Thrones? 🙂

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