Thursday, 3 August 2000

Michael Moorcock: The Sword and the Stallion (1974)

Edition: Berkley, 1978
Review number: 563

The second trilogy of Corum novels ends on a distinctly bitter note. The Sword and the Stallion is sombre throughout, and almost amounts to a campaign against the idea of the hero, particularly against the concept of the Eternal Champion so important in Moorcock's work. This trilogy is particularly influenced by Irish mythology, which seems to have a more ambivalent attitude to heroism than that of many cultures.

Continuing his seemingly hopeless struggle against the Fhoi Mhore, Corum needs to seek new supernatural allies before the humans he is aiding are destroyed. Captured in an illusion by those whose aid he sought, he is rescued by the arrival of an enemy, the evil wizard Calatin. Then he discovers that in the months that have passed in the outside world, Calatin has created a double of Corum, who has fought against his friends, convincing them that Corum has become a traitor.

The trilogy, because of its downbeat tone, is one of Moorcock's most impressive works, unusual in his output. It is a depressing read, however, with its message that heroes are no longer necessary or even desirable. From here on, Moorcock's novels become much more ambiguous and literary in character; he has shaken off some of the ideas from popular literature which inspired his earlier writing.

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