I discovered Moorcock in the late 70s with An Alien Heat, the first novel in a trilogy featuring Jherek Carnelian and the Dancers at the End of Time. I discovered Elric shortly thereafter. But the other incarnations of his famous Eternal Champion — including Jerry Cornelius, Dorian Hawkmoon, and Corum — managed to escape me. Lately, however, I’ve been growing increasingly intrigued by The Chronicles of Corum, partly triggered by Fletcher Vredenburgh’s comments in his review of the entire series, “The Shout of a Young Man Who Finds the World a Complicated Place: The Eternal Champion by Michael Moorcock.”
Most preferred the morose albino, Elric, of doomed Melniboné. Dressed in black armor, wielding the evil soul-drinking sword Stormbringer, and riding a dragon — I totally get it. A few liked Dorian Hawkmoon von Koln and his adventures across post-apocalyptic Europe and America better. Personally, I did and still do enjoy the two trilogies about Corum Jhaelen Irsei, last of the Vadhagh. Steeped in Irish myth and a gloomy Celtic miasma, I think they’re the most intense and beautiful books in the series.
The two trilogies Fletcher’s talking about are The Swords Trilogy, which gathered the first three Corum novels, and The Chronicles of Corum, which collects the last three. I frequently find these books referred to as perhaps Moorock’s most enduring works. Here’s Tor.com writer Tim Callahan, quoted from as part of our Appendix N series, in “Andre Norton, Michael Moorcock and Appendix N: Advanced Readings in D&D“:
I read The Swords Trilogy and The Chronicles of Corum early, and they made an impact. They exploded inside my mind in a way I have never forgotten… I didn’t really feel like I tuned into Elric until halfway through the first reprint volume, when we get the four novellas of Stormbringer…
The Swords Trilogy was published in August 1977, and gathers three books:
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)
It’s probably too ambitious an undertaking for me to tackle all six novels in the series any time soon (but the next time I’m stranded on a desert island, for sure.) However, these novels were published individually, and picked up and enjoyed out of order by countless fantasy fans, so the temptation is strong to dip into The Chronicles of Corum, right in the middle of the saga, and see where it takes me.
The volume above right is the first UK omnibus edition, published by Grafton in 1987. Here’s the brief blurb on the back:
Corum of the Silver Hand had slain the gods that Man might rule, and he had earned his rest. However, now the task falls upon him to defeat the mighty Fhoi Myore, the gods who yearn for death but can not be slain.
In the US, the first omnibus edition of The Chronicles of Corum was released by Berkley in August 1978, with a cover by Wayne Barlowe and a $1.95 cover price (right; click for bigger version.) Both are handsome editions, but given a choice I prefer the Grafton paperback.
The Chronicles of Corum was published by Grafton in October, 1987. It is 454 pages, priced at £3.50 in paperback. The cover is by Mark Salwowski.