Elric is the doomed final emperor of the stagnant nation Melnibone. In the first novel, Elric is described like this: It is the colour of a bleached skull, his flesh; and the long hair which flows below his shoulders is milk-white. From the tapering, beautiful head stare two slanting eyes, crimson and moody, and from the loose sleeves of his yellow gown emerge two slender hands, also the colour of bone.
An albino, Elric is a sickly youth, kept strong by drugs and magic. Unlike the rest of his people, Elric is plagued by a conscience and this leads to a sense of restlessness that not only spells the end of his kingdom but of everyone that he will ever love. His cousins Cymoril and Yyrkoon are important characters in the early part of the cycle and it’s safe to say that Yyrkoon was the greatest villain that Elric would ever face, in terms of overall vileness. Eventually, Elric becomes the master of Stormbringer, a cursed sword that steals souls.
The original series of books are the best though Moorcock has returned to the character repeatedly over the years, often with mixed results. There are have numerous comic book adaptations, as well, with my favorites being those by P. Craig Russell, who perfectly captures Elric’s frailty and the decadence of his world.
The emo feel of this series, the dark nature of its characters — all of those things have served as the inspirations for so much that has happened in fantasy over the past forty years. A lot of people probably aren’t even aware that they’re riffing on Elric — but they are. I’ve been amazed that we haven’t seen a film version of this yet… the books are so descriptive that it would be easy to match the feel, I believe. Of course, go a little too far in one direction or the other and you’d end up with Twilight… and nobody wants that.
Elric, my doomed friend, I’ll always love you!