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  • Elric/Turambar

    A pale-skinned warrior, exiled and doomed leaving a trail of misery behind him. He wields a black sword, one of a pair, with a mind of its own and has a habit of accidentally slaying the wrong person. This warrior also has an incestuous relationship with a close relative. Who am I talking about?

    This description fits both Elric of Melnibone and Turin Turambar from the Silmarillion. It's amazing how close they are, down to details like the twin black swords. I think the Silmarillion was actually published after the first Elric stories. Did Tolkien 'borrow' from Moorcock or had Tolkien written the story of Turambar decades before? In which case, is there a common ancestor of these characters in older fantasy literature?

    Just wondering.

  • #2

    The conspiracy deepens...

    Dun dun Duhhhhhhhhh!!!! :lol:


    • #3
      I believe the most appropriate answer (given the characters involved), would be to say that they were written at exactly the same time! As a result, their fates are forever intertwined. The two characters are destined to coexist in the same genre of literature - neither one ever discovering the existance of the other. A tragic, tragic tale indeed.

      *shrugs* Dunno if that's the correct answer, but it certainly makes for an interesting one. :)

      ~JS... rambling hermit


      • #4
        Adding a Broken Sword to the mix.

        I can't resist chirping up on this one while Mike's away.:roll:

        The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson also contains similar elements, and Mike has mentioned it being an influence on his early Elric stories.

        Poul Anderson and Tolkien were both big readers of the old Norse stuff so I believe those authors worked those elements into their tales from original sources/influences. Anderson and Tolkien were both unaware of each others use of the material. A case of parallel literary evolution, so to speak, to borrow Jason's concept? Seem to recall Poul mentioning something about this in his intro to Broken Sword, and perhaps Mike may have mentioned something too in Wizadry and Wild Romance. Tolkien was working on his Turambar stuff way before the Hobbit or LotR.

        Anybody happen to know what the original saga/Norse legend was?


        • #5
          Tolkienآ´s tale of Turin Turambar was based on the tale of Kullervo in the Finnish epic Kalevala.


          • #6
            Well, well, it's time for me to relate comics to something again.

            Anyway, two examples of this sort of thing are the X-Men and DC's Doom Patrol, two very similar teams, that came out so close to each other that it's just about impossible to claim that somebody ripped off someone else.

            The same thing applies to Marvel's Man-Thing and DC's Swamp Thing.

            Sometimes though, people look too hard for ripoffs. Not everything similar is.


            • #7
              Many Tolkien fans have made the parallel ideas about Elric and Turin.
              The singer of Blind Guardian made a similar statement. One which is not entirely ludicrous, but very inaccurate. It has even less bearing than the parallel of Wagner's Ring opera and Tolkien's work. Both which share similar backdrops, objects and characters.

              This is due to the belief that tolkien was really paramount in originality, in taking old tales and turning them to something new and unprecedented.
              And i say "belief" as the popularity of his work has overshadowed many other works of fiction within the same vein, done by ealier writers. And has (to tolkien's own dismay i might add) been turned into almost a scanty religion.

              I've read The Silmarillion (although not a hard read as some claim)
              i found it intensely boring. I think it was unfinished and unoriginal.

              I find the original older hero stories like Gilgamesh, Kullervo, The Eddas, Parzival et al. To be of better 'value' to read. Since they are apart of the world mythology. And have been interpreted at different levels by different authours over the years since their translation.


              • #8
                What the...?

                Wait a minute...!

                WAIT! A! MINUTE....!

                Elric is pale skinned and carries a sword and Ulrich von Bek is pale skinned and carries a sword!


                Hey ! Someone oughta tell Mike some fellas rippin' him off!

                (the multiverse slaps its collective forehead in disbelief)
                "What do you think you're doing? This is a closed set!"


                • #9
                  Thanks for the input on the mythic source Olio. I've briefly checked out the Kalevalla on and I'm thinking it was a significant influence on Anderson's Broken Sword too.

                  Here's an extract from a translation of Kalevalla:

                  Thereupon the youth, Kullervo,
                  Rowed with all his youthful vigor,
                  With the mighty force of magic,
                  Rowed the bindings from the vessel,
                  Ribs of juniper he shattered,
                  Rowed the aspen-oars to pieces.
                  The metre of the translation is similar (ok I admit not an exact match in the extract I have chosen below) to the one used by Poul in Broken Sword for the wonderful snatches of verse he mixes into his tale:

                  Warlock blade is thirsty,
                  Howling in it's hunger,
                  Hews it through the iron,
                  Sings in cloven skullbones,
                  Slakes itself in bloodstreams.
                  To me it looks like Kalevalla influenced Poul's Broken Sword, which inspired some element's in Elric. Mike's often mentioned his admiration for The Broken Sword both here on the board and in an essay in Sojan from back in '63, where he states Tyrfing and Durandal as possible precursors of Stormbringer. There's a good chance Mike had already read the Kalevalla directly too.

                  Tolkien it seems drew the elements directly from Kalevalla for his tale of Turin. I recall it was one of his earliest and most worked on tales, which he rewrote in prose and poetry. Silmarillion for me didn't hold together as a whole, but the Turin story is one of the best, and can be read independently. What was the name of Turin's cursed sword? Anglachel?

                  There's no way Tolkien's Turin Tale influenced Elric as Silmarillion wasn't published until around 1977.


                  • #10
                    The Kalevala was also an influence on Longfellow.


                    • #11
                      And I've been wrongly spelling Kalevala. :roll:


                      • #12
                        This is a great site if your looking for similiarities
                        and inspirations:

                        When it comes time to die
                        Sing your death song
                        and die like a warrior.



                        • #13
                          In the Kalevala, the central theme is the struggle for possession of a magical/shamanic artefact called Sampo. Sampo was created by the magical smith Ilmarinen, one of the good guys. But the bad guys of Pohjola (Northland) get the Sampo into their possession. The good guys try to steal it back, but Sampo falls overboard during a sea-battle and is lost forever. Possibly this inspired Tolkienآ´s story of the War of the Jewels, which is the backgound plot in the Silmarillion? The Silmarils were created by a elvish smith, were taken to a evil fortress in the Far North, and were finally lost.

                          I agree with Gray Mouser of the literary value of the Silmarillion.

                          A piece of trivia information for the fantasy movie fans: The Sampo
                          story has been filmed during 1950آ´s as a joint Finnish-Soviet project (The Kalevala being considered as a part of the national heritage both in Finland and the Soviet/Russian republic of Karelia). The movie is awful, but it does contain a lot of amusing special effects. The USSR had a busy film industry, whose "fruits" are sadly poorly known in the western countries. I heard they even had a "Eastern" genre of adventure movies as a counterpoint of Westerns!


                          • #14
                            when re-reading the Narn i hin Hurin ( a different version to the Silmarillion one), you can even better notice that strong resemblance. it is one of my favourites, it is the version in "history of numenor and middle earth".

                            the hero as tragic figure seems to exist as long as the "brave hero" type. to look at The Illiad and Odyssey of course, or Sophocles.

                            i would assume that the resemblance is not highly significant, like with the typical hero type you can find in hundreds of fantasy stories. it is not unlikely that a sword has the same colour. green blades wouldnآ´t make a fierce warrior, would they :D


                            • #15
                              Ask Gawain,he who accepted the challenge of the green knight,Bertilak of castle Hutton.Gawain who rushed foward,only to regret his decision.