Welcome to my new series of post I am doing here on Mighty Thor JRS, Definitive Sword and Sorcery. At least what is definitive in my opinion. I will spotlight some of the best authors and books fantasy has ever known. I can’t wait to share these amazing books, authors, and the amazing cover art and artist. For my third post I am going to go with Fritz Leiber and his Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories. You do know Mr. Leiber is credited with coining the term “Sword and Sorcery” right? Of course you did! He was a true master.
As I become more and more disenchanted with modern fantasy and modern fantasy authors, I find myself going back to the books and authors that got me into fantasy in the first place. So I decided to shed some light on these books and authors. I am going to try and do this on a weekly/monthly basis but we will see how it goes.
If you have some comments, suggestions, recommendations, let me know!
Are you are a modern author that writes books/stories like the ones I will spotlight here? Get in touch. I want to work with you and spread the word. There has to be something new out that I can read and love. Short stories, collections, magazines, whatever! Let me know what you got and are working on.
James – Mighty Thor JRS
Check out my other Definitive Sword and Sorcery post:
Swords and Deviltry
First in the influential fan-favorite series, Swords and Deviltry collects four fantastical adventure stories from Fritz Leiber, the author who coined the phrase “sword and sorcery” and helped birth an entire genre.
In “Induction,” in the realm of Nehwon, fate brings young prince Fafhrd and apprentice magician the Gray Mouser together to mark the beginning of a loyal and lifelong friendship. Consumed by his wicked mother’s enchantments, Fafhrd finds freedom by pursuing the love of a beautiful actress in the Nebula and Hugo Award–nominated “The Snow Women.” Studying sorcery under a great wizard in a land where it is forbidden, Mouse crosses the thin line between white and black magic to avenge a great wrong in “The Unholy Grail.” And in the Nebula and Hugo Award–winning novella “Ill Met in Lankhmar,” Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser disguise themselves as beggars to infiltrate the Thieves’ Guild—only to pay a horrible price for their greed when they come face-to-face with a monstrous evil.
Swords Against Death
While The Lord of the Rings took the world by storm, Fritz Leiber’s fantastic but thoroughly flawed antiheroes, Fafhrd and Gray Mouser, adventured and stumbled deep within the caves of Inner Earth as well. They wondered and wandered to the edges of the Outer Sea, across the Land of Nehwon, and throughout every nook and cranny of gothic Lankhmar, Nehwon’s grandest and most mystically corrupt city. Lankhmar, is Leiber’s fully realized, vivid incarnation of urban decay and civilization’s corroding effect on the human psyche. Fafhrd and Mouse are not innocents; their world is no land of honor and righteousness. It is a world of human complexities and violent action, of discovery and mystery, of swords and sorcery.
Swords Against Death, the second volume in the Lankhmar series, finds Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser beginning their real journey. Their hearts altered by the loss of first true love, they embark on a long and winding path of drunken debauchery and womanizing until crossing paths with two cross wizards, Sheelba of the Eyeless Face and Ningauble of the Seven Eyes. A most violent of clashes ensues. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser descend into Thieves House to discover the exacting skill of the united backstabbing Thieves of Lankhmar and their rival guild, the Slayer’s Brotherhood, the city’s unionized killers. They would wander along the Bleak Shore to a howling tower to show how fear is not the product of murder but the cause. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser must resume their plundering and drunken debauchery until once again darkness had taken the balance for its favor and then a change would come.
These are just a few of the encounters our swindling swordsmen will willingly endure in ridding their hearts of their first true loves. But did they know it would make them indentured swordsman servants to their former foes, the formidable Sheelba and Ningauble?
Swords in the Mist
Swords in the Mist, book three in the Lankhmar series, thrusts our indentured, sword-swinging servants into the question of hate, its power, and its purpose. Times are lean in Lankhmar, illuminating the link between money and love. Luckily, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser don’t always believe in love. When Lankhmar gets too gritty, our travelers take to their other, less harsh mistress, the sea. But the sea can play tricks on men, and so can the sea king. He can break a man, or worse yet, curse him. But when he is away, it’s all play for the formidable swordsmen and the Triple Goddess . . . and two luscious sea queens. But luck may not always be there, as they discover on the way to see Ningauble, their wizard employer. After a long journey in defense of their control over their own fates, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser find themselves pawns in a life-and-death chess game, all of Lankhmar being the pieces. How many pawns will be left on the board before someone wins?
Swords Against Wizardry
Fafhrd and Mouse are not innocents; their world is no land of honor and righteousness. It is a world of human complexities and violent action, of discovery and mystery, of swords and sorcery. With Swords Against Wizardry, ,the story unfolds behind the curtain in the Witch’s Tent. Fafhrd and Gray Mouser are there to consult a sorceress who holds the secret to their escape, but when would they ever need to escape? Would they need this knowledge when they journey to Stardock? Where is there to escape up there? No doubt the icy seduction of “the cruel one,” with her greed for both gore and graciousness, could offer them several ways out. Their luck has been good so far; one way out should work. Their luck continues as thieves. They are the best thieves in Lankhmar until better positions arise: the Lords of Quarmall. Gray Mouser and Fafhrd steal a kingdom within a hill and declare themselves lords.
The Swords of Lankhmar
A plague of rats overrun Lankhmar, the capitol city and glittering gem of the land of Nehwon. Commissioned to guard a ship of grain from the cursed rodents, brother-in-arms Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser soon discover the plague has progressed to a fatal point. Mustering the strength of sorcery, they descend into the depths of Lankhmar and rise to battle in order to save the soul of the ill-fated city.
Swords and Ice Magic
Cover art – Michael Whelan
In Swords and Ice Magic, Fafhrd and Gray Mouser discover how the sadness of the Executioner creates a macabre dance from the point of view of the choreographer. Beauties and beasts explain the dual nature of all life’s creatures. Trapped in the Shadowland, our dogmatic duo finds the dualities of swords and needles, maps and territories, girls and demons, mortals and gods, learning of the mischievous vanity of the gods. Lost at sea, Gray Mouser becomes a natural philosopher, drifting, captive of the Great Equatorial Current. He wonders about fire and ice, about women and men, until they arrive at Rime Isle, a tragic comedy of a place, wandering gods and restless mortals, a comedy with puppets and puppet masters.
The Knight and Knave of Swords
In The Knight and Knave of Swords, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser’s journeys have taken them from one side of Nehwon to the other, facing life-risking peril at every turn. Now, in a set of stories that feature the adventurers on their own and together, they will face some of their most challenging obstacles. Against assassins, angry gods, and even Death himself, the duo must battle for their very lives.
The late Fritz Leiber’s tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser launched the sword-and-sorcery genre, and were the inspiration for the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons.
Artwork from the new Centipede Press edition of Swords and Deviltry.
Art by Tom Kidd
Fritz Reuter Leiber, Jr. (December 24, 1910 – September 5, 1992) was an American writer of fantasy, horror, and science fiction. He was also a poet, actor in theater and films, playwright and chess expert.[b] With writers such as Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock, Leiber can be regarded as one of the fathers of sword and sorcery fantasy, having coined the term.