In Neil Gaiman's lovely short story
and then comic ONE LIFE FURNISHED IN EARLY MOORCOCK, he writes about how he felt betrayed by C. S. Lewis's Narnia series, once he figured out that it was all a Roman Catholic allegory.
...until, last year, rereading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader for perhaps the hundredth time, it had occurred to him that the transformation of the unpleasant Eustace Scrub into a dragon, and his subsequent conversion to belief in Aslan the lion, was terribly similar to the conversion of St. Paul, on the road to Damascus; if his blindness were a dragon…
Richard put away the Narnia books, convinced, sadly, that they were allegory; that an author (whom he had trusted) had been attempting to slip something past him.
But not Michael Moorcock's Elric series.
At least the Elric stories were honest. There was nothing going on beneath the surface there: Elric was the etiolated prince of a dead race, burning with self-pity, clutching Stormbringer, his dark-bladed broadsword — a blade which sang for lives, which ate human souls and which gave their strength to the doomed and weakened albino.
Which might possibly be why I took it into my head to reread a bit of Moorcock lately. They are fine, short and yummy.
And, oddly, not very dark at all, when you compare them to almost anything Mr. Gaiman has written. Honestly, THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is quite a bit more disturbing. Funny about that. In THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, one boy is at risk of being killed. In the Elric books, the hero lays waste to lives and souls, serving the evil lord of Chaos, Arioch. A couple of times, the existence of all Earth is up for grabs. But it's all a fun read. Nothing truly disturbing at all.
I guess part of it is that in Elric, you know who's evil and who's not. On television, it's not the level of carnage that makes something acceptable for network or restricted to pay cable. CRIMINAL MINDS has horrific torture porn, and it's on broadcast TV at 10 pm. What puts a show on cable is when you're not sure who's good and who's bad. It's the shades of gray. DEXTER is a serial killer, but we like him. That's disturbing. Take NEVERWHERE. Is the Marquis de Carabas a good man? Mmm, no, not really. Is Hunter?
Maybe that's why I read right through THE ELRIC SAGA BOOK ONE with great pleasure, and have no need whatsoever to pick up the next compilation. It doesn't leave me with anything. While Neil's stuff pops into my head at odd hours.
Not because Neil's trying to slip something by. It's all there, the gods, the fae, London Under. It's not an allegory. But it is a fairy story, in the Tolkien sense. It's a new myth. Or as Puck says in Sandman #19, "It never happened, but it's true!"
That's what I'm trying to do in THE CIRCLE CAST: something you can read for fun, but which pops back up at you at odd hours. Something which never happened, but is true anyway.
And Morgan isn't exactly a good person. But I love her for who she is.
What rings your bell?
Labels: reading books