Friday, May 18, 2012

Platypi Against Wizardry: The Platypus Reads Part CXLIX

No, the Platypus isn't getting Levitical.  What I do want to talk about, however, is Fritz Leiber's fourth Fafhrd and Grey Mouser volume, Swords Against Wizardry.

Having returned from our world, Fafhrd and Mouser seek adventure far from the decadence of native Lankhmar.  In the first story, this means a journey to Fafhrd's northern home and the attempt to scale an unscalable peak in search of jewels.  Along the way they encounter girls (that pernicious habit) and fend off rival adventurers.  Returning to the base of the mountain loaded with jewels, our heroes turn to that city of misadventure, Lankhmar to sell their booty.  This leads into the second story which features our "heroes" trying to sell their loot without losing it to rival thieves.  Along the way they encounter more girls (noting a theme yet?) and end by losing their loot to more cunning and depraved adversaries.  The loss of the loot sends them into the third tale, co-written with Leiber's friend, and the underground world of Quarmall.  Quarmall is a, mostly, underground realm ruled over by rival wizards.  Each adventurer, unbeknown to the other, signs up to be the sworder of one of the two brothers that are fighting for dominance of the dark domain.  After various adventures (and yet more girls!) they escape by the skin of their necks with only a handful of treasure each.

At this point in their career, Fafhrd and Mouser are more like the petty villains of Tennyson's Gareth and Lynette or Geraint and Enid than anything else.  They are anti-heroes, men who want to be "the good guys" but have lost their way and gone awry.  They're the sort of fellows that Gareth or Geraint would give a sound thwacking, send off to be civilized by Guinevere and Arthur, and end their lives in battle fighting for the king.  Two world wars killed off the knights of the round table, light and true alike, and there's no one left to redeem Fafhrd and Mouser.  If Leiber intends for them to become traditional heroes, they'll do it on their own.  If not, then there's not much interest in following them after this.  After the jewels cease to glisten and the girls have lost their charms, there has to be something more.    

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