June 25, 2016

Some Reflections on Elric of Melniboné

Elric is interesting to the extent that he is an avatar of a decadent, overdeveloped civilization. He is morally ambiguous. If he was a Dungeons and Dragons character, his alignment would be Chaotic Neutral, of course. We see in Elric an interpretation of civilization espoused by his creator, Michael Moorcock. For Moorcock, civilization has an adverse effect on the moral quality of humans (as well as non-human intelligent beings, such as the Melnibonéans). In Moorcock's world, indoctrination by civilization alienates us from our innate moral being. Like Elric, people innately understand certain things to be bad, certain decisions to be driven by selfishness, pride, status-seeking, or convention, and yet, we have become alienated from our conscience in the state of civilization. There is also an interesting temporal dimension to Moorcock's vision of the morally corrupting nature of civilization: civilizations become more corrupt the longer they persist. A reason, perhaps, why the Melinibonéans have fallen into devil worship is that they have survived as a civilization for so very long.