How Michael Moorcock Became The Anti-Tolkien

Illustration for article titled How Michael Moorcock Became The Anti-Tolkien

Michael Moorcock once referred to the huge catalog of names, places, rings and rulers in J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy texts as "a pernicious confirmation of the values of a morally bankrupt middle class." He accused Tolkien's work of infantilization. And he created his most famous character, Elric, as a critique of Tolkien.


Top image: Stormbringer, art by Michael Whelan

Over in the New Yorker, Peter Bebergal writes a great profile of Moorcock, in which Moorcock's antipathy to Tolkien is explored, including how he compared Lord of the Rings to Winnie the Pooh. And how it shaped Moorcock's own writing:

Because Moorcock is a fiction writer, it was only fitting that he would offer a critique of Tolkien through his own work. In the nineteen-seventies, swimming in the shadows like a remora alongside Tolkien's legacy, was a hero of sorts with a slightly darker nature than that of Bilbo or Gandalf. His name is Elric, a frail, drug-addicted albino and the reluctant ruler of the kingdom of Melniboné, where revenge and hedonism are abiding characteristics, and human beings are enslaved. The inhabitants of Melniboné are not the spiritual, almost angelic elves of Lothlórien, but a race of decadent autocrats whose magical gifts are bestowed by demons. While Elric loves his people, he despises their selfishness, and the stories and novels follow Elric across strange lands and times as he tries to come to terms with his own internal struggle with his companion, Stormbringer, a sentient sword that feeds off the souls of those Elric kills.


The whole thing is well worth reading. And check out our review of Bebergal's book about the occult in Rock'n'Roll. [The New Yorker]

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John Cooley

Sorry, but Lord of the Rings is a beautiful piece of modern mythology that speaks volumes about human nature. Creating a grim-dark inversion of Tolkiens work doesn't disprove that. His statement reeks of the overbearing cynicism present in the 1970's.

(I'm sure Moorcocks story is a tale worth reading in its own right, but I just thought I'd point that out.)