Saturday, June 1, 2013

Leiber’s Mouser and Fafhrd are the Scooby and Shaggy Of Sword and Sorcery

Swords Against Death (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, #2)Swords Against Death by Fritz Leiber
S.E.Lindberg's rating: 4 of 5 stars

Leiber’s Mouser and Fafhrd are the Scooby and Shaggy Of Sword and Sorcery

Atmosphere and Style: Fafhrd and Mouser are two rogues who are braver and smarter than Scooby and Shaggy, but form as legendary a duo in many ways. The pair were chronicled over ~5 decades by the man who termed the genre “Sword & Sorcery” (Fritz Leiber) in separate short stories (covering ~40 stories, published over 1939 to 1991). Their adventures in the City of Lankhmar and World of Nehwon were captured in seven books. Scooby Doo Where Are You? was a Hanna-Barbera production, broadcast from 1969 to 1978 (notably the same time many of Leiber’s work was compiled into novels.)

Scooby Doo (and its reboots) were/are known for juxtaposing scary atmospheres with acceptable silliness…in episodic form. This is exactly what Swords against Death delivers, and presumably represents the other Fafred and Mouser novels. A possible exception is the chapter “Ill met in Lankhmar” (the last story in Vol-1 “Swords and Deviltry” in which the scary-silly style is presented, but the outcome more dire than anything in this second volume.

Fafhrd and the Mouser float from one independent adventure to the next. Each chapter is an enjoyable episode, but there is an apparent lack of an overarching conflict for the duo. Ostensibly the chapters are linear in chronology, but they really seemed stand-alone and could be read in any order. From the opening (and the end of the first Volume Swords and Deviltry) I expected the pair to be haunted by their past loves, but these haunts were only addressed in only one chapter later.

Varied perspectives and controlled revelations keep each narrative fresh. The stories are indeed fortified with literate prose and abundant vocabulary, but just when you think Leiber may take his milieu too seriously, you will be treated to a ludicrous robbery by fishing pole, a grand displacement/theft of a house, an assault from giant snowballs, or a hunt from bad guys skiing in an apparent satire to a Bond film. But, the silliness does not detract from enjoyable adventure. Just like the original Scooby Doo cartoon.

Emotive Oil Painting: Oil paintings will forever inspire emotion of fantasy media. For Scooby Doo, background stylist Walt Peregoy created some truly scary paintings worthy as any cover art. During the same years, Jeff Jones illustrated the first five of the ~1970's editions for Fritz Leiber (below list). Check them out:

1970; 1970; 1968; 1968; 1968;1977; 1988
Swords and Deviltry Swords against Death Swords in the Mist (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, #3) Swords Against Wizardry (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, #4) The Swords of Lankhmar (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, #5) Swords and Ice Magic (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, #6) The Knight and Knave of Swords (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, #7)

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