Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser

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Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser (sometimes rendered as Grey Mouser) are a pair of characters who feature mightily in tales by the author Fritz Leiber. Their adventures are collected in a series of books varying in number depending on edition and publication.

They were in fact invented by Harry Otto Fischer, a comrade and colleague of Leiber's from before the latter was writing professionally. They first appeared in a fragment written by Fischer in 1936, which became the basis of the tale The Lords of Quarmall some twenty-five years later.

They are a pair of hard-drinking, hard-fighting, woman-obsessed thieves, both with a finely-wrought sense of personal aesthetics and a complete inability to hold onto any of their plundered wealth. They are expert swordsmen, climbers, sailors, riders and practically any other skill that may come in handy for a plot device.

They live in an invented world called Nehwon, its name itself a homage to Erewhon. Much of the action takes place in the principal city Lankhmar.

The canonical series is:

  1. Swords and Deviltry
    1. Induction
    2. The Snow Women
    3. The Unholy Grail
    4. Ill Met in Lankhmar
  2. Swords Against Death
    1. The Circle Curse
    2. The Jewels in the Forest
    3. Thieves' House
    4. The Bleak Shore
    5. The Howling Tower
    6. The Sunken Land
    7. The Seven Black Priests
    8. Claws From The Night
    9. The Price of Pain-Ease
    10. Bazaar of the Bizarre
  3. Swords in the Mist
    1. The Cloud of Hate
    2. Lean Times in Lankhmar
    3. Their Mistress, The Sea
    4. When The Sea-King's Away
    5. The Wrong Branch
    6. Adept's Gambit
  4. Swords Against Wizardry
    1. In the Witch's Tent
    2. Stardock
    3. The Two Best Thieves in Lankhmar
    4. The Lords of Quarmall
  5. The Swords of Lankhmar
    1. A complete novel, the first part of which contains the story Scylla's Daughter
  6. Swords and Ice Magic
    1. The Sadness of the Executioner
    2. Beauty and the Beasts
    3. Trapped in the Shadowland
    4. The Bait
    5. Under the Thumbs of the Gods
    6. Trapped in the Sea of Stars
    7. The Frost Monstreme
    8. Rime Isle
  7. The Knight and Knave of Swords
    1. Sea Magic
    2. The Mer She
    3. The Curse of the Smalls and the Stars
    4. The Mouser Goes Below

Fafhrd

Fafhrd is on the surface the stereotypical "northern barbarian". He is considerably taller than average; he usually has long, wild, red hair and beard (although see Lean Times in Lankhmar); he wears furs crudely cut and cured. He wields a hefty sword that he calls Graywand, and on occasion a dagger called Heartseeker. He has a predilection for older women, usually tall and rangy like himself, although he has been shown not to be particularly fussy in this regard.

His singing voice is better than average, pitched rather higher than would perhaps be expected for one so large; this is as a result of his training in early years to be a Skald.

His character is based on the conventional Nordic folk tradition, enhanced and carved for literary effect.

His parentage, upbringing and early life are depicted in the story The Snow Women.


Pronunciation of Fafhrd

Evidence in the canon suggests that the pronunciation of Fafhrd is something like "Faf-erd" but with a throaty aspirate associated with the second syllable:

Fafhrd stopped, again wiped right hand on robe, and held it out. 'Name's Fafhrd. Ef ay ef aitch ar dee.'
Again the Mouser shook it. 'Gray Mouser,' he said a touch defiantly, as if challenging anyone to laugh at the soubriquet. 'Excuse me, but how exactly do you pronounce that? Faf-hrud?'
'Just Faf-erd.'
'Thank you.' They walked on. -- Ill Met in Lankhmar
... the otherwise ridiculous suggestion that the two comrades fell out over the proper spelling of Fafhrd's name, the Mouser perversely favoring a simple Lankhmarian equivalent of 'Faferd' while the name's owner insisted that only the original mouth-filling agglomeration of consonants could continue to satisfy his ear and eye and his semi-literate, barbarous sense of the fitness of things. -- Lean Times in Lankhmar

The implication is that the general public (which, translating from Nehwon to Earth, means English-speakers with a relaxed attitude to the letter R) would be allowed to get by with a simple "Faf-erd", but one familiar with his native language would use something subtler.

Some feel that it might go something like "Faf-rrrrd" where the "rrrr" is a throaty rolled R in the manner partway between that of the Scots and the French; that is, as it would be imagined in the throat of the Norsemen of a thousand years ago.

He has been known to answer to the affectionate diminutive "Faf" on occasion (references being sought), and Hirriwi, Princess of Stardock, even manages to get away with calling him "Faffy".


The Gray Mouser

Only otherwise known by his childhood nickname "Mouse", the Gray Mouser appears never to have had a conventional name. Aspects of his early life, and how he turned out the way he did, are portrayed in the story The Unholy Grail.

He is a smallish, handsome, sly-looking and foppish man with an extreme streak of narcissism and egotism. He usually wears gray garments of fine cut, usually of ratskin and silk, manufactured and repaired by an erstwhile colleague in Lankhmar (seemingly the only person that the Mouser actually pays for his services), Nattick Nimblefingers (who never actually appears in the Nehwon canon - his purpose in the plot is merely to provide a pretext for the Gray Mouser to appear his usual dapper self after an episode of considerable exertion and privation). He sports a long, thin blade, which he calls Scalpel, and also a smaller dagger-like blade for his other hand, which he calls Cat's Claw.

His own sexual predilection is towards women rather younger than himself, to an extreme that in conventional Western terrestrial society would perhaps border on illegality.

Nehwon

Nehwon is the invented world in which all the action takes place (except for one story, Adept's Gambit, which oddly takes place in approximately the pre-Roman Middle East of our homeworld Earth itself, although not one which can be reliably historically placed). It roughly corresponds to the Iron Age period of Earth, in which technology is primitive, energy is generated by muscle-power and wood-burning, and transport is by horse and ship (propelled either by sails or by oars).

Magic works, when germane to the plot. Strange invented beasts populate it, like giant hot-blooded white-furred snakes, multi-headed plesiousaur-like sea-monsters and intelligent rats who walk upright and wear clothes.


Lankhmar

Lankhmar is the main city in Nehwon, in which much of the action takes place. It is noisy, smelly, anarchic, scruffy and crime-riddled, in other words, a perfect setting for tales of unbridled spooky swashbuckling. Significantly to the calling of both Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, the Thieves' Guild is a powerful presence here, as is the Beggar's Guild. Early stories in the canon feature conflicts between the pair and the Thieves' Guild.

The Gods in Lankhmar (not to be confused with the Gods of Lankhmar) are multitudinous, and their relative power is determined by their position on Street of the Gods almost in the manner of a pop chart.