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Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are two seminal sword-and-sorcery heroes created by, and based on, Fritz Leiber and Harry Otto Fischer (1910-1986). They are the protagonists of what are probably Leiber's best known stories.

The first story appeared in Unknown in 1939 and the last in The Knight and Knave of Swords in 1988. Leiber wrote all the stories except for 10,000 words of The Lords of Quarmall that were penned by Fischer. The stories' style and tone vary considerably, but nearly all contain a wonderful - and often wonderfully dark - sense of humour, which ranges from the subtle and character based to the pythonesque. "Lean Times in Lankhmar" is one of the very best, and stands as a wonderful mixture of farce and satire. The earlier tales owe as much to Clark Ashton Smith as to Robert E. Howard.

One of Leiber's original motives was to have a couple of fantasy heroes closer to true human stature than the likes of Howard's Conan the Barbarian or Burroughs's Tarzan. Fafhrd is a tall northern barbarian; Mouser is a small, mercurial thief. Both are rogues through and through... but theirs is a decadent world where you have to be a rogue to survive. They spend a lot of time drinking, feasting, wenching, brawling, stealing, gambling, and are seldom fussy about who they hire out their swords to. But they are humane and - most of all - relish true adventure.

The tales are set in the mythical world of Nehwon and many of them in and around its greatest city, Lankhmar. Terry Pratchett's Ankh-Morpork bears more than a passing resemblance to Lankhmar - and Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser turn up in The Colour of Magic as Bravd and the Weasel.

The two other major characters who influence - and, some would say, cause the most trouble for - Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are their sorcerous advisors, Ningauble of the Seven Eyes and Sheelba of the Eyeless Face. These two lead the two heroes into some of their most interesting and dangerous adventures.

The stories have been collected in the Swords series:

  1. Swords and Deviltry (collection 1970)
    1. "Induction" (vignette 1970, first publication)
    2. The Snow Women (novella 1970 Fantastic)
    3. "The Unholy Grail" (novelette 1962 Fantastic)
    4. Ill Met in Lankhmar (novella 1970 F&SF) - telling how Fafhrd and the Mouser originally met, this story won both a Nebula award and a Hugo award
  2. Swords Against Death (collection 1970, expanded and revised from Two Sought Adventure 1957)
    1. "The Circle Curse" (1970, first publication)
    2. "The Jewels in the Forest" (novelette 1939 Unknown, as "Two Sought Adventure")
    3. "Thieves' House" (novelette 1943 Unknown)
    4. "The Bleak Shore" (1940 Unknown)
    5. "The Howling Tower" (1941 Unknown)
    6. "The Sunken Land" (1942 Unknown)
    7. "The Seven Black Priests" (novelette 1953 Other Worlds)
    8. "Claws from the Night" (novelette 1940 Suspense as "Dark Vengeance")
    9. "The Price of Pain-Ease" (1970, first publication)
    10. "Bazaar of the Bizarre" (novelette 1963 Fantastic)
  3. Swords in the Mist (collection 1968)
    1. "The Cloud of Hate" (1963 Fantastic)
    2. "Lean Times in Lankhmar" (novelette 1959 Fantastic)
    3. "Their Mistress, the Sea" (1968, first publication)
    4. "When the Sea-King's Away" (novelette 1960 Fantastic)
    5. "The Wrong Branch" (1968, first publication)
    6. Adept's Gambit (novella 1947, in Leiber's Night's Black Agents collection)
  4. Swords Against Wizardry (collection 1968)
    1. "In the Witch's Tent" (1968, first publication)
    2. "Stardock" (novelette 1965 Fantastic)
    3. "The Two Best Thieves in Lankhmar" (1968 Fantastic)
    4. The Lords of Quarmall (novella 1964 Fantastic), with Fisher
  5. The Swords of Lankhmar (novel 1968 - first part published as Scylla’s Daughter (novella 1961 Fantastic))
  6. Swords and Ice Magic (collection 1977)
    1. "The Sadness of the Executioner" (1973, in Flashing Swords! #1, ed. Lin Carter)
    2. "Beauty and the Beasts" (vignette 1974, in The Book of Fritz Leiber)
    3. "Trapped in the Shadowland" (1973 Fantastic)
    4. "The Bait" (vignette 1973 Whispewrs)
    5. "Under the Thumbs of the Gods" (1975 Fantastic)
    6. "Trapped in the Sea of Stars" (1975, in The Second Book of Fritz Leiber)
    7. "The Frost Monstreme" (novelette 1976, in Flashing Swords! #3, ed. Lin Carter)
    8. Rime Isle (novella 1977 Cosmos SF&F Magazine)
  7. The Knight and Knave of Swords (collection 1988)
    1. "Sea Magic" (1977 The Dragon)
    2. "The Mer She" (novelette 1983, in Heroes and Horrors)
    3. The Curse of the Smalls and the Stars (novella 1983, in Heroic Visions)
    4. The Mouser Goes Below (novella 1988, first publication - portions first printed as "The Mouser Goes Below" (1987 Whispers) and "Slack Lankhmar Afternoon Featuring Hisvet" (1988 Terry’s Universe, ed. Beth Meacham))

The series has been extended by Robin Wayne Bailey:

A collection, Bazaar of the Bizarre, illustrated by Stephan Peregrine, comprised Leiber's three favourite Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories: "Bazaar of the Bizarre", "The Cloud of Hate", and "Lean Times in Lankhmar".

Several omnibus editions have also been published, of which the White Wolf ones are probably the best.

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