Swords Against Death, Fritz Leiber, love.

Swords Against Death, 1970 edition
My battered 1970 paperback edition of Swords Against Death.

I just finished one of my semiannual readings of one of my beat-up old Fritz Leiber paperbacks. It’s time for some Fritz Leiber love!

Here’s the quiz:

1. What seminal fantasy short story, written in 1939, introduced the iconic characters of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser? (Hint: it’s the one that’s so wryly phrased and so perfectly entertaining that Clare giggles uncontrollably all the way through it.)

2. Who wrote the following: “All I ever try to write is a good story with a good measure of strangeness in it. The supreme goddess of the universe is Mystery, and being well entertained is the highest joy.”

3. Compare and contrast the works of Tolkien and Leiber. Which has
a. Elves?
b. Sex?
c. Noble heroes?
d. Amoral antiheroes?
e. Lots of poems?
f. Lots of humor?

4. Which is the best action scene:
a. Fafhrd storms a viking boat unarmed then saves it from capsizing in “The Sunken Land”.
b. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser fight geology cultists while sliding down a glacier in “The Seven Black Priests”.
c. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser get separated while trying to escape from the thieves’ guild in “Thieves’ House”.

5. Which scene is creepiest:
a. Gray Mouser tells Fafhrd about the “black cloaks” at the end of “The Sunken Land”.
b. Fafhrd meets the undead master thieves in the crypts of the Thieves’ Guild.
c. Fafhrd and Gray Mouser discover the nature of the mysterious tower in “The Jewels in the Forest”.

Highlight for answers!

1. “The Jewels in the Forest”, first published in Unknown, 1939. Its original title, “Two Sought Adventure” is also an acceptable answer.

2. Fritz Leiber. Read his books.

3. a. Tolkien, b. Leiber, c. Tolkien, d. Leiber, e. Tolkien, f. Leiber

4. Tough call. My vote’s on a. the viking ship scene, because it has drunk vikings.

5. b. Undead thieves! Anything that creeps out the unflappable Fafhrd is creepy indeed.

Learn more at Wikipedia: Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser

2 thoughts on “Swords Against Death, Fritz Leiber, love.

  1. Deena Pilgrim

    What a fellow you are, Clare.

    Your quiz reminds me of why I love this series so acutely, and has made me note an obvious connection I had somehow overlooked until now.

    While they’re both on my short list of favorite series, I hadn’t drawn the parallels between Leiber’s “Swords” books and Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin books: a pair of contrasting leads with complex and evolving chemistry, beautiful and intricate use of language, and they’re extremely funny.

    May I rub the lamp and wish for you to name me a series that has these qualities but possesses a more feminine perspective?

  2. Clare Post author

    Deena, my plum, if I knew of such a series I would never stop reading it. There’s Powers, of course. Perhaps Dorothy L Sayers’ Lord Peter Whimsey/Harriet Vane books? It’s a complex and revolving relationship, eruditely witty, and rather ostentatiously feminist. I will rack my brain and see if I can come up with anything else.


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