by Michael Moorcock

Quartet Books


150pp/.35/September 1973

The Bull and the Spear

Patrick Woodroffe

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

The Bull and the Spear is the first novel of the second trilogy about Michael Moorcock's Corum Jhaelen Irsei. It opens several decades after the end of The King of the Swords ended and Corum and his love, Rhalina, have lived a happy life together, although she has since passed away, the victim of the relatively short lifespans of the Mabden. The world has been at peace since the Lost Gods banished the Lords of Chaos and Law from Corum's land and he has drifted into ennui without Rhalina, his dreams haunted by the cries of a people who need him. At the pleading of his friend, Jhary-a-Conel, who understands Corum's nature and that of the multiverse, Corum allows himself to be pulled to those who are trying to summon him.

The summons pulled Corum a millennium into his future, when the world has changed and the Mabden are now confronting an existential threat in the Fhoi Myore, a race of giants who are intent, for no discernable reason, in taking over the Mabden's land. A hero from the ancient past, Corum has achieved the status of a demigod among the Mabden who had summoned him, a status only heightened by his appearance and despite his protestations to that title. In the Swords trilogy, Corum was tasked with the destruction of the old gods, in The Bull and the Spear, Moorcock explores the need for people to create gods out of their own legends. Moorcock does this by drawing heavily upon Celtic mythology, right down to the names of his characters and villains and inserting Corum into to role of the god-hero who must battle the Celtic-based foes.

While Corum lacked volition throughout the Swords trilogy, being a plaything of the gods and often relying on deus ex machina for resolutions to his dilemmas, in The Bull and the Spear, he is the deus and he makes decisions. When he hears that he needs the spear Bryionak and must find the bull Crinanass, he takes the initiative to find them, becoming the leader the Mabden of his future require when they are under attack by the extraplaner giants, the Fhoi Myore. Although not a god, Corum is viewed as such and must determine what, if anything, he owes his worshippers. Moorcock, perhaps, puts his thumb on the scale by having Corum fall in love, or at least in lust, with the king's daughter Medhbh.

This novel is very definitely the first book of a trilogy that is meant to tell a single story over the course of its volumes rather than an episodic series in which each book can stand on its own. Corum manages to complete the quest laid out and there is a climactic battle between Corum and his worshippers and the Fhoi Myore, but it is not a conclusive battle, leading only to what is clearly a temporary new balance of power that will be the overturned in the subsequent two volumes as Moorcock continues to follow the threads he has laid down.

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