The first book in the series, "Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser".

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are two seminal sword-and-sorcery heroes created by Fritz Leiber (1910–1992) and loosely modelled upon himself and his friend Harry Otto Fischer (1910-1986). They are the protagonists of what are probably Leiber's best-known stories.

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 (seven feet) northern barbarian; Mouser is a small, mercurial thief, once known as Mouse and a former wizard's apprentice. Both are rogues, existing within a decadent world where to be so is a requirement of survival. They spend a lot of time drinking, feasting, wenching, brawling, stealing, and gambling, and are seldom fussy about who hires their swords. But they are humane and — most of all — relish true adventure.


Main article: Nehwon

The tales are for the most part set in the mythical world of Nehwon (although one story takes place on Earth), many of them in and around its greatest city, Lankhmar. It is described as "a world like and unlike our own". Theorists in Nehwon believe that it may be shaped like a bubble, floating in the waters of eternity. Nehwon is in a developmental stage somewhere between Earth's Bronze Age and Iron (Steel) Age. Template:Fact

The series includes many bizarre and outlandish characters. The two who most 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.

Publication historyEdit

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 Harry Otto Fischer in 1964. The stories' style and tone vary considerably, but nearly all contain an often dark sense of humour, which ranges from the subtle and character-based to the Pythonesque. The earlier tales owe as much to Clark Ashton Smith as to Robert E. Howard. Template:Fact

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 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 1951 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 Harry Otto Fischer
  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 Whispers)
    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) (these last two published together as Rime Isle by Whispers Press in 1977)
  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 first six books in the series were reprinted in a uniform, archival series from Gregg Press, and were the first hardback editions of all volumes save The Swords of Lankhmar.
  • The series was continued by Robin Wayne Bailey in Swords Against the Shadowland (novel 1998).
  • 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".
  • A sex scene from The Swords of Lankhmar, cut by editor Don Wollheim ("Good Heaven, Fritz, we're a family publisher...") was published in Fantasy Newsletter #49 (July 1982)[1].

Omnibus editions Edit

Several omnibus editions have also been published:

  • Science Fiction Book Club: The Three of Swords (1989; books 1–3) and Swords' Masters (1989; books 4–6).
  • White Wolf: Ill Met In Lankhmar (1995; books 1 and 2, with a new introduction by Michael Moorcock and Fritz Leiber's "Fafhrd and Me"), Lean Times in Lankhmar (1996; books 3 and 4, with a new introduction by Karl Edward Wagner), Return to Lankhmar (1997; books 5 and 6, with a new introduction by Neil Gaiman), and Farewell to Lankhmar (1998; book 7; the hardcover edition curiously omits the final seven chapters of "The Curse of the Smalls and the Stars")
  • Orion/Millennium's Fantasy Masterworks: The First Book of Lankhmar (2001; books 1–4) and The Second Book of Lankhmar (2001; books 5–7).

Comics adaptations Edit


Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser premiering in DC Comics in 1972.

In 1972, Fafhrd and the Mouser began their comics career, appearing in Wonder Woman #202 alongside the title character and Catwoman in a story scripted by award-winning SF writer Samuel R. Delany. In 1973, DC Comics began an ongoing series, Sword of Sorcery, featuring the duo. The title was written by Denny O'Neil and featured art by Howard Chaykin, Walt Simonson and Jim Starlin; the well-received title ran only five issues. Stories included adaptations of "The Price of Pain-Ease", "Thieves' House", "The Cloud of Hate", and "The Sunken Land", as well as original stories.

In 1991, Epic Comics published a four-issue comic book adaptation of seven of the stories: "Ill Met in Lankhmar" (issue 1), "The Circle Curse" and "The Howling Tower" (issue 2), "The Price of Pain Ease" and "Bazaar of the Bizarre" (issue 3), and "Lean Times in Lankhmar" and "When the Sea King's Away" (issue 4). The comics were scripted by Howard Chaykin, who had drawn several issues of the earlier DC title, and pencilled by Mike Mignola, whose Hellboy comic book often has a similar feel to Leiber's work. Hellboy himself shares some personality traits with Fafhrd. Mignola also did the jacket covers and interior art for the White Wolf collection. This series was collected by Dark Horse Comics in a trade paperback collection published in March 2007.[2]

Games Edit

See also: Lankhmar in games

In 1937, Leiber and his college friend Harry Otto Fischer created a complex wargame set within the world of Nehwon, which Fischer had helped to create. Later, they created a simplified board game entitled simply "Lankhmar" which was released by TSR in 1976. This is a rare case of a game adaptation written by the creators of the stories on which the game is based.

In 1986 Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser were featured in a 1-on-1 Adventure Gamebook set, Dragonsword of Lankhmar. One player controlled Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, who were trying to find a magical sword beneath an altar (just which one, they were not sure) in Lankhmar. The other player controlled assassins from the local thieves' guild, who were trying to kill the famous rogues for operating in the city without permission from the guild.

Nehwon, and some of its more interesting inhabitants, are described in the early Dungeons and Dragons supplement Deities and Demigods, and the stories themselves were a significant influence on the Dungeons and Dragons role playing game.

Weapons of Fafhrd and the Gray MouserEdit

Fafhrd commonly uses a longsword which he names Graywand. He also carries a poignard named Heartseeker and a short hand-axe which has never been named. The Mouser also fights with a pair of weapons: a rapier called Scalpel and a dirk called Cat's Claw. The latter is balanced for throwing. As the pair are often divested of their property, these are names they apply to any of their appropriate weapons and not names of specific ones.

References in other worksEdit

In Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser are parodied as Bravd and the Weasel. Although Ankh-Morpork bears more than a passing resemblance to Lankhmar, Pratchett has been quoted as not intending a direct takeoff.

In Issue #77 and #78 of Vertigo Comics' Fables, characters Freddy (Fafhrd) and Mouse (Gray Mouser) are incorporated as local rogues who unleash an Old Sorcerer into the world.

External links Edit

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