Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lucky break!

Since Nehwon is an alternate version of Earth and Leiber capitalizes frequently on that fact, I always wanted to try to figure out as precisely as possible where Fafhrd and the Mouser are from, to help get a fix on their national characteristics. Obviously Fafhrd is some kind of Viking, but it was never clear to me if he's from northern Germany or maybe Sweden, Finland or Iceland, which are all in very close proximity and share a common linguistic ancestry (the Germanic languages).

And while he's always made it clear the Mouser was from the south, and that it's somewhere on the shores of the Mediterranian, that covers a lot of territory. There's Italy and Greece on the north shore, and Africa on the south, with several mideastern countries jammed in close proximity there. The description stops at 'flat-faced and swart'. But how swart exactly? I always wondered, is he more like a Roman, a Greek, or maybe darker skinned and more hot-blooded?

Well, there's one story that explains it clearly. It's Leiber's first adventure he wrote about the Twain - Adept's Gambit (originally titled The Grain Ships I think). At this point the characters of the rogue adventurers were still fairly rough but definitely coming into focus, but Nehwon was not yet there - it's set on Earth in the kingdom of Alexander the Great. And, thanks to young Leiber's correspondence with and admiration for the elderly and dying H P Lovecraft, he developed a strong sense for historical accuracy. That's actually an element I dislike about the story, too much repetition of the names of countries and kings and important historical figures etc ad nauseum - but it's thanks to that completionism that he finally (?) gives the actual earthly locations for both heroes.

In Fafhrd's case it doesn't actually help - he simply says he hails from the area surrounding the Baltic Sea. Ok, that includes northern Germany and the tricorn peninsula of Sweden, Finland and Iceland. But he gives the actual city for the Mouser - it's Tyre, which turns out to be in Lebanon. I googled for the faces of some Lebanese people and found quite a few young men who look very Mouser-esque to me. Included are Adrian Monk and Corporal Klinger, as well as Keanu Reeves. So, they aren't necessarily all dark and hawk-faced (like Klinger).

I also checked a map of the Mediterranean and confirmed my suspicions that it's the Inner Sea Faf and his little buddy spend so much time sailing about, and there actually is a thin wall cutting it off from the Atlantic (Outer Sea obviously) - the real-life corollary to the curtain-wall destroyed in When the Sea-King's Away.

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