Two Sought Adventure

May 31, 2019 by

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser faced each other across the two thieves sprawled senseless. They were poised for attack, yet for the moment neither moved.

Each discerned something inexplicably familiar in the other.

Fafhrd said, “Our motives for being here seem identical.”

“Seem? Surely must be!” the Mouser answered curtly, fiercely eyeing this potential new foe, who was taller by a head than the tall thief.

“You said?”

“I said, ‘Seem? Surely must be!”

“How civilized of you!” Fafhrd commented in pleased tones.

“Civilized?” the Mouser demanded suspiciously, gripping his dirk tighter.

“To care, in the eye of action, exactly what’s said,” Fafhrd explained. Without letting the Mouser out of his vision, he glanced down. His gaze traveled from the belt and pouch of one fallen thief to those of the other. Then he looked up at the Mouser with a broad, ingenous smile.

“Sixty, sixty?” he suggested.

The Mouser hesitated, sheathed his dirk, and rapped out, “A deal!”

 

Eighty Years of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser

 

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser first met in the story, “Ill Met in Lankhmar,” published in the April 1970 issue of THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION. Fritz Leiber’s story won both the 1970 Nebula and 1971 Hugo awards in the novella category. However, the characters had been created decades earlier, in a 1934 letter that the beginning author received from his friend, Harry Otto Fischer:

“For all do fear the one known as the Gray Mouser. He walks with a swagger ‘mongst the bravos, though he’s but the stature of a child. His costume is all of gray, from gauntlets to boots and spurs of steel.”

 

Of Fafhrd he wrote that he laughed merrily and was “full seven feet in height. His eyes wide-set, were proud and of fearless mien. His wrist between gauntlet and mail was white as milk and thick as a hero’s ankle.”

 

They met “in the walled city of the Tuatha De Danann called Lankhmar, built on the edge of the Great Salt Marsh . . . and so the saga of the Gray Mouser and Fafhrd was begun.”

After further correspondence with his friend, Fritz Leiber began working on a novella, finishing it in early 1936. It was rejected by Farnsworth Wright of WEIRD TALES as being too full of “stylistic novelties.” Following several revisions, the author showed his manuscript to H. P. Lovecraft, who wrote:

“There will shortly be circulated among the gang . . . a remarkable unpublished novelette by young Leiber — “Adept’s Gambit,” rejected by Wright and now under revision according to my suggestions. It is a brilliant piece of fantastic imagination — with suggestions of Cabell, Beckford, Dunsany, and even Two-Gun Bob — and ought to see publication some day.”

Although the initial tale of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser would not be published until 1947 in NIGHT’S BLACK AGENTS, pulp readers would be introduced to the characters in the August 1939 UNKNOWN. Beginning with “Two Sought Adventure,” the Street & Smith pulp would publish five of Leiber’s tales of the two adventurers. In later years, the stories would be featured in COSMOS SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY MAGAZINE, DRAGON, THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, OTHER WORLDS, SUSPENSE MAGAZINE, WHISPERS, and, most importantly, FANTASTIC and Donald Wollheim’s Ace Books.

“Two comrades to the death and black comedians for all eternity, lusty, brawling, wine-bibbing, imaginative, romantic, earthy, thievish, sardonic, humorous, forever seeking adventure across the wide world, fated forever to encounter the most deadly of enemies, the most fell of foes, the most delectable of girls, and the most dire of sorcerers and supernatural beasts and other personages.”

Join PulpFest 2019 on Thursday, August 15, as we welcome fantasy and horror writer Jason Scott Aiken and sword and sorcery expert Morgan Holmes, for “Two Sought Adventure — Eighty Years of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser.” Dr. Holmes is the former official editor of the Robert E. Howard United Press Association and was nominated for a Hugo award in 2016 as Best Fan Writer.

PulpFest 2019 will begin on Thursday, August 15, and run through Sunday, August 18.  Join PulpFest at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City” of Pittsburgh. We’ll be celebrating “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories” at this year’s gathering. Click our Programming button below our homepage banner to get a preview of all the great presentations at this year’s event.

To join PulpFest 2019, click the Register button below our homepage banner. To book a room at the DoubleTree by Hilton — our host hotel — click the Book a Room button, also found on our homepage.

 

(Although the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series began in the pulp UNKNOWN, it was Cele Goldsmith of FANTASTIC who took a gamble and commissioned Fritz Leiber to author a new series of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories. The first of these was “Lean Times in Lankhmar,” published in the November 1959 issue. FANTASTIC would run eleven tales featuring Leiber’s two comrades, concluding with “Under the Thumbs of the Gods,” published in the April 1975 number, featuring front cover art by Stephen E. Fabian.

Around 1967, Donald A. Wollheim asked Leiber to put the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser tales “into chronological order and write new ones to fill in the gaps.” The result was a series of six paperbacks, beginning with SWORDS AND DEVILTRY — with cover art by Jeffrey Catherine Jones — first published by Ace Books in 1970.

A seventh book of stories — THE KNIGHT AND KNAVE OF SWORDS — was published in 1988 by William Morrow and Company.)