Cosmology of the Champion Mythos
© 1997 Max Wilcox
The notion of the Eternal Champion exists to a lesser or greater degree in almost all of Moorcock's books. Readers who are at least familiar with the "Eternal Champion" series (The John Daker books), Erekosė, Corum and Elric will have at least some knowledge - be it vague - concerning the nature of the Eternal Champion.
Simply, the Eternal Champion is a physical being who is manifested by collective need of a particular ideology, and not necessarily the dominant ideology. The specific need that creates the conditions whereby the champion can be manifested varies from time and place. It is also possible to claim that the Champion is manifested via particular cultures, as well. The Champion is, in more than one sense, a literal embodiment of a culture/ideology's wish-fulfillment and need for a hero.
The Champion is a figure who is doomed(?) to wander time and space and be "called" by particular peoples who have need of a "hero", "saviour", "Messiah" and the like, and to fulfil their need for a hero. "Hero" and "saviour" are similar concepts in their basic form, but "Messiah" is quite a bit different in as far as the method with which a Messiah achieves the salvation of a people differs - but I shall return to this further on in the discussion.
The notion of the Eternal Champion exists to a greater or lesser extent in almost all of Moorcock's books, from Elric to Mother London. As such, it is important to spend some time considering the actual nature of the Champion. The first appearance of the Eternal Champion was in the book The Eternal Champion which Moorcock began in 1955. Then in 1962, Moorcock wrote a "hasty version" for John Carnell's Magazine Science Fantasy. The final edition of the book was written in 1970, which is more or less the edition that we have today. By this re-working of the theme of the champion, one can see that it was something that Moorcock placed a lot of importance on - probably needing to return to the text as time went by as his skills as an author grew.
The concept of the Eternal Champion is entwined with the concept of the Multiverse, and as such, one needs to bear in mind the structure of the multiverse while considering the Champion her/himself. In each incarnation, and in each area of the Multiverse, the nature of the Champion varies somewhat. For example, Elric, who is unaware of his fate and unwilling to see himself as being the Champion, rarely is "called" by a particular group of people, but rather is fooled into thinking he is using his own free will in helping a certain party. Erekosė, on the other hand, is fully aware of his nature and knows when he is being "called".
The two characters, in fact, illustrate what could be seen as extremes of the nature of the Champion. Elric, who continually attempts to wield his free will, and in doing so is unable to accept his role as the Champion. And Erekosė, who is fully aware, and is resigned to his fate (though he does struggle occasionally).
Whatever the particular perspective that each individual aspect of the champion subscribes to, regarding their place in the overall scheme of things, each has a part to play in the War Amongst the Angels, as it is called in the book of the same name.
This war is the eternal struggle between Law and Chaos to gain the upper hand over each other. Each champion may fight for either Law or Chaos, depending on the situation, but in the long run all work for the Balance. For more information on the Law/Balance/Chaos equation see "The Eternal Struggle".
The Structure of the Champion Concept
An example of the champion in our own worlds' mythology could be King Arthur, who (though his story is perhaps based on various elements of real history) is a conjuration of a certain group of peoples' need for a hero. Even though Britain was taken over by various races and new dynasties, the "Once and Future King" will come again to save us...
This concept is similar in structure to the notion of the champion, and is a good point at which to apply the concept of the champion to some "real-world" scenarios.
Looking at the Arthur figure, there are some basic aspects that I'll make note of that are relevant to that of the Champion. There are various differing theories concerning the actual origin of Arthur, theories which I won't detail here, but in essence they are twofold. There is the actual person, or more likely, several people, whose actions exemplified a particular peoples' beliefs and values. What is important to bear in mind, and this is perhaps the central concept in this notion, is that it is completely unimportant who the original figure(s) were, but rather that the stature and significance of these figures passes into the realm of legend.
One definition of "hero" is someone "who is idealised for possessing superior qualities in any field". The Arthur figure, and also the Champion, exemplify a kind of hyper-hero, someone who is not only idealised for possessing certain qualities, but also that the qualities themselves are the "ideal" qualities for such a person to possess. The specific agencies that attribute these ideals to the hero will be dealt with below.
A martyr is a person who "suffers greatly or dies for a cause, belief, etc.". For Moorcock, the concept of martyr has a further component that requires substantial examination. That is, the process by which someone becomes and martyr and the social need that this process fulfils.
Three questions, then, seem to beg answers; firstly, who is it that creates these figures; secondly, by what process do they come to be created; and lastly, what purpose does this all have?
To be continued...