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File:Mignolaillmetbs 7764.jpg

The pair of rogues themselves


 "Now about Lankhmar. She's been invaded, her walls breached everywhere and desperate fighting is going on in the streets, by a fierce host which out-numbers Lankhamar's inhabitants by fifty to one — and equipped with all modern weapons. Yet you can save the city."

"How?" demanded Fafhrd.

Ningauble shrugged. "You're a hero. You should know."


One of the most seminal pieces of Sword and Sorcery was Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser series of short stories and novellas. Set in the world of Nehwon (except for one story set on Earth), often in the city of Lankhmar, it starred Fafhrd, a seven-foot tall barbarian from the North, and the Mouser, a trickster thief and former wizard's apprentice, who find and befriend each other one day. A Deconstruction of the Conan the Barbarian stories that Leiber had grown tired of, Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser showed two heroes closer to actual human beings. To quote The Other Wiki: "They spend a lot of time drinking, feasting, wenching, brawling, stealing, and gambling, and are seldom fussy about to whom they hire their swords. But they are humane and - most of all - relish true adventure." A massive source for inspiration for much of modern roleplaying, specifically D&D, either directly or indirectly, and pretty much any swashbuckling - as opposed to Thud and Blunder - fantasy story written after about 1970 or so probably owes a debt to these stories.

There are seven books containing all the stories: Swords and Deviltry, Swords Against Death, Swords in the Mist, Swords Against Wizardry, The Swords of Lankhmar, Swords and Ice Magic, and The Knight and Knave of Swords. There is also the authorized novel sequel Swords Against the Shadowland by Robin Wayne Bailey.

Tropes used in Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser include:

  • Adjective Animal Alehouse: The Silver Eel Tavern.
  • Barbarian Hero: Fafhrd.
  • Bash Brothers
  • Bazaar of the Bizarre: The Trope Namer.
  • Brains and Bondage: The Mouser has some pretty heavy tendencies to sexual sadism, with increasing explicitness over Lieber's lifetime.
  • Brains and Brawn: Massively averted. Fafhrd is mentally complacent but far from stupid; and the Mouser, while conspicuously intelligent, is inclined to let his ego lead him into foolhardy actions. To make it more plain, it's usually the Mouser who does the most damage and fights the toughest fights.
    • Fafhrd is a dreamer; the Gray Mouser is street-wise. They're both smart, but the Mouser depends on it far more.
  • Broke Episode.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Ningauble and Sheelba went to a lot of trouble to gain the duo's (nominal) fealty.
  • Cartwright Curse Girl of the Week: They almost always have love interests, they never seem to last from one story to the next.
    • Averted in the final tales of the series when both the heroes got two new steady girlfriends.
  • City of Adventure: Lankhmar.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Mouser.
  • Death By Origin Story: When they first meet in Ill Met in Lankhmar, both Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser have serious girlfriends. Neither survives the end of the story.
  • Distressed Damsel: While the duo is not as susceptible to these as Conan, they do crop up and sometimes get the plot moving. Often to our heroes' detriment.
  • Divine Chessboard: Ningauble of the Seven Eyes and Sheelba of the Eyeless Face use their champions this way.
  • Dual-Wielding: Both heroes are experts at this.
  • Earth Drift: The first Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories Leiber wrote (as opposed to the first published) took place on Earth, before the world of Lankhmar was written into the series, with the result that when collected, some lines had to be added explaining why they were on Earth.
  • Extra Eyes: Ningauble of the Seven Eyes.
  • Eyeless Face: Sheelba of the Eyeless Face.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture
  • Fog of Doom: "The Cloud of Hate"
  • Girl of the Week
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: In several different stories.
  • Here There Were Dragons
  • Heroic RROD: In one of the stories the villain fights the lightning-quick Mouser to a standstill — for a while. When defeated the tremendous overstrain caused the villain's corpse to go into immediate rigor mortis.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Lampshaded, as they actually ponder the fact that they've never had any desire to fool around with each other.
  • I Call It Vera: Fafhrd has a broadsword named Graywand and a poinard named Heartseeker. The Mouser has a rapier named Scalpel and a dirk named Cat's Claw. Leiber plays with this one, though, by having the pair lose their weapons all the time. They just use those names for whatever blades they happen to be carrying at the moment.
  • In Harm's Way
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: In the 1970s, they appeared in a Wonder Woman comic. Don't believe me?
  • Interspecies Romance: Fafhrd hooked up with a ghoul (see below) and Mouser with a girl who was descended from rats (in Swords of Lankhmar).
  • Jerkass God: Most gods of Nehwon are.
  • Jumped At the Call: The both do this a lot. See Distressed Damsel and Plunder.
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: "The Bazaar of the Bizarre"
  • Loveable Rogue: The Gray Mouser.
  • Low Fantasy
  • Medium Awareness: In the origin story Ill Met in Lankhmar, the Mouser's response when Fafhrd introduces himself is to ask how "Fafhrd" is pronounced.
  • Mr. Exposition: Parodied with Ningauble of the Seven Eyes — in one scene, as he tries to exposit, the Mouser keeps interrupting him again and again just for fun.
    • This also parodies That Which Must Not Be Spoken:

 Ningauble: --the dread city, mention not its name--

The Gray Mouser: Is it Khatti?

  • Odd Job Gods: Many of the gods in Lankhmar.
  • Our Ghouls Are Creepier: Ghouls are a humanoid race that have transparent skin, muscles, and organs, giving them the appearance of animated skeletons . . . oh, and they just so happen to be cannibals too.
  • Play-Along Prisoner: In The Knight and Knave of Swords, the Gray Mouser captures a girl and ties her up. She submits to this at the time, but later she grows spines out of her body and uses them to cut through the bindings.
  • Plunder: A typical adventure hook, most notably in Swords Against Wizardry.
  • Religion of Evil
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Nehwon is backwards for Nowhen.
  • Shapeshifter Baggage: In The Swords of Lankhmar, a shrinking potion does, in fact, displace mass, as the now rat-sized Mouser has to swim his way out of a good-sized puddle of meat, cloth fibers, and metal fragments (flesh, clothes, armor, and weapons). Later, he grows back to his full size away from that puddle, and the mass is taken from nearby objects (and people!), stripping some enemy Mooks of armor and weapons-- and giving a nearby Fat Girl a magical liposuction. Great news for her, Squick for the Mouser?
  • Shout-Out: Nehwon is named after the pattern of "Erewhon", a fantasy land created by Samuel Butler.
    • In the introductions to the Ace paperback edition, Leiber also listed a number of swordsmen that Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser were better than. Said list included d'Artagnan, John Carter of Mars, Lord Brandoch Daha, Conan the Barbarian, and Scar Gordon.
    • The names of Ningauble and Sheelba may be a Shout-Out to the dwarven princes Schilbung and Nibelung from Nibelungenlied. Neither of them was eyeless or seven-eyed, though.
    • There are also a lot of shout outs to our heroes, in works that have drawn inspiration from Leiber. For instance:
      • The very first Discworld novel features a cameo by "Bravd and the Weasel". Not to mention the city of Ankh-Morpork, in its original form similar in both name and description to Lankhmar. In later books it developed its own unique character.
      • Conan the Barbarian #6, written by Roy Thomas and published by Marvel, was set in the sinful city of Shadizar, which as written by Thomas owed a lot to Lankhmar, and featured a cameo by "Fafnir and Blackrat". (Shadizar came first — it's a Zamoran city from Howard's original stories — but Howard never developed it much, though it was definitely a Wretched Hive.)
      • Fables, starting from issue #77, features obvious expies of the two called Freddy and Mouse.
  • The Sneaky Guy: Gray Mouser.
  • Snowball Fight
  • Soul Jar: One of the Big Bads put his in an egg.
  • Sword and Sorcerer
  • Thieves' Guild
  • Trickster Mentor: Ningauble and Sheelba may fall into this, as they send Fafhrd and the Mouser off on some wacky adventures — stealing the mask of Death or the highest star from the sky, for instance.
  • Weird Trade Union: The Slayer's Brotherhood and Thieves' Guild in Lankhmar, though they've become such common tropes themselves that it's likely many modern readers wouldn't realize that Leiber meant them as a joke.
  • What You Are in the Dark
  • Witch Doctor: Two of 'em: Ningauble of the Seven Eyes and Sheelba of the Eyeless Face, mentors to Fafhrd and the Mouser respectively.
  • Wretched Hive: Lankhmar.