Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series
by Fritz Leiber

background, story list & collections

Essay by
Robert Wilfred Franson
March 2009

Two sought adventure —

The thirty-seven stories comprising Fritz Leiber's great series Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser were written over a half-century (from 1934 through 1988), and not in their chronological order — both attributes of Goethe's composition of Faust. Leiber's two heroes, and their wonderful high and low adventures, among allies and foes in the fabulous city of Lankhmar of the dubious land of Nehwon, are great exemplars of the fantastic in literature.

It is with the greatest interest that I learn of your plans for revising the "Gambit", & I shall surely welcome the new version when it reaches me. ...

Your notes on Fafhrd's & the Mouser's possible antecedents are extremely interesting — & I wish good old Two-gun Bob Howard were alive to see this echo of his virile & adventurous heroics. Some day I surely hope a great deal of the Fafhrd cycle will get into print — leading off with "Adept's Gambit".

H. P. Lovecraft
to Fritz Leiber, 25 January 1937
[Lovecraft had only six more weeks to live.]

Fritz Leiber and H. P. Lovecraft:
Writers of the Dark

edited by Ben J. Szumskyj and S. T. Joshi

The sequence, and the range

Leiber's stories mostly appeared first in magazines, beginning in John W. Campbell's Unknown in 1939. Over the years, they have been collected and re-collected in books bylined Leiber, as well as anthologized. One, The Swords of Lankhmar, is itself the length of a novel and usually appears as a separate book.

Here we provide an overall sequence as the stories ideally should be read, and as they appear in the common seven-book set. Additionally we list inclusions in Leiber's other story collections: it's not too critical that you read them in order. The first readers of most of these stories just enjoyed them as they came — and then re-read them in the complete set. We mention some omnibus editions, but do not attempt to provide all appearances in general Leiber collections, or multi-author anthologies.

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser taken as a whole is one of the greatest works of modern fantasy. Should you, however, happen upon a story or two and not care for them, do try a couple of others. Fritz Leiber gives us a stunning range and depth of fantastic realism here; and if the style is not so various as that of Faust, nor the landscape cover a spectrum as great a witch-flight as from "Auerbach's Tavern in Leipzig" to the "Classical Walpurgis Night", still Fafhrd and the Mouser can show you a merry ride.

story 7-book set other collections
Induction Swords and Deviltry   
The Snow Women Swords and Deviltry   
The Unholy Grail Swords and Deviltry   
Ill Met in Lankhmar Swords and Deviltry The Leiber Chronicles

The Circle Curse Swords Against Death   
The Jewels in the Forest
  (Two Sought Adventure)
Swords Against Death Night's Black Agents
Two Sought Adventure
The Leiber Chronicles
Thieves' House Swords Against Death Two Sought Adventure
The Bleak Shore Swords Against Death Two Sought Adventure
The Howling Tower Swords Against Death Two Sought Adventure
The Sunken Land Swords Against Death Night's Black Agents
Two Sought Adventure
Writers of the Dark
The Seven Black Priests Swords Against Death Two Sought Adventure
Claws from the Night
  (Dark Vengeance)
Swords Against Death Two Sought Adventure
The Price of Pain-Ease Swords Against Death   
Bazaar of the Bizarre Swords Against Death The Leiber Chronicles

The Cloud of Hate Swords in the Mist   
Lean Times in Lankhmar Swords in the Mist   
Their Mistress, the Sea Swords in the Mist   
When the Sea-King's Away Swords in the Mist   
The Wrong Branch Swords in the Mist   
Adept's Gambit Swords in the Mist Night's Black Agents
Writers of the Dark

In the Witch's Tent Swords Against Wizardry   
Stardock Swords Against Wizardry   
The Two Best Thieves in Lankhmar Swords Against Wizardry   
The Lords of Quarmall
  with Harry Otto Fischer
Swords Against Wizardry   

The Swords of Lankhmar
  (expanded from Scylla’s Daughter)
The Swords of Lankhmar   

The Sadness of the Executioner Swords and Ice Magic   
Beauty and the Beasts Swords and Ice Magic The Book of Fritz Leiber
Trapped in the Shadowland Swords and Ice Magic   
The Bait Swords and Ice Magic The Worlds of Fritz Leiber
The Leiber Chronicles
Under the Thumbs of the Gods Swords and Ice Magic   
Trapped in the Sea of Stars Swords and Ice Magic The Second Book of Fritz Leiber
The Frost Monstreme Swords and Ice Magic   
Rime Isle Swords and Ice Magic   

Sea Magic The Knight and Knave of Swords     
The Mer She The Knight and Knave of Swords     
The Curse of the Smalls and the Stars The Knight and Knave of Swords   The Leiber Chronicles
The Mouser Goes Below The Knight and Knave of Swords     

More edition information:

A very fine omnibus set from White Wolf, containing the 37 stories of 7 volumes (as listed above) recombined in 4 volumes. This includes Leiber's volume Forewords and additional introductions by other authors. White Wolf forgot to provide page-numbers for the individual stories in the annotated contents for their second and fourth volumes; I recommend writing them in yourself, as I did.

  1. Ill Met in Lankhmar (volumes 1 & 2)
  2. Lean Times in Lankhmar (volumes 3 & 4)
  3. Return to Lankhmar (volumes 5 & 6)
  4. Farewell to Lankhmar (volume 7)

A partial omnibus set from the Science Fiction Book Club (SFBC), containing the first 33 stories of 6 volumes (as listed above) recombined in 2 volumes.

  1. The Three of Swords (volumes 1, 2, 3)
  2. Swords' Masters (volumes 4, 5, 6)

The Book of Fritz Leiber and The Second Book of Fritz Leiber are also combined in the omnibus volume The Book of Fritz Leiber, Volumes I & II.

Writers of the Dark is co-bylined H.P. Lovecraft because the book includes essays by Lovecraft.

As with other authors, sometimes paperback editions are not as complete as hardcover editions with the same title.



[Walpurgis Night. The Harz Mountains; the Country Around Schierke and Elend]

Peddling Witch.

Good sirs, do not pass by like that,
Or you might miss a pretty chance!
Spare me a more attentive glance,
My stock is well worth looking at.
There's nothing here to which an armful
Of earthly merchandise compares,
No single thing but has been harmful
To mortal man and his affairs.
There is no sword here has not tasted gore,
No cup from which into a healthy frame
Some searing venom did not pour,
No trinket here but that has brought to shame
Some lovely woman, nor a dagger but designed
To pierce a trusting ally from behind.


You are behind the times, dear cousin;
What's done is done, what's past is trite;
Your stuff is fifteen to the dozen,
For only novelties excite.


This entertainment gives me pause —
The strangest fair that ever was!


Uphill now, all the surging crew;
You think you're pushing, but they're pushing you.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
"Walpurgis Night"
Faust, Part I, 4096-4117
translated by Walter Arndt

© 2009 Robert Wilfred Franson

ReFuture at Troynovant
history of science fiction
& progress of fantasy

Fritz Leiber at Troynovant

There will shortly be circulated among the gang (you can be on the list if you like) a remarkable unpublished novelette by young Leiber — "Adept's Gambit", rejected by Wright [for Weird Tales] and now under revision according to my suggestions. It is a very brilliant piece of fantastic imagination — with suggestions of Cabell, Beckford, Dunsany, and even Two-Gun Bob [Robert E. Howard] — and ought to see publication some day. Being wholly out of the cheap tradesman tradition, it has small chance of early magazine placement — ...

"Adept's Gambit" is laid in Syria of the earlier Hellenistic period, but soon moves away from Tyre and Ephesus to a fabulous mountain realm of inland Asia ...

H. P. Lovecraft
to James F. Morton, 15 March 1937
[Lovecraft's last letter, uncompleted at his death]

H. P. Lovecraft
Selected Letters  (1976)

Fritz Leiber
Author's Foreword to Swords in the Mist
but included in some editions only —
Swords in the Mist  (Gregg Press, 1977)
Lean Times in Lankhmar  (White Wolf, 1996)


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