Zelazny's Take on things

From the introduction to The Black Road War

This seems a good place to talk about the characters in the Amber series and their evolving relationships, since a number of them put in appearances in this book. I am often asked about the order of their birth and their parentage – matters capable of causing considerable confusion.

There are all manners of apocryphal stories with respect to the founding of Amber as an offshoot of the Courts of Chaos, and the descent of its ruling family from Dworkin of Chaos and the Sacred Unicorn. The extent to which this geneaological statement describes an authentic event is unclear, in that Dworkin was insane for many years and the Unicorn isn’t talking. Whatever the situation, Oberon, the immortal King of Amber, was referred to as “son of Dworkin” and also as “son of Unicorn.”

Over the centuries Oberon married many times and also had many mistresses as well as numerous passing liaisons, leading to a large number of offspring as long-lived as himself. It has been speculated by Court philosophers that Henry of Navarre was an Earth-Shadow of Oberon, and that the Court itself may well have cast particularly strong shadows into Merovingian times. (Consider Gregory of Tours’ History of the Franks.)

At any rate, there is a section in the third Amber novel, Sign of the Unicorn, where Oberon in his disguise as Ganelon asks Corwin to explain the succession, hoping better to understand his children’s obviously conflicting feelings on the matter. Corwin says:

“… Benedict is the eldest. His mother was Cymnea. She bore Dad two other sons, also – Osric and Finndo. Then – how does one put these things – Faiella bore Eric. After that, Dad found some defect in his marriage with Cymnea and had it dissolved – ab initio, as they would say in my old shadow – from the beginning. Neat trick, that. But he was the king.”

“Didn’t that make all of them illegitimate?”

“Well, it left their status less certain. Osric and Finndo were more than a little irritated, as I understand it, but they died shortly thereafter. Benedict was either less irritated or more politic about the entire affair. He never raised a fuss. Dad then married Faiella.”

“And that made Eric legitimate?”

“It would have, if he had acknowledged Eric as his son. He treated him as if he were, but he never did anything formal in this regard. It involved the smoothing-over process with Cymnea’s family, which had become a bit stronger around that time.”

“Still, if he treated him as his own… “

“Ah! But he later did acknowledge Llewella formally. She was born out of wedlock, but he decided to recognize her, poor girl. All of Eric’s supporters hated her for its effect on his status. Anyway, Faiella was later to become my mother. I was born safely in wedlock, making me the first with a clean claim on the throne. Talk to one of the others and you may get a different line of reasoning, but those are the facts it will have to be based on… .”

“Who is next? That is to say, if anything were to happen to you?”

I shook my head. “It gets even more complicated there, now. Caine would have been next. With him dead, I see it swinging over to Clarissa’s brood – the redheads. Bleys would have followed, then Brand.”

“Clarissa? What became of your mother?”

“She died in childbirth. Deirdre was the child. Dad did not remarry for many years after Mother’s death. When he did, it was a redheaded wench from a far southern shadow. I never liked her. He began feeling the same way after a time and started fooling around again. They had one reconciliation after Llewella’s birth in Rebma, and Brand was the result. When they were finally divorced, he recognized Llewella to spite Clarissa. At least, that is what I think happened.”

“So you are not counting the ladies in the succession?”

There follows a somewhat sexist negative remark (as he was not getting along well with all of his sisters at that point), then he works it out the rest of the way:

“… Fiona would precede Bleys and Llewella would follow him. After Clarissa’s crowd, it would swing over to Julian, Gerard, and Random, in that order. Excuse me – count Flora before Julian. The marriage date is even more involved, but no one will dispute the final order. Let it go at that.”

This had caused some confusion because in the fourth chapter of the first book – Nine Princes in Amber – Corwin had said of Random, as they were driving back to Amber,

“… I had realized, with that, that we shared common parents, which I suddenly knew was not the case with me and Eric… “

Well, it was too the case with him and Eric, and it wasn’t the case with him and Random. Merlin had every right to wonder as he did (in Sign of Chaos) just how edited – either intentionally or unconsciously – his father’s tale might have been. I personally feel that because Corwin was still suffering form considerable amnesia and trauma at that point, he indulged in some wishful thinking and actually believed it to be the case; i.e., he felt closer then to Random, who was helping him, and would rather be a half brother than a full brother to Eric, whom he disliked.

Here is the proper listing of parents for various of the Amberites, and a few observations concerning the relationships. As I will explain shortly, however, it cannot be regarded as representing a proper chronological order:

Mother Offspring
Moins Llewlla
Rilga (aged more rapidly than many; retired to a Shrine of the Unicorn and spent her final years as something of a recluse) Caine, Julian, Gerard
Paulette (High strung; a suicide; possibly from our shadow Earth) Random, Mirelle
Dybele (died in childbirth) Flora
Lora (Oberon married her in another shadow while Rilga was still living at her shrine; different timestream, though; tricky to date) Sand, Delwin
Kinta Coral
Deela the Desecratix (died leading her troops in battle) Dalt
Harla (Didn’t work out, and they separated by mutual consent; no record of divorce or annulment; no record of marriage either; peculiar, as Oberon did for a time refer to her as his wife) None Known

Questions of sequence do arise with respect to various shadow-paradoxes, to which Merlin refers later in the series when thinking upon the ease with which interpretations of birth precedence should be challenged. This has mainly to do with the fact that some of the Amberites were born in shadows possessed of radically different time streams.

For the Amber board game, due out in mid-1988, I was asked to provide a list of colors and the several devices so far referred to as associated with many of the Amberites. These follow:

Random Orange, red, brown
Julian White and black (Tree)
Caine Black and Green
Eric Black and Red
Benedict Orange, yellow, brown
Corwin Black and silver (Silver Rose)
Gerard Blue and gray (bronze three-masted ship)
Bleys Red and orange
Brand Green
Rinaldo Green (Phoenix)
Merlin Gray and Purple
Flora Green and Grey
Deirdre Black and Silver
Llewella Gray, green, lavender
Fiona Green, lavender, purple
Sand Pale tan and dark brown
Delwin Brown and black
Mirelle Red and yellow
Dalt Black and green (Lion rending Unicorn)
Osric Silver and Red
Finndo Green and Gold

That provides something of a glimpse into the Family Album of Amber. Try now this variation where you get to flip through pages in your own order, letting the shadows fall where they may.

-Roger Zelazny

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