In The Courts of Chaos, as Corwin hellrides through Shadow, he stops to rest in a cave. When he awakens, a man there asks him whether his name is Corwin, mentioning a holy book.

The passage in question:

The Archangel Corwin shall pass before the storm, lightning on his breast. When asked where he travels, he shall say, 'To the ends of the Earth,' where he goes not knowing what enemy will aid him against another enemy, nor whom the Horn will touch.

This obviously is foreshadowing the coming conflict at the Courts, but every time I read it, I am struck with a faint sense of familiarity, especially by the first sentence.

Is there a literary or cultural reference involved in this passage, especially the first half?

2 Answers 2


Disclaimer: I'm working towards attaining my Ph.D in English particularly focusing on Science Fiction and American Literature. That being said, Zelazny is my favorite author and I have studied the Amber novels for years. So, while the following is essentially speculation, I am also not merely making things up as I go.

Zelazny filled the Amber series with numerous allusions and references to other SF and Fantasy works. The first sentence, as far as I am aware is not specifically referencing anything else, though it is imitative of biblical verse. Luckily, however, Zelazny utilized Norse mythology in numerous locations throughout both Amber and many of his short stories. Here, my best guess is that this section is, and perhaps to a greater degree the whole shadow storm that Corwin rides before, a reference to Ragnarok and Heimdallr. With that in mind I'll proceed to the text.

Just a page or so before the quote in question Corwin states:

I touched the Jewel. ... with red pulses of energy corresponding to my heartbeats.

The lightning upon his breast, in this instance, is actually just the jewel of judgement and, obviously, Corwin is passing through this shadow ahead of the shadow storm.

The next part of this holy scripture, as it were, is where it gets interesting. The response "To the ends of the Earth" and the evocation of "the Horn", I believe are direct references to Bifrost and the Gjallarhorn.

In Norse mythology, Heimdallr is the god that watches over Bifrost, the bridge between heaven and Earth. He is also tasked with sounding Gjallarhorn to both summon the other gods to him for aid as well as signal the beginning of Ragnarok or the end of days. During Ragnarok the Earth is completely submersed in water and, upon surfacing, is cleansed and renewed.

Look to the beginning of chapter six:

     I rode fewer than a thousand meters to what had been the south, and everything stopped ... I thought then of the stranger in the cave and his words. He had felt that the world was being blotted out by that storm, that it corresponded to something out of a local apocalyptic legend. Perhaps it had. Perhaps it had been the wave of Chaos of which Brand had spoken, moving this way, passing over, destroying, disrupting. But this end of the valley was untouched. Why should it remain?

     Then I recalled my actions on rushing out into the storm. I had used the Jewel, the power of the Pattern within it, to halt the storm over this area.

Here, it becomes more clear that the shadow storm is analogous with the earth being submersed; this Shadow with Midgard. Corwin, recast as an Archangel bearing a talisman (or lightning upon his chest), has the ability to part the waters for a time temporarily preserving a small patch of Earth from the cleansing waters of Ragnarok. Yet, being on earth, Corwin cannot possibly know who or what Heimdallr has summoned with Gjallarhorn.

Though I'm not certain, I don't think the first sentence is from anything in particular but this section is only a small part of a larger motif in which Zelazny incorporates characters into extant myths and stories.

  • 1
    I would recommend either bolding the important conclusions, or separating them into a "TL;DR" sections. +1 otherwise Jul 6, 2013 at 13:08
  • I assumed the 'important conclusions' were the parts that actually answered the question such that a casual reader could ascertain essentially a useless 'yes' or 'no' answer.
    – Arammil
    Jul 6, 2013 at 17:03
  • anything longer than 4 paragraphs warrants a TL;DR in my opinion. I'm used to business writing :) Jul 6, 2013 at 17:32
  • What in the world is a a TL;DR? Like I understand that stands for 'too long didn't read' but how does one format something into a "TL;DR"?
    – Arammil
    Jul 7, 2013 at 2:03
  • 1
    @Arammil: Can you also explain the line about "Then I closed her eyes with kisses four, so as not to break the charm"?
    – Joe L.
    Jan 12, 2016 at 23:26

In Nine Princes, Corwin remarks that any of The Blood can find shadows in which they are worshipped as gods. Clearly, this is one of those shadows for Corwin. Lightning upon his breast is the Jewel of Judgement, The Horn is that of the Unicorn, and Enemies against Enemies is back to his blood relatives and those of the Court. This was written as prophecy, and intended to read as prophecy, but I have neither come upon a similar work nor heard reference to any.

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