First appearing in the David Gemmell novel Legend in 1984, Druss the Legend is a fictional hero embodying virtue, courage, honour, chivalry and strength of character.
Druss has also appeared in the novels The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend, The Legend of Deathwalker, White Wolf and The Swords of Night and Day. Druss is the grandson of Bardan the Slayer, a psychotic madman driven insane by the demon residing within his cursed axe, Snaga the Sender.
Druss is described as a physically imposing man, immensely strong but also possessing great speed and dexterity. He has a hard, flat face, black hair and a thick, black beard and pale blue eyes. Despite his initial lack of formal combat training, he becomes known as a fearsome warrior who has never been bested in single combat. He wears the armour and weapons of his Grandfather, Bardan the Slayer, which includes a black leather jerkin with silver steel pauldrons, black leather gauntlets with reinforced steel plates covering the knuckles and forearms, black leather boots and a black pot helmet with a silver axe motif on the brow flanked by small silver skulls.
While this is the first book Druss appears in, it is also the last chronologically where he appears alive. Appearing as a sixty year old man who fears his growing weakness with age, Druss is given a choice by Death to assist the Drenai in the defence of their nation at the cost of his own life, or to live for another twenty years and descend into dotage and senility before dying of old age. He decides to help the Drenai and ultimately falls in the defence of the fourth wall of Dros Delnoch. Through his participation, the Nadir hordes of Ulric are turned back and the Drenai are saved. see Legend.
The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend
Druss’ second appearance in a David Gemmell book, this is his first chronologically. In this book, we see Druss as a young man. It shows his beginnings as a woodcutter in a simple farming village where he lives with his father, Bress and his wife, Rowena. Unbeknownst to Druss, Rowena is a Seer, able to sense the thoughts of others and leave her body to travel on another plane (in a manner similar to The Thirty). During a raid on Druss’ village, his father is killed and Rowena is kidnapped. He vows to avenge his father and rescue his wife. Druss takes up the axe and armour of his grandfather, Bardan the Slayer, and embarks on his quest. The first person he sees after the fall of his father is a man called Shadak who gives Druss the code that he will live and die by:
"Never violate a woman, nor harm a child.
Do not lie, cheat or steal. These are things for lesser men.
Protect the weak against the evil strong.
And never allow thoughts of gain lead you into the pursuit of evil.
Never back away from an enemy. Either fight or surrender.
It is not enough to say I will not be evil. Evil must be fought wherever it is found."
In an error of continuity to Legend, he attacks the bandit camp holding his wife prisoner with Shadak, not Sieben the Poet, as stated in Legend. He encounters Sieben later on and the two form an unbreakable bond, Sieben often acting as a Druss' wisdom and consideration. see The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend.
The Legend of Deathwalker
Druss’ third appearance. In this book we see Druss as man in his thirties, placing the events in this book after the majority of The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend, but before the Battle of Skeln Pass. In this Book Druss travels to the northern lands with an embassy of the Drenai. He accompanies Drenai athletes who are going to compete in an athletic competition similar to the Olympic games that are being held in the northern land. During the trip, Druss defeats the Drenai fighter in a sparring match and has to replace him for the upcoming event. Once they arrive he meets Klay, the fighter for the northern land. Forming a strong friendship, Klay is wounded by an arrow meant for Druss while the pair are out drinking. Druss vows to recover two fabled magical stones that are hidden in the lands of the Nadir. The stones are rumored to have immense healing properties, and Druss intends to use them to heal his friend. The Nadir also seek the stones, believing that they contain the magical essence of the nadir lands. Druss joins several Nadir at an old abandoned fort where they fight a battle against an army of Gothir, a nation that has long hated the Nadir. Druss helps the outnumbered defenders, who are being led by a young man named Talisman, and helps win the battle. Eventually the stones are found, but Druss is too late to save Klay. The stones are then given back to the Nadir, and Talisman shatters them, against the wishes of the tribal shaman thus returning the magic back to the Nadir lands. A result of this release is that Talisman's eyes turn purple. He takes a new name, Ulric, and sets about uniting the Nadir tribes. In the epilogue, the encounter between Druss and Ulric that was originally in "Legend" is retold from Ulric's point of view. Druss does not recognize Ulric as Talisman, however, avoiding an inconsistency with the earlier book.
In this book Druss the Legend appears as a supporting character at about the age of 50. The books hero is named Olek Skilgannon, or Skilgannon the Damned. Skilgannon was a young boy when King Gorbens's armies (with Druss as their champion) conquered his native land of Naashan. When he grows up he becomes the general for Jianna the Witch Queen, and is given the Swords of Night and Day. He eventually leaves Jianna's service after having been ordered to wipe out an entire city. Skilgannon executes the order but is left disillusioned. He travels north, always fighting the evil influence of the swords, which are possessed by demons. There, pursued by his vengeful ex-lover the Witch Queen, he meets up with a sick Druss. Together they fight their way to the temple of Ustarte, where Skilgannon eventually fights and defeats his long time rival who has the Swords of Blood and Fire. Druss is healed and returns home to the Skoda mountains. In the end he takes a young girl under his wing to bring up, she is however never mentioned again in the books that follow.
The Swords of Night and Day
In this book, set one thousand years after Druss’ death, Druss appears only briefly. Druss now walks in the Void, the place between paradise and hell, helping weaker souls to reach their destination. His physical body is re-recreated from a piece of his skeleton, but because those who resurrected him do not know who he is, a new soul (Harad) now inhabits his body. Harad helps the resurrected Skilgannon in bringing down an evil queen known as the Eternal who seeks to conquer the world. Druss has no wish to return to the physical world, nor to displace Harad from his physical body. Hence he uses his resurrected body only briefly, taking over when Harad suffers a grievous head wound, in order to fight alongside Skilgannon. After the war, Druss declares that he will finally leave the Void and enter paradise where he can be with his beloved Rowena.
Snaga the Sender
Snaga is the axe wielded by Druss the legend. Druss takes up the axe after his fathers death. The blade is inhabited by a demon who drove its previous wielder, Druss’ grandfather, Bardan the Slayer and Carvjak, to insanity. Druss is barely able to control the demon within the blade, but it augments his fighting skills until he is finally able to exorcise it during the rescue of his wife Rowena.
In October 2000 at the at the World Fantasy Convention in Texas, David Gemmell gave an interview in which he revealed that Druss was based on his father, Bill.
"Years later, when I wrote my first novel, I used Bill as the model for a character. His name was Druss the Legend. Bill re-appeared in many novels thereafter, in many guises." http://www.booksattransworld.co.uk/davidgemmell/home.htm