The Hourglass “I”: Hegel’s Theory Applied to the Archmage Raistlin Majere
In one of his many centralized appearances in the Dragonlance saga, the archmage Raistlin Majere says “I break the silence now because I want the facts known. If I am to be judged by those who come after me, I will be judged by the truth” (Soulforge 348). Fortunately for the jaded wizard, the truth is that throughout his life, he managed to become one of the most heroic individuals in all of Krynn’s history, even though he will be forever remembered primarily as one of the most evil. This essay will demonstrate how the character of Raistlin Majere fits perfectly within the parameters of the label “anti-hero,” while at the same time exploring Georg W.F. Hegel’s philosophy of self-consciousness, the idea of “I” as it has been adopted by human beings, and most importantly, how the concept factors into Raistlin Majere being labeled as an anti-hero.
Hegel states in his philosophical essay “The Phenomenology of Spirit” that “self-consciousness exists in and for itself when, and by the fact that, it so exists for another; that is, it exists only in being acknowledged” (Hegel 630). Basically this states that in order for any one person to attain self-consciousness, that person must first acknowledge consciousness or self-consciousness in other individuals. At least initially, what other basis does any person have other than themselves? In Raistlin Majere’s case, literally from the beginning, he had his twin brother Caramon with whom to acknowledge consciousness. However, how could Raistlin possibly see true self-consciousness in his twin (thereby attaining true self-consciousness himself) when it was as if the two were equal halves of one whole soul? Where Caramon was always healthy and naturally physically large even from as early as birth, Raistlin was sickly and small. Similarly, where Caramon was charismatic and charming, Raistlin was scathing and overtly critical. Also, Caramon was easy-going and labeled as having a low intelligence, whereas Raistlin’s only edge in life was his natural cognitive capacity, he being a certifiable genius.
In fact, it is this very genius which ultimately acts as both Raistlin’s salvation from a life of poverty and unfulfilled potential as well as his ultimate downfall. Because he is so naturally intelligent and comparably physically weak, Raistlin was always ridiculed and singled out as a child, never allowed to play along with the other children of his age (nor did he want to), and only saved from being regularly beaten up by his powerful and popular twin Caramon, who maintained a dogged loyalty to him all through life, always maintaining that since they were twins, they looked out for one another (Soulforge). However, we see almost initially that Raistlin is really the only benefactor of the twins’ brotherly relationship; he treats Caramon like dirt, realizing with his crafty intellect that Caramon will take all the biting remarks and cutting sarcasm because Caramon suffers from the all-encompassing weakness (at least in Raistlin’s opinion) of love. If Raistlin’s magic becomes his proverbial sword, Caramon will forever be his sickly brother’s shield.
However, Raistlin’s level of intelligence, especially combined with the physical and mental abuse of his peers as a child, only began to foster and reinforce a cynical superiority complex in the young man, thus setting himself as higher or more important than other people of lesser intelligence. This of course made it impossible for him to acknowledge any form of consciousness within others who weren’t as intelligent as he, and thereby (according to Hegel) further disallowed any possible attainment of self-consciousness for himself. In fact, the only person with whom Raistlin ever carries on a civil conversation is Tanis Half-Elven, the modest yet unanimously-appointed leader of the small group of heroes with whom Raistlin was a part of for the original trilogy of Dragonlance novels. Raistlin is civil when speaking with Tanis because he respects Tanis, because Tanis in turn respects Raistlin and the mage’s opinions unlike many of the other companions. Raistlin acknowledges Tanis’ ability to reason, claiming that the half-elf “had more sense than most of this lot,” referring to the others in the group (Dwarven Depths 15), and also telling his brother Caramon that “‘Tanis is wise….You would do well to pay attention to him'” (Autumn Twilight 222).
Tanis recognizes Raistlin as an individual, not just grouping him into a category, such as a twin or a mage. Tanis may not enjoy Raistlin’s company, but the half-elf nonetheless acknowledges Raistlin’s staggering intellect and deductive reasoning, as well as his budding mastery over the unsavory arcane arts. Because Tanis is empathetic and able to reason with and understand Raistlin on a level most others wish not to attempt, the half-elf has effectively acknowledged consciousness within the wizard. Since Tanis is one of the few who has done so, Tanis is in turn one of the few individuals within whom Raistlin acknowledges consciousness, thereby attaining self-consciousness himself when he is around the half-elf. However, unlike many other people, self-consciousness with Raistlin is like a switch; he turns it on when Tanis is around, but just as quickly douses it as he might douse the magical light from his staff when dealing with the other companions, because they view him only as evil, untrustworthy, and sly. They see him as part of some idea or group rather than an individual, and none of them (except Caramon, who is effectively Raistlin’s personal servant) are willing to get any closer to see his true individual consciousness.
However, even those who match Raistlin in cognitive capacity and talent of the arcane arts are not above the disdain of the young mage. At the beginning of the Chronicles trilogy, the first set of books published in the Dragonlance series, Raistlin is a young man, approximately 25 to 26 years old. He had recently taken the Test of High Sorcery, in which he proved himself worthy of the title of wizard, as well as proved himself powerful and competent enough to continue to practice magic at higher levels. Even more interesting (and a point of no small amount of pride with Raistlin himself) was the fact that Raistlin managed to successfully pass the Test (a dangerous trial in which up-and-coming wizards must push themselves to the limit of their powers and beyond, resulting in the deaths of many of the petitioners) at the very young age of 21 years; a feat unprecedented in the thousands of years the Test had been administered. Even at this young age, an age at which Raistlin was just beginning to test the waters of his arcane talent, barely able to cast the most rudimentary spells; he nonetheless scoffed at his superiors, vowing to one day rule them all with his now-budding power.
Instead Raistlin’s compassion and talents always seemed to favor those much weaker or so much less intelligent than he so as to pose no threat at all, or those who have been duped or tricked in some way, also proving their (in Raistlin’s estimation) lower cognitive capacity. At one point in Autumn Twilight, Tanis points out in Raistlin’s defense that “‘he worked long and tirelessly to help those who were taken in by the fake clerics'” (16). Similarly, throughout the series, many allusions were made to Raistlin having put his knowledge of herbs and alchemical talents to use to aid sick people, people dying from various maladies, people so weak they were unable to even lift their heads from pillows or move their bodies from beds and cots; people physically weaker than Raistlin, who was himself physically one of the weakest characters ever presented in any of the Dragonlance books.
During the travels of the Heroes of the Lance in Autumn Twilight, they were forced into many situations where a speedy retreat was most beneficial to their continued survival. In one such circumstance, the group was aided by a slovenly little creature, a gully dwarf (a subrace of dwarves in the Dragonlance series known for their extreme lack of intelligence and basic grooming skills) female named Bupu. Ignorantly claiming to be a gully dwarf mystic herself, Bupu was naturally attracted to Raistlin, who wielded magic spells throughout the group’s extended escape. Bupu became infatuated with the young wizard, fawning over him and praising his powers. Because of this idolization, as well as Bupu’s low level of intelligence, which effectively put her far off Raistlin’s scope of potential threats, Raistlin treated her with a kindness rarely seen by the volatile mage in the entirety of the Dragonlance series; because she so willingly acknowledged Raistlin’s self-consciousness, he was able and willing to do the same with her, and because her level of intelligence is so far beneath his own, he has no reason to be guarded or cynical in his acknowledgment of her consciousness as he is with the few others he has been able to acknowledge. Ultimately Bupu is faced with the decision of continuing with the group of returning to her home before she’s too far away to remember her way back.
“Bupu rolled over to face him. Her eyes were red, her nose swollen. Tears streaked down her dirty face. She snuffled and wiped her hand across her nose. ‘I don’t want to leave you. I want to go with you,’ she said brokenly, ‘but – oh – I will miss my people!’ Sobbing, she buried her face in her hands.
A look of infinite tenderness touched Raistlin’s face, a look no one in his world would ever see. He reached out and stroked Bupu’s coarse hair, knowing what it felt like to be weak and miserable, an object of ridicule and pity.
‘Bupu,’ he said, ‘you have been a good and true friend to me. You saved my life and the lives of those I care about. Now you will do one last thing for me, little one. Go back. I must travel roads that will be dark and dangerous before the end of my long journey. I can not ask you to go with me.’
….Bupu looked at him sadly, then – greatly daring – she caught his hand in hers and kissed it swiftly. She turned away, her head bowed, sobbing bitterly.
Raistlin stepped forward. He laid his hand on her head. ‘If I have any power at all, Great One,’ he said inside himself, ‘power that has not yet been revealed to me, grant that this little one goes through her life in safety and happiness'” (Autumn Twilight 265-6).
As stated previously in the essay, in accordance with Hegel’s concept of self-consciousness, literally from birth Raistlin had no concept of a definitive single “self,” and therefore could not hope to conceive of such a notion as consciousness of that nonexistent self. This inability to define his “self” was of course due to the birth of twins, Raistlin as well as Caramon. We see it still in today’s society with the rearing of twins, at least initially in their cognitive development stages. What one twin does, both twins do, where one twin goes, both go. This is not necessarily of the twins’ own volition, but rather due to parental rearing, and the logical assumption that twins should be raised alongside one another. Such was the case with the Majere twins, being virtually raised by their older half-sister Kitiara, due to their mother’s prolonged mental illness and their father’s long work hours. Kitiara, a tomboy and approximately ten years their senior, attempted to raise the twins the only way she knew how; roughly. Bent on dreams of fighting and conquest, Kitiara raised Caramon (and attempted to raise Raistlin) to be warriors. However, sickly and small as he was, Raistlin was not able to live up to his sister’s expectations, whereas Caramon excelled.
As a young child, Raistlin was not afforded any kind of opportunity to make any friends because of his size, relative weakness, and sharp wit. Similarly, no one was interested in Raistlin because Caramon (not realizing his brother’s lack of social skills and inability to rough-house) was so popular and willing to strike up friendships with virtually anyone. Raistlin soon became ostracized and distrusted among the other children, and though no real fault of Caramon’s, Raistlin began to resent his twin. Because of his lack of extended contact with anyone other than Caramon during his early years of social development, Raistlin was effectively denied the chance to interact with and see the self-consciousness of others, and so in turn had no one to reflect such acknowledgment back onto himself.
However, Caramon was more than just Raistlin’s twin; he was his mirror image, his perfect foil. Whereas Raistlin sickly and weak but intelligent and crafty, Caramon was robust, healthy, friendly, and thought to be dim-witted by most people. It was as if they were two halves of one whole person. For this reason even after having to cope with being a twin and always labeled as such instead of an individual, Raistlin could not expect to be able to attain any sense of true “self,” because it was as if he were half of a single self.
Raistlin’s only solace was magic. After discovering his latent talent, Raistlin approached it with a fervor and dedication bordering on addiction. Finally the young man had found something that was truly his, that no one else he knew possessed, and as he found out as he began attending school to further his talents, that none of the other students possessed in as much of a natural ability or quantity as Raistlin did. As Raistlin himself commented before deciding to go ahead with his studies, “without magic, there is no future” (Soulforge 78), and later when testing the scope of his power for the first time “nothing in my life matters except this. No moment of my life exists except this moment. I am born in this moment, and if I fail, I will die in this moment” (84). Magic became Raistlin’s only anchor to existence; without magic, Raistlin was little more than a cripple in a world of hale and hearty people. Magic was his only interest, his only desire, and no one else matched his level of power or potential. The only thing standing between Raistlin and true, final, attainment of self (and through logical progression, self-consciousness) was the passing of the Test of High Sorcery, whereby he would then be a fully-ranked wizard able to practice his art on his own, and finally his own individual person.
Upon receiving his letter of invitation from Wayreth (the Wizard Conclave’s seat of power) to take the Test, Raistlin was overjoyed so much so that he hardly paid any attention to an addendum which expressly invited Caramon to not only act as Raistlin’s guide to the Tower of Wayreth, but also to enter the tower along with Raistlin. As Raistlin has grown in his power, particularly just before taking the Test, it is shown how much more confident he is, as if he was building to the point of true self-attainment, growing in spirit the closer he comes. Just before entering the protective forest surrounding the Tower of Wayreth, Raistlin admonishes Caramon for being so jittery, telling his much larger and heretofore protective brother “do not be afraid, Caramon. I am with you” (Soulforge 358). This illustrates a pinnacle of inner strength for Raistlin which he had never experienced before in his life; up to this point, Caramon had always been Raistlin’s protector, and for once, for the first time since their birth, Raistlin was able to offer similar protection to Caramon.
Once reaching the tower itself, the twins discover the true reason behind Caramon’s summons alongside Raistlin; apparently it was standard procedure to invite any twin of an initiate to come along in an effort to test them to see if they had any magic ability at all. As the head of the conclave of wizards says, “twins have an extremely close bond, closer than most siblings, almost as if the two were in reality once being split in twain” (Soulforge 366). Raistlin is quick – perhaps too quick? – to point out that Caramon had no magic talent, nor had he ever exhibited as much. With this knowledge, Raistlin is excused to take the Test, the failure of which meant death.
As stated before, Raistlin was the youngest petitioner ever to be invited to take the Test, and there was no small amount of apprehension among the Test administrators that the young man would fail. However, within the illusion of the Test (an illusion created by the most powerful wizards in the world) Raistlin comes across an old man claiming a desire to help him. The old man is described as wearing black robes, which in the Dragonlance series is a sign of an evil wizard. Closer inspection of him yields more insight into the depth of his darkness; “his face arrested attention….Fine lines spreading from the nose to the brow might have represented wisdom in another. On him the lines ran deep with cunning. Lines of intelligence around the hawk-black eyes tightened into cynical amusement. Contempt for his fellow beings cracked the thin lips. Ambition was in his outthrust jaw. His hooded eyes were cold and calculating and bright….The old man’s face was a desert of desolation, harsh and deadly and cruel” (Soulforge 381).
The wizard introduces himself as Fistandantilus, a long-dead wizard who was known throughout the world as the most powerful wizard who had ever lived. Consequently, he was also known as one of the most evil individuals in all of Krynnish history, having performed unspeakable acts in bloody rituals to his dark god and being the key instigator of the Dwarfgate War, a bloody battle which had forever divided the dwarven nations. Supposedly the ancient wizard had died in that conflict, but Raistlin had always expected that there was more to the story than that; after all, the old black-robed mage was arguably the most powerful wizard to have ever lived. Obviously based off of this information Raistlin knew that any bargain struck with this old man would only yield dangerous results. However, no less cunning, and desiring to pass his Test more than anything else in the world, Raistlin accepts Fistandantilus’ offer: the ancient wizard’s help in the completion of Raistlin’s test in exchange for Fistandantilus’ spirit entering Rasitlin’s body, effectively taking over the young wizard and finishing in the living world what the ancient wizard started in his own life – the overthrowing of a goddess and attainment of godhood himself.
In order to help Raistlin, Fistandantilus infused Raistlin’s skin with a protective ward against magic spells, in the process turning Raistlin’s skin color from a normal color to one of a noticeable golden sheen. Originally Raistlin intended to trick Fistandantilus by using the ancient wizard’s protective ward against him, as Fistandantilus’ spirit was not able to enter Raistlin’s body without his consent due to the ward. However, in the process of the Test, Raistlin was attacked physically with a knife and had no defense following which he laid in a corridor bleeding to death when suddenly and illusion of Caramon (Raistlin not realizing it for an illusion) appeared to help his frail twin. As the two began to leave, Fistandantilus showed himself again, intent upon taking what was promised in the bargain. Raistlin, too weak to move, let alone cast any protective spells, could only watch in amazement as Caramon instead used magic to send a lightning bolt shooting down the corridor against the evil spirit, supposedly blowing it into oblivion. Raistlin, unable to understand what he just witnessed, jealously coursing through him, makes the observation to his twin that “‘All I ever had was my magic….And now you have that too'” (Soulforge 396). In a blaze of fury and jealousy, Raistlin then casts one last spell, engulfing the illusion he mistook for his brother in pure flame, effectively killing it (or as Raistlin saw it, his brother). This last spell overtaxed Raistlin to the point of exhaustion, and only then Fistandantilus was able to take his end of the bargain, his spirit entering into Raistlin’s body, the combined shock of which (the last grandiose spell as well as the possession) turning Raistlin’s hair to a pure snowy white.
It is at this moment, when Raistlin manages to pass his Test, that he both finally gains freedom from his brother’s shadow, an attainment of true self, and just as quickly loses it with the possession of his body by Fistandantilus, effectively having two separate entities, two separate souls, inhabiting his body, vying for control. This added confusion makes Raistlin even more cynical, even less able to acknowledge self-consciousness of others. Before he may have seemed to be half of a whole person, but following the successful completion of his Test (a completion attained only through cheating with the aid of Fistandantilus, so therefore not even a real personal success), he became even less of an individual, his body home to two separate souls.
Immediately following Raistlin’s Test, the head of the wizard’s conclave, a powerful wizard named Par-Salian, sought to bring some humility to the young volatile mage. Par-Salian was aware of the bargain struck during Raistlin’s Test, and the subsequent possession of the young wizard by Fistandantilus. However, Par-Salian also realized that, through sheer power of will, Raistlin wouldn’t so readily allow Fistandantilus’ soul to overtake his body. In an attempt to humble Raistlin, bring him to a more humane level of thinking, and help him to fight Fistandantilus’ control, Par-Salian casts a spell on Raistlin’s eyes, changing the irises from a normal circular shape to that of an hourglass shape. With these new hourglass-shaped eyes, Raistlin was cursed to see everything as time passed; if he looked upon any living thing, he would see it as it actually was, and he would then watch as it aged, withered away, and died. The effect was exactly the opposite than that which Par-Salian had in mind. Instead of humbling Raistlin, the eyes made the young wizard more bitter, and the eyes combined with the other changes in his physical appearance (his gold-tinted skin and startlingly white hair) singled him out even more from everyone else, thus causing him to retreat even more into himself, being more aloof, and sending him even farther away from ever hoping to attain true self-consciousness.
His continued and more pronounced inability to acknowledge the self-consciousness of others as well as his continued lack of personal self-consciousness did not ultimately rule Raistlin’s judgement and basic principles as a human being, however. As the War of the Lance drew to a close, Raistlin is firmly entrenched on the side of the evil Highlords (the quintessential bad guys who the other Heroes of the Lance had spent the entirety of the Chronicles trilogy fighting against). The ultimate goal of the Highlords lay in bringing the dark goddess Takhisis fully into the world from her alternate hellish plane, but at the pinnacle of the Highlords’ power, when Takhisis’ entry was immanent, Raistlin used a magic spell to drop the protective shield around the Highlords’ leader, thus allowing Tanis Half-Elven to kill him, destroying the Highlords’ plans and sending Takhisis back to the Abyss. At this point Raistlin was not yet free of Fistandantilus’ hold, and so his reasoning behind foiling the Highlords’ plans were purely because such an act was beneficial to his overall personal plans of growth in power and eventual world domination. However, it cannot be contested that, through the act of aiding Tanis’ murder of the Highlords’ leader, this became the first time of four in which Raistlin’s actions (no matter how nefarious or self-serving) directly influenced the greater protection of the world.
It is not made obvious until the next subsequent trilogy in the Dragonlance series – the Legends trilogy – what Raistlin’s mysterious plans and reasoning behind halting the advance of the dark goddess were. A few years had passed since the end of the War of the Lance (the end of the Chronicles Trilogy) and the Legends trilogy, and in that time Raistlin had managed to fulfill a prophecy, becoming the “Master of Past and Present,” as his body was home to the souls of both the most powerful mage ever to come out of the past (Fistandantilus) as well as the most powerful mage of the present day (Raistlin himself). While fulfilling this prophecy, Raistlin had severed all ties with his twin Caramon and had become fully entrenched in acts of evil magic and dark wizardry. Fueled by not only his own lust for power and desire for rule, but also Fistandantilus’, Raistlin decided to pick up where the ancient wizard left off – he decided to attempt to seize godhood by killing Takhisis and ousting her from power. However, Raistlin must first perform a self-charged ultimate test of power and will; using his magic, Raistlin traveled 350 years into the past in order to kill the at-the-time still-living Fistandantilus, in effect attaining freedom from the wizard’s spirit while at the same time proving unequivocally his ultimate mastery over the arcane arts. By killing Fistandantilus, Raistlin showed that he was definitively the most powerful wizard to have ever lived, fully worthy of the title “Master of Past and Present.” Finally Raistlin was entirely his own person, neither under his brother’s shadow nor housing two souls in one body. True “self” had been attained, if not self-consciousness.
In an attempt to stop Raistlin’s power-mad grab at godhood, the Wizard’s Conclave sent Caramon back in time after his brother, charging him with the task of doing anything in his power to stop his evil twin, even if it meant killing Raistlin. In his various trials to get within striking distance of his brother, Caramon is inadvertently sent back to an altered future in which Raistlin was able to attain his desired goal of godhood. The hellish landscape of Caramon’s once-lush homeland is all that greets him in this new future, his feet “ankle-deep in slick ash-gray mud that completely covered the face of the land….Here and there jagged ends of broken rock jutted from the soft flesh of the ash covering. There were no signs of life. Nothing could be alive in that desolation. No trees remained standing; only fire-blackened stumps poked through the thick mud. As far as the eye could see, clear to the horizon, in every direction, there was nothing but complete and total devastation” (Test 16).
The hellish existence experienced by Caramon was a direct result of Raistlin’s ascension to godhood and the subsequent imbalance of natural order caused by the death of not only one god, but all of them (with the exception of Raistlin, of course). While in the alternate future, Caramon also comes across the recently-deceased body of the gully dwarf Bupu whom Raistlin had befriended in the Chronicles trilogy. “[S]he stared up at the starlit sky with empty, sightless eyes. Dressed in filthy, ragged clothing, her small body was pitifully thin, her grubby face wasted and gaunt” (Test 51). This instance becomes an invaluable tool of persuasion later in the novel, as Caramon meets his twin for the last time.
Raistlin managed to meet every goal leading up to the ultimate prize of godhood; all that was left was his destruction of Takhisis. Through magic, persuasion, cunning, and murder, Raistlin had managed to gain control of a portal which would transport him into the Abyss, Takhisis’ home plane. He had duped a young woman, Crysania, a priestess of a good deity, to travel with him and he used her as little more than a shield, making her take the brunt of the damage marshaled by Takhisis’ minions. At the end of the deadly struggle, “his wounds were too numerous to count….His black robes hung about him in stained tatters. He did not draw a breath that was not wrenching agony. He had, long ago, stopped vomiting blood….And through it all, he had endured” (Test 308). Although following the struggle with the Abyssal guardians Raistlin was beaten and bloody, he at least was still standing. Crysania on the other hand was inches from death, and permanently blinded by the dark powers which she so valiantly fought against on his behalf. However, just as total victory is in sight, Caramon managed to find his brother and tell him of the future should Raistlin continue with his foolhardy goal.
Raistlin, in disbelief of Caramon’s tale of the future, cast a spell on his brother to see if Caramon is telling the truth. The vision that greets Raistlin is out of his worst nightmares. Just as Caramon had claimed, in the future the world is dead, the new (and only) deity Raistlin is the ruler of nothing more than “gray ash and smoldering ruin and bloated corpses” (Test 311). The vision continued, and Raistlin saw the dead form of his little friend Bupu, who is, in his vision, not quite dead yet. Raistlin, grief-stricken at the thought of innocent Bupu dying from his actions, pleaded with Caramon to save her, and with this plea the vision faded, revealing the prostrate form of not Bupu, but Crysania, whom Rasitlin so callously used and left to die. Fully seeing the error of his ways, wishing only to save the young priestess, Raistlin made Caramon take her out of the Abyss and in the process sacrificed himself, gave himself over to the dark goddess in order to cover his brother’s escape. A glimpse is given of the torment Raistlin will suffer due to his sacrifice, stating that he will be “tortured in mind and body,” dying each day from the pain and being resurrected each morning to suffer it all again, day after day for all eternity.
This was the first time in Raistlin Majere’s life that he was able to attain true and full self-consciousness. No longer constrained by his twin nor by Fistandantilus’ possessive spirit, this is the first decision Raistlin made fully on his own; by finally stopping to consider the thoughts and feelings of another person, by offering himself in sacrifice so that his brother and the priestess could get away, Raistlin effectively acknowledged the self-consciousness of both his brother and Crysania, and they in turn finally were able to acknowledge the same self-consciousness in Raistlin. Some years later, in Raistlin’s defense, Caramon commented that “‘Raistlin made a mistake- a terrible, tragic mistake. And he did what few of us can do – he had courage enough to admit it and try to do what he could to rectify it, even though it meant sacrificing himself'” (Legacy 103). By sacrificing himself to Takhisis, Raistlin not only saved Caramon and Crysania, but the world as a whole for a the second time of four.
Of course, at this point, the question would be, if Raistlin sacrificed himself for the greater good, and is locked away in the Abyss for all eternity, how could he possibly save the world two more times? The last two times Raistlin saves the world (or aids in the task) are much less involved than the first two times. Although locked in the Abyss, being tortured by the dark goddess Takhisis for all time, Raistlin is nonetheless still alive at the point in time some twenty-five years later when Caramon’s youngest son, Palin (an aspiring young wizard) journeys to Wayreth to take his Test of High Sorcery. During his Test, Palin meets his uncle Raistlin and, though intrigued by his long-dead uncle, ultimately decides to close the portal to the Abyss, keeping Raistlin in his state of perpetual torment.
Later still, only a few years this time, an ancient evil power awakens and threatens the world, threatens the very gods themselves. Palin is forced to once again enter the dreaded portal to the Abyss, and this time Raistlin returns to the real world with him, in an effort to help his nephew find some means of stopping this evil power. However, due to the threat previously posed by Raistlin, the gods had stripped him of his power, so he was unable to use any magic upon his return from the Abyss. This in effect raised Raistlin to a near-level with the gods, as their respect and fear for his power and cunning forced them to block access to his powers. In a way, in this act, the gods themselves have acknowledged Raistlin’s self-consciousness, or at least his aptitude for power and the danger inherent therein.
The Chaos War, as the conflict is called, comes to a close only after Raistlin manages to give his nephew Palin a powerful spellbook, which Palin then uses a spell out of to bring about an end to the evil power which threatened the world. Thus, we are shown the third of four times in which Raistlin managed to help save the world.
Following the Chaos War, the gods depart the world, taking Raistlin with them, again claiming that even without his magic he is too powerful to be left behind; they give him the honor of leaving with them. However, it is later revealed that the gods did not, in fact, leave the world, but instead the world was stolen by Takhisis and hidden from the other gods. Raistlin Majere was the only being – mortal or god – able to discover the location of Krynn; through the use of his staggering intellect as well as his reinstated magical powers, he succeeded where all the other gods failed. This, then was the fourth and final time that, through his actions in one form or another, Raistlin Majere managed to save the world.
To conclude, we find that only after Raistlin had attained true consciousness of self, only after he had broken the societal “twin mold” he and Caramon had been grouped together into since birth, only after he had managed to defeat Fistandantilus and prove himself as the most powerful wizard in the world, was Raistlin truly able to function, think, and act as a hero. However, due to the number of unspeakable acts committed by Raistlin throughout his life, he will never truly be remembered as a hero, but instead as a despicable villain. Therefore, I call for middle ground; Raistlin was neither a true, sterling example of the quintessential hero, but through his varied actions of saving the world four times, he should not be wholly grouped into the category of villain either. Raistlin Majere is an anti-hero by the purest definition of the term. Additionally, Raistlin Majere is, in effect, the antithesis of the classic “Epic Hero” template in the purest sense of the term; his physical weakness, poor health, and staggering intellect offer only a mirror image to the aforementioned heroic archetype, which on the other hand is exemplified by Caramon. Literally in this sense, Raistlin is an “anti-hero.” However, hero, villain, or anti-hero, as an avid fan of the character, no words describe Raistlin Majere nearly as well as those spoken by Raistlin’s apprentice Dalamar, commenting on the memory of his master: “‘By his failure [he] succeeded in what he set out to accomplish….In a way, he has become a god'” (Legacy 116).
- Hegel, George W.F. “Phenomenology of Spirit.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: Norton, 2001. 630-6.
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- Weis, Margaret, and Tracy Hickman. Dragons of Summer Flame. Renton: TSR, 1985.
- Weis, Margaret, and Tracy Hickman. Dragons of a Vanished Moon. Renton: Wizards of the Coast, 2002.
- Weis, Margaret, and Tracy Hickman. Dragons of Winter Night. Renton: TSR, 1985.
- Weis, Margaret, and Tracy Hickman. Time of the Twins. Renton: TSR, 1986.
- Weis, Margaret, and Tracy Hickman. War of the Twins. Renton: TSR, 1986.