I started with Dragonlance in 1992-93 in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. I had moved there in 1988 from the sunny, diverse fields of Silicon Valley. Suddenly, I was the one brownskin in a sea of white faces. In a place where what Californians all lump together under the broad title of “White” separated into Pilgrims, Irish, and Italians, I felt severely alienated. Mind you, I was around 12 years old, and felt the loss of companionship strongly. I spent a great deal of time wondering why God and my parents chose to dump me in this wintry wasteland.
In my fifth grade year (1992 or so, it’s kind of fuzzy), I met another Indian kid who was to become my guiding light. Hariprem Rajshekar was his name, and we had met in Tai Kwon Do class. One day, when we were going home, I saw that he had buried his nose in a blue covered book, with a rad looking dragon on the front. I asked what it was, and he replied, “Oh this is Dragons of Winter Night. It’s the sequel to Dragons of Autumn Twilight, which is a Dragonlance novel. You’ve heard of it, right?” To which I replied, “Oh, sure I have…but it’s been a while. Can I borrow your copy?” Of course I had never seen the book before, but then as now, I hated to been seen as ignorant. A defense mechanism, I suppose. In any event, he lent me the novel, and I devoured it. Put all my newly gained speed reading skills to use and finished Dragons of Autumn Twilight in a day. Immediately I was in awe at the sheer majesty of the book, and the grand philosophy introduced. A cosmic balance. How cool is that?! Instant addiction. I begged and pleaded for more from him, and then I went out and started buying my own. First novel? Legends Volume 1, original cover. I still have it, even though it has seen better days.
Within a month, I had read the Holy Six, a good chunk of Preludes and Meetings, and Tales. And then it hit me. I wanted to live this world. I wanted to restore the gods, balance the universe, and find meaning to my cold life. Like Raistlin, my hero at the time, I wanted to escape my loneliness and become a god being, a person who wouldn’t be denied anymore. I wanted attention. And Hariprem provided me with an answer. “Ever hear of Dungeons and Dragons? Well you can actually play as the Companions and play on Ansalon!” I think I died then. My first character, a Red Robed mage who straddled the Balance, seeking both, but bowing to neither. Even then my world view was molded by Dragonlance. (My second char was a tinker, but lets not go there.)
Soon afterwards, I left Massachusetts behind, and came back to California, and discovered that the borderless society I knew as a child had faded and the race based clique had evolved in its place. Once again I receded back to the shelter that was Dragonlance. I had honor in an honorless society, religion in a secular state, and Balance in the earthquakes of my life. Sturm replaced Raistlin as my new model.
All this is well and good, but what the hell does it have to do with religion you ask? Well, the answer isn’t really simple. I’m an Indian. I live and breathe Hinduism. But for a long time, I doubted everything. My life was rocky, and everything was falling apart.
In Dragonlance I found my answers. God was there, if you knew where to look. The Balance was all important, for it was in the design of the most high. Bad things happened to Balance the good, and good to balance the bad. Ok, it’s standard Dragonlance ideologue. However, compare it to modern Hinduism. There is one supreme source for all things, The High God. This High God is the fabric of creation, and the facet of creative energy is the female power of Chaos. From this source springs lesser deities, which aren’t really independent, but merely facets of the most high. And since everything comes from God, good and evil are merely opposite factors of the same thing, and the Balance takes care of itself. A very solidly Hindu philosophy. You get out what you put in. If you really want to find God, he’s more than happy to help you achieve what ever it is you want to do, so long as you accept the consequences. Bertrem knew he had to die for the greater good, just as Raistlin knew he had to sever his ties to his family for his divine power.
Matthew Martin and I have spent countless hours discussing Dragonlance and religion. He’s as devout as I am, and it has led to interesting results. His thoughts were in the Dragons of a Vanished Moon Appendix. My thoughts are below.
Before I start though, know this. I’ve had ridiculous amounts of hardships in my life, and every time doubts have come up. Typical stuff. God has abandoned me, there is no absolute good blah blah. And every time I remember the words of Fizban at the end of Dragons of Spring Dawning. Suffering makes us stronger. The people needed the Cataclysm to gain the strength to survive against the overbearing forces of one sided ideology. The Balance must be maintained. Then I realize that all the **** that hit my metaphysical fan is only there to help fertilize the future. Or something. In any case, I feel better, and stronger as a person of faith. If it works for the Companions, it works for me.
Somewhere before I started rambling was the thought that Dragonlance doesn’t have to be Christian. The High God doesn’t have to be good. Check this theory out, or what I call "Tal’s Appendix to the Appendix."
First, Valthonis is on crack. He’s obviously pushing a Goodist agenda here. The High God, the soul of the Tobril, the foundation of creation, is most definitely neutral, if any alignment at all. Consider the information. He summons good and evil from the void within him, and they arrive as intertwined dragons. Thusly we see that good and evil are merely separated strands of the same force. And who does the Most High trust with the Plan? A being of true neutrality summoned from deep within.
Incidentally, I’ve posted before on my feelings about the Cataclysm, but for the sake of new blood, here it comes again. Good was overarching Ansalon. Evil in the form of the Aurim empire ruled Taladas. And the Neutrality held far too much sway over the irda lands between the two continents (home to the Nzunta and friends). The Balance was seriously thrown out of whack. Paladine was saddened by this, but was tied by his desire not to hurt people. Takhisis merely waited for the chance to topple the status quo.
Gilean however saw the flaw for what it was. After consulting with Zivlyn (a Hindu deity if I ever saw one) about what would happen should this imbalance go unchecked, Gilean tossed a huge meteor at the planet, thinking to reset the balance and save the world for whoever survived it. Paladine could not allow such wanton destruction to take place so clinically, and tossed his lance at the rock, diverting it off course, and shattering it into one large chunk and many small fragments. The huge chunk slammed into Taladas, while the smaller fragments shattered Ansalon. The Balance was restored, and most of the world survived.
And want to see the best example of Hindusim in Dragonlance? The Fifth Age. No middle management between man and god. You want power? Seek it within, and the lord shall provide. Or seek it from the world, and the lord shall provide. Become one with yourself, or one with the world around you, and tap into the power of the High God yourself.
Reading these novels has helped me firm up my own understanding of my faith and my religion. Tracy was right to bring up Campbell and assert that Dragonlance is the modern morality play. He’s right. It’s the rock that I’ve balanced my life on.
Dragonlance says good redeems itself, and thus far I can not disagree.
Originally posted Mon, July 2, 2002 on the Dragonlance-L mailing list.