Religious Concepts in Fantasy Literature

Master's Thesis, 2008

84 Pages, Grade: 2,0



1 Preface

2 Dragonlance
2.1 When Gods Are Bored
2.1.1 Creation Myth
2.1.2 The Divine Pantheon A Modern Approach - Autonomous Wor­ship And Feminist Scholarship Duality Around a Middle
Gods of Good
Gods of Neutrality
Gods of Evil Familiar Names Chaos and the High God
2.1.3 The Dragons
2.1.4 Numerology
2.2 Higher Beings and Divine Entities
2.2.1 “And God Created Man In His Own Image”
2.2.2 Ludwig Feuerbach’s Projection Theory
2.3 The Master of The Present And The Past
2.3.1 Twins-A Divine Sign
2.3.2 Creation of Life
2.3.3 How to Become a God
2.4 The Animated Chronicles - Dragons of Autumn Twilight

3 His Dark Materials
3.1 Elementary Particles
3.1.1 The Many-Worlds-Theory
3.1.2 Dust, Sexuality And Multiple Eves
3.2 Pullman’s Deconstruction of Dogmas
3.2.1 The Fall of Mankind - Dammnation or Blessing?
3.2.2 The Heaven-Hell-Deception
3.2.3 The Day The Authority Died
3.2.4 A Human Satan
3.3 Body, Soul And Ghost
3.3.1 The Trinity Within Oneself
3.3.2 Demons And Animal Symbolism
3.4 Northern Lights on Screen — The Golden Compass

4 The Force
4.1 A Religious Fantasy Element in Science Fiction
4.1.1 Magic And The Force
4.1.2 Taoism in The Force
4.2 Jedi And Sith - The Chosen Ones
4.2.1 An All-Encompassing Power
4.2.2 Two Sides of a Medal - The Prophecy of Balance
4.3 "... in a galaxy far, far away ... ” - The Star Wars Universe Expanded
4.3.1 New Generation Jedi
4.3.2 Devoid of The Force

5 Conclusion

6 Bibliography


A Anhang

1. Preface

For a long time, the genre of fantasy has not been regarded as ‘real’ litera­ture, because it apparently did not deal with problems from the real world and was often published in cheap paperbacks or journals. Furthermore, because its story did not take place in the real world, it was deemed to be unimportant and inconsequential.

This was the reason why writers of fantastic stories like George Mc­Donald could not until the middle of the twentieth century openly write about strange worlds which were so much different from ours. They had to disguise their stories as wondrous travel stories or accounts of strange dreams. In his story Fantastes (1905), George McDonald lets his hero re­turn from the strange fairy land simply by ‘waking up’ from a supposedly very curious dream.

However, at the latest when J. R. R. Tolkien published The Lord of the Rings (1954-55), things changed. His novels became an immediate success and prepared the readers for all those other fantasy writers who followed. This is furthermore one of the reasons why J. R. R. Tolkien is considered to be the father of modern fantasy.

To give a short definition of the genre of fantasy literature, according to The Oxford Companion to English Language, the topic of fantasy literature are usually strange and curious happenings. Furthermore, strange lan­guage can be encountered, deviced to describe the various exotic crea­tures, places or people, and of course it is set in a world which is very dif­ferent from our normal world, having rules and logic of its own and which can be very elaborate and well ordered (McArthur, 398 ff.)[31].

Among the fantasy genre, there are various sub-genres. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, for example, would commonly be sorted into Epic Fan­tasy, or High Fantasy, involving an elaborately constructed world. Also, the featured characters are evolving, and oftentimes a highly complex sys­tem of magic exists, as well. This sub-genre will not feature in this thesis, however. Instead, I will focus on the Dragonlance series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, which commonly would probably be sorted into the sub-genre of Sword & Sorcery, which is a genre characterized by self-assured protagonists without doubts of their abilities and who tend to survive most conflicts. This is probably due to the origins of the series in traditional role playing games, which have clear-cut characters without much depth to them. However, Dragonlance actually is a mixture of Epic Fantasy and Sword & Sorcery, because the various characters usually are not flat but well-rounded, and the storyline undergoes many complicated developments during the course of the series. The next work, the trilogy His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, is Children’s Fantasy, with the main protagonists being adolescents and without graphic violence. Lastly, I will single out an aspect from the science fiction series Star Wars by George Lucas, which is his concept of the Force. The genres of science fiction and fantasy are closely related, because the first depicts a fictional future or a fictional future civilisation in a different universe, and the latter often depicts fictional stories that, were it not for their fantastic elements, could well have taken place somewhere in the past. Therefore, it is not too as­tonishing that elements of science fiction stories could just as well exist in fantasy literature.

The religious concepts which I will analyse in this thesis are taken from various culture groups. ‘Religious concepts’ is a term in which I include, for one, concepts and ideas that deal with rituals or beliefs in connection with any kind of higher beings. Those beings may be deities, demons or natural spirits, because many natural or primitive people base their re­ligion and culture on the worship of natural spirits. ‘Religious concepts’ furthermore include ideas or philosophies which require some kind of ‘be­lieving’. This, of course, is needed in most religions, the largest among them being Christianity, Judaism and Islam, but it is also important in re­ligions whose worship is not centered on one or more deities, like for ex­ample Taoism. Also, single aspects of religions like the idea of dualism from the gnostics or the concept of balance, which can be found for ex­ample in Buddhism, belong to the definition of ‘religious concepts’ in this thesis. Teachings spread by any kind of church or religious institution fur­thermore belong here, for example the Christian concept of original sin, or the division of the afterlife into heaven and hell.

Additionally, I will take the various movies related to the three stories into consideration, because they provide further information and facts for interpretation. This is especially interesting concerning Star Wars, be­cause contrary to Dragonlance and His Dark Materials, the movies by George Lucas came first and many novels followed.

The next part of this paper will deal with Weis and Hickman’s Drag­onlance series. I will take a closer look at its creation myth, the design of its pantheon and the various concepts that it incorporates, and further­more sections dealing with numerology and, of course, dragons, consider­ing the name of the series. Then, a section on twins and their meanings in connection to two protagonist from Dragonlance will be included, followed by a rounding-up chapter on the animated movie covering the first book ever published of the series, Dragons of Autumn Twilight.

The third part then is on Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials, dealing with his concept of Dust, the deconstruction of religious dogmas and the division of a human into body, soul and ghost. The last part is once more on the movie called The Golden Compass, which visualizes the first book of the trilogy called Northern Lights. Finally, the last part analyzes George Lucas’ concept of the Force in his Star Wars movies, and also takes the novels which followed the release of the movies into consideration. The relations between Taoism and the Force will be closer examined as well as the Jedi and the Sith, who are the people able to use the Force, and the balance being an important characteristic of this energy field will be analyzed. The two last parts are then dealing with two facts arising in the continuation of the original story line by various novels, on which then follows the conclusion.

2. Dragonlance

The Dragonlance series originally evolved from a role playing game in the tradition of the Dungeons & Dragons games[1]. The first trilogy of the series, the Chronicles, already creates a completely functional universe, which is set on the planet Krynn and consists of various races, multiple gods and its own history. Over time, the story has been expanded by many novels and resource books made specifically for role playing games within the setting of Dragonlance. Many of the original heroes have died, and their children have taken their places in the world of Krynn. The gods have vanished and returned, helped and hindered the people on Krynn, and some have even become mortals for the sake of the world’s future.

The races of Krynn consist of different elven and dwarven races, hu­mans, ogres, the Irda, which will be examined in the following chapters, the innovative and machine-loving gnomes, the minotaurs and the child­like appearing people of the kender, who are friendly and loyal but not held in high regard by most other races because of their unique definition of ‘property’.

The religious part of the Dragonlance cosmos is made of copies and adaptations. For the divine pantheon of twenty-one gods in total, Hickman and Weis used various role-models from the Greek and Roman mytholo­gies. In addition, they assimilated Gnostic and Christian concepts, as well, like the ever-present duality found in almost all areas of life on Krynn. Also, while the use of dragons is not uncommon within fantasy literature, they find their origins in the myths and religions of various cultures, both as positive and negative elements. Dragonlance not only tells the story of a world with quite complex gods who are just as fickle and unpredictable as the mortals they created, but also of the mortal Raistlin, who aspires to rise to divine heights of immortality and power. In turn, some gods are even prepared to step down from those heights to ensure the further existence of mortals and the world they helped create.

2.1. When Gods Are Bored

2.1.1. Creation Myth

Since the world of Krynn is populated by many different races, each of them has their own version of how the world came into being. However, the only account that can be found in the novels and that explains the creation myth from the start is told from the view of a race called the Irda. To understand the following analyses, I will relate the creation myth in a shortened version.

In the beginning, Chaos, the Father of All and Nothing, gave birth to his three children Paladine, Gilean and Takhisis. Takhisis was the only daughter and the youngest child, and according to the Irda, she was restless, ambitious, and bored. Because she wanted order, she ap­proached her two elder brothers with the idea of creating a world. Pala­dine agreed, because he had long since wanted a meaning to life. Gilean consulted Zivilyn, a god from another immortal plane, who could see both into the past and the future. After looking through all possible outcomes, he deemed the idea a good one, and so Gilean agreed, as well. How­ever, both brothers agreed under the assumption that Takhisis had con­sulted their father, which she said she had although she had not, because she knew he would have been opposed to the idea. Having obtained the agreement of her brothers, Takhisis went to the god Reorx, a god living by himself and creating wondrous things on his forge. Takhisis praised his forgings and, to put them to good use, suggested he created a whole world. She proposed he created a world with spirits on it, so that he had new challenges in his immortal life and could teach the spirits everything he knew. He agreed, and so the gods gathered to watch Reorx form the world of Krynn from a chunk of molten metal, the sparks from his hammer form the stars, and the stars’ light give birth to living spirits.

However, as soon as Reorx struck the metal, Chaos became aware of his children’s plan. While he did not destroy his children’s “plaything” im­mediately, he decided to teach them a lesson and cursed them.“‘You will indeed create order,’ he thundered, ‘but I will see to it that order will breed discord, both among you and among those who will dwell on your world’” (Weis/Hickman 2002a, 34)[13]. Since all of the children were aware that the forging of the world could not be made undone, they were forced to consider other alternatives. Paladine and Takhisis each demanded that the spirits were put under their control, as they believed that was be the best course of action. Gilean, however, wanted the spirits to remain free to do what they wanted, so that the world would become a more interest­ing place. They battled, drawing their children and the other gods with them into the ‘All-Saints War’, and Chaos laughed because his curse had proven true.

Finally, Paladine and Gilean realized that this was not the right way and together they forced Takhisis to at least make amends, if not surren­der. They decided to rule the world together, thus maintaining a balance between them and hoping to break the curse of Chaos. Each one took the spirits that dwelled on Krynn to create races and build them after their imagination. So the elves, the humans and the Irda, which after their downfall became the ogres, came into being. Chaos, on the other hand, was irritated by his children and imagined the animals. He gave many of them advantages, like for example “wisdom, intelligence, long life, magic, strength and formidable weapons” (Weis/Hickman 2002a, 36)[13] to the dragons.

At the same time, magic came into the world. Solinari, son of Pala­dine and Mishakal, Lunitari, daughter of Gilean, and Nuitari, son of Takhi­sis and Sargonnas had grown up together and were quite close. While magic resides within all the gods, those three had a special love for the art. During the All-Saints War, they were pressured by the other gods to join one side or the other, but they feared that this war would destroy the magic. So they vowed to be true to the magic and true to each other, and left the pantheon of the gods. They assumed mortal form and spread the gift of magic between their followers on Krynn. The cousins then left the planet again, but to remain near it and to help their followers in times of need, they incarnated their powers into the white moon Solinari, the red moon Lunitari and the unseen (except by his followers) black moon Nuitari.

It happened that a group of humans became too proud of their abili­ties, which they had been taught by Reorx. They laughed at him because of his size, and so he took all abilities away except for the desire to in­vent, build and construct. He deemed that they should be “short, wiz­ened, and ridiculed by other races” (Weis/Hickman 2002a, 38)[13], and so the gnomes were created. After a while, the balance started to tilt, because the humans wanted to conquer, the ogres wanted power and the elves wanted to be left alone and were ready to fight everyone who imposed on them. The god Hiddukel spread a tale of an upcoming war if things remained as they were on Krynn, in an attempt to spread further confusion. He persuaded the goddess of woodland and nature, Chislev, to ask Reorx to forge a magical artefact containing a piece of true neu­trality. This way, the other two powers would be drawn to a middle and not overwhelm the other. Reorx thus forged the Graygem by capturing a piece of true neutrality - a piece of the essence of Chaos himself.

Soon after he brought the Graygem to Lunitari for safekeeping, he felt a strange attraction towards it and regretted that he had given it away. Lu­nitari refused to return it, however, because she, too, was feeling attached to the Graygem and never let it out of her sight. Reorx then showed the Graygem to a gnome in a dream, who immediately set out to find it. He finally managed to capture it within a magical net while Lunitari was on the other side of the world. Reorx came to him in the form of a fellow gnome and demanded the Graygem for himself, and during the resulting quarrel the Graygem escaped the magical net. This was the first time the Graygem exhibited strange signs of having a mind. of its own. The Graygem flew all across Krynn and left chaos in its wake: “It altered ani­mals and plants, affected the spell-casting of wizards, and made a consid­erable nuisance of itself” (Weis/Hickman 2002a, 42)[13]. At some point, a human named Gargath captured the Graygem and locked it in his tower. A group of gnomes which had been following the Graygem for decades breached the wall of the courtyard and wanted to get hold of the gem. They were discordant, however. One group wanted to cut the gem open to see what was inside and the other group wanted to take it home for its value and safekeeping. Suddenly, a gray light illuminated everything, and when it was gone, it had transformed the gnomes. Those who wanted the stone for treasure became dwarves, and those who wanted it out of curiosity became kender. The Graygem, meanwhile, escaped again, to be finally found in the possession of the Irda. (Weis/Hickman 2002a, 31- 43)[13]

The Graygem later was destroyed by the Irda in an attempt to get rid of its dark influence, but in doing so they released the part of Chaos that was trapped inside it and caused the war against this unpredictable entity. In his wrath, Chaos destroyed the island where the Irda lived, effectively annihilating the whole race.

2.1.2. The Divine Pantheon

Many different means have been used to create the system of gods and magic in Dragonlance. The most obvious role model that Weis and Hick­man used to shape their pantheon of gods are the Greek and Roman deities. Many more polytheistic cultures exist, but I will mainly focus on the Roman and Greek cultures for the reason that Weis and Hickman specifi­cally mentioned that their deities were modeled after the gods of classical Greek and Rome. Just like them, their gods are sometimes fickle and pos­sess both “passions and fallabilities” (Weis/Hickman 2003, 940)[15]. This isin sharp contrast to the infallible god of Christianity. Additionally, some of the Greek and Roman deities are still present in our culture in the form of celestial constellations and planet names, which is very similar to the representation of the Dragonlance gods. However, not all of the gods and goddesses fit well to a rolemodel from other polytheistic religions. This is to be attributed to the character of a pantheon made of a good, neutral and evil part, and therefore some of the deities are completely original and do not have specific counterparts in actual polytheistic religions. A Modern Approach - Autonomous Worship And Feminist Scholarship

In the history of the Dragonlance realm, which according to Margaret Weis has been plotted for 3000 years backwards from the time of the Chron­icles, the so-called Cataclysm, a fiery mountain thrown upon Krynn who changed the face of the planet forever, was caused by the High Priest of Isthar. He thought he could make demands of the gods instead of asking for their help. The High Priest was both a high religious figure, the mouth­piece of the gods on Krynn, as well as some kind of ruling institution for the people of Isthar, and for some parts of the continent Ansalon as well.

According to the Encyclopedia of Religion, a complex divine pantheon that executed its power through a human ruler had developed from the worship practice of more archaic civilisations. Those often had simpler pantheons in which the gods all were more or less responsible for simi­lar areas that corresponded with the values of the society in which they were worshipped. More developed agricultural city-state societies like in ancient Egypt, Greece or Mesopotamia then moved on to a human ruler who acted as a representant and direct connection to the gods of a more complex pantheon (Jones, Vol.6, Gods and Goddesses 3617)[26]. How­ever, the ruling by one person also meant that the people were less au­tonomous in their decisions and their worship and basically depended on the ruling person to decide their actions.

Since this particular form of worship has been forcefully abolished in Dragonlance, the people now have more independence in their actions. This is a relatively modern approach to religious worhsip of any kind.

Later, after the Chaos War, when Takhisis stole the planet and therefore cut off the link to the other gods and with them to any currently known magic, the people had to look for the magic that lay within themselves instead of looking for help from gods that for the moment did not exist anymore. Once more, there is the underlying message that everything people need is themselves and that what they make of their lives does not depend on the will of any divine being. This also corresponds with Ludwig Feuerbach’s projection theory, but we will come back to that in chapter 2.2.2.

Another quite modern notion which can be found in the Dragonlance pantheon, are the female goddesses, and the fact that they all have quite different tasks and areas they need to take care of. According to the Encyclopedia of Religion, when classical sholars analyzed any specific society they usually only laid importance on the male gods and their func­tions. The goddesses were granted only secondary importance and re­duced in their functions to fertility and mothering. A newer approach by feminist scholars finally gained an understanding of the “importance, rich­ness, and complexity of the individual goddesses” (Jones, Vol.6, Gods and Goddesses 3616)[26]. Although the article says that this only hap­pened during “the last several years”, Dragonlance exists since the mid­eighties and already shows this mentality. Although there are only four goddesses in total, they do not have similiar responsibilities like the Ro­man ones who often had the function of motherhood, earth or fertility in some way. Chislev is the only goddess who is specifically responsible for nature, earth or fertility and is also called Earth Mother. The domains of the others vary quite strongly, as will be shown in the following chapter. Duality Around a Middle

The twenty-one gods divide into three sub-pantheons, good, neutral and evil. The good pantheon is also called the white one, the neutral the red, and the evil the black pantheon. This derived from the colour of the moons, white Solinari standing for white magic, red Lunitari for neutral and black Nuitari for evil magic.

Each of the gods is represented by a celestial constellation or planet on the night sky of Krynn. The pantheons consists of seven deities each to preserve the balance. If a god of the white pantheon leaves or has to leave the realms of immortality, one of the black pantheon has to go, as well, and vice versa, because otherwise the balance would be upset. This balance is also the reason why no new children have been born to the gods since the creation of Krynn and no other gods have been summoned from beyond. The gods reside on different planes of existence, the good gods on the Dome of Creation, the neutral gods on the Hidden Vale, and the evil gods can be found in the Abyss. These dwelling places also exist in balance to each other.

“Much as the Dome of Creation would be nothing without the Abyss, and neither would exist in balance without the Hidden Vale, the emanaionts of the realm of Neutrality would be unable to exist without the gifts of cre­ation and the promise of ruin.” (Everette/Pierson/Banks/Whiteman, 78)[4]

The form of their worship is fitted to the general setting of Dragonlance as a medieval appearing world, as is often encountered in fantasy litera­ture, with the usual mixture of the different role-playing classes like thief, warrior, mage or merchant. The population is a colourful mixture of sev­eral races. Then, ther is the upper class, which are mainly businessmen or wealthy mages, and people of nobility are encountered only occasionally. The worhshipping of the gods is done in temples dedicated to the different deities. There are priests and priestesses, who serve at the temples and have no extraordinary magical power, and clerics, who get special mag­ical powers directly from their god or goddess. For example, Goldmoon, daughter of the chieftain Arrowthorn of the barbarian Que-Shu and his wife Tearsong, was a cleric of Mishakal and therefore had special heal­ing powers. She also was largely responsible for the return of the faith of the people of Krynn in their gods, since she was the first true cleric after the Cataclysm, a time when the gods were thought to have abandoned Krynn.

Generally, the gods of Dragonlance have less overlapping areas of re­sponsibility than the Greek or Roman deities, as has already been men­tioned in chapter with the example of Chislev. The gods that Hick­man and Weis created are much more condensed in their functions.

Since there are so many different gods, I will only pick examples to illustrate their relation to the Greek and Roman deities.

Gods of Good The seven gods of good are the gods Branchala, Ma- jere, Paladine, Solinari, the twins Habbakuk and Kiri-Jolith, and the god­dess Mishakal. They represent the divine powers of inspiration, discipline, majesty, white magic (and before he incarnated his powers into the white moon the power of vigilance), persistence and unity, respectively. (Ev- erette/Pierson/Banks/Whiteman, 82-90)[4].

Paladine, the leader of the white pantheon, chose to become mortal at the end of the War of Souls to defeat his sister Takhisis, who through his sacrifice became mortal as well and could therefore be killed. His wife Mishakal, with whom he had the three sons Habbakuk, Kiri-Jolith and Soli- nari, succeeded him in leadership. Paladine was in his divine form repre­sented by a platinum triangle or a platinum dragon. His star constellation was named Valiant Warrior. He was the god of the good dragons, and pa­tron of guardianship, nobility, protection and the sun. In addition, he rep­resented the divine power of Majesty (Everette/Pierson/Banks/Whiteman, 88)[4]. He resembled Jupiter, the Roman "Licht- und Himmelsgott, Wet­tergott und Schutzgott von Recht, Ordnung und Treue" (Bellinger, 235)[17]. Since Mishakal has some traits of the Roman goddess Juno, Jupiter’s wife, it is only fitting that Paladine is Mishakal’s husband. Additionally, the Roman god Sol or the Greek Helios could be taken as role models for Pal­adine, if only for their personification of the sun. Although Jupiter is seen as the father of humans and the other gods ([56], and Paladine clearly is not solely responsible for the creation of the peo­ples on Krynn, he still is father of three other gods. Furthermore, although he only created the elves as his ideal race, he is probably the most com­passionate of the gods when it comes to helping the mortals out of some danger or the other. His most well-known form when he walked on Krynn was the befuddled old wizard Fizban, who had a special place in his heart for the kender race, and in particular for Tasslehoff Burrfoot, a Hero of the Lance, the original generation of heroes within the Dragonlance uni­verse. Fizban became an important character by helping Tasslehoff and his friends fight Queen Takhisis in the War of the Lance. Therefore, Pal­adine has attributes of a supporting and caring father, at least more so than any other deity of Krynn.

Jupiter, together with Juno and Minerva, is part of the Capitoline triad, which was the centre of worship for the Romans ( Juppiter)[56]. He also has two brothers, Neptun and Pluto. Similarly, Pal­adine and his siblings Gilead and Takhisis are the three highest deities in Dragonlance, or at least until Paladine and Takhisis cease to be di­vine beings. Jupiter, Neptun and Pluto respectively rule over heaven and earth, the oceans, and the underworld. This division could also be trans­ferred to Paladine, Gilead and Takhisis, or the three pantheons which they represent in general. Since the underworld usually connotes neg­ative and evil attributes, that would be Takhisis realm, especially since the dwelling place of the evil gods is called the Abyss. The oceans, a place neither heaven, earth nor underworld and therefore somewhere in between, could be attributed to Gilean, leaving Paladine and the good gods to rule over heaven and earth. Additionally, due to being part of a divine triad and having the platinum triangle as his symbol, Paladine also is the embodiment of the number three.

Although there will be a short part on numerology in chapter 2.1.4, this should be mentioned here as well for better understanding. The figure three is, as the English poet Joshua Sylvester put it, “the eldest of odds, God’s number properly” (Jones, Vol.10, Numbers 6746). It is the first number to have “a beginning, a middle and an end” (Jones, Vol.10, Num­bers 6746)[27]. Furthermore, since it is the first number which denotes a multitude, it also implies the superlative, with one being the positive and two the comparative, and is represented in the basic geometrical figure of a triangle(Jones, Vol.10, Numbers ..)[27]. The number three also stands for the so-called “three-dimensional world view”, consisting of heaven, earth and underworld ([50], again mirroring the division of the three Dragonlance pantheons, the good gods standing for heaven, the neutrals for earth, and the evil gods for the underworld.

Paladine also bears resemblance to the Christian god of the Old Tes­tament, for it was Paladine who caused the Cataclysm, throwing the fiery mountain on Krynn after the humans grew so arrogant and narcisstic that they believed they could make demands of the gods. Respectively, the god from the Old Testament brought the Flood upon mankind to purge them of their sinfulness. This is similar to the flood that Zeus, who is the Greek counterpart to the Roman Jupiter and is equated with him in Vollmer’s Mythologie aller Völker, caused to annihilate the humans spoiled by Prometheus who brought them the fire of life from the heavens (www. Jupiter oder Zeus)[54].

Gods of Neutrality The neutral gods consist of the goddesses Chislev, Shinare and Lunitari, and the gods Gilean, Reorx, Sirrion and Zivlyn. They represent the divine powers of instinct, interaction, neutral magic (formerly mystery), knowledge, creation, renewal and wisdom (Everette/Pierson/ Banks/Whiteman, 90-99)[4]. The neutral gods have planets named after them as their celestial symbols, all except Gilean and Lunitari. Gilean, due to him being one of the three highest gods and representing knowledge, has the constellation of the Book, and Lunitari, just as Solinari and Nuitari did, incarnated her powers into one of the three moons around Krynn.

Although Gilean is the leader of the neutral gods, it was Reorx who cre- ated the world and is, more or less by design, the father of three races, so he shall be more closely examined. He is often portrayed working on his forge and is therefore obviously modeled after the Roman god Vul- canus and his Greek counterpart Hephaistos. Just like Reorx, Vulcanus created many different things on his forge, weapons as well as jewel- ery. They both are gods of fire and patrons of craftsmen (www.vollmer- Volcanus)[54].

It is interesting to note that Reorx’ celestial symbol is a red planet bearing his name. During the course of the Dragonlance storyline, how­ever, this star, allegedly glowing red with the fire of Reorx’ forge, becomes somewhat mixed up with the light coming from Flint Fireforge’s forge, a Hero of the Lance, who died and is now said to be waiting for his friend to follow. This confusion essentially turns him into some kind of higher being, but this will be analyzed later in chapter 2.2.2 with use of the projection theory of Ludwig Feuerbach.

Gods of Evil Among the evil gods there are the goddess Takhisis, the twins Zeboim and Nuitari, and the gods Chemosh, Hiddukel, Morgion and Sargonnas, representing in that order the divine powers of control, strife, black magic (formerly ambition), fatalism, exploitation, decay and wrath (Everette/Pierson/Banks/Whiteman, 99-108)[4]. Since there are few gods in Greek or Roman mythology who are actually evil in their nature instead of just erratic, the characters of the gods of the black pantheon are com­posed of certain aspects from Greek and Roman deities which are added and modified to the negative tenor of the seven. One of the most interest­ing characters here, next to their former leader Takhisis, is the goddess Zeboim, primarily because she had a child with the mortal Emperor of Ansalon Ariakas. Their son, Ariakan, was a demi-god and strove to con­quer a larger part of Krynn than just the continent Ansalon, with the help of Takhisis and her Dark Knights. Zeboim cherished him above everything else, and when he was killed, she swore to hold those responsible who caused his untimely death.

“She had come upon them silently, no one knew from where. She was beautiful, her eyes the color of moonlight on blue water. Yet - though she appeared serene on the surface, there was dangerous power beneath. She was clad in armor that glistened with water, had the appearance of fish-scales. Her dark hair was bound up with sea flowers and shells. The knights knew her, then, and bowed before her.

It was Zeboim, goddess of the sea, the mother of Ariakan.

She knelt over the body of her dead son, gazed at him long. Two tears slid down her cheeks, fell, gleaming like pearls, onto her armor.” (Weis/Hickman 2002a, 550)[13]

Zeboim is the goddess of storms and finds her counterparts in the Greek god Poseidon and the Roman god Neptun, respectively, who stirred up the seas with their tridents. Poseidon, especially, is described as be­ing irascible ( Poseidon)[52], which matches with Ze- boim’s hot-tempered attitude. “Zeboim is a capricious goddess. She will turn with savage fury on those who serve her faithfully. She rewards those who might seem least deserving” (Weis/Hickman 2002a, 402)[13]. She is the daughter of Takhisis and Sargonnas, and the twin sister of Nuitari, but in contrast to Paladine and his children, the relations between Zeboim and her family are strained at best. Familiar Names

When creating such an elaborate pantheon, it is only natural that not all of their names will be original. Among the Dragonlance pantheons are several deities whose names originate from various sources, most of them religious in their nature. Paladine derives from the word ‘pal­adin’, which means ‘guardian’ or ‘protector’, and is also known to denote a class or status. Then, we have Habbakuk, who has his name from the Biblical prophet Habakkuk, which means ‘the embracer’ in Hebrew ([45]. The name of the evil god Chemosh was di­rectly taken from the national god of the Moabites, a historical people that settled in the vicinity of Israel ([44]. The Moabites are mentioned in the Bible as “people of Chemosh” (Bible, Num­bers 21:29)[1]. The two ‘Chemoshes’ have nothing in common apart from their name, however. Gilean got his name from Gilead, a Biblical land­scape in East Jordan (Bible, Numbers 32:1)[1]. According to the Dun­geons & Dragons writer Jeff GRUB, who also gave some input to Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis for the Dragonlance series, Mishakal also has a namesake in the Bible and was derived from “the fiery furnace (Me- shah, Shadrach, and Abednego)” (Weis/Hickman 2003, 920)[15]:

(6) “Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:

(7) Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Me- shach; and to Azariah, of Abed-nego.” (Bible, Daniel 1:6-7)[1]

The goddess Chislev shares her name with the third month of the Jew­ish civil year, which is the ninth month of the ecclesiastical year. The month is also known as Kislev ([47]. Finally, Hiddukel is named after Hiddekel, one of the four rivers that originate in the one great river flowing out of Eden “and the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria” (Bible, Genesis 2:14). The other three rivers are Pison, Gihon and Euphrates. Chaos and the High God

While the High God is not usually mentioned within the novels and does not have a specific function in the storyline, it can be found in the essen­tial sourcebook Holy Orders of the Stars and shall therefore be considered within this thesis. Both Chaos and the High God do not have a concrete physical form, they are “both conceptually and literally beyond even the might of the Gods of Krynn” (Everette/Pierson/Banks/Whiteman, 109)[4]. Chaos, on the one hand, is the embodiment of formless existence. As his sobriquet says, he is the Father of All and Nothing, for every potential is birthed within him, and he wants to undo all existing things, because everything that exists outside of Chaos must return to it at some point in time. As it is explained in Holy Orders of the Stars, some gods of the Dragonlance pantheons were “summoned from the Beyond” (Everette/ Pierson/Banks/Whiteman, 105)[4], usually by the High God. A few pages later, this “Beyond” is equated with Chaos in the sense that “it was from Chaos that the gods were called forth” (Everette/Pierson/Banks/Whiteman, 109)[4], which also fits with the creation myth of the Irda where Paladine, Gilean and Takhisis are children of Chaos. The rest of the gods have ei­ther been summoned from the Beyond as well, or are children of the other gods. Chaos as a divine concept therefore has been adopted directly from the Greek myths. As Hesiod described it in his Theogony,

“Verily at the first Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth, the ever-sure foundations of all the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and dim Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth, and Eros (Love), fairest among the deathless gods, who unnerves the limbs and overcomes the mind and wise counsels of all gods and all men within them. From Chaos came forth Erebus and black Night; but of Night were born Aether and Day, whom she conceived and bare from union in love with Erebus.” (Hare:Hesiod)[49]

Chaos came first, closely followed by the “wide-bosomed Earth”. The first godlike beings who had then been created from Chaos or “summoned from the Beyond”, if you will, were Erebus, personification of the darkness, and the “black Night” Nyx, personification of the night. Since magical or divine powers are attributed to the earth by many cultures and religions, one could see the earth as the divine representation of order, of Kosmos, next to Chaos, even though the word ’Kosmos’, originally meaning ’uni­verse’, does not fit exactly. However, Hesiod underlines this by describing the earth as the “ever-sure foundations” of the gods, a unit of order and security. This role is taken by the High God in the Dragonlance realm.

The High God is the other divine power. This entity is “the embodi­ment of thought and being, the superdivine principle of Order and Cre­ation” (Everette/Pierson/Banks/Whiteman, 109)[4]. Since the High God is described as “superdivine”, this entity obviously has the highest rank of all divine beings. The relationship between the High God, Chaos and the other gods is an adaptation of the Gnostic concept of the dualism of the world.

Within dualistic religions and also within Gnosticism, there are two dif­ferent ideas: the radical dualism states that the world consists of two equal principles from the beginning. The moderate dualism grants surpremacy to the first principle, the god, and states that the second principle becomes effective at a later point in the creation. This usually happens because of a mistake in the system made by the first principle. The dualism between the first and the second principle is usually that of good and bad. The second principle of the moderate dualism is known as the demiurge. He is the factual creator of the world and of mortal beings, while the actual God is in the background. The demiurge creates the world from waste or dreams that fall from the true God.

Generally, Gnostics see the god from the Old Testament, who is wrath­ful and vindictive, in the role of the demiurge, with an unseen higher divine being in the background. However, the demiurge is truly evil in only a few known documents. Usually he is described as unknowing, impertinent and sometimes even mad (Eliade, 169)[22]. While the Bible, for exam­ple, states that the world has been purposefully created by a benign entity for the humans to live in and the humans have been created to populate this world in return, the Gnostic view of the demiurge contradicts that. The demiurge does not know what he is doing, therefore the world is evil.

The Dragonlance cosmos is a combination of both radical and moder­ate dualism. The High God and Chaos are the primary and the secondary principle, the eternal good and the eternal bad aspect, and both have ex­isted since the beginning of time. Furthermore, a combination of both has brought the other gods into being, or at least into this specific plane of existence. This radical dualism permeates the whole storyline of Drag­onlance, continued for example in the opposed pantheons of white and black. Of course, dualism in itself is necessary for every story, because without it there would be no motivation for the continuation of the storyline.

On the other hand, the High God is set apart from Chaos by his “super­divine” quality, therefore being declared the primary principle of a moder­ate dualistic view. Additionally, Chaos clearly has the characteristics of a mad and uncontrollable demiurge, especially since it was his curse that caused the gods and the spirits on Krynn to turn against each other and quarrel. Chaos brought evil to the world. The actual creator of the world, though, was the god Reorx, but he created the world purposefully and clearly not unknowingly. According to the Irda, he forged the world out of a chunk of molten metal, but since everything that exists originates in Chaos, he also created the world out of Chaos. A merging of Chaos and Reorx therefore takes over the function of a demiurge. Furthermore, sev­eral of the other gods also have traits of a demiurge, for they create the races on Krynn, but I will go over that in more detail in chapter 2.2.1.

2.1.3. The Dragons

Dragons in religions and myths are a world-wide phenomenon. You en­counter them in Asian, especially within Chinese and Japanese cultures. Additionally, they can be found in the mythology of India or the lore of western countries. The old Romans knew of them, as well as the Ger­manic tribes or the Muslims.

The word dragon originally comes from the Greek drakön and the Latin draco, -onis. The Greek term actually means ’serpent’, and the Latin word can refer to serpents, as well. This is reflected in many images of dragons, where they have some snakelike attributes, like the scales or a lizard-like head. Dragons, or the symbol of a dragon, hold different mean­ings, both depending on the culture which they are encountered in and on the context within those cultures. Furthermore, they are often symbols of “elements, forces, or principles present, or active, in the cosmic (or pre- cosmic) world” (Jones, Vol.4: Dragons, 2430)[25]. Generally, however, their symbolic meaning can be divided into two diametrical classes: good and bad. A tradition, that probably comes from the ancient mythologies of the Near East and from Indian, Iranian, and European stories, see drag­ons as chaotic beings who bring about disorder and death, and who are usually vanquished by a god or a heroic being. This motif continues forth into the Christian culture of the European Middle Ages and into the Chris­tian mythology of Egypt and Ethiopia. The other tradition has its origins primarily in China, Japan and Indonesia and presents dragons as power­ful and helpful beings.

The dragons of Dragonlance are fashioned after the same principle. Two main kinds exist, the chromatic dragons, subdivided into Blues, Reds, Greens, Whites and Blacks, and the metallic dragons, among them the Gold, Silver, Bronze, Brass and Copper Dragons. There are several other kinds of dragons, but they are not very common and bring nothing new to this argument, so they will not be included here. Originally, all dragons were creatures of Paladine and Reorx, and all were metallic. However, the first batch, consisting of five dragons, was corrupted by Takhisis and changed into chromatic dragons. Those were all male and are known as the Sons of Takhisis. The second batch, another five dragons created to keep the balance, became the ancestors of all metallic dragons. Because they were female, they are now known as the Daughters of Paladine. The chromatic dragons strife to conquer and like to destroy, and they adhere to the will of their Queen. The metallic dragons are friendly and loyal to Paladine, and the Silvers are even known to prefer a lair near to human or humanlike settlements. Each clan has a different breath weapon, fire, ice or lightning and prefer according to their elemental nature different regions on Krynn as their habitat. This resembles the connection with elements or other natural principles attributed to dragons as has been mentioned earlier. The Dragonlance dragons also have the capability to produce different gases, for paralyzing or poisoning purposes. Dragons are the mightiest creatures on Krynn, both in their physical abilities and in their magic. ( Dragons)[43]

Among the negative connotations, the concept of dragons as abduc­tors of helpless women or as the thiefs of cattle who then have to be con­quered by vailiant heroes, is well-known. In some other folk tales, they are also the devourers of important elements like water or light, or are the reason for pollution of the soil or air. The motif of a dragon, or serpent­like creature, as a withholder is also often found. In the Book of Genesis, the serpent which seduces Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge is the reason why Adam and Eve are expelled from Eden and, therefore, lose their immortality. The same is true for the Mesopotamian Epic of Gil- gamesh, where the animal is described as “a monster (all) savage from out of the depths of the desert” ( The Epic of Gil- gamish, First Tablet)[49]. Adhering to this tradition and the often-used theme, especially in Asian mythology, where a snake resides at the foot of the tree of life or the cosmic tree, the concept of a dragon as a guardian of the tree of life, or other sources of immortality, arose. The golden ap­ples of the Hesperides, guarded by a dragon who was then defeated by Herakles as one of his twelve tasks, are an example for this.

Naturally, the same idea exists in an inversed form, as well, for ex­ample in the Germanic Prose Edda, where the serpent Niöhöggr eats the roots of the cosmic tree Yggdrasill: “Ash Yggdrasill | Suffers anguish / More than men know of: / The stag bites above; | on the side it rot- teth, / And Nidhöggr gnaws from below” ( The Prose Edda, Gylfaginning)[49]. Connected to the idea of a dragon as a guardian of life is the idea of dragons as keeper of treasures, as it was with Jason and the Golden Fleece or the Germanic dragon Fafnir, who “guards a hoard of gold and jewels the like of which was never seen in the world” ( The Children of Odin, Part IV)[49]. Within the Dragonlance universe, this treasure hoarding behaviour is almost ex­clusively pinned on the chromatic dragons, especially the red and green ones. Obviously, greed is denoted as a very negative character trait, and therefore only used in context with the evil dragons.( Red Dragons, Green Dragons)[43]

Not uncommonly, dragons are seen as the epitome of evil. Some­times, they also were metaphors for real enemies, like in the Hebrew Bible or in most ancient Christian texts, where they stand for neighbouring na­tions like Egypt, Assyria or Babylon. The interpretation of dragons or ser­pents as instruments of Satan was furthermore common not only in the Christian Revelation, but it might be the most familiar one in our culture. Their appearance in the Revelation is described as “a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads” (Bible, Revelation 12:3)[1] and consequently “the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world” (Bible, Relevation 12:9). Interestingly, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman chose one of Takhisis appearances to be a five-headed dragon, each head having the colour of one of the chromatic dragon clans, red, green, blue, white and black. While this is not exactly the appear­ance of the devil dragon from the Bible cited above, it nevertheless bears strong resemblance especially because of the multiple heads. Further­more, Takhisis is the only one with a dragon as her appearance, and al­though Paladine originally is the creator of all dragons, he did not chose to appear as one. Some people on Krynn refer to him as Dragonlord, Dragon Father or Draco Paladin, but other than that, his star constellation, which resembles a platinum dragon, is the only denotion to his status as father and superior to all dragons. This deliberate setting Takhisis apart from the rest is to underline her rank as leader of the evil gods, and also to make her as the most devious of them all.

Furthermore, the name that Weis and Hickman chose for their stories reveals much. Dragonlance is the name of the only weapon that can be used by mortals to defeat dragons, as every other weapon or even magic would be too weak to do any real damage to those mighty creatures. The Dragonlance has the power to defeat dragons because they were made with the use of two god-blessed artifacts. Usually, the weapon of choice of the two heroes who are most often portrayed relinquishing the dragon in Christian tradition, the archangel Michael and the saintly knight Saint George, is either a sword or a lance. Additionally to being a loan from Christian tradition and iconography, the use of a lance as the only weapon to be able to defeat a dragon is slightly adapted in the novels of Weis and Hickman, as well. The Dragonlances can either be used on foot, in a shorter version, or mounted on the saddle of a dragon in its longer version, thereby clearly distinguishing the evil dragons from the good ones as if to show that not all great serpents are automatically the instrument of evil. Later, the son of Zeboim, Ariakan, created the Abyssal Lances, the dark counterpart to the Dragonlances. Just as the Dragonlance can not be wielded by servants of dark magic, the Abyssal Lances can not be used by followers of the light. ( Dragonlance)[43]

The last point that should be mentioned here is the shape-shifting ability of dragons. Alexander the Great was said to be the result of his mother’s encounter with a god in the shape of a snake. In India, Indone­sia and Indochina legends have it that many royal dynasties descend from female dragon figures. Some of the dragons in Dragonlance can take on human like form. Relationships that arise between a human or an elf and a dragon in such a form are rare, but not unheard of. In the history of Krynn, Huma Dragonbane was the first to wield a Dragonlance in the Third Dragon War, and he rode on a silver dragon by the name of Heart, or Gwyneth in her elven form, who was also his lover. The two even had a son, Liam of Eldor ( Huma Dragonbane)[43]. (for chapter reference see: Jones, Vol.4: Dragons, 2430-2434)[25]


[1] For further information on the history of Dungeons & Dragons and the specifics of the game, see for example

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Religious Concepts in Fantasy Literature
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