Dragonlance Reread

The Dragonlance Chronicles Reread: Guest Highlord Damien Walter on Raistlin Majere

Part of the joy of rereading Dragonlance is realising how influential and far-reaching they are. Everyone’s read Dragonlance—and, if not, isn’t now the perfect time to start? It is no wonder this series is so influential; it had its sticky claws in all of our childhoods. To demonstrate this, and to give us the occasional week off, we’ve asked some authors and artists and general figures of the fantastic to chime in with guest posts. They’ll take the reins for a post, and talk through what Dragonlance means to them.

This week we take a break from our regular transmission (and to add to the suspense of course) to welcome Guest Highlord Damien Walter, who writes about Raistlin, the wizard we all wanted to be.

Caution: unlike our proper reread posts, this one contains spoilers.

Raistlin is the wizard all the geek boys want to be, but being a power hungry a*hole leads nowhere good.

Though it’s less explicit than the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon show, Dragonlance’s Heroes of the Lance are also American high school archetypes. Tanis Half Elven is the high school quarterback torn between sport and his family connections in high society, Caramon the linebacker with a gentle touch and Goldmoon the prom princess with her jealous blue-collar boyfriend. But no high school gang is complete without a token geek, and for that the heroes have Raistlin Majere.

As a thirteen-year-old fantasy reader, it was Raistlin who appealed to me the most. And talking to many other grown up fans my age, I find that is often true. Physically weak but intellectually strong, hungry for the secret knowledge that will give him worldly power, and ultimately destined to become the Most Badass Wizard in the history of badass wizardry. It’s no surprise that the golden skinned Raistlin is the wizard all the geek boys want to be like.

Despite being a supporting character among the original Heroes of the Lance, with less page time than the infinitely annoying Tasselhoff Burrfoot, in the first trilogy it often seems like Weis & Hickman have to fight to keep Raistlin from stealing the show. With his displays of magical power and his attention seeking bouts of theatrical grade sickness, Raistlin carefully controls his twin brother Caramon and other members of the team. Raistlin’s personality may be self serving and manipulative, but that gives him a realistic humanity the more flatly heroic characters often lack.

We get the first hint of Raistlin’s conflicted attitudes to women early on. Goldmoon’s scene stealing entrance to the Inn of the Last Home incites dramatic reactions in all our heroes, but none more so than Raistlin. In typical geek male fashion the young wizard is unable to even talk to the most beautiful woman in the room. In fact Raistlin is so allergic to Goldmoon that he can’t even be touched by her healing staff…the Freudian readings are not good.

But it’s in the Legends trilogy and the relationship between Raistlin and Crysania, Cleric of Paladine, that Raistlin’s true dysfunction becomes apparent. Desperate to prove that his inability to toss a football makes him no less a man, Raistlin has set about founding a billion dollar tech company becoming a God, and is too busy being a power crazed maniac to even notice that Crysania is crazy about him.

Raistlin narrowly avoids his ultimate fate as a cosmic serpent forever eating his own tail. Is this Weis and Hickman’s way of telling young geek males that becoming an evil power crazed misogynist is not a rewarding life path? If so, it’s a message that certain corners of the internet would do well to take on board. But something tells me that most of them have already read Dragonlance, and instead of seeing the warning in Raistin’s character, are busy tying to replicate his failings.

Damien Walter is a nomadic sci-fi writer who travels the world while earning a living by his pen. He is a columnist for The Guardian and writes for Wired, BBC,  SFX, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine among others. You can follow his travels and writing on Twitter.

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