Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread!
Last week our secondary party had lost and then reclaimed their dragon orb from a group of Laurana’s elfin relatives, and were busy making a hasty exit with their new slightly shady companion, Silvara. This week, we hear the sad tale of a legendary silver dragon, and Gilthanas gets stalker-y.
“River of the Dead. The legend of the Silver Dragon.” and “Silvara.”
Team Laurana are making a run for it. At the edge of the Qualinesti ‘colony’, they run into a river, but Silvara – at Theros’ urging – whistles for help. Kaganesti boats appear immediately – almost as if they were waiting for them…
While they wait, Theros explains to Laurana that her relatives are dicks, and have been really awful to the Kaganesti. This prompts a prolonged bout of self-examination on Laurana’s part, covering, more or less, the following topics:
- She’d like to stay and help, but knows that she’s of more use elsewhere, on her current quest.
- She’s empathetic to her kinsfolk, as she remembers waaaaay back in the day (a book ago) when she was in a ‘beautiful tiny world’ of her own. #blessed
- She grew up when she faced threats and, perhaps more importantly, met Riverwind and Goldmoon, who had a relationship that overcame real problems.
- Obviously, this is why Tanis left her. (Obviously.)
There’s the mandatory ‘Flint hates boats’ hilarity, but eventually the team all pile into the Kaganesti canoes. The ‘Wilder elves’ aren’t super-happy about a bunch of stinky humans (+ dwarf) (+ Kender) (+ Gilthanas, please don’t forget him again), but Theros and Silvara talk them into it as well.
The river is very nice, except for the fact that there are also boats with dead people on it. The Kaganesti float their fallen down the river when they die. Duly, the party pass the body of a young Wilder elf, who died fighting draconians – a reminder of who the real enemy is.
Tas notes that the water sparkles silver. Silvara says there’s a story behind it, and, with convincing – Gilthanas would clearly listen to her read the phone book and Sturm is a sucker for all things Huma – she launches into the tale.
<wiggly flashback hands>
Way back when the Dark Queen’s dragons were kicking the ass of the Krynn, Huma followed a white stag into the woods (remember that from the last book?). Eventually, the stag led him to the land of Ergoth (here), where he fell in love with a beautiful woman.
However, this nameless woman had a secret – she was actually a dragon, using magic to appear as a human. Eventually she revealed herself, but Huma, rather than freaking out at the GIANT FIRE-LIZARD, saw the ‘noble spirit’ of the woman beneath, and the two continued their romance. She was prepared to give up all her dragon-skillz (magic, virtual immortality) to become human, but then Paladine gave her a vision. If she did become mortal, the Dark Queen would win. Whereas if she stayed a dragon, the two of them could buddy up and thump Team Evil.
Huma, to his credit(?), was willing for her to give up everything so they could be together. But she decided against it, and, weeping, remained a dragon. The sparkly river? Her tears.
<end wiggly flashback hands>
Everyone then starts oh so slowly putting together the pieces – they’ve seen a silver dragon, they’ve seen a Dragonlance, and now they know the complete story of Huma. But they’re still not quite clicking.
The Kaganesti then make fun of Gilthanas, because he’s so lost in Silvara’s beauty that he forgets to paddle.
They get to Kaganesti lands, and, while Gilthanas and Silvara flirt, Laurana decides that she doesn’t trust the girl. She’s a spy! Or worse…
We then flip to Gilthanas, who does a bit of soul-searching of his own. He’s gone through a lot of strange times: learning that Tanis isn’t a useless muppet, respecting Raistlin, even liking the other members of the party. All of that, of course, pales in comparison to the realisation that he loves Silvara. This is despite her being dirty and poorly-dressed, which are, to elves, bad things. But his ‘soul’s eye’ sees clearly.
Unable to sleep for this revelation, Gilthanas goes for a wander in the middle of the night. (He passes Derek and Sturm arguing, which is a nice touch.) His moseying takes him to a quiet pool where, ahem, Silvara is bathing. Now, Gilthanas loved her dirty, but apparently clean (and naked), she’s really lovable. And there are a lot of verbs like ‘quivering’ and ‘abandoned’ and ‘silver’ and ‘sparkling’ and ‘gleaming’ and even ‘rivulets’. There’s a lot of uncomfortable hunting metaphors, as Gilthanas stalks around Silvara like she’s prey.
Finally, Gilthanas, in a role model for a million bad dates to follow, eases the tension by talking a lot about himself. As Silvara stands there (naked, confused, presumably bored to tears), he goes on ceaselessly about his father, his people, his dishonour, and how this is all about him and his issues. Touched by his self-centred agony, Silvara wanders over and gets to smooching. She cries —because she’s (a) got her own problems and (b) that’s apparently sexy in epic fantasy novels—and the two of them uh…
Monster(s) of the Week
Dragon, silver. Poor thing.
Ego, Gilthanas’. I sort of like the guy – genuinely. But the ‘I’m going to walk in on you bathing, stalk you ‘like a huntsman’ and then talk about myself for a half hour’ approach to woo-ing is awful.
“My tears are not because I am frightened of your love. They are only for myself. You cannot understand.” – Silvara. Not that he’s asked, mind you. Gilthanas is thinking about himself and little Gilthanas. But I suspect, given the heavy-handed direction of these chapters and Dragonlance’s commitment to nominative determinism, we can hazard a pretty good guess…
As a kid, I remember these chapters well. Possibly because of the naked Silvara silhouette that adorns the title page of Chapter 5. That was unexpected (and more than a little confusing) to my very young self.
As an adult, I’m more than a little disappointed in this chapters. They’re boring, for one, but more worryingly, what’s up with the women? Dating, Dragonlance-style, is a little too Tucker Max for my liking. Historically, we’ve got Huma’s (never-named!) dragon-lady who gets the choice of ‘giving up everything that makes her special so she can be like her inferior husband’ or ‘staying a dragon so she can help him fulfill his quest’. (Curiously, it echoes the Goldmoon/Riverwind marriage, in which Goldmoon is bizarrely forced to choose between her royalty or her husband.) In the more recent past, we have Laurana blaming herself for Tanis running away – because she was spoiled and sheltered. Granted, she… was? But in all their interactions, we’ve not seen her as the weak one. In fact, she threw herself into her new life, never-complaining, and has rapidly become a competent leader. Whereas Tanis made promises to her, left her, screwed around, and came back to dump her with no explanation given.
And, of course, Gilthanas and Silvara. They ‘flirt’, which is a matter of Gilthanas staring at her until she becomes ‘confused and flustered’. When he touches her, she ‘starts like a wild animal, drawing back’. These are not positive signs of reciprocal feelings.
So what does he do? He finds her bathing in the middle of the night (this, I’m willing to grant, seems to be an accident). But he doesn’t, say… leave. Or apologise. Or apologise and leave. She is clearly ‘terrified’ and ‘quivering’, but he keeps it up – ‘following his huntsman’s instinct’, and pursuing her like a deer.
Women aren’t deer, by the way. Just in case there’s any sort of ambiguity in this: portraying women as wild animals and/or prey is unambiguously a ‘bad thing to do’.
But, as the Dragonlance Dating Guide continues, Gilthanas proceeds to numb Silvara into submission by telling her about himself, and everything he’s given up for her, and how much she owes him, and how cruel it would be for her to abandon him. She cries, which is, again … erotic?… because epic fantasy is weird. At worst, she’s so scared of him and this situation that she’s burst into tears. At best, she’s got her own problems, but Gilthanas doesn’t actually care about them, because this is about Gilthanas.
Basically, eew. These chapters are best forgotten. I remembered these books as better than this.
My god, when is Kitiara coming to town? I really need a woman here who knows what’s up and where she stands in all things and who isn’t around to be confused/beautiful/devastatingly in love/willing to give up everything/hunted. Please. I remember her being kind of amazing so anytime she wants to head on over, I’ll welcome her with open arms.
That said, these chapters really are boring, aren’t they? They shouldn’t be – they’ve got some Huma-history, travel into a new area, a whole new tribe of people, and even a new relationship that’s very suddenly developed from deep stares to peeping Tom-thanas and his prey. But the most interesting (and new) thing about these two chapters really is Gilthanas’ pervy-ness as Jared pointed out.
I’m also disturbed by the other aspect of this Gilthanas and Silvara relationship. Does power come into this? She’s been enslaved by the other lot of elves, treated like dirt and used by them her whole life, I imagine, which is what makes Laurana almost blurt out how absurd it would be for Silvara and Gilthanas to have a thang. Laurana stops in time, of course, but the message is clear – Laurana, like the other elves, is a snob who considers the Silvanesti below them and so finds it ridiculous that Gilthanas could possibly be into a slave girl. Laurana, I suppose to some credit, knows this is an awful thing to thin though. But I admit, when the whole Silvara as a frightened doe bit started, I did wonder how Gilthanas’ being a ‘superior’ race of elf to Silvara’s lower household servant status played into this dynamic. He has power over her, doesn’t he? Sure she’s helped cure his wounds & maybe there’s a bit of a Florence Nightingale effect here because let’s face it, other than the time paddling madly up the silver river just now, it’s not like they’ve spent quality time together. Do they even know each others’ last names?! Do we? Is this really love that he’s feeling?
Silvara cries (how is that sexy in any world?) and even if that’s about her own issues (like, where’d you put that orb while you skinny dipped, yo?), it’s disturbing and it makes her seem even more vulnerable (as if it’s not enough that she’s been standing naked for a while in this creepy glade while Gilthanas talks at her). There are some strange power dynamics at play here, all things considered and I’m quite bothered by them.
The crying…yikes. What’s with the crying? *shudder*. Please, let there be no ‘Juliet, when we made love you used to cry’ action next week, okay?
Mahvesh loves dystopian fiction & appropriately lives in Karachi, Pakistan. She writes about stories & interviews writers the Tor.com podcast Midnight in Karachi when not wasting much too much time on Twitter.