Saturday, April 13, 2013

A magical character

This Monday, April 8th, was the International Raistlin Majere Day. I didn't celebrate, mainly because I wasn't aware such day existed and found about it too late to take part. I'm not entirely sure how I would have celebrated, but at least I could have written this blog post on that day. Though, with all honesty, I'm not sure how widely known the day is even among those who know who Raistlin Majere is; I was only able to find a couple of bloggers mentioning it with any regularity.

Raistlin Majere is, of course, a major character in Dragonlance, a shared universe consisting of games and books, most of which are written by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis. He is a powerful wizard with a compelling and complicated character and a body ruined by strong magic. He was also the reason why I found Dragonlance books so compelling.

I’ve never been interested in gaming so for me, Dragonlance is solely about books. Dragonlance Chronicles, a trilogy that starts with Dragons of Autumn Twilight (1984), is the first proper fantasy series that I read. I must have been twelve or so, because the second trilogy, Dragonlance Legends, had already been published, but I remember I had to wait for the Test of Twins, the last book in the Legends, to be translated to my language – an agony.

Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Since it was the first foray into high fantasy for me, I wasn’t encumbered with the notions of what ought to be and what had already been done in fantasy. Everything was new and exciting for me, elves, dwarves and dragons alike. Magic, especially, was a wonderful new concept and no one was better at it than Raistlin.

There are some characters that stay with you through life. Raistlin Majere is one of those for me. He is a conflicted and complicated person, one that keeps you guessing whether he is good or bad, and hoping against hope that he would end up on the right side. And just when you think he has made the right decision, he does something that yanks the rug from underneath you, pushing you off balance once again; a difficult character for a twelve-year-old to comprehend properly. Other characters in the series are more straightforward – good or bad – but not him. And that is probably the reason for his staying power, the reason why there is a day dedicated for him and not for the other characters.

It’s been closer to thirty years since I read the books, but when I watched an animated movie of the Dragons of Autumn Twilight a while back, Raistlin immediately returned to me. And I realised I had missed him. Or if not him, a character like him, someone complicated and interesting. Someone who is never what you expect him to be. Someone magical. There should be more of those around.

Here's a trailer for the animated Dragonlance movie. It's not terribly good, but then again, neither is the movie.