Wednesday, September 16, 2020

I'm enjoying my re-read of the Dragonlance Chronicles from the 1980's.


I'm re-reading the Dragonlance books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I usually don't go back and re-read things, but nostalgia for the past and seeking out things that provide comfort seem to be the norm during 2020. So why shouldn't I indulge just a little bit? Truthfully though, it has been about thirty or so years since I last read these books, so I'd forgotten just about everything except the biggest plot details and the names of one or two characters (at most). Additionally, I don't think I appreciated the work and creative talent that went into the Dragonlance storyline when I was a teen. But now that I'm much older, I see that they are (in fact) works of great brilliance.

If you don't know, the Dragonlance books are based on a tabletop roleplaying game called Dungeons & Dragons. Now D&D is an incredibly fun game, but it is also really goofy. I like to tell people that a session is kind of like participating in some really bad improv. D&D is a hodgepodge of all the fantasy tropes. It is a huge mixing bowl filled with everything from Oni to hobgoblins to wizards to dragons to gods and to minotaurs. It pulls from every culture indiscriminately, and in many cases, it is the granddaddy of the term "cultural appropriation." You can have ki-rin in the same game session as you have a pyramid based on ancient Egypt. You can have kung-fu in the same story as Gandalf and Sauron. The words "one of these things is not like the other" does not apply to Dungeons and Dragons. Yet, somehow, with all of these goofy potentials, Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis pulled off something remarkable: a beautiful story in a world (Krynn) that essentially has all of these elements and somehow manages to take them seriously and give them respect. That is no small feat.

I half expected to hate these books on a re-read, and find them utterly unreadable. Instead, I'm marveling at how well the authors negotiate the different character classes and manage to integrate the monsters as well as pay homage to a lot of what makes the game of Dungeons and Dragons fun to play. It's all there, down to the spells that Raistlin Majere casts (taken from the Player's Handbook) and to the abilities that several of the characters in the story manifest. The clerics feel like D&D clerics and the equipment they use feels very much akin to how leveling feels like when I play this game. It's a fascinating thing, and yes, they manage to make it just as high fantasy and feel just as epic as anything that Tolkien wrote in The Lord of the Rings.

Honestly, I'm enjoying this re-read quite a bit. In a post Game of Thrones world, I would love to see Dragonlance turned into a high quality movie. The story is definitely there, as are the characters. They are as well-developed as anything that was turned out by George R.R. Martin. I've heard that there are some legal issues to making this kind of thing a reality. However, if it happens in my lifetime, I will gladly give the ones that bring it to the movies a fistful of cash.

My one complaint is that there are no good hardcover editions of the individual Dragonlance books that I can purchase for my shelves. Of course there are electronic books, audiobooks, and special edition omnibuses (which I hate because they are so unwieldy). Omnibus editions really should be restricted to either electronic book or audiobook format. Who wants to try and balance a huge hardcover book in their hands? Not I. And I found some weird overpriced handmade editions on Etsy (how is that even legal?) I didn't buy was just a curiosity and way too expensive.

Anyone else out there a fan of Dragonlance? Are you giving them a re-read or are you reading them for the first time? If it's been a while, but you have a favorite character, please let me know in the comments. I think my favorite character is Tasslehoff Burrfoot. I didn't use to like him, but in this re-read, I can see how brilliant the character is, and it's easily the funnest one, pulling the whole party into his adventures. Plus, the way he sees the world is just too special. 


  1. I recently replayed one of the old Dragonlance-based video games, Champions of Krynn, but I never really read any of the books. Ironically though my blog entry today was also about rereading books. Synchronicity!

  2. A friend of my brother was really into those books back in the day. He had decent taste. I was just busy with other things, so I never took the recommendation. I'd try them now, but I'm also on a familiar read binge at the moment. Maybe one of these days.