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The Tragedy of Kender

by Matthew L. Martin


"Kender are not allowed here."
--the Queen of Darkness (speaking of the Abyss)
War of the Twins

In the recently released Annotated Legends, Tracy Hickman clarifies that this is because kender, for all their faults, are innocents who never really choose Evil. This explains Her Dark Majesty's statement, but it raises another question: Why do kender never do real, fully understood, solemnly chosen Evil?

I see three possible explanations for a race of mortals never choosing Evil; however, only one of those can be said to apply to kender.

1. They live in a world free from temptation, where Evil is never presented as an option. This is clearly not the case for kender.

2. They are so Good, virtuous and wise that they never yield to the temptations of Evil. This sort of sanctity is also apparently not the case for kender, who appear to give little thought to matters of the spirit, at least in their younger and adult years. (We've seen so few examples of old kender that it's impossible to say. :-) )

3. They are like children in that they don't have the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual maturity to make a real choice between Good and Evil. They may perform kind, selfish, or cruel actions, but they don't really understand things well enough to really be said to be Evil.

This may be a gift to the kender, as it guards them from the downfalls of sin and damnation--but in it is also a seed of tragedy. Kender may be free from vice, are also spiritually stunted, unable to perform real acts of virtue as opposed to 'natural' behavior arising from their cheerful dispositions. They are a race 'in between', in most cases capable of neither great Evil nor Goodness.

In this one case, the Greygem may have functioned as it was originally designed. It was meant to anchor Krynn between Good and Evil, leaving Neutrality dominant. In the case of the kender, it did just that, by rendering them largely unable to move far to one side or the other.

Note the use of the clauses 'in most cases' and 'largely'. It is possible for kender to 'grow up' somewhat and develop a real moral sense and capacity for virtue--and theoretically for vice, although I don't know of any actually Evil kender in the published material. Tasslehoff's development through the first six DRAGONLANCE novels is largely this very maturation, as can be seen in his sincere care for others and his eventual revulsion for Raistlin's evil. And the affliction of the kender in the Fifth Age, for all that it is a terrible and sorrowful event, may actually bring about more of this maturity among the kender race.

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