Myths Retold: A Revisitation of Krynnish Creation Tales
Dedicated to the memory of J. R. R. Tolkien, who has had great influence not only in my outlook on fantasy in general, but DRAGONLANCE specifically.
This is yet another in my series of Essays where I try to 'fix' what I consider 'wrong' with Dragonlance. This time, I'm taking a look at the Creation of the World, which is something that I've long been tinkering with. The purpose of this Essay is threefold:
1) The revision of DRAGONLANCE creation mythology to incorporate more of my own religious views, such as monotheism, the originality of Good, the derivative nature of Evil, and the like. If it's good enough for Tracy Hickman, it's good enough for me.
2) The presentation of some new thoughts of mine on the Chaos Question, trying to bring what we were told in Dragons of Summer Flame into line with the older stuff and the ideas mentioned above.
3) The creation of a mythology for Good. Take a look at the official material. Most of what we know has been told to us by Neutral sources, such as Astinus or dwarven historians, or sources that, while not Evil in themselves, were definitely taught things from a Takhisian outlook (i.e., the Irda). The forces of Good don't really seem to have presented their view of the Creation and subsequent events. So, I present my take on how my vision of the Order of Light would see these events. Some notes on my views on the Neutral and Evil mythologies will follow.
I take this version as Truth for my Krynn, despite the fact that it doesn't fit entirely with 'canon', but I hope that everyone will find some ideas of interest or use herein.
One of the sources I've been using for ideas here is the work of J. R. R. Tolkien. Specifically, I've made reference to Morgoth's Ring, Volume X of the History of Middle-Earth series. Some of Tolkien's unpublished notes on Morgoth and Sauron are presented therein, as well as developments of the thought of the Marring of Arda, and I've adapted some of the Master's ideas for Chaos and Takhisis. Tolkien's meditations on orcs also gave some guidance for handling tricky issues regarding ogres.
The Creation of the World
In the Beginning, there is, forever has been, and forever will be the High God.
The High God decided to create the world of Krynn, and placed the plans for the world in the Tobril. He then created the Powers, powerful beings responsible for carrying out the plan contained within the Tobril. Chief among these was Ionthas, who would be responsible for beginning the shaping of the world, and who was given greater gifts than all of his brethren. Paladine and Takhisis were created to counsel the Mortals who would inhabit this world until such time as they were ready to stand directly before the High God, for good or for ill. Gilean, finally, was to keep the Tobril and advise the other three. Although the Tobril was given into Gilean's keeping, he was only permitted to read those portions of it that were relevant to the current stage of the Plan, and Ionthas, Paladine, and Takhisis were permitted to read some of it as well. Beyond that, the contents of the Book were known to only the High God. The other Powers were given life and form as well, to fulfill their own parts of the Plan.
It should be noted that all of the Powers were Good in the beginning; Evil, though, would come soon after.
The High God spoke the world into existence, and sent Ionthas to shape it, bringing it into its fullness. Ionthas, though, had grown haughty in his superiority to his brethren, and desired to possess Krynn for his own, independent of all others, even the High God. When Paladine, Gilean, and most of the other Powers challenged him in this, backed by the power and authority of the High God, Ionthas used his great power to bind the unshaped substance of Krynn to himself. Ionthas did reduce the matter to formlessness, but bound himself to it. His anger at his self-imposed degradation and loss of freedom, coupled with his overweening pride, caused him to repudiate the High God, his fellow Powers, and everything else that was not himself. Ionthas even repudiated his old name and identity; from that moment on, he was known to all as Chaos.
In doing this, Chaos had increased both his power and his vulnerability. Although the Powers could not stand against him directly, they could thwart him. In obedience to the High God and the Tobril, the Powers began shaping the Chaos, giving form to the world of Krynn. Though Chaos could have stood against them all were they alone, the High God himself empowered them with supernatural gifts to complete the Plan. This was the last blow to Chaos' pride, and he descended into an abyss of twisted and irrational thought, rather than face the truth. He convinced himself that he was the creator of All and of Nothing, that the other Powers were his children, that they he was simply teaching them a lesson by letting them play at this world. He denied the very existence of the High God on a conscious level, although deep within himself, he both dreaded and hated the High God and all that had sprung from his thought--which meant everything, including Chaos himself.
Though he was driven back from the substance of the universe, Chaos left his taint in that which the Powers were shaping. Had they unified their natural gifts, the Powers could have undone this marring of Krynn and made it the paradise they had dreamed of, but such was not to be. For Chaos had not wounded only Krynn. His malice and rebellion had influenced some among the Powers themselves.
Takhisis had been appointed co-regent of the young world by the High God, to rule together with Paladine. Chaos' rebellious pride had influenced her, for she had been closely associated with Ionthas, and had admired his many gifts. Like Chaos, she began to desire sole dominion. Where Chaos had lusted after the physical universe, though, Takhisis' desire was more concerned with the spiritual. She wished to be worshipped and adored by the mortals who would come to inhabit Krynn, to possess their very souls. This lust came to fruition as the creation of the world of Krynn drew to an end, and the next phase of the Celestial Plan began.
The first creatures to inhabit Krynn would be the dragons, who would be more tightly bound to Paladine and Takhisis than the other mortals who would follow. Paladine and Takhisis, assisted by Reorx and Mishakal, crafted the Five Dragons, and the High God gave them souls. Seeing these creatures of might, the first free-willed beings to inhabit Krynn, Takhisis and Morgion seduced them to follow her and her alone. In this rebellion, Takhisis and the Powers who stood with her declared themselves dedicated to usurping mastery over Krynn and thwarting the execution of the Tobril.
Thus did the Powers of Evil fall from their lofty state into malice and envy. Their rebellion had another lamentable effect. The work of Chaos and Takhisis convinced several of the other Powers that Krynn was hopelessly marred, that the Plan had failed. These Powers simply took to nurturing specific aspects of the Creation, neither acting to thwart the will of the High God nor serving him as they were meant to. Even Gilean, Keeper of the Tobril, took this point of view, preferring to study the world and the Tobril as if they were two distinct things, rather than using the Tobril as a means to guide the continued shaping of the world. These became the Powers of Neutrality, who viewed themselves as aloof from the struggle between Good and Evil.
This struggle came to a head as more pages of the Tobril became clear, and the plans for the Mortals began to crystallize. As the time of their Awakening approached, Takhisis, Sargonnas, and the other Powers of Evil declared their intention to enslave the Mortals, for, as Takhisis said, "We did forge this world out of Chaos; why should we now surrender it to younger and lesser beings?"
The Powers of Good stood against them, in fidelity to the High God. Paladine declared "these coming Mortals are children of the High God, just as we are. This world was made for them moreso than for us, and in the end, they shall be greater and brighter than any of us." The Powers of Good desired to guide the Mortals, and protect them from the Evil ones and the influence of Chaos that was left within Krynn.
Thus began the All-Saints War, as Good strove against Evil. The Powers of Neutrality originally intended to ignore the conflict, tending to their own areas of interest. In the end, though, Paladine and Majere persuaded Gilean and the other Neutrals to side with the Powers of Good, for Takhisis desired dominion over all the world, which would leave those elements cherished by the Powers enslaved to her ends or destroyed.
The alliance of Good and Neutrality pushed the forces of Evil back, but a final resolution could not be reached. Then, for one of the few times thus far in the history of Krynn, the High God intervened directly.
"Know ye that I am the High God, and thou art my children, just as are these Mortals who I shall soon create.
"Paladine, thou and thine allies hath done well in remaining faithful to thy calling and desiring to aid the Mortals. Though they shall be free to choose for Good or against it, thou shalt be free as well to aid and protect them so that this freedom may be maintained. And as it shall be with the Mortals who choose Good, so shall it be with thee; thine labors shall in the end bring about Good, though Evil may surround thee. For Goodness, sought truly and for its own sake, shall redeem its own.
"Takhisis, thou hast followed Ionthas in foolishness, and those who follow thee shall likewise know their folly, should they not repent. Thou and thine shalt be free to mar, wound, and tempt the Mortals, yet in the end, thou shalt regret this most grievously. For I am farther above thee than thou canst conceive, even more above thee than thou perceivest thyself to be above the Mortals. All that thou shalt do to thwart my designs shall in the end fulfill them and be used to bring about Good. But Evil thy work remains, and thou shalt suffer for this, even more than the Mortals who serve thee suffer for their own. For Evil, even pursued in the disguise of Good, shall turn in upon itself.
"Gilean, though thou hast not rebelled against mine designs, still thou and those who declare themselves Neutral hath failed in thy rejection of thy part in the Plan. Thou shalt fulfill it despite thyself, and I shall permit thy declared Neutrality, for even in thy silence, thou all shalt bring Goodness. As thou art free, so are the Mortals. Yet thou shalt not remain undecided forever; in the end, the path of events shall turn such that thou must stand either with us in the Light or with Takhisis and her compatriots in the Darkness. For all are free to choose for Good or against it, but all will make the choice in the end, even if the difference between the two within their lives be only as great as the weight of a starbeam.
"Know ye all that there shall be a Balance. I will permit Good, Evil, and Neutrality all to work upon this world, and the Mortals shall be free to choose between the three, and receive the consequences of their choice. They may swing the Balance to one of the three, but such must come from within, and not be forced upon them from without. Know thee, Paladine, that if those mortals in thy service seek to force Goodness upon the others, they shall fall into Evil and bring about great suffering. Know thee, Gilean, that if thy servants try to forbid the Mortals from choosing between the two, they shall likewise fail and bring about devastation. Know thee, Takhisis, that when thou dost attempt to enslave the world to thine service, thou shalt be thwarted in the end, and yet in thy folly, thou shalt continue to seek such dominion until the end of thy presence upon this world."
The Races of the World
All three of the Firstborn races--elves, humans, and ogres--spring from the thought of the High God and have their souls created by him, with the Powers of Good and Neutrality bestowing certain gifts upon them to help them function in the world. The Powers of Evil, though, were at work from the beginning, and though they promised greater gifts, they in truth lured the Firstborn to fall from their original state and be weakened in body and soul.
All three did fall, but the elves fell the least. Thus, they have retained many of their original gifts, such as a long lifespan, physical health, and a clearer, more focused will. Their greater control of their passions makes them less likely to succumb completely to the temptations of Evil, although they still must guard against it. Pride, selfishness, and sloth are the most dangerous temptations for elvenkind.
Ogres, being strongest physically of the races, were coveted the most by the Dark Queen, and thus fell most greatly under her sway. They retained their might, but lost almost all other gifts of beauty, intellect, and will they began with. Despite this, ogres retain a crude moral sense and a capacity to choose Good. However, while there are differences in ogrish cultures, all of them are united in promoting anger, vanity, avarice, lust, and gluttony as impulses to be followed. Thus, most ogres shrug off concerns about 'good' and 'evil' and willingly enslave themselves to their desires. Despite this, the church of Good states, they still must be dealt with in a compassionate fashion, for they are not wholly Evil, nor irredeemable.
Humans occupy something of a middle ground, neither as committed to Good as the elves nor as enslaved by Evil as the ogres. Despite this, there appears to be something about humans that makes them the key race of Krynn. It is said that the High God knows the reason for this, and he revealed it to Paladine, Gilean, and Majere, but none of them shall speak of it. In his last appearance before the Second Cataclysm, though, Majere reported that "humans have a greater destiny than even we can fully comprehend, although it shall not be made known to thee for eons yet to come."
As all this occurred, in the distant reaches of the universe, Chaos seethed. He could witness what was happening on Krynn, but trapped within the formless mass that was now his body, he was powerless to affect the world. While the other Powers retained the capacity to travel great distances in the twinkling of an eye, Chaos was chained to matter and thus unable to truly teleport, and no physical means would avail to cross the great void of space. Thus, Chaos was helpless and alone.
Then came the Greygem.
It has been a point of debate among Good theologians exactly which Evil power was responsible for the idea of the Greygem. The top two candidates were Hiddukel, who may have seen Chaos as another form of wealth he could use to corrupt mortals, and Morgion, who is associated with Takhisis, but seems to sympathize with Chaos' desire to destroy the world than with the Dark Queen's lust to dominate it. Other Powers considered are Takhisis herself, who may have wished to extend her dominion to encompass Chaos, and Sargonnas, who might have desired to use Chaos to usurp the Queen he both desired and loathed.
In any event, one of the Evil powers convinced some among the Neutrals to create a gem that would hold Chaos. The Evil one seduced them with visions of what would happen to the aspects of the world they cherished if the Celestial Plan continued to unfold, and if Good and Evil continued their conflict. To stabilize the world and anchor it between Good and Evil, this one said, would require a force aligned with neither yet opposed to the plan contained in the Tobril. The only such force, it was suggested, was Chaos.
Forging the Greygem, Reorx traveled to the outer edges of Creation and attempted to trap Chaos within it. Had Chaos opposed him, Reorx would have been destroyed and beyond the reach of any save the High God. However, in this, Chaos saw a chance to return to Krynn and frustrate the plans of the High God. Heedless of the risks, Chaos plunged himself into the Greygem.
Chaos found himself both rejoicing in and regretting his choice. He was now chained even more tightly than he had been, trapped within a single gem that, while mutable, was forged so as to contain him completely. However, he could move the Greygem about and exercise some influence on Krynn, especially in bringing out the taint of his power that had been left within the world. Many effects of the Greygem are well known, such as kender, sea elves, and minotaurs. Others, though, are open to debate. While the theologians of Light believe that magic was a gift placed within the world by the High God, some have developed the theory that the reason what is now known as sorcery was so difficult to control in the Age of Dreams was that Chaos, through the Greygem, tainted and corrupted it. Also, many effects of the Greygem remained unknown. The impact it had on the eastern land where it landed are a mystery, as well as what Chaos left in his wake as he crossed the Courrain Ocean. But those are matters of history and exploration, not theology.
One last thing resulted from the Greygem--the continuation of the Plan. The Secondborn races and the creatures of the Greygem were contained in the Tobril from the beginning. Had Reorx not forged the Greygem, they would have been brought into Creation in another way. Some point to such things as kender and tinker gnomes as proof that the High God has a very strange sense of humor.
Notes on Other Myths:
The creation myth held by the various churches and followers of Neutrality varies with race, region, and venerated Power, but the general view is that summed up in the Iconochronos. In this system, the High God's influence and role is glossed over; while the Neutrals acknowledge the High God's existence, the Powers of Neutrality still felt a bit uneasy about their defection and didn't tend to teach their followers about him much. The issue of Chaos was also not detailed, typically because it was deemed irrelevant or potentially dangerous, especially as more and more of them realized what might happen if the Greygem were rediscovered and opened. These fears proved well-grounded during the Chaos War.
The Evil Powers, having no compunctions about lying, have even more varied creation myths. Typically, each different church has one or more, all venerating that church's Power as the highest of them all. Common elements include an absolute denial of the High God, the concept of Chaos as the world's original state instead of a later corruption, the supremacy of Evil by nature, and the idea that the servants of Evil are chosen by Fate to dominate Krynn. The most widespread myth is the version taught by the Queen of Darkness, which was first given to the ogres, and later to her human worshippers.
Much of this system resembles the Irda story of creation given in Dragons of Summer Flame, which is not surprising considering that the Irda were ogres in the beginning, and seemed to have concerned themselves little with theology ever since they withdrew from Ansalon. There are differences, though; the Irda recognized Takhisis for what she was, while the followers of Evil consider her power and glory personified.
The Takhisian tale starts off much the same as the Irda myth: Paladine, Gilean, and Takhisis were children of Chaos. Paladine, though, was a docile, submissive child, according to this story, and Gilean was withdrawn and sullen. Only Takhisis possessed vision, drive, and spirit.
The story continues in the same vein as the Irda myth, but Takhisis is cast in a much more heroic light, while Paladine is given as a servant of Chaos, and Gilean is more Neutral than portrayed in any other mythology. Eventually, Takhisis drives Chaos off and designs the world, while Paladine and Gilean start scheming for dominion, forcing Takhisis to give up her rightful claims in the name of 'balance'. One more difference is that the dragons, according to this story, were creations of Takhisis alone, the metallics being imitations by Paladine.
The name 'Ionthas' is derived from some D&D and AD&D material that mentions 'Io, the Great Dragon', who is above even Bahamut (Paladine) and Tiamat (Takhisis). While there's no resemblance except the name element, I decided to include it as something of an homage.
Originally posted on the alt.fan.dragonlance newsgroup on August 12, 1999. This work would later become known as the Martinian Canon.
This item has been published here with permission from the author(s) and may not be reproduced without permission. This is a fan submission and its contents are completely unofficial. Some characters, places, likenesses and other names may be copyright Wizards of the Coast.