At some point during the world-building process, writers run into the issue of faith. What do your characters believe in? What is their religion, if they have one? What religions are present in the world you’ve created and how do they affect that world? Fantasy is usually not a godless place; in fact, it’s rift with religious ideas.
Fantasy books traditionally have polytheistic leanings because… well, it’s easiest. The pantheon of gods and goddesses is often very active in the world, and special priests or priestesses known as “clerics” or holy warriors called “paladins” can call directly on their patron god/goddess for help in battle or healing. It’s often indistinguishable from magic… but the source is divine. Krynn from Dragonlance and Faerûn from The Forgotten Realms are two massive fantasy worlds with hundreds of books that have very active and localized pantheons. In these worlds, there is no question about the existence of gods and goddesses because the effects of their power can be very clearly seen. The afterlife of heaven and hell or somewhere in between is very, very real.
This is the third part of a series of entries discussing various books that deeply influenced my writing and outlook on stories. You can read the Introduction here, Part 1 here, and Part 2 here. Please note that discussion of these books may contain spoilers.
Image via mycomicshop.com
While writing these “Influential Books” posts, I’ve noticed that most of these books were read between the ages of 8 and 12. I’m pretty sure I was 11 when I picked up a copy of The Dark Elf Trilogy by R.A. Salvatore.
It was after we’d moved, but we still came back to my hometown in Maryland occasionally. I think we stopped to get Chinese food or maybe we stopped by the hardware store. Either way, we had a little extra time, so Mom and Dad let us go into a nearby bookstore. I had $20 of birthday money in my pocket; a small fortune to me. I prowled through the shelves, not looking for anything in particular, although I always wanted to buy as many books as possible. Then I noticed the lurid cover of the February 2000 paperback Collector’s Edition of The Dark Elf Trilogy, which promised to contain the first three books of the Chronicles of Drizzt: Homeland, Exile, and Sojourn. That got my attention. I love omnibuses, origin stories, and complete sets, plus I’d never heard of a “dark elf” before, so I bought it.