Who's Your Favorite Character?...The Evolution
(Why Raistlin Used to be My Favorite Character)
Let me preface this by saying that I have read the Chronicles trilogy at least a dozen times since I first read the books in high school.
Recently a question came up on the Dragonlance message boards that asked why so many people were fans of Raistlin at first but tend to change in that perspective over the years. In my observations, this is a very common occurrence that, to me has a very predictable pattern that can be reasonably explained. So what is it? It's a combination of a few things including the reader's age, where they are in life, and what the character represents. It also involves how long ago you began reading Dragonlance stories and where in the story line you began reading them.
Let me explain. From my observations of the Dragonlance community, many people are fans or were fans of Raistlin. Then at some stage in their life they find other characters appeal to them and move on. Asking a "Who your favorite character is?" or "Who you'd be if you could be any character?" or "Who do you relate to the most?" are all fairly common questions asked on the message boards and inevitably Raistlin always comes up as the most popular or when they list more than one, Raistlin is in that list. Sure, there are other characters that people pick but Raistlin seems to be the most popular. You'll also see those responses that say "Raistlin used to be my favorite but now I like such and such..." Well, for me, this is why that is the case. Many readers pick up and read the Dragonlance series at an early age, usually in their early teens, some pick it up sooner and some later, but it is at this time in their lives where they test there independence in life and try to figure out who they are. They also have that outsider feeling, that "no one understands me" feeling that is commonly referred to as teen angst. This where and why I see people identifying with Raistlin. You see his character reflects those teen angst feelings and situations in the Chronicles series.
Raistlin is a mage, it's an untrustworthy profession not held in high regard in the world of Krynn at that time. They see the mages as outsiders, a feeling many young people identify with at there age. It was something Raistlin always rebuffed with that when he gained more power he'd "make them understand". He also did not respond well to authority and always scoffed at the Knights of Solamnia and particularly butted heads with Sturm and his knightly ways, a character that represented maturity and social responsibility, a trait that no matter how much a teenager thinks they have or may demonstrate they have, is a long way from that. It's another relatable teen angst trait of feelings of anti-authority, to put it nicely.
Also for the most part many people that these books appeal too are those of what society call the "geek" type, a stereotype that is considered not part of the "in-crowd", and at times on the receiving end of bullying and ridicule. Believe me, I've been there. Raistlin is very much a "geek" type of character. He was a weak and sickly child, quite intelligent and often ridiculed by not only the children in general, but when he was in wizard school, even they picked on him. Again that outsider feeling, that "no one understands me" feeling. Something many readers can relate to.
One last part of this, which may be more of an outsider observer looking in, is Raistlin's dependence on Caramon early on. As stated earlier, many young adults are trying to find their independence and define who they are. Yet they are still reliant on their parents to put a roof over their head, feed them, and pay for certain things. They may not understand this or like it but it is a part of life. Similar, Raistlin to a degree was dependent on Caramon to help him in certain aspects of his life. Something he recognized but treated it with disdain.
Now I'm not say every young adult fits in all of these categories, but these are all different parts of life that most people can relate to at some point in their young lives and this is why Raistlin appeals so much to them when reading these books. He represents the feelings and emotions that many people experience at this point in there life. When they see him achieve his goals of power in the Chronicles, it can give them a sense of comfort.
Through my observations and experiences with other Dragonlance fans, for the most part, it's the younger crowd that likes Raistlin for those reasons and I'm sure many more. Now from a more personal experience, I'll tell you why I moved on and why I think many other people have also. As stated earlier it's a matter of maturity level and where people are in there life.
I was a huge Raistlin fan ever since I first played the game and read the books in high school. Even through college he was still my favorite of all the companions. Yet after college when I was out on my own paying for everything on my own, working a job, and living in new place, away from my friends and family, as I read the Chronicles again, I began to relate more to Tanis. A man trapped between to cultures, trapped between two loves, and struggling to find his place in the world. In my early to mid 20's this was something I could relate to. Finally independent and out of college I was starting to find who I was and where I fit in society and asserting myself as a member of society. This is something I think most people go through in life when they are finally and truly on their own. Other people may relate to other characters for these reasons but for me it was Tanis.
In my late 20's and now my 30's, my outlook in life now changed and more established. It wasn't just saying I am a member of society but defining what my role in society is. I bought a house; I have pets, contribute to charities, and started paying more attention to politics and world events around me. Again as I read the Chronicles I began to relate to Sturm. He was a man of moral fiber with a code that determined his way of life. Using that code, he did what he thought was the good and right thing to do in the world. Something I can now relate to in today's world as we see terrorism, war, and politics affect us and the world around us. So I ask what I can do to make the world a better place and do what I can. Something Sturm strived for, no matter the cost. Again, something I strive for and relate to.
Now there are some who don't see why their characters are favorites from my perspective, and that perfectly fine. Some are just tired of Raistlin and the companions in general because they want to move the storyline forward and the companions were first written about over 20 years ago. They're ready to move on. It's an argument I understand, but for me it's not the factor that determines who my favorite character is.
All-in-all if you picked up a book that had Raistlin in it, early in your adult life, chances are he was your favorite but as you grew and the circumstances of life changed, your attitude towards him probably changed and you began to relate to other characters. That was the case for me. It was Raistlin, Tanis, and Sturm that I could relate to as I went through life. It could be others characters for you depending when you first read Dragonlance or where in the storyline you started to read about the world. Maybe it was the Heroes of the Heart or maybe Steel Brightblade, or maybe Palin Majere. Who knows? But I am willing to bet that it has something to do with what stage in life you are at and how you can relate to a character. Because, to me, that's what good storytelling does for you, it makes it relatable. Who knows, maybe in 20 years Flint will be my favorite when I get old and crotchety then again maybe it'll be it'll be Fizban depending on how forgetful I become.
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