The Making of Dragonbound part 3 Maps and Cultures

map colored

I have written a number of epic fantasy books where I tried my hardest to make the worlds as unique and different from our own as possible. Then I noticed that something that brought me tingles of joy when reading other people’s writing were the little Easter eggs in their writing that referred back to things of this world. Allusions to great literary works, hints of cultures from this world other than my own, bizarre things that turn up in real world folklore. Having noticed that I enjoy seeing these things in other people’s writing, I decided to take a new course with the Dragonbound world. I would purposely make it connect to the real world in as many ways as possible while keeping the integrity of the Dragonbound world and storyline. For instance, many of the lesser dragons are based on or extrapolated from real dinosaurs. And since I was researching prehistoric times, and playing in my head with the idea of humans living alongside the dinosaur/dragons of the ancient world. I decided the map could/should reflect that. I knew I needed a map of my new world (it wouldn’t be epic fantasy if it didn’t have a map), so I started with Pangea and looked through the continental drift maps from Pangea to the present. I needed to find a continent structure that would match the cultures and conflicts of the Dragonbound world. If you’ve taken the time to click on the link, take a look at the map for the Cretaceous Period. You will see that it bears a certain basic resemblance to the Dragonbound map above. I started with the Cretaceous map and changed it to fit more particularly the world I was creating.

I talked in an earlier making of post about the central novum of this world being people of two different races forming a physical bond that would give them great powers. The two races, of course, being dragons and humans. Before I could do much of anything else, I needed a name for these beings. I could have come up with some new and original fantasy name to call this race, but thought to myself, what if there is some creature already in mythology that is half human half dragon/reptile. You know, there totally could be, let’s go do some research. I found my race of beings in Hindu mythology. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica a naga is “a member of a class of mythical semidivine beings, half human and half cobra. They are a strong, handsome species who can assume either wholly human or wholly serpentine form and are potentially dangerous but often beneficial to humans. They live in an underground kingdom called Naga-loka, or Patala-loka, which is filled with resplendent palaces, beautifully ornamented with precious gems.” Thus the Dragonbound race of Nagas got their names, and the idea of the fabulous city of Stonefountain with its riches incredible palaces and more fully developed in my mind.

Perhaps a linguist like Tolkien can create fully developed languages for his world. I know if I try something like that it would be some crazy mashup of names and words that would have more incoherence than consistency. My hats off to all those brilliant authors who do and have created whole new languages for their worlds. I admire you more than you can know. I am not one of you. Some days I’m lucky to spell my own name right. And yet there must be cultural uniformity in names for each culture of an epic fantasy world. Anything less would destroy any believably in this new world. So, after having taken the name of the dragonbound from Hindu mythology, it seemed necessary then to draw other names from the central culture first introduced in the books from the same language. I have had some people ask why I came up with such impossibly crazy names for the Great dragons of the Dragonbound world. Well, I wrote out the character descriptions of the characters that would appear in the first book and went to a Hindi baby names page and Hindu mythology pages and tried to find names that would match the characters. The most recognizable of those names, of course, is Dharanidhar (the cosmic serpent of Hindu mythology according to some sources).

Having used Hindu names for many of the main characters, it seemed logical then to base the whole culture loosely on Indian culture. And that actually tied into the map I had created, the continent of Varna being roughly shaped like India. I named Varna after one of the four traditional social classes of India. And the central Varnan city, Daro, is a recreation of the ancient city of Mohenjo-Daro.

A whole world is unlikely to be one culture, however.  So I very loosely based the Maran culture and names on imperial age Britain, Darvat on Peruvian culture, the humans in Kundiland on South American and African rain forest natives, and the Great North the Athabascans. I really enjoy studying different cultures, so all the research necessary for this book was pleasant and invigorating for me. People associated with any of these cultures will of, course say, that I did not do justice to any of them. I didn’t get anything particularly right at all, and I wasn’t trying to. anymore than I was trying to make the dragons true to real dinosaurs or the map exactly like that of the Cretaceous Period. All of these connections to the real world were only jumping off points to creating a fantastic other world setting. Because, well, it was fun for me to create a world that way. I found it creatively satisfying to put as many little filaments of connection from the real world into a fantasy world as possible.

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One Response to The Making of Dragonbound part 3 Maps and Cultures

  1. Pingback: The Making of Dragonbound Part 4 Character Arcs: Raahi | Rebecca Shelley

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