Ed Greenwood Presents Elminister’s Forgotten Realms, by Ed Greenwood
This was a very interesting book, and it helps demonstrate some of the ways that the creativity of various people helped to make the Dungeons & Dragons universe as rich as it was. Indeed, the Forgotten Realms appears to have been created by Ed Greenwood before Dungeons & Dragons was itself invented, one of the imaginary worlds that were inspired by a general love of fantasy that happened to become part of larger worlds. We might think the same of the childhood world of C.S. Lewis and his brother, which became Boxen, a world that in many ways is not so dissimilar from the Forgotten Realms with its fantasy elements and its focus on politics. At any rate, this particular book is an exploration of a world that has been cultivated by its creator for decades, and which has become part of a popular game, all of which suggests a great deal of love and attention has been paid to this world not only by the world’s creator himself but by a great many others. For companies do not publish books about worlds that no one cares about, after all, and people definitely care about Forgotten Realms and its larger mythos.
This book of about 200 pages provides a great deal of very interesting information about the world of Forgotten Realms. The book begins with a foreword and an introduction before moving on to life in the realms, where the author discusses the racial viewpoints of various populations on the planet, the language and holidays of the realm, as well as matters like drugs and poisons, medicine and illnesses, and even gossip. After that comes a chapter on laws and order, including social rank, property and trade laws, as well as the secret history of the Zhentarim. The author follows this with questions about hearth and home, from inns and taverns to food (from hunting to regional cuisines) as well as fashion. The author spends a chapter on money matters (from jobs to guilds to trade to coinage to the slave trade), after which the author talks about gods and followers, spending a great deal of time discussing the various orders of priesthood. The last chapter of the book discusses the art in the Forgotten Realms, which refers specifically to magic, and gives some details about magic, bloodlines, alchemy, bardic matters, elves, spellsong, and a great deal more magic besides that, after which the book concludes with a brief afterword.
Although I must admit that my own particular worldviews, religious and political, are far distinct from anything that can be found in the Forgotten Realms, at least as this book discusses, it is clear from reading this book that the author thought a lot about the way this world was put together. There is a great deal of struggle with the desire to preserve a society and to prevent drastic change. The fact that Waterdeep has not known new noble families for centuries suggests that there is a strong conservative edge to the view of this particular world, to such an extent that different religions have a high degree of tolerance for each other even where there are major disagreements because doing something about these religions would require threatening drastic change that no one appears to want. This is not a world for revolutionaries, and there is something to be said for the appeal of a world where such diverse and conflicting populations and economic systems are able to coexist in a tense equilibrium because making serious efforts to change the status quo would result in drastic social changes that would be abhorrent to elites, something that ought to be seen as relevant to our real world.