Friday, December 23, 2011

Who is Tiamat?

Tiamat - image source
The title of the first book in the Dragon's Blood Chronicles refers to a being by the name of Tiamat. If that name sounds familiar, it's because I didn't make it up. Tiamat is an ancient name, older than any god or deity worshiped on Earth by humans today. The name has a very specific and significant meaning in my books.

If you've read the book you'll notice that the dragons use the term "To the Shadow of Tiamat," as a benediction. Several dragons also use the term "Praise Tiamat!" or reference her in some reverent manner. This would usually lead people to conclude that the dragons worship Tiamat as a god.

In fact, they do not.

In ancient Babylon, Tiamat was an important part of their creation myths and the mother of all monsters. Ancient Babylonians did not specify that she was a dragon, but they believed in dragons and that she was their mother:

When the skies above were not yet named
Nor earth below pronounced by name,
Apsu, the first one, their begetter,
And maker Tiamat, who bore them all,
Had mixed their waters together,
But had not formed pastures, nor discovered reed-beds;
When yet no gods were manifest,
Nor names pronounced, nor destinies decreed,
Then gods were born within them. (Dalley 233)

In my books, Tiamat was a dragon...though a different kind of one. Her children were the dragons of Earth. They revere her as the mother of their race, and believe she will be waiting for them in the afterlife (the aforementioned "Shadow" is a reference to this) but do not worship her as a god.

Tiamat, band. Image source
Tiamat has been used in other forms of media as well. One of my favorite bands is called Tiamat: I've been listening to them since I was very young, and that is part of what sparked my interest in the name. Tiamat is also an important part of the Dungeons and Dragons role playing game, and even made an appearance on the old Dungeons and Dragons cartoon show. In this incarnation, she is depicted as a multi-headed dragon. She is also evil. My Tiamat is not evil, nor does she have more than one head. She is also depicted as being able to turn into a beautiful woman, particularly in the Forgotten Realms DnD setting (in Dragonlance, she is referred to as Takhesis). Since dragons in my world can assume human form, presumably so can Tiamat.

Apsu is not mentioned in the first book, but he was a dragon as well. He and Tiamat spawned the race. Where they came from is something you'll just have to wait to find out. The mystery of how dragons (and, for that matter, all otherworldly beings) came to be is answered over the course of several books. I can't just give everything away at the beginning.

If you looked closely at the names of some of the dragons in my books, you'll see some other familiar names as well. Many of the older dragons were worshiped as Gods or other great powers by primitive beings. Whether the humans based their gods on dragons with those names, or the dragons took their names from the mythology of humans they lived near, is up for the reader to learn... Dragon?