Living

Welsh Dungeons and Finnish Dragons

Lucie wants to be a dragon when she grows up.

My kids play Dungeons and Dragons. It is the first thing they played together since the golden days of Star Wars Galactic Heroes invading Polly Pocket land, when they were about six and four. And it is glorious.

I had always thought, as a non-gamer-type, that those shelves of D&D books some of my friends had must have been full of rules and storylines. Otherwise, why would one need so many books? Then my kids started asking for Player’s Handbooks and Monster Manuals for holiday gifts. They’re not full of stories. They’re full of characters. You get to make up the stories.

My kids are all about stories.

The boyo started playing first, and when he brought in the girly, he helped her make her first character and get her head around the rules. It took hours, and it was adorable to watch. Her first character was a bard, and she wrote 20 different back stories, so she could roll a 20-sided die and tell a different version of herself to everyone she met.

The girly uses Finnish names when she’s making characters. When she was 7, and her principal suggested something to do about the “wonderful problem of your daughter” might be teaching her a foreign language after school, my daughter asked for Finnish. This probably has nothing at all to do with my reading her the Kalevala as a wee munchkin. The world will never know, really. But needless to say, I don’t speak Finnish, so that’s not what we did after school. But to her they sounded like magic, and they stuck. All the big players in the Kalevala have these long, thumping names: Vaїnӓmӧinen, Ilmarinen, Lemminkӓinen. They sound like a chant. She has never forgotten.

The boyo, who cut his teeth on fantasy video games and books, had hundreds of cool-sounding names at his fingertips. But when he wants to make a new character, he looks at Welsh stories. Welsh names are cool too: Pwyll. Culhwch. Blodeuedd. He may have run across a tattered copy of the Mabinogion in his youth. Realistically anything that looks hard to pronounce from Southern Californian English is fair game, but this is where they turn when they need to create.

Maybe before she grows up.

Because much of creating is starting from something and tweaking it. You have to have something to make art from. Sometimes it’s paint and canvas; sometimes it’s ink and paper; sometimes it’s Welsh folklore and a Character Sheet.

I’m thinking about creativity as I try to increase my output (summer is coming, after all). But it’s also creeping up on Mother’s Day, and I’ve been staring at my kids, being grateful for those quirky, wonderful humans, and marveling at how adorable they still are, even on the edge of adulthood.

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