R.A. Salvatore Looks Back Before "The Last Threshold"

At six hundred pounds of black fur and muscle, the panther Guenhwyvar is a fearsome fighter and one of Drizzt Do'Urden's most important allies. At the end of Charon's Claw, the third book in R.A. Salvatore's Neverwinter Saga, readers were left wondering what her future may hold. As we await the final book in the Neverwinter Saga, The Last Threshold, due March 5, R.A. Salvatore muses on the identity -- and unintentional identity crisis -- of Drizzt's beloved sidekick.


Guenhwyvar, ah Guen...

She started out as a dog, a moorhound, actually, named Canthus. When I wrote a sample chapter to audition for the second book ever published in the Forgotten Realms setting, way back in the summer of 1987, I thought the Realms were the tiny Moonshae Isles and that TSR (the original publisher of the Forgotten Realms setting) was looking for someone to write a direct follow-up to Doug Niles's Darkwalker on Moonshae. I didn't want to use Doug's characters in any meaningful way—they're wonderful characters, but I don't like sharing protagonists! -- so I grabbed one, a sly fellow named Daryth and his moorhound named Canthus, to introduce the hero of my story, Wulfgar of Icewind Dale.

Quite a bit changed during that audition period, starting with me discovering the size of the Forgotten Realms, and learning, to my great relief, that my editor didn't want me anywhere near Doug's work, since he was writing sequels to his book. So I set my book, The Crystal Shard, far away in Icewind Dale and added a character named Drizzt Do'Urden who soon took over the book. One thing I did keep from Doug's example, however: the animal sidekick.

Why? Any pet lover already knows the answer to that question. Drizzt was created as the classic, misunderstood outcast, a bit of a loner, and often driven by circumstance to his own devices. Has anyone gone through junior high school or high school who can't relate to this?

I certainly can. And in those times when I found myself confused and feeling very alone, I had a savior, a dog named Cocoa and then a dog named Yuma. They listened, without judgment, and using them as sounding boards often got me through the tough and lonely days.

So Drizzt needed a friend like that, I figured, and Guenhwyvar was born.

Let me clear this up, once and for all: Guenhwyvar is a female panther! I know, I know, don't point out the problem with that argument, please. You see, when you're a professional writer, working on deadlines and working with a team of editors/artists/designers and the like, you come to learn certain things about the process. In the case of Guenhwyvar, for some reason I never figured out, I was told that the panther had to be gender neutral. I argued about this policy, but to no avail. Guenhwyvar was a magic item, so I was told, and so Guen was an "it," not a "she" or a "he."

The cat remained a "she" in my mind, certainly, but I painstakingly went through the manuscript of The Crystal Shard and removed all of the gender-specific pronouns. In some places, the use of "it" sounded quite awkward ; when you name a character, then use "it," well, try to do it and you'll see what I mean. Nevertheless, I had my orders.

Soon after The Crystal Shard hit the shelves, I discovered, to my chagrin, that the copyeditor had apparently spotted the awkwardness of the gender-neutral pronoun, too, and so he/she (it?) had smoothed out the prose ... by replacing "it" with "he" and "him"! But no, Guenhwyvar is a female panther!

I got the name from those magnificent Mary Stewart books about King Arthur, where "Guenhwyvar" is the spelling of Arthur's Queen, and, according to Stewart, the name meant "Shadow." Perfect for Drizzt, I figured, coming from the shadows and needing a shadow. Wherever would Drizzt have been without her? Indeed, where will he be without her going forward?

Read The Last Threshold to know more.



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Comments (4)

Is there a way Amazon can tell me if I order a book twice? I have done that a few times by mistake.

Posted by: Donnis Trichell | Thursday February 28, 2013 at 10:15 AM

Yes you can, sign into your account and check under Your Orders... I learned this because I made the mistake of preordering Charon's Claw twice lol =P

Posted by: Randy | Sunday March 3, 2013 at 3:38 PM

Please come out in Australia on March 5!

Posted by: Connor | Sunday March 3, 2013 at 4:38 PM

I've always found it rather humanizing to give Guen to Drizzt. I mean not just in the context of a sounding board for a character who was entering a sort of developmental puberty but more so to the fact that he has that need for real companionship shows that Drizzt truly is an exception to the rule of the Drow by having trust. The last threshold and charon's claw took me back to the ending segments
Of passage to dawn. If you've been reading the series, you come to realize that Guen isn't an accessory, but rather half of the picture that is Drizzt, and when she isn't there like in the most recent
Books, (especially considering the circumstances) her absence isn't noticed, but felt. She truly is something of an unsung "hero".

Posted by: Shawn lazaros | Tuesday March 5, 2013 at 4:35 PM

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