Ever since he was introduced as a sidekick in the Icewind Dale trilogy in 1988, Drizzt Do'Urden has been an extremely popular character. A deadly fighter, Drizzt wields two blades, and often fights with a panther summoned from a magical figurine, but it is the romance of his strong moral code in spite of his background that has enchanted readers. His silver hair, jet black skin and pointy ears give Drizzt the appearance of a villain, but he has turned his back on the evil ways of his dark elven people. Author R.A. Salvatore expanded Drizzt's background with three books tracing Do'Urden's journey from the Underdark city-state of Menzoberranzan to adventure in the Forgotten Realms setting created by Ed Greenwood for use with the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, but Drizzt has since appeared in more than thirty novels. Drizzt's creator R.A. Salvatore - who introduces himself as Bob in a thick Boston accent - isn't exactly sure why the dark elf is so popular. But Salvatore is content to continue writing cinematic action sequences and investigating Drizzt's place in contemporary fantasy literature and cinema.
"I'm surprised that anyone reads my books. I've been surprised by that since the first one came out."
Salvatore's latest book, Neverwinter, marks at least the twentieth book starring the dark elf. Even the author finds it hard to nail down exactly how many novels feature Drizzt . "There are books that I don't know whether you can call them a Drizzt book or not," he told me. "There were the books with his enemies, the Sellswords Trilogy, the Cleric Quintet, the three books I wrote with my son, the Storm of Tomorrow. So if you add them all up you're probably pushing thirty, thirty-three, somewhere in there."
Staying motivated writing the same character for 24 years can be tough, but Salvatore said there's a simple reason he hasn't gotten bored with Drizzt. "Because of the journey I'm on," he said. "I'm walking down the road with him. After all these years the voice has become so familiar to me. It's like I'm going on an adventure with an old friend."
Despite his closeness to the dark elf, Salvatore remains humbly accepting of the love his audience has given Drizzt over the last few decades. "It seems like there's a renewed interest in the character; it just doesn't seem to be dying at all, which is awesome," Salvatore said with a laugh. "I'm surprised that anyone reads my books. I've been surprised by that since the first one came out. It's all been a surreal trip, I look back and I started writing Drizzt when I was 28, I'm 52 now. We're talking half my life almost. This is amazing."
Drizzt Do'Urden's life story as chronicled by Salvatore has generally been about the dark elf - or Drow as the race of evil elves were called by Gary Gygax when he created them for Dungeons & Dragons - adventuring with his friends the dwarf Bruenor Battlehammer, the young barbarian Wulfgar, and the human archer Cattie-Brie. But in the new book, Drizzt will have his morals severely challenged for the first time.
"For most of his life and most of the books, Drizzt has surrounded himself with people of similar character and moral values," said Salvatore. "The Companions of the Hall, his friends for most of these books, are people that view the world pretty much the same way he did. Now Drizzt finds himself surrounded by people that see the world quite differently than he does. The question in the books is will he bring them up to his level or will they drag him down to theirs or will they meet somewhere in the middle. I don't know the answer, which makes it fun to write."