Interview with Bernhard Hennen – The Dark Eye

While the first part of this interview was mainly concerned with Bernhard Hennen’s Elfen Saga, the second part will focus on his works for the pen and paper role-paying game The Dark Eye.

The Dark Eye (German: Das Schwarze Auge (DSA)) is the most successful role-playing game on the German market and mostly known for its extremely detailed and extensively described game world. The role-playing game has been published in Dutch (Het Oog des Meesters), French (L’Œil noir), Italian, (Uno sguardo nel buio) and English (The Dark Eye).

Aside from pen & paper, computer games based on The Dark Eye have been published on the English market: Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny and its sequels Star Trail and Shadows over Riva. Current games situated in the world of Aventuria are RadonLab’s Drakensang: The Dark Eye and its prequel Drakensang: The River of Time plus the add-on to the prequel Drakensang: The Secret of Phileasson. Another game outside the Drakensang series which is currently under production is Silver Style Entertainment’s The Dark Eye: Demonicon.

EPENSCHMIEDE: You seem to care a lot about the elves. Even 20 years ago your Phileasson Saga focused on the history of this fantasy race within the universe of The Dark Eye. What is it about them that brings you back every time?

Bernhard Hennen: It is the combination of elves and barbarians that still appears to me. A setting in which the uttermost cultural counterparts clash. This conflict produces the most wonderful dialogues and astonishing events all by itself. I also like the tragic aspect that is attached to so many elf stories in our mythology. For example, those heroic figures that came down to us from Norse mythology be it Sigurd, Beowulf, or Hrolfr Kraki. In this aspect the normally contradicting characters fit together pretty well.

EPENSCHMIEDE: Even though your The Dark Eye novels are being republished under new names you haven’t written anything for the world of Aventuria since the online game Zorn der Eiselfen (English: Rage of the Iceelves). Are you going to write anything for the 25th anniversary of the role-playing game?

Bernhard Hennen: I’ll probably write a short story for the upcoming Myranor-Anthology, which is set on a exotic continent in the west of Aventuria. In addition to that, there will be a revised version of the Jahr des Greifen Saga (English: The Year of the Griffin).

EPENSCHMIEDE: To fans of The Dark Eye you are mostly known as the author of the Phileasson Saga. Even though the first edition is over 20 years old: can you remember how it all started?

Bernhard Hennen: The idea for the Saga came to me through the Dragonlance adventures that had come out in America. I was thrilled by the concept of a large story arc and thought this could be something one should do in Aventuria as well. Nothing that had been published had by far the scope or the historical impact on the universe as the Dragonlance Cycle had. Although I managed to convince Ulrich Kiesow (one of the founders of The Dark Eye) of the concept I had the feeling that he wasn’t comfortable with it the whole way.

EPENSCHMIEDE: That would verify rumors that not every author of The Dark Eye was a fan of your extensive description of the elven history.

Bernhard Hennen: No surprise there. I was a new author coming out of nowhere who right away laid hands on the entire history of the undying race; a history which in many aspects was to be set into stone. Of course I didn’t make friends with everybody by doing that. The story not only led through half of Aventuria but also added the Inseln im Nebel (Misty Islands) to the world; a very complex and detailed half-dimension.
Eventually this was also Ulrich Kiesow a little too much. When the saga was published it contained a little chapter which I hadn’t seen before. In it the connection between the Inseln im Nebel and Aventuria was cut, the Beni Geraut Schie a tribe of desert elves was removed from the world and other important protagonists were ‚disabled.‘
Nonetheless many of my characters survived and have left their mark on the history of The Dark Eye like Pardona or Pyrdacor.

EPENSCHMIEDE: Those who know your Phileasson Saga get acquainted with your Elfen novels very quickly: the clash of Vikings (Fjordlanders / Thorwalians) and Elves, ice-sailboats (Elfenwinter / Gen Norden), the Valley of Towers (Elfenritter / Auf der Spur des Wolfes), and so on. Why all these parallels?

Bernhard Hennen: I wrote the Phileasson Saga with a lot of passion. It contains themes which I was fascinated by since my youth. Moreover some of my travels influenced the saga; the tower tombs for example are loosely based on the towers, which can be found near the ancient Palmyra which I visited a long time ago. Traveling experiences, some very recent, are a never-ending resource. And because some places have made such an impact on my imagination adaptations of them appear in different works of mine.
The cosmos of the Elfen novels is a world which I created. Here I possess the freedom to write whatever I want, a privilege that I couldn’t exercise at the beginning of my career when I wrote for the world of The Dark Eye.

EPENSCHMIEDE: Bernhard thank you very much for the interview. I wish you good luck and a lot of inspiration for future projects.