Eragon holds a very special place in my heart. It is one of the series that has been a part of my life since childhood. So many principles that I hold to my life today are rooted in that book. With the upcoming release of Murtagh, Reader suggested a re-read of the book as part of our book club. It had been quite a while since I had read the series and I was excited to pick it up again.
Back in 2006, Eragon had caught my eye in the streets of my city, where a first copy of this book was being sold. This is definitely one of the books I judged by its cover, with the sapphire blue dragon staring at me from the cover. I made to grab a copy and could not have been happier with my choice.
It was a time when even my brother was into reading books. So we had a sleepover, where we read deep into the night. I believe he was reading Inkheart or one of Cornelia Funke's other books, while I was getting my dose of Eragon. That night I was thronged by dreams of dragons and magic. In the early hours of the next day, the entire room was taken up by a massive dragon. She filled the space and terrified me awake. I still don't know why Saphira scared me so. I still have memories of that restless night.
15 years later, in the early days of August of this year, my journey into Alagaësia began again.
And just like that, I was instantly sucked into the far reaches of the world. I was happy to go along with Eragon in his journey. I could feel his joy and his sorrow as he faced all that was thrown at him.
The Hero's Journey
Skip this section if you want to avoid spoilers.
Eragon is the journey of the farm boy who raised with certain principles just wants to do the right thing. Being raised by his uncle Garrow with his cousin Roran, Eragon has had a tough life; an ordinary boy tucked away in the corner of the world and through an odd series of circumstances, ends up finding a dragon egg and is put on the path of the hero.
Eragon goes through the entire cycle of the Hero's journey starting from his discovery of a dragon egg. This is his call to adventure from the ordinary world, though he does refuse the call, at first, not understanding it, and keeping it as a secret from his family.
It is when he meets his mentor in Brom and is pushed to leave due to the death of his uncle, he crosses the threshold and leaves behind his safe home at Carvahall. Now entering the Unknown, his training begins with Brom as they get on the trial behind the Ra'zac and he begins to understand the state of the world beyond, faces other enemies (the Urgals), discovers magic, gets his first kill, and continues on his training. He encounters new challenges and grows in his skills.
But just as he gets close to his goal, he is faced with the death of Brom. With his dying breath, Brom reveals his true origins. It is in that very phase that he gets a new ally in Murtagh. By ill chance, he is captured and brought to the Shade in Gil'ead. As he makes his escape with the help of Murtagh and Saphira, he finds Arya, the elf and helps her escape.
With Arya's help, Eragon is able to get the path to the Varden, the rebel group that is fighting against the Empire and the king's evil reign. With this gift, he makes the way to the Varden in Farthen Dur.
Their mad race from Gil’ead was finally over, but his body expected to continue running and riding.
But there was no time to rest. He had to join forces with the Varden to prepare the stronghold and ward off an attack from the Urgals. His journey has just begun with this battle.
Eragon illustrates an observation I had made before when discussing about the hero's journey in the movie Tamasha:
Unlike a regular hero, we tend to go through the hero's journey time and time again. You can look back at those highs and lows and chart the journey and the changes to your self.
The hero's journey is not just singular, but one we go through again and again to evolve our selves and become better. Eragon has a long way to go before he sees the end of his. Even at the end of this cycle he finds himself unable to believe his new reality.
Eragon bowed his head. It’s overwhelming. I feel as if I am living in an illusion, a dream where all things are possible. Amazing things do happen, I know, but always to someone else, always in some far-off place and time. But I found your egg, was tutored by a Rider, and dueled a Shade—those can’t be the actions of the farm boy I am, or was. Something is changing me.
With his newfound powers and responsibilities of a Dragon Rider, Eragon emerges as a savior to Alagaësia. At the end of the first book, after defeating the Shade Durza, he is faced with the behemothian task to bring down the Empire even though he was injured in the battle.
Think of what you have done and rejoice, for you have rid the land of a great evil. You have wrought a deed no one else could. Many are in your debt. …
Understanding the antagonist
While Eragon does focus of the hero's journey, you see one of the cheekiest things Paolini did in the book is while providing Eragon with the trials of the hero, he got him to journey across the land he would be the champion of. Eragon had, firsthand, witnessed the atrocities of the king Galbatorix and his rule. Considering his values and principles, he is prepared to get on the training and get himself ready to defend the injustices wrought across the land.
Isolated in a corner of the world, how do you have a hero who understands the land and is ready to stand against the villainy? It is when the deep-rooted principles of the hero are challenged, when he sees firsthand, the waste laid by the armies and king not protecting his people, in the evil beings like the Shade and the Ra'zac that the king colludes with. Slowly, we discover along with Eragon the true nature of the king's reign that was marked by the fall of the dragon riders.
It is so strange that Eragon did not share the egg's discovery with his uncle and cousin. He got close to telling them twice. But the first time Roran announced that he is going to Therinsford. So it is clear how frustrated Eragon felt and why he did not want to share it with them, partly out of spite and partly not to burden them. The second was when the Ra'zac were in town. Before he could tell his uncle, Saphira carries him away.
It seems the events were orchestrated in a way he wasn't able to share it with them.
As for me, even I would have put off telling my uncle/cousin if I was not sure how they would respond. Ideally though I would have been ready to share once I knew I could stand up to them and they would support me. A little bit of preparation with hypotheticals over dinner to test the waters of how they would respond and then the big reveal. But I guess it makes sense that they not know for certain events to turn out as they did.
The Passage of Time
The use of time to get Eragon and Saphira the training, tools and allies they require is another smoothly implemented aspect. Certain events transpire over days and by the end of the book quite a few months have passed since the hatching of the egg.
It is a weird paradox I observed in the book as found myself lost in time. Time seemed to slow down in the real world as I traversed through months in the book.
Twists and Turns
Another place where Paolini excels is in the hints laid down for reveals down the road. I remember certain revelations from my previous reading, but it is quite interesting and unexpected the way it plays out and how the characters end up where they were. The answers to the biggest questions, Brom's connection to magic. the egg's appearance in the Spine, who Arya is and the location of the Varden, flow underneath the main story of Eragon's journey. They keep you engaged long enough to hold your interest, but not too long so as to frustrate you.
The Science of Magic
One of the most fascinating aspects of the world of Eragon is magic. I really loved how Paolini had set the rules of magic in the book. I was really excited the learn and chart its usage in the world, so I spent this section just bringing what I learnt together.
Paolini not only setup the existence of magic, but grounded its use and created classes around it as well.
Dragon Rider: A rider could use magic because of their connection to their dragon.
Few know it, but every Rider could use magic, though with differing strengths.
Sorcerer: A sorcerer, like a Shade, uses spirits to accomplish his will.
Magician: A magician's powers come without the aid of spirits or a dragon.
Witch/Wizard: get their powers from various potions and spells.
Magic is only accessible to those with the innate power and the ability to summon it will. Further, magic required the use of ancient language to describe the intent.
“To work with magic, you must have a certain innate power, which is very rare among people nowadays. You also have to be able to summon this power at will. Once it is called upon, you have to use it or let it fade away. Understood? Now, if you wish to employ the power, you must utter the word or phrase of the ancient language that describes your intent. For example, if you hadn’t said brisingr yesterday, nothing would have happened.”
Magic takes up as much energy to the do the task as the task itself. A deep understanding of the ancient language is required to manipulate magic and optimize the implementation of a task.
“Using magic to heal a wound takes just as much energy as it would to mend on its own.”
Finally, distance plays a role in the execution of magic and its efficiency.
“Magic is affected by distance, just like an arrow or a spear. If you try to lift or move something a mile away, it’ll take more energy than if you were closer.”
Politics of the Varden
Another interesting aspect that is touched up in the book is the politics of the rebellion. You would think that rebels standing against evil would be free of differences, but Paolini has managed to capture a realistic rendering of a scenario, where multiple organizations and races of peoples are forced to work for a common cause.
The morality of Eragon and his determination laid the core of my values. In Eragon, I found the lessons I had forgotten and yet have been imbibed in me. I sought the call to adventure just as the one that came to him. Paolini had further inspired me by incepting the idea of creating a world that lived beyond me.
Ever since then I have chased that dream seeking stories to inspire and seed my own fantasy world. I still found myself haunted by that urge and in the grips of Eragon again, I found the source of it. It all seemed so simple.
In many places, I found the detailing a little rough around the edges. It may be me reading too much into it, know that it is Paolini's first book, but I have a feeling that he was still in the early stages of his experience and it is reflected in his writing.
I can't wait to continue my journey through the worlds of Eragon and this time to channel that energy into the creation of That Which is Long Awaited. I always love the vibe I get into after reading Eragon and would highly recommend you to pick the book if you haven't already. Murtagh is coming soon and this is just the right time.
It is your wyrd (fate) that shapes you, said Saphira. Every age needs an icon—perhaps that lot has fallen to you. Farm boys are not named for the first Rider without cause. Your namesake was the beginning, and now you are the continuation. Or the end.
Originally published on 29th October, 2023. It took me more than 2 months and the time for Murtagh is already here 😱.