I’ve decided to get this one over and done with early on because, quite frankly, outside fanfiction, I really want nothing more to do with Inheritance Cycle. It will only lead to disappointment. Now, I know some of you may be wondering why we’ve included Eragon on this list, since he’s very obviously in love with Arya and seems like someone who’s more or less heterosexual. Or at least I know many fans will be wondering why, before proceeding to get angry at all the following paragraphs. And I also know many of you haters probably knew exactly where this post was going the moment you read the title, but I should also remind everyone that Sexualized Saturdays is meant to explore people of all sexualities. That includes heterosexuality.
However, regardless of the relationship with Arya, many people came out of these books under the not-entirely-unfounded impression that Eragon represses his homosexuality. And again, this is something I disagree with and support. This all comes back to how to rate a story, and this problem wouldn’t be here if the author could show what he wanted, as opposed to telling and showing the opposite. If we go with how Paolini wanted Eragon to be, he’s straight. If we look at how he presents Eragon in the books, however, his sexuality becomes less clear.
Please keep in mind that I am determining all of the following by looking at the things Eragon does or says, but mostly by how he describes people within the prose.
Now, I said that Eragon is in love with Arya. What I meant to say is that he’s a creepy stalker who feels the need to describe how perfect her neck is at every opportunity. He obsesses over this chick throughout the whole series. Even before they meet, he dreams about her and determines to find her. Theirs is a romance the author obviously meant to be. The reason why I don’t really like considering this when it comes to Eragon’s sexuality is that it seems forced into the story. Like, oh, there’s a male hero. Well, we need a hot elf girl for him to embarrass himself over, while trying to impress her. The romance between the two is there for the sake of having a romance. It’s also not something the author seems that invested in, either. The relationship doesn’t change them, it doesn’t impact the plot, it could be cut out entirely and nothing would be lost. It simply exists.
And for a series filled to the brim with purple prose, actual descriptions of Arya are surprisingly lacking. Yes, she’s perfect and beautiful and elegant and slender and graceful and has flawless skin and are you sick of this yet? Just imagine that over and over again for four books. Sure, we do learn what her hair and eye color are, as well as her breast size. Paolini does eventually get around the painting a picture of her with a few more choice purple words, but he seems much more interested in telling us she’s pretty than anything else. And the repressed-homosexuality issue wouldn’t arise if the men weren’t described in the same fashion. At least it wouldn’t for me. I don’t know about the rest of you.
Paolini uses overly flowery language, something more typical of a bad female writer, though not exclusively limited to that gender. And his decision to include more detail regarding male characters only enhances the feeling that Eragon is repressing something. Descriptions of women tend to be more about what they’re doing and what they’re wearing, while descriptions of men are about how narrow or wide their hips are and what they’re wearing.
Here’s a three paragraph long description of Grimrr Halfpaw from Inheritance, page 27 and 28.
Grimrr Halfpaw, however, looked unlike any person or creature Eragon had ever seen. At roughly four feet tall, he was the same height as a dwarf, but no one could have mistaken him for a dwarf, or even for a human. He had a small pointed chin, wide cheekbones, and, underneath upswept brows, slanted green eyes fringed with winglike eyelashes. His ragged black hair hung low over his forehead, while on the sides and back it fell to his shoulders, where it lay smooth and lustrous, much like the manes of his companions. His age was impossible for Eragon to guess.
The only clothes Grimrr wore were a rough leather vest and a rabbit-skin loincloth. The skulls of a dozen or so animals—birds, mice, and other small game—were tied to the front of the vest, and they rattled against one another as he moved. A sheathed dagger protruded at an angle from under the belt of his loincloth. Numerous scars, thin and white, marked his nut-brown skin, like scratches on a well-used table. And, as his name indicated, he was missing two fingers on his left hand; they looked to have been bitten off.
Despite the delicacy of his features, there was no doubt that Grimrr was male, given the hard, sinewy muscles of his arms and chest, the narrowness of his hips, and the coiled power of his stride as he sauntered down the length of the hall toward Nasuada.
No character should ever have this much description, especially one that the narrator isn’t supposed to be attracted to, let alone with those words. The way he saunters, his smooth and lustrous hair, and the narrowness of his hips paint more than a picture; they tell us of a hidden desire. There is either attraction going on here, or Paolini messed up again and unintentionally wrote in an attraction. Of course, nothing in the books will ever compare to this scene:
Going to the stream by the house, they quickly disrobed. Eragon surreptitiously watched the elf, curious as to what he looked like without his clothes. Oromis was very thin, yet his muscles were perfectly defined, etched under his skin with the hard lines of a woodcut. No hair grew upon his chest or legs, not even around his groin. His body seemed almost freakish to Eragon, compared to the men he was used to seeing in Carvahall—although it had a certain refined elegance to it, like that of a wildcat. (Eldest, page 289).
Yes, dear reader, that was Eragon looking at a naked elf’s groin. Now, I get that Eragon is a curious character and always asking questions, so he would be interested in how elves and humans differ. This is not the way it should have been done. Any other way but this. We do not need a paragraph on how much body hair Oromis does not have. I have heard that in the average novel, the reader is only discovering around ten percent of the world, because the other ninety has either no place within the prose or cannot be worked into it smoothly. The job is to tell the story. This was Paolini shouting about how unique he made the elves, but in the process, it reflects on his character.
I do feel a little awkward talking about Eragon’s possible repressed homosexuality, because he’s an avatar for Paolini, something Paolini admits to. So I feel as though I’ve been talking about Paolini’s repressed homosexuality, which just makes me think of more scenes from the book that don’t really include Eragon. Even the falling out between Brom and Morzan felt more like a lovers’ spat than it did wanting to avenge a dead dragon.
On top of that, I know a lot of people think the scenes between Murtagh and Eragon are slashy, and revealing that they’re brothers certainly didn’t stop the fanfiction; however, I don’t see it in this case, but maybe that’s just because I’m oblivious to most things having to do with physical intimacy unless it’s spelled out.
To be perfectly honest, even though I feel as though Eragon was written the way a queer person would be, I don’t know how to judge him, because I don’t know if Paolini is or not. From what I hear, he’s not that interested in starting relationships with either girls or boys, but that doesn’t mean anything. Yeah, people say it’s proof, but it’s not. There could be any number of reasons, and he could still be straight. Furthermore, even reading about people thinking Eragon’s gay, they act as though the homosexuality thing is something for Paolini to be ashamed of, which is something I cannot agree with. I can understand Eragon being ashamed, given the series’ setting, but not Paolini. If he’s repressed this or not, that’s his business, and despite Eragon being a self-insert, the judgment in this regard should stay on him.
I think the misunderstanding here comes from Paolini’s upbringing. The stereotype that homeschooled kids are socially awkward is old and not true in many cases, but in Paolini’s, I think it is. It is very apparent from reading Inheritance Cylce that he had little human interaction growing up, which is probably why Angela, a character based on his sister, actually comes across as a real person compared to the cardboard cutouts around her. It’s because of this that I’m not sure how I feel about Eragon’s sexuality. I don’t care what Paolini is. Straight, gay, or something else, that’s his business, not mine, and even if he’s queer and not open about it, it’s not something people should shame him for. As for Eragon, he could either be judged the way Paolini intended to write him, or the way he was written. It’s up to you.