It’s been a while since I’ve talked about the abomination that is this series, so let’s talk about it again. When it comes to Eragon, I sometimes don’t even know where to begin. Christopher Paolini’s books are shit, and Eragon himself is so obviously a self-insertion, that I’m not sure if the author was ever able to separate himself from the character.
Unfortunately, because Eragon is a self-insert for Paolini, his character is given a lot of leeway and is handed rewards for almost no reason except that the author thinks he deserves them. Nowhere is this more apparent than near the end of the second book, Eldest, when Eragon is magically healed from a restricting handicap.
At the end of the first book, Eragon, Eragon suffers a grievous back wound from a swordfight. This injury continues to plague him for nearly the whole second book. Due to the position of his scar, he sometimes has difficulty moving around properly, and it causes him massive amounts of pain, to the point of passing out. All seems lost, because he is “the only hope” the world has of ever defeating Galbatorix.
Eldest, to put it mildly, was really boring, mainly because nothing happens in it. Or at least, none of the passages involving Eragon have anything of note. Additionally, the book doesn’t show many of the things it should have shown—like what was happening with Murtagh’s character. Instead, we’re treated to scenes of Eragon getting exposition bombed at, and then he goes to an elfish party. So in many ways, Eragon’s disability becomes a saving grace. It was the only interesting thing going on with the main character. His enemy, Galbatorix, is very powerful, and we knew the books wouldn’t end until Eragon completed his hero’s journey and killed him. So how then, would Eragon, who even before becoming disabled was too weak to save the day, ever hope to defeat such a powerful foe with such a physical handicap?
He gets magically cured. And then he’s transformed into an elf-human hybrid thing, so Eragon is now more powerful than he was previously.
This is seriously what happens. Not even a little bit of an exaggeration. It’s a cheap copout, and it has an extremely reprehensible message.
First of all, people with disabilities are very rarely represented in a positive light. Though I would hesitate to call Eragon a positive role model, the books themselves at least seem to think of him as such. By giving Eragon a disability, the books began to engage in a discussion about what disabled people can and cannot do, regardless of whether or not the author intended for that to happen. It was interesting and positive, because very rarely do we ever get a main character who has to overcome something more clichéd than, say, claustrophobia, if only because disabilities are often used as writing shorthands—they exist for the characters to overcome, instead of being traits that help define the characters. As a disabled character, Eragon’s struggles would have been all the harder, and therefore it would have been all the more rewarding when he finally triumphed at the end.
However, due to the ceremony that magically heals him and makes him “better” than everyone else—to everyone’s astonishment, because “such a thing has never before occurred in the history of the Riders…” (Eldest, pg. 535)—all the potentially positive messages are replaced with negative ones. This says that disabled people cannot be heroes. Throughout the book, up until this point, we are constantly worried over how Eragon’s going to save the day. Eragon himself is met with derision and scorn because some people have now lost hope. Then, everyone is proven wrong, and Eragon even goes so far as to accidentally break one of his previous hater’s arms while sparring with him, and the man in question doesn’t get angry. Instead, he says:
“You are now worthy of the title Rider.” (Eldest, pg. 534)
Eragon’s reaction to his own transformation is also less appreciative and more along the lines of self-assured justice. He thinks:
I have become what I was meant to be. (Eldest, pg. 471)
The second terrible message this sends is that disabled people are just not special enough to be fixed. There is no reason why Eragon should be the world’s last hope. Brom, a previous dragon Rider whose dragon died, has done a lot more damage to Galbatorix than Eragon ever did, and he did it without a dragon or super-powerful spells. Oromis and his dragon are also still alive, and even though they are both disabled themselves—Oromis has seizures and Glaedr is missing a leg—they are still more powerful than Eragon. Despite this fact, and despite the fact that both Oromis and Glaedr have been attending this exact same magical ceremony every year for the better part of the past century, Eragon is still seen as the last hope and Eragon is still the only one cured.
Out of all the terrible ideas that went into these books, this is probably the worst one because of how harmful it is. Because Eragon receives a magical cure that he did nothing to earn, having the disability beforehand becomes a pointless waste of time, instead of becoming the potentially interesting plot point that it should and could have been.
Agreed. Would have been more interesting if Eragon became ‘worthy of the title Rider’ by overcoming his weakness without the help of a magical elfin makeover–that was SO convenient! Still, Inheritance was the only book I felt made the entire series worth it, but even then the portrayal of Galbatorix (among other things…) left a lot to be desired.
You know, even though these are my favorite books ever, I just couldn’t stand Eragon’s character, and a lot of it had to do because of this magical healing spell thing. I actually wanted Galbatorix to win in the end. But I will agree that Galbatorix left a lot to be desired. At the end of Inheritance, he just seemed bored with everything that was going on.
I haven’t read the fourth book (I’ll re-read all of them once I’ve forgotten them), but I loved the first three, especially the second. I personally think that, barring Harry Potter, they are the greatest fantasy books of this generation, and some of the best ever. Just my two cents; I guess we’re all entitled to our opinions.
I guess we are. I have a lot of problems with the books, but I can certainly see why other people wouldn’t. I didn’t really like the third book, at all, but I thought the 4th one made up for a lot of the things in it. Happy reading when you get around to it. 🙂
Opinions aren’t sacred cows nor are not all equal to in merit. Opinions such as “the greatest fantasy books of this generation” without any supporting arguements is laughable.
The market is saturated to the brim for over thirty years with cliche overly-flowerly Tolkien ripoffs. This series does nothing to stand out other than how bad it is. Not its characters. Not its writing.
While I don’t believe opinions are “sacred cows”, I also don’t believe that that invalidates them. Just because the Eragon books take a lot from Tolkien doesn’t invalidate an opinion on whether or not the books are good. For instance, there are a lot of people who like the Twilight books, and I may disagree with them, but if they think Twilight‘s the greatest romance they ever read, that’s their opinion and having it doesn’t necessarily make it less worthy than anyone else’s opinion. I could name a lot of things that I find positive and negative about the Eragon books as well.
I jumped the gun and the bullet hit me. I over reacted. I’m sorry. I’ve found it frustrating to engage with people who go straight for “its an opinion” statement when disscussing these such matters. People who say this seem to think its some ultimate counter arguement that cannot be touched.
Why their own opinion should be listened to? I’m looking for a bit more critical thought here is all. Why do they consider this work to off such superiour quality? What makes a story good? This is what I’m looking for.
Saying something like “they are the greatest fantasy books of this generation” without anything to back it up is baseless. The Inheritance Cycle being horrible has nothing to do with it being derrivative either. It has a lot of other problems with its writing, characterization, etc.
The statement is positive though baseless. Baseless positive is better than something that’s negative and groundless. I’m not expecting some well written essay nor people to go at painful detail why with somebody who dissagrees.
Sorry, I probably overreacted a bit too.
Though I can’t speak for anyone else who likes this series, I can name some reasons as to why I like it. It’s not so much as that I love the series, but I love what they could have and should have been. The books tend to tell one thing and show the opposite, so when I read them I see two different stories going on at once—which is a sign of bad writing. Eragon isn’t supposed to be an unreliable narrator, but he and all the other characters are because of it.
There’s the story that Paolini intended—Eragon and the Varden are heroes fighting against an evil dictator. Then there’s the story that Paolini wrote—a reprehensible terrorist group fighting against a strict but not-quite-evil king. That second interpretation is what intrigues me more. When I originally sat down to write this post, I wasn’t quite sure what topic I was going to do, Eragon’s injured back or an essay on whether or not Eragon is a sociopath, and I still might do the second one later this week or next week. I honestly think he’s a completely terrible person, and to me, that makes the story much more interesting. I ended up rooting for Galbatorix the whole series just because of it.
Additionally, with the exception of the middle two books, I just find the story entertaining, despite all its flaws. And as long as a story’s entertaining, I tend to put it in the “good” pile, if only because entertaining me is a book’s job. But I personally would hardly call it one of the “greatest fantasy stories” out there, because I think there are a lot of other fantasy stories that are much better.
Anyone, thanks for coming back and commenting again.
I agree that sometimes opinions are given an undeserving sacred quality, and I strongly agree that, most of the time, one ‘opinion’ is correct while another is incorrect. However, in any case such as this wherein the subject is not quantifiable opinion is the only thing to go on. Often it will simply come down to personal taste, which also is not quantifiable. Additionally: there was no fantasy before Tolkien. There where folktales and Grim’s Fairy Tales, which are far from the genre that we know and love today. I am not ashamed to admit that the entirety of the fantasy genre is based off of Tolkien; I think it’s only a statement as to how wonderful his works are (says the guy who has only read 2.5 of them, hah).
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