Eragon blinked, trying to understand what had occurred. Something brushed against his consciousness, like a finger trailing over his skin. […] It was as if an invisible wall surrounding his thoughts had fallen away, and he was now free to reach out with his mind. (5.5)
Here we get the first inkling of Saphira and Eragon's very special mental bond, just after he first touches the dragon. They do more than just understand each other; their thoughts and minds are bonded together. Trippy, right? That bond sustains Eragon throughout the trials he faces in the book, and it highlights the power of their shared connection.
Eragon groped with his mind until he felt the dragon's consciousness. […] A dim acknowledgement came tentatively through the link, but Eragon wondered if it really understood. After all, it's only an animal. (5.19)
Although their mental bond will eventually be key to Eragon's heroic abilities, it's not something that just happens. In the beginning, his connection to Saphira is weak and tentative. It's also telling that Saphira doesn't have a name yet. Heck, she's not even a she yet. As they both mature and better understand one another, their mental link becomes stronger and more sophisticated. As that happens, too, Eragon's understanding of Saphira develops into something far more than just seeing her as "only an animal."
Eragon showed the dragon what he knew about the forest, not caring if it understood his meaning. It was the simple act of sharing that mattered. He talked to it continuously. The dragon gazed back at him with bright eyes, drinking in his words. (5.23)
Again, their communicative bond is not an automatic given from the get-go. Eragon and Saphira have to work to develop their link. What does that tell us about how we communicate with others? Is the effort to communicate more important than what is exchanged? Can making this effort lead to better, more meaningful communication, as it does in the book? (Our vote: a resounding yes.)
There was always a small part of him connected to the dragon, ignored at times, but never forgotten. When he talked with people, the contact was distracting, like a fly buzzing in his ear. (5.30)
At first glance, we might think this is magical, but if you take a closer look, it's something we all experience. You know when you bond with someone, and then you keep talking to them in your head even when they aren't around? Maybe that's a distraction at times, but we bet it can be a great comfort, too.
A single word rang in his head, deep and clear.
It was solemn and sad, as if an unbreakable pact were being sealed. He stared at the dragon and a cold tingle ran down his arm. (5.38-40)
Saphira not only reaches out to Eragon's mind, but communicates her feelings, too. She's bummed that he has to leave her. That act, of giving Eragon a sense of how she feels, is described as a "pact […] being sealed." Is that how communication works? Is it all about feelings?
Saphira was as real and complex as any person. Her personality was eclectic and at times completely alien, yet they understood each other on a profound level. (8.15)
Saphira is truly different from Eragon (read: she's a dragon…), but through their bond, her personality is not a totally foreign thing for him. He is able to understand her point of view and vice versa.
Eragon tried to put his hand on the bay like Brom had, but it shied away. He automatically reached out with his mind to reassure the horse […] The contact was not clear or sharp like it was with Saphira, but he could communicate with the bay to a limited degree. (16.71)
Hmmm. Eragon not only has the power to mentally link up with Saphira, but he can do this with all living things (werecats included)—to a certain degree at least. He's a regular Dr. Doolittle. How does this affect the way we understand his power?
"But what does that have to do with magic?" interrupted Eragon.
"Everything! It is the basis for all power. The language describes the true nature of things, not the superficial aspects that everyone sees." (19.49-50)
Cool idea alert. Brom points out that the true power of magic has to do with the way it functions as a language. The language of magic is not just "hocus pocus," it's the expression of the true nature of reality. Think about how tough it can be to put your thoughts into words. Wouldn't it be great if you knew the exact right word for everything? It wouldn't be just great. It'd be magical.
"While speaking [the magical language], it's impossible to practice deceit." (20.24)
That makes sense. Since speaking magic is about putting ideas and objects into their truest expression, then there'd be no way to lie. Think about that for a minute. Would we ever need to lie, if we knew the right words for everything?
Her mind tugged at his, pulling him away from his body. […] His vision blurred, and he found himself looking through Saphira's eyes. Everything was distorted: colors had weird exotic tints; blues were more prominent now, while greens and reds were subdued. (22.11)
Whoa, trippy. Here, Eragon is riding Saphira in flight. As they share this experience, they bond on a super-intimate level, to the point that Eragon is literally looking through her eyes. We've all heard the expression, "look at it my way." Well, this is exactly what's happening here. It shows how the mark of a powerful connection is the ability to share the way others see the world.
It was […] as if an unbreakable pact were being sealed. He started at the dragon and a cold tingle ran down his arm. (5.40)
Eragon and Saphira's friendship isn't just something casual; it's described as an "unbreakable pact." That's not something to mess with. We bet they've got themselves a pair of these.
Tomorrow you will ride me […] or else I will carry you in my claws. Are you a Dragon Rider or not? Don't you care for me? (21.59)
Like every friendship, Eragon and Saphira's relationship has its ups and downs. Eragon is afraid to ride Saphira, but Saphira takes his aversion personally. Her sensitivity, though, just shows how much she values his friendship. She wants them to ride together, as a team, so that she can keep him safe.
[Saphira:] If anything happens, I'm going to pin you to my back and never let you off.
[Eragon:] I love you too.
[Saphira:] Then I will bind you all the tighter. (24.7-9)
Here's another glimpse of Saphira's protective concern for Eragon. She's always having to be sent off to the woods to hide while Eragon goes into the town to deal with some danger or other. Like a true friend, she worries for the poor guy's safety. For his part, Eragon seems to recognize her concern as a sign of love. He's intuitive like that.
As her mind joined his, new strength infused his body. Eragon drew upon their combined power […].
Saphira nodded. Together we can cast spells that are beyond either of us. (36.23, 25)
You know how two heads are better than one? Well, if that head belongs to a dragon, you're in even better shape. Eragon and Saphira make a great team, enhancing each other's abilities. Eragon's magic gains strength from having Saphira near. Even without magic, that makes sense. Don't your buddies help you accomplish things you might not be able to without them? Ours do.
HERE LIES BROM
Who was a Dragon Rider
And like a father
May his name live on in glory. (37.37)
The runes that Eragon inscribes on Brom's tomb are all-the-more touching because Eragon never knew his real father. After his uncle Garrow dies, Brom comes along to fill the space left by that father figure. Of course, Brom mainly berates Eragon for being a big dummy, and he pummels him every night with a wooden stick, but Eragon comes to appreciate Brom's instruction and friendship. Their bond becomes so intense that, after Brom's death, Eragon wants the world to know that Brom was a friend and so much more.
Crying out with relief, Eragon threw his arms around her. She hummed contentedly.
I missed you, little one. (41.68)
Whenever they are apart for any length of time, Saphira and Eragon are overjoyed when they get back together. "Little one" is Saphira's pet name for Eragon, and speaks to the care she feels for him. Don't your friends have nicknames, too? Our buddies like to call us "Whiskers McGee." … We don't really want to get into that, though.
"You risked your life to rescue me; I owe you for that." […] There was a bond between them now, welded in the brotherhood of battle and tempered by the loyalty Murtagh had shown. (42.37)
Friendship is also something earned, not just given. At first, Eragon's not so sure about Murtagh. Can he trust this stranger? After Murtagh helps them fight off the Urgals, though, he proves his friendship through actions.
[…] he was unsure if he wanted Murtagh to stay. I like him, Eragon confessed to himself, but I'm no longer certain if that's a good thing. (48.21)
It can't be all good times and high fives. When Murtagh lops off the slaver's head, Eragon has a hard time processing it. Although the guy may have deserved it, his friend killed a defenseless man. Eragon is forced to reconsider his allegiance. How much does your friends' character matter to you? Would you still hang out with someone whose actions opposed your own morals or beliefs?
The best thing we can do is identify those in power and befriend them. And quickly, too. (53.101)
Here we get an idea of friendship in a strategic sense. The Varden are an interesting group of people, all fighting against the Empire, yet split by competing factions. Saphira recognizes the importance of making friends with the most powerful among them as a way of protecting their own interests. Is that really friendship, though?
Her face does have more character than that of most humans, she sniffed. But it's long, like a horse's, and overall she's rather shapeless. Eragon looked at Saphira with amazement. You're jealous, aren't you! (56.65)
Oh, Saphira. So possessive, you are. For a blue dragon, she sure has a severe case of the green-eyed monster. We understand, though. It can be hard when your friend's attentions are drawn to other people. Still, do you have to call them horse-faced? That's just how jealous dragons roll, we guess…
Eragon swayed blearily and said, "It's good to be back." […] Home. For the first time since before the hunt, he relaxed completely as sleep overtook him. (2.86)
You know how when you go away from home for a while, it just feels really good to be back? Things seem to make more sense to you, you know where everything is, and you just feel more relaxed. Well, that's how Eragon feels when he gets back from the hunt. Just imagine how he feels, then, when he loses his home in the Ra'zac attack.
"This is a small village hidden by mountains. It's not surprising that you've escaped notice. However, I wouldn't expect that to last." (3.53)
As Merlock points out here, Eragon's home is sheltered from the wider world. But not for long—the world comes knocking, and he's forced to leave that shelter behind.
Mother, aunt, uncle—he had lost them all. The weight of his grief was crushing, a monstrous force that left him tottering. (13.5)
After Garrow dies, we're reminded, through Eragon's grief, how much our sense of home is due to the people that inhabit it. If that tired old saying has any truth, and home is indeed "where the heart is," then a large part of Eragon's heart is with his family members who he's tragically lost.
"Your fate will be to leave this land forever. Where you will end up, I know not, but you will never again stand in Alagaësia." (26.55)
Gee, thanks, Angela. Here she gives Eragon a grim bit of news about his fortune: he's fated to leave his homeland, never to return again. Does that sound like he's doomed to you, or does it sound like he's liberated? Probably depends on how you see your home, right? For Eragon, it's the source of some major anxiety.
I don't want to leave Teirm, he suddenly realized. The time I've spent here has been—almost normal. What I would give not to keep uprooting myself. (27.14)
The routine Eragon establishes in the port city of Teirm—honing his fighting and magic skills, learning to read—gives him a sense of consistency and, well, a sense of home. But alas, putting down roots is not in the hero's cards.
What is it you want? she asked, suddenly sour. To go back to your previous life? You know that won't happen, so stop mooning after it! (33.43)
Good ol' Saphira—she's always good for a kick in Eragon's pants. When he gets down or mopey, she's there with a big bucket of ice cold reality to dump on his head. In this case, she tells Eragon to accept the loss of his home and prior life. He needs to accept his fate, including the loss of his home life, if he's going to be a successful Rider. Does that strike you as good advice?
"I do not belong to either the Varden or the Empire. Nor do I owe allegiance to any man but myself." (38.8)
Murtagh: loner extraordinaire. Though we get more of Murtagh's back-story later in the novel, he appears initially as a man who is utterly without a home, save for himself. Like a snail, he seems to carry his home with him wherever he goes. He's way more deadly than your average snail, though. Do you think Murtagh's independence, not being tied to a home, is a benefit or a drawback for him?
Their surroundings were so foreign—it struck him for the first time exactly how far he was from home. A destroyed home, but still where his heart lay. (53.85)
In Tronjheim, surrounded by strangers, Eragon is struck full force by how far he's come. Even though his home is nothing more than matchsticks, thanks to those creepy Ra'zac, he still longs for it. What do you think Eragon misses, exactly? Is it the people? The scenery? Customs? All of it?
Durza as a young boy living as a nomad with his parents on the empty plains. […] Only it was not Durza then, but Carsaib. (58.67)
Just before he plunges his sword into his heart, Eragon is granted access to the Shade's memories via mental link. Does Durza the Shade's memories of home somehow make him less of a monster in your eyes? Does his fond attachment to home make him more human? Do you pity him in this moment? Or do you still wish the creep would get his just desserts?
Come to me Eragon, for I have answers to all you ask. You will not be safe until you find me. (59.11)
At the end of the novel, as Eragon recovers from the battle of Farthen Dûr, the Cripple Who is Whole enters Eragon's mind, promising safety and answers. What do you make of this invitation? Isn't his voice essentially promising the comforts of home to Eragon? The fact that Eragon's entire time has been spent on the road, fighting hostile forces, seems to make this invitation all the more…well, inviting. Eragon's final words in the book then, seem to suggest that he's off to seek the home that he lost at the book's very beginning.
It's funny to see a hatchling like you beaten by the old one. (16.35)
Very funny, Saphira. Actually, it might be funny if we got to see young Eragon get absolutely trucked by old rickety Brom. Here Eragon learns a valuable lesson from his elder sparring partner: strength comes from experience.
The energy inside him burned at an unbearable level. […] the air resounded with an explosion. A blue shockwave blasted out of the monster's head, killing the other Urgal instantly. (18.44)
Whoa. Here we witness the raw power of Eragon's magic for the first time. Of course, it takes a lot out of him, but we'd rather be drained than have our heads exploded by a supernatural bolt of force, wouldn't you? This is the first hint of the kind of awesome power that Eragon is capable of.
"This magic—for it is magic—has rules like the rest of the world. If you break the rules, the penalty is death, without exception." (19.44)
With great power comes great risk. Brom lets Eragon know in no uncertain terms that his magic skills will make him pay if he doesn't learn to control them. Isn't that a good thing, though? How might Eragon's use of magic be different if he could just blast away at things without any consequences?
"Magic takes just as much energy as if you used your arms and back. That is why you felt tired after destroying the Urgals." (19.65)
You wouldn't think that a supernatural skill would take such a physical toll on a person. In other words, Eragon can't simply wave a wand around, a la Harry Potter. His power comes directly from his own physical being. It takes something out of him every time he uses it. In that way, his magical powers stem directly from his personal strength and stamina.
The clashes lasted longer as he learned how to fend off Brom. Now, when they went to sleep, Eragon was not the only one with bruises. (20.73)
Yes, young grasshopper! You have grown stronger! Oh, sorry, we were having a Kung Fu flashback. Much like Caine in that old TV series, Eragon is gaining strength thanks to his master's instruction. Soon, he will "snatch the pebble" from Brom's hand. This makes a lot more sense if you watch the show (which you should—trust us).
Brom tossed what remained of his stick into the fire and said, "We're done with these; throw yours in as well. You have learned well, but we have gone as far as we can with the branches. […] It is time for you to use the blade." (21.70)
Oh, snap. Blade? Who said anything about a blade? Here Eragon has graduated from whack-a-stick to full-on, blade vs. blade action. Brom is upping the ante as Eragon gets stronger. It seems that, as he makes progress, the bar continues to shift higher and higher for him. Of course, how else would he improve?
The long days and strenuous work stripped Eragon's body of excess fat. His arms became corded, and his tanned skin rippled with lean muscles. (23.15)
Somebody's getting ready for beach season. Seriously, though, more than just a killer bod, Eragon's development is a sign of his progress as a Rider. Now he can ride a dragon, cast magic, and grate cheese on his super-cut abdominal muscles. Rock on, E!
I didn't know I could stay on while you did that without being strapped into the saddle, he said, grinning fiercely. (29.18)
Remember when a ride on Saphira's back left Eragon a quivering mess of scabs and tears? Like his other skills with the blade and with magic, his ability to ride on Saphira's back grows and improves. Look, ma! No hands! His comfort on this back of a twisting, twirling dragon shows just how much he's developed as a Rider.
Eragon slowly lowered his arm and backed away. It was the first time he had bested Brom without resorting to trickery. Brom picked up his sword […] "We're done for today." (31.32)
Eragon wins! Without even cheating! His victory in the sparring session with Brom signifies a whole new level of achievement for our hero. Brom recognizes this, too. While it might seem like sour grapes that he quits, it's actually because he realizes that he has nothing left to teach Eragon about sword fighting. The dude has learned it all.
"But you can't indulge in wanton violence. Where is your empathy?" growled Eragon, pointing at the head. (47.39)
The head here belongs to the slaver Torkenbrand. Murtagh removed it from his body, although Torkenbrand was defenseless at the time. Murtagh sees this is a totally justified act, but Eragon is on the other side of the fence. His point is that, justified or not, raw power without empathy (an understanding of one's fellow man) is not just. This drives a wedge between Eragon and his fighting buddy. Whose position makes more sense to you?
The realization that Garrow and Marian were not his real parents had disturbed him greatly. […] One other thing bothered him: Who was his father? (3.4-5)
Right off the bat, the book begins with a series of hidden or mixed identities. Eragon is raised in a world where there are more questions than answers as far as his family members' identities are concerned. Is it any wonder, then, that he too is having a hard time figuring out just who he's supposed to be?
"This lasted for five years and would have continued for much longer if an elf called Eragon hadn't found a dragon egg." […] "Ah, I see you didn't know of your namesake." (6.20)
Come again? There was already an Eragon? And he was a famous Dragon Rider himself? Imagine how it must feel to inherit the name of a famous achiever. What if your name was Albert Einstein George Washington Iron Man, Jr.? Other than the difficulty you'd have writing your name in your underwear for summer camp, would a name like that inspire you, or cast a shadow over everything you did?
"It is a good name to have, though; you should be proud of it. Not everyone has one so honorable." (6.25)
Brom tells Eragon to be proud of his name, to embrace his heritage. Think about it, though. Is that an easy thing to do? Is a name something to be lived up to? Can your name dictate your sense of self, your identity?
"Are you Saphira?" […]
Yes. Something clicked in his head and her voice echoed […] Saphira started humming. (7.31-32)
This is a significant moment in Eragon's relationship with his dragon. Saphira becomes more a "person" to him through this act of naming. As we'll see later, Saphira's name has a history behind it, too. In both cases, the identities of dragon and Rider are linked with the past and with each other.
It struck him then just how old the Riders were. A legacy of tradition and heroism that stretched back to antiquity had fallen upon him. (16.90)
Let's take that metaphor literally for a minute. How do you think that legacy would feel if it fell on you? Would it feel like a gentle, protective cloak, wrapping your shoulders securely? Or would it feel like someone had shoved an anvil in a backpack and strapped it to your body? Is Eragon's identity as a Rider a blessing, a curse, or perhaps a bit of both?
"To everyone else, I will be Neal and you will be my nephew Evan. […] I don't want our names in anyone's heads." (23.26)
You got it, Brom. Er… we mean Neal. Yeah, Neal, that's it. Here we see that Eragon's identity can be a thing of danger, as well as a source of pride. Being known as a Rider can win him acclaim, but it can also attract powerful enemies. That's why he and Brom have got to put on those fake Groucho Marx glasses before they go in to Teirm.
"You have a unique name. Few have ever been named after the first Rider." (25.56)
Eragon's reputation precedes him. Or, rather, the reputation of his namesake precedes him. Jeod knows who the first Eragon was. Do you think this colors his attitude (for good or bad) toward the Eragon we all know (and love)?
"I am Eragon."
Angela arched her eyebrows. "Is that who you are or your name?"
"Both," said Eragon with a small smile, thinking of his namesake, the first Rider. (26.67-69)
Good question, Angela. How much of our identity is wrapped up in our name? Do you think that a name can affect a person's identity? Or do you side with Shakespeare on this one?
"What is your name?"
"No! Not that one." […]
He wants my true name so he can control me! realized Eragon. (40.31-34)
This highlights the notion of the "secret name," the idea that most people don't even know their true, hidden names. If they did, powerful magicians like the Shade could control them. Why do you think knowing someone's "true" name might give them that power? Would a secret name be somehow linked to a person's identity?
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. (53.90)
There goes Eragon the first and his big ol' legacy, again. Saphira's saying that Eragon has inherited his role as a hero along with his name. What do you think of that? Does Eragon even get a say in the matter? (For more on this question, check out "Themes: Fate and Free Will.")
Was I meant to have it? He could not answer the question. (4.2)
The question of fate comes in fairly early on in the book. Does Saphira's egg seek Eragon out? Or is his finding the egg purely chance? How might the answer to those questions affect Eragon's sense of purpose on his quest?
It is our destiny to attempt the impossible, to accomplish great deeds regardless of fear. (14.10)
Saphira's great with pep talks. Whenever Eragon's down, she's there to pick him up (or tell him to suck it up). Notice how often in these pick-me-ups she references fate and destiny. Do you think Saphira knows something that Eragon doesn't? Or is she just trying to motivate him?
"The eggs, or rather the infants inside, wouldn't hatch until the person destined to be its Rider came into their presence." (16.9)
Brom explains that Saphira chose Eragon to be her Rider. In that way, Eragon is in fact destined to be her partner. This arrangement acts as a source of strength for both dragon and Rider through the course of the book, but this is especially true for Eragon. Think about it. How would you feel if you knew that you had destiny on your side?
"You are one of the few who are truly free to choose their own fate. That freedom is a gift, but it is also a responsibility more binding than chains." (26.54)
Hold up a sec there, Angela. Is it possible that Eragon is both chosen (by his name, by his dragon) and also free to choose? Can both of these possibilities exist at once? Is that part of what makes Eragon so special? What do you think?
Brom also wanted you to know that of all the people in Alagaësia, he believed you were the best suited to inherit the Rider's legacy. (38.44)
Saphira's words are a comfort to Eragon after Brom passes on. It should also make him feel better that, even though he's inherited his responsibilities as a Rider through the fate of his name, he's got what it takes to persevere. It's like his (free) will is strong enough to endure his fate. (For more on the legacy he inherited from his namesake, see "Themes: Identity." Then come on back, you hear?)
Arya's life is in Fate's hands now. You made your choice to stay with Murtagh; it's too late to change that, so stop agonizing over it…You're making my scales itch. (48.108)
You know what chaps Saphira's hide? Eragon's moping and complaining, that's what. She's got an intense acceptance of fate that Eragon doesn't seem to share. Whose view do you share, Eragon's or Saphira's? Is it better to accept the winds of fate, or does it make you feel better to think that you can change things?
It is your wyrd that shapes you, said Saphira. Every age needs an icon—perhaps that lot has fallen to you. (53.90)
In Eragon, "wyrd" is used to mean fate, or destiny. It's an interesting choice of… word, don't you think. A word names something, the way someone's fate names what will happen to them. Saphira says "perhaps" it's Eragon's wyrd to be a hero, but elsewhere she seems pretty sure of this fact. How convinced do you think she is?
"Brom was cursed in a way. It was his wyrd to fail at all of his tasks except one, although it was no fault of his own." (54.22)
Angela reveals a bit about Brom's fate here that makes us feel kind of sorry for the old guy. What about you? Is he nobler or somewhat pathetic, given this fate? Do you think that, if he knew it was his fate to fail in almost everything he did, he'd give up trying? Is character, like Brom's, in part formed by our refusal to give up, even if we may never succeed?
Zar'roc may have a bloody history, but that should not shape your actions. Forge a new history for it, and carry it with pride. (55.4)
More advice from Saphira here. Eragon's sword, since it belonged to Morzan, last of the Forsworn, has a pretty checkered past to say the least. Saphira, though, encourages Eragon to write a new fate and future for the sword. Do you think objects can have fates, the way people are said to have them? Can Eragon's will change his sword's fate?
"It is my wyrd to be here. The debt must be paid." (57.85)
Right before battling the Urgals in Farthen Dûr, Arya seems to accept the fact that she's about to head into a life-threatening situation. Do you think this acceptance of your "wyrd" or fate can be a source of courage? Or does take away from your freedom to choose and act freely?
"As they fought, Galbatorix kicked Vrael in the fork of his legs. With that underhanded blow, he gained dominance over Vrael and removed his head with a blazing sword." (3.109)
Argh! NOT COOL. Here Brom tells us about this King Galbatorix fellow, and how he rose to power. Crotch-kicking is not exactly the most noble way to win a throne. This dude's cheating character sets him up as a total villain—perfect ruler of the evil side.
"Who could have done…" He could not force out the words.
[…] "Those who love the pain and suffering of others." (18.32-33)
Here at Yazuac, Eragon asks Brom what possible reason anyone could have for slaughtering a whole village. Brom's response is that some folks (like the Shade and his Urgal pals) are just plain evil. How else would you describe it?
"That is Helgrind .It's the reason Dras-Leona was originally built . […] it's an unhealthy and malevolent thing." (32.14)
Brom says here that a place (the Helgrind mountains) can itself be evil (malevolent). What do you think about this idea? Can places be evil in and of themselves? We mean, other than the DMV? (We kid, we kid. We love you DMV. Any chance we can get a bye to the front of the line?)
Stained-glass windows depicting scenes of anger, hate, and remorse pierced the walls. (34.14)
Hey, a church! And it's got lovely stained glass… with terrible things shown on it. At Dras-Leona, everything seems upside down. The locals worship evil, the way most folks worship good. Still, Eragon goes in and kneels at an altar "out of respect" (34.17). Can it be a good thing if you treat an evil thing with respect?
Why would he commit such an atrocity on his own subjects?
Because he is evil, stated Saphira flatly. (42.25)
When they learn that King Galbatorix is the one who set the Urgals loose on their killing spree, Saphira explains it all to Eragon simply by pointing to the king's evil nature. There's nothing more complicated at work here. Evil is the simple, straightforward explanation for the atrocities committed. With that, we see those who oppose this dude as simply good.
He had witnessed too many wrongs committed in Galbatorix's name, from murder to slavery, to turn his back on the Empire. (46.4)
There are times when Eragon longs for the isolation and simplicity of his upbringing in Carvahall. The evil he faces, though, inspires him to oppose the Empire, not to tuck his head into the sand. Paradoxically, evil inspires goodness here.
"You must be willing to protect yourself and what you cherish, no matter what the cost."
Eragon slammed Zar'roc back into its sheath, shaking his head savagely. "You can justify any atrocity with that reasoning." (47.38-39)
Murtagh's beheading of the slaver Torkenbrand is the most morally challenging part of the book. Usually it's pure evil Urgal versus pure good Eragon and friends. But, when Murtagh cuts the head off a defenseless slaver (which, by the way, is pretty much the most evil profession there is), Eragon is furious. Does the slaver's evil excuse Murtagh's deed? Or has Murtagh himself done something evil here?
I don't know what's right! admitted Eragon, distressed. There aren't any answers that make sense. (48.6)
Murtagh's beheading of the slaver Torkenbrand throws Eragon's whole moral universe out of whack. Still, maybe that's not such a bad thing. Shouldn't we be forced to reflect on why we assign the label "good" to some deeds, and "evil" to others? How might that reflection help hone our own, inner moral compass?
The monsters howled in pain, arms flailing. A torch was thrown […] greasy flames roared up in the opening, engulfing the Urgals in an inferno. (58.5)
Ew. Roast Urgal. We can make that joke because they're "monsters," right? Otherwise, this would be a pretty horrific thing to do to another human being. Do you think that the Varden would have tarred and torched the invaders if they were the human army of the Empire? If so, would that have been evil, or justified?
Think of what you have done and rejoice, for you have rid the land of a great evil. (59.13)
Eragon's triumph is really the triumph of good over evil, just as the Cripple Who is Whole points out here. Isn't that what makes this tale so epic? The battles are not just between monsters and humans, but between elemental forces of the universe.
A ball of flame sprang from his hand and flew toward the elf. (Prologue.22-23)
Right from the start, we are immersed in the supernatural here. Elves? Check. Magic? Check. Dark wizards from another spirit plane? Oh, you better believe that's a check.
If he had learned anything from the old stories, it was to treat magic, and those who used it, with great caution. (1.13)
Magic is actually pretty rare in Eragon's world, something from the "old stories." Because it's rare, though, it inspires fear and awe. When he becomes a magic-user himself, Eragon inspires those same feelings in others.
"Chaos seems to rule in Alagaësia. We could not avoid illness, attacks, and the most cursed black luck." (3.49)
Merlock the trader describes the goings-on in Alagaësia as the descent of "black luck." Do you think that the evil forces in charge of the Empire are capable of cursing an entire country, sort of like the worst version ever of pay-it-forward? Or is the Empire ruled by evil because of this black luck? This is a chicken and egg question… of the most evil dimensions.
"There Morzan entered into a dark apprenticeship, learning secrets and forbidden magic that should never have been revealed." (3.107)
What do you think of Brom's editorializing here? He points out that there are some supernatural powers that should never see the light of day. When it comes to the supernatural, is ignorance bliss?
Eragon recoiled in shock. Standing in front of him […] was a dragon. (4.10)
Uh, Toto? We ain't in Kansas anymore. We ain't even in Carvahall. Well, technically, we are still in Carvahall, but the introduction of this mythical creature is the key to unlocking an entire universe of supernatural forces for our buddy Eragon.
"Dragons have no beginning […] And if they have an end, it will be when this world perishes, for they suffer as the land does. They, the dwarves, and a few others are the true inhabitants of this land." (6.14)
Interesting idea here, Brom, that the supernatural inhabitants of Eragon's world are the most authentic creatures in that world. If that's true, then Eragon's reality is fundamentally a supernatural reality.
"Yes, a dragon will live for quite a while, forever, in fact, as long as it isn't killed and its Rider doesn't die." (6.54)
So Saphira's also got the supernatural power of living forever—provided that she and Eragon are not killed. Does that mean that Eragon gets to live forever?
An idea, a revelation slowly wormed its way through his mind. He, Eragon—farm boy of Palancar Valley—had used magic. Magic! It was the only word for what had happened. (19.26)
So he's not such a regular guy after all, eh? As Eragon soon learns, though, his supernatural powers bring a lot of super-stressful baggage with them. Would you want to have magic powers if it meant that you had to rush out and save the world with them?
"I loathe Shades—they practice the most unholy magic, after necromancy." (54.29)
Ooh, burn. Take that Durza. No Christmas card from Angela for you. Here Angela shows us that there are good supernatural powers, like hers (reading fortunes, healing the sick and the wounded), and evil supernatural powers, like the Shade's (summoning spirits from dark, unholy regions). It's a continuation of the struggle of good against evil. (For more on that idea, mosey on over to "Themes: Good vs. Evil." Then hightail it on back here.)
It made sense that they would befriend each other—their personalities were similar, and they were both creatures of magic. (55.110)
Birds of a supernatural feather flock together. In this case, Saphira and Solembum, the werecat, hang out like old pals. The pairing makes sense to Eragon, since both of them share the supernatural realm. Eragon, for his part, sort of straddles that realm. He's both human and more than human. Do you think that it's a challenge for him to exist in these two realms at the same time, belonging wholly to neither?
Eragon was fifteen, less than a year from manhood. (1.3)
As soon as we meet him, we learn that Eragon is on the young side of maturity. Still, sixteen = manhood? What do you think of that idea? Perhaps one grows up faster when there are Shades and Urgals lurking about…
Mother, aunt, uncle—he had lost them all. (13.5)
As difficult as it is for Eragon to deal with, the death of his family is really what sets him on the road to maturity. For most of us, things aren't so drastic, but it's an inevitable stage in the process of growing up. We have to leave home and forge our own way in the world, much like Eragon does.
You killed them? Saphira sounded surprised.
He nodded. […]
Saphira said gravely, You have grown. (19.8-10)
When Eragon uses his magic to blast the Urgals and defend Brom, it's a sign of his growing maturity. Like it or not, part of growing up for our hero is his ability to use his powers to combat evil.
"Congratulations, you just made enemies with one of the most powerful beings in Alagaësia."
"All right, I made a mistake," said Eragon suddenly. (30.29-30)
Oh, Eragon. When will you learn? Brom's instructions don't take hold overnight. Eragon goes through a slow, often difficult process to learn how to act as a Rider. Learning to use his powers wisely is one of the most important challenges for him as he comes of age.
Then Eragon felt the battle change. Blow by blow he gained advantage; Brom's parries slowed and he lost ground. (31.30)
The sparring sessions between Eragon and Brom are lessons in how to fight with a sword, sure, but there's something more to them. As Eragon starts to hold his own against his master, we see that his powers are maturing, just like Eragon himself.
"I want to get the Ra'zac," said Eragon […] "but not if it means fighting the king. He could probably tear me to pieces." (33.20)
Good thinking, Eragon. Before, he'd just rush off into battle, firing magic bolts until he passed out from the effort. Eragon's increased caution shows that he is maturing. He's thinking more carefully about when to fight and when to run away so he can live to fight another day.
Eragon ground his teeth with fury. […] He was about to release the magic when it struck him. He'd never get away! (34.6)
Aha! More signs of maturity from our man Eragon here. Sure, it would feel much better to blast the slave market in Dras-Leona into itty bitty smithereens, but what purpose would that serve? The mature Eragon is able to see the big picture. If he restrains himself, he'll stay a free man and will be better able to destroy Galbatorix's forces once and for all.
Eragon reached for another arrow, but caution stayed his hand. If they knew where to find me, Brom is in danger as well! I must warn him! (34.21)
We like this newly cautious, mature Eragon. He's more like a chess master now, rather than a dull, magic-firing instrument. His strategy and big-picture thinking mean that he can save his friend, rather than get bogged down in a pointless fight—even if it is with those jerkface Ra'zac.
From this moment on, I'll live by the sword. Let the whole world see what I am. I have no fear. I am a Rider now, fully and completely. (38.13)
Here we see Eragon at last embracing the identity he's destined for. It's a sign of his maturity that he's now confident in who he is and is able to take ownership of his powers, and the responsibilities that come with them.
He had become what Ajihad wanted: an authority independent of any king or leader. (59.14)
In some ways, you can argue that this is the climax of the novel. Sure, it was cool when Eragon killed Durza, but his journey to maturity really comes to a close with this realization. He has at last become his own man, able to stand on his own. As he realizes in this moment of reflection, Eragon has truly become a Dragon Rider.
The deer had led him deep into the Spine, a range of untamed mountains that extended up and down the land of Alagaësia. (1.4)
Just as the deer leads Eragon deeper into the Spine, we follow Eragon deeper into the world of Alagaësia. (See how Paolini did that? Pretty nifty, right?) As he encounters and learns about new lands and cities, so do we. His explorations become our explorations. Yeah, we're explorer-buddies.
Before him lay the Palancar Valley, exposed like an unrolled map. The base of the Igualda Falls, more than a half-mile below, was the northernmost point of the valley. A little ways from the falls was Carvahall. (2.8)
As Eragon takes in the scenery of his homeland, it's important to realize that the details are for us, not him. After all, he lives here, and knows that Carvahall is close to Igualda Falls the way he knows the back of his hand. We're the ones that need to see this detailed orientation like an "unrolled map." This kind of spatial detail adds a feeling of reality to what is fundamentally a supernatural setting (though, the elves and dragons haven't shown up just yet).
It unnerved Eragon how flat everything was […] He had lived his entire life surrounded by mountains and hills. (17.9)
Part of exploring is leaving your comfort zone. The plains that Eragon is seeing here for the first time are a strange sight in that it's something totally new and foreign to him. He's setting foot in a new land for the first time, which can be both exciting and nerve-wracking.
Brom's eyes grew hazy […] "The sea is emotion incarnate. It loves, hates, and weeps." (23.5)
How poetic. For Brom, his explorations of the sea allow him to share his intense emotional experiences with Eragon. Eragon, through Brom's words, is allowed to explore this wild frontier, and we as readers are provided with sense of awe and adventure. We could write out this whole quote for you, but this is such a beautiful passage that you've just gotta read it for yourself.
Eragon […] eagerly began exploring Teirm. For hours he wandered the streets, entering every shop that struck his fancy and chatting with various people. (26.3)
Eragon is just an explorer at heart. It's one of the things we really love about him. Maybe you know people who, on vacation, stay inside their hotel rooms and watch TV all day. Okay, sometimes we're guilty of that, too. But travel is about new people, new sights, and new experiences. Even though it can be scary, it's an unmatched opportunity to learn that Eragon takes full advantage of.
Across the plains, sprawled the forest Du Weldenvarden. Like the Beor Mountains, its eastern end was unmapped. […] [I]ts heart lay mysterious and unexplored. (28.54)
Unlike our world, which is pretty much mapped out, save for the most remote corners, Alagaësia is still a wild place that has yet to be fully explored. Such mysteries provide an excellent chance for explorers, like our pal Eragon, to pursue adventure.
"Does the road ever end for you?"
A hollow laugh escaped Brom's lips. "I see it coming, but not for a while." (28.74-75)
In this convo between Eragon and Brom, the road is more than just any old road. It refers to a life of adventure, of exploration, of striving to achieve one's goals in the face of obstacles. It's a struggle, sure, but it's a struggle that gives their lives (and ours) meaning. Do you see yourself on a road?
Where are the goods for sale? wondered Eragon.
[…] "And here we have our first item," proclaimed the auctioneer. "A healthy male from the Hadarac Desert, captured just last month." (34.4-5)
Yikes. Exploration can be a thing of great fun and adventure, but it can also turn up terrible things, like this slave auction that Eragon finds in Dras-Leona. This practice is totally foreign to him, and he has to overcome his urge to blast it apart with his magic. Unlike his fun explorations in Teirm, his wanderings in Dras-Leona have taken a bad turn.
Brom blindly turned his eyes to the ceiling. "And now," he murmured, "for the greatest adventure of all…" (37.25)
What do you think of this idea? Do you share Brom's vision of death as the last great adventure, a realm waiting to be explored? Do you think Brom's view of the road as a way of life colors his attitude?
A vast expanse of dunes spread to the horizon like ripples on an ocean. Bursts of wind twirled the reddish gold sand into the air. (45.1)
The Hadarac Desert: another new, strange land that Eragon (along with Saphira and Murtagh and, we guess, the unconscious Arya) must travel through. Out there somewhere is the Varden, a cure for Arya, and the next step in Eragon's adventure. It's just a matter of exploring until they find them.