Study Guide

Eragon Identity

By Christopher Paolini

Identity

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?"

"Era—"

"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.")