Eragon, Chapter 4: Fate’s Gift
A nice, short post today, to off-set the mammoth one I posted last. This chapter is only three pages long (and not even that, if you want to get technical – I’d say the text takes up a full two pages at most). Like I mentioned at the end of the Chapter 1 review, it’s so short that it could really stand to be merged with another chapter. I’ll try not to harp on this point continually, but it’s difficult not to with how many short chapters there are in this book.
When Eragon gets home, he tests the stone himself, hitting it with a hammer and trying to scratch it with a chisel. Nothing happens, although he thinks he hears a squeaking sound.
Merlock said the stone was hollow; there could be something of value inside. I don’t know how to open it, though. There must have been a good reason to someone to shape it, but whoever sent the stone into the Spine hasn’t taken the trouble to retrieve it or doesn’t know where it is. But I don’t believe that a magician with enough power to transport the stone wouldn’t be able to find it again. So was I meant to have it?
It’s a reasonable conclusion to come to, to be sure; if I had an unbreakable, hollow rock that may have been forged by magic, I would assume that there must be something important inside as well. And knowing that the stone is man-made definitely makes the possibility that it was sent to that spot on purpose much more plausible. It’s much more reasonable for Eragon to question whether he was “meant to have it” here than it was three chapters ago.
He gives up trying to figure out the stone for the night and goes to bed, but is woken up later by strange squeaking. He pulls out a knife that he keeps under the mattress (why? Is he Rambo now?) and searches the room; supposedly the squeaking is too loud to be a mouse or rat. That’s pretty surprising, because I’ve heard my pet rats squeak when they get into scuffles and they can be quite loud. It might be more realistic to say that rats wouldn’t be squeaking unless they were in pain, but I’m guessing Paolini’s main knowledge of rats and mice come from movies, which like to portray said rodents as constantly squeaking. I’ll give him a pass on that for now.
But I digress. Eragon tears his room apart before realizing that the noise is coming from the stone. His reaction is… odd, to say the least.
The stone had given him nothing but frustration and anger, and now it would not even let him sleep! It ignored his furious glare and sat solidly, occasionally peeping. Then it gave one very loud squeak and fell silent. Eragon warily put it away and got back under the sheets. Whatever secret the stone held, it would have to wait until morning.
Oh man, where do I start? I’m not sure what’s worse – the fact that Eragon’s initial reaction to a stone making noise is to be offended that it’s keeping him awake, rather than being shocked that an inanimate object is making squeaking noises, or the fact that he is so incurious about it that once the noise stops he goes back to sleep. How could anyone go to sleep after a non-living thing makes noise like a living creature? Have you been reading the back of the book again, Eragon?
Seriously, this is our hero? I can’t get over this complete lack of interest in what’s going on around him. Unless squeaking rocks are a normal occurrence in this world, in which case Paolini really should have mentioned it.
Also, Eragon? A rock can’t ignore glaring because it’s not sentient. It doesn’t have eyes. It’s not even alive. I thought that, being a farm boy, you might be able to tell the different between a rock and a living creature, but clearly that was giving you too much credit.
Somehow he manages to get back to sleep (come on, really?) only to be woken up later by the stone rocking back and forth and squeaking again.
With an oath, he began dressing. He did not care how valuable the stone might be; he was going to take it far away and bury it. The rocking stopped; the stone became quiet. It quivered, then rolled forward and dropped onto the floor with a loud thump. He inched toward the door in alarm as the stone wobbled toward him.
Oh, now you’re scared, huh? I still don’t understand how he can be annoyed instead of utterly petrified. The laws of the universe are being broken in front of your eyes, Eragon! Stop trying to be a bad-ass for the audience you shouldn’t even be aware of and react like a human being!
Suddenly a crack appeared on the stone. Then another and another. Transfixed, Eragon leaned forward, still holding the knife. At the top of the stone, where all the cracks met, a small piece wobbled, as if it were balanced on something, then rose and toppled to the floor. After another series of squeaks, a small dark head poked out of the hole, followed by a weirdly angled body. Eragon gripped the knife tighter and held very still. Soon the creature was all the way out of the stone. It stayed in place for a moment, then skittered into the moonlight.
Eragon recoiled in shock. Standing in front of him, licking off the membrane that encased it, was a dragon.
How does Eragon recognize a dragon when he’s never seen one before? Most of the dragons were killed long before he was born. I highly doubt he’s seen a book, let alone an illustration of what dragons looked like. He’s probably heard descriptions of them, but descriptions don’t always form a correct picture in your head. You might as well explain what a giraffe looks like to somebody who’s never seen one before, then expect them to draw an accurate picture of one.