Eragon, Chapter 9: Strangers in Carvahall
The day that Roran leaves for Therinsford has finally arrived! Predictably, Garrow falls into the “absent YA-lit parent figure” category by refusing to accompany his son to town to see him off.
When pressed for a reason, he only said that it was for the best.
“For the best” apparently meaning “because the plot says so”. Garrow does come off as the sort of person who would prefer to avoid long goodbyes, if only because he would feel uncomfortable expressing emotions other than manly manly pride. But, really, what seems more likely: that Paolini was trying to add to Garrow’s characterization, or that he was trying to get Garrow out of the way as soon as possible?
Garrow gives Roran some money and his blessing, then addresses both boys:
He turned and said in a louder voice, “Do not think that I have forgotten you, Eragon. I have words for both of you. It’s time I said them, as you are entering the world. Heed them and they will serve you well.” He bent his gaze sternly on them. “First, let no one rule your mind or body. Take special care that your thoughts remain unfettered. One may be a free man and yet be bound tighter than a slave. Give men your ear, but not your heart. Show respect for those in power, but don’t follow them blindly. Judge with logic and reason, but comment not.
“Consider none your superior, whatever their rank or station in life. Treat all fairly or they will seek revenge. Be careful with your money. Hold fast to your beliefs and others will listen.” He continued at a slower pace, “Of the affairs of love . . . my only advice is to be honest. That’s your most powerful tool to unlock a heart or gain forgiveness. That is all I have to say.” He seemed slightly self-conscious of his speech.
Well, it’s no “With great power comes great responsibility”, that’s for sure.
What is Garrow even trying to say, anyway? I mean, I get some of it: think for yourself, don’t run your mouth off, keep track of your money… but what does he mean by “take special care that your thoughts remain unfettered”? Are there roving bands of psychics that enslave people on a regular basis? Is he trying (and failing, I might add) to add to the “think for yourself” rule? This really just comes across as Paolini scribbling down some generic “fatherly” advice. Granted, it does serve to characterize Garrow a bit – he seems like the type of person who would feel like he had to give his kids some good advice, and reach for the first thing he could think of – but he’s definitely no Ben Parker.
Also, have I mentioned yet that I hate the dialogue in this book? Because I do. Paolini not only has a tin ear for dialogue, he also falls into the common fantasy trap of assuming that, because the story is set in a Middle Ages stand-in, everyone is going to talk like they fell out of that vague, undefined period of time where we all assume they spoke Elizabethan English, from the most haughty noble to the humblest fishmonger. Granted, people did speak differently in the past, but that didn’t mean they all spoke in the same way across the board.
Garrow finally shuts up and sends the boys on their way. They head to the mill where Horst and Roran’s new boss are waiting. While Roran is getting ready to leave, Horst pulls Eragon aside and asks about the stone.
“As soon as you return home, get rid of it.” Horst overrode Eragon’s exclamation. “Two men arrived here yesterday. Strange fellows dressed in black and carrying swords. It made my skin crawl just to look at them. Last evening they started asking people if a stone like yours had been found. They’re at it again today.” Eragon blanched. “No one with sense said anything. They know trouble when they see it, but I could name a few people who will talk.”
Are those last two lines implying what I think they’re implying? Does everyone know about the stone? I mean, I knew Eragon was stupid for not being more careful about showing it to people, but I didn’t think the entire fucking town knew about the damn thing! Either he was not nearly as stealthy as he thought, or Sloan just had to tell everyone what Eragon was carrying around for whatever reason. It’s cool, it’s not like this has to make sense or anything. We wouldn’t want the reader to feel spoiled by being able to follow the story.
Horst warns Eragon to go home and avoid the strangers. It’s good advice, though it’s wasted on this kid. Eragon says a hasty goodbye to Roran, starts walking back toward home until Horst can’t see him anymore, then doubles back to look for these strangers in black. The smart thing to do, of course, would be to listen to the guy who just told you to go home and avoid said strangers, but our hero never lets little things like common sense get in the way of his adventures.
He prowled across Carvahall, avoiding everyone until he heard a sibilant voice from around a house. Although his ears were keen, he had to strain to hear what was being said.
“When did this happen?” The words were smooth, like oiled glass, and seemed to worm their way through the air. Underlying the speech was a strange hiss that made his scalp prickle.
“About three months ago,” someone else answered. Eragon identified him as Sloan.
Shade’s blood, he’s telling them. . . .He resolved to punch Sloan the next time they met.
Holy disproportionate response, Batman! I know Sloan’s a jerk, but he can’t possibly know why the stone is so important, and frankly he owes Eragon absolutely nothing. Punching a guy for unknowingly giving the enemy information is downright excessive.
The strangers let Sloan go, and Eragon peeks out to see what’s going on. They catch sight of him (what happened to the mighty hunter stalking deer through the forest, eh?) and Eragon is frozen in place. Just as they’re closing in, hands on their swords, Brom barges in shouting Eragon’s name. This is, apparently, enough to make the strangers give up for now, as they leave without a word. Brom tells Eragon he should go home and offers to walk him to the edge of town. He asks Eragon if he remembers the name of the trader (the one who supposedly told him so much about dragons), and Eragon spaces out and clues Brom in to the fact that he was lying. Good job, kid. You’re the best at keeping secrets.
They walked in silence to the road, then Brom […] offered a gnarled hand.
Eragon shook it, but as he let go something in Brom’s hand caught on his mitt and pulled it off. It fell to the ground. The old man picked it up. “Clumsy of me,” he apologized, and handed it back. As Eragon took the mitt, Brom’s strong fingers wrapped around his wrist and twisted sharply. His palm briefly faced upward, revealing the silvery mark. Brom’s eyes glinted, but he let Eragon yank his hand back and jam it into the mitt.
So now Brom knows Eragon is a Rider. And instead of warning him just how dangerous these guys in black lurking around town are, he lets the kid run back home without saying a word. Because he’s just that good of a mentor. I’m so glad he’ll be around for half the book, aren’t you?