Eragon, Chapter 14: On Grief and Grieving

Eragon, Chapter 14: A Rider’s Blade (pg. 92-96)

Anguish enveloped Eragon as he awoke.  Though he kept his eyes closed, they could not stop a fresh flow of tears.  He searched for some idea or hope to help him keep his sanity.  I can’t live with this, he moaned.

Then don’t. Saphira’s words reverberated in his head.

How?  Garrow is gone forever!  And in time, I must meet the same fate.  Love, family, accomplishments – they are all torn away, leaving nothing.  What is the worth of anything we do?

Stop being so damn melodramatic, Eragon.

In the comments on the last post, GeniusLemur made a very good point: Eragon’s attitude toward death is very much that of a modern teenager’s.  Life expectancy wasn’t exactly high in the Middle Ages (though if you made it to adulthood you could usually expect to live for 2-4 more decades), and death was an accepted reality.  The loss of a loved one still hurt – I doubt there’s a time period where it wouldn’t have hurt – but Eragon’s reaction is completely out of place.

In fact, forget the setting issues for a moment, because there’s one very simple fact that makes Eragon’s wailing and gnashing of teeth completely pointless: his aunt is dead.  Has been for some time.  He should have already had this existential crisis/temper tantrum by now.  Was she just not important enough for him to care?  Or was Paolini grabbing at cheap angst to make his character seem deep?  The answer is, of course, the latter, but that does bring us back to the author’s trend of completely ignoring his female characters.  Now, I’m sure Paolini didn’t intentionally stick every female character in forgettable side roles, their only purpose being either support or angst-fodder for the hero.  It’s not really Paolini’s fault that he’s the product of a culture where men are the default.  The fact remains, however, that for the first half to two-thirds of this book, women don’t move the plot at all.  Marian might as well have died before he was born for all the impact she’s had on her nephew.

(The sad thing is, it would have been possible for Eragon to have already faced these questions about life or death in regards to his aunt and still given him reason to angst over his uncle’s death.  Why not focus on the guilt he must feel for putting Garrow in harm’s way?  What about his anger at Saphira for running away – is that no longer an issue?  I swear, Eragon’s feelings on a particular subject are brought up once, then never mentioned again.  It’s like he has a specific thought or reaction, and then the issue is resolved.  It doesn’t need to be constantly brought up, but a little consistency would be nice.)

Saphira tells Eragon that “[t]he worth is in the act”, and that he should focus on something to do, which will “give [him] new hope and purpose”.  Then she tells him to follow his heart (no, really!).

Eragon examined his emotions.  It surprised him that, more than grief, he found a searing anger. What do you want me to do . . . pursue the strangers?


Her frank answer confused him.  He took a deep, trembling breath.  Why?

Remember what you said in the Spine?  How you reminded me of my duty as a dragon, and I returned with you despite the urging of my instinct?  So, too, must you control yourself.  I thought long and deep the past few days, and I realized what it means to be dragon and Rider: It is our destiny to attempt the impossible, to accomplish great deeds regardless of fear.  It is our responsibility to the future.

Let me get this straight: in order for Eragon to learn control and fulfill his “responsibility to the future”, you want to send him on a revenge quest that could very well get him killed.  For a supposedly wise creature, you’re a damn idiot, Saphira.

I don’t care what you say; those aren’t reasons to leave! cried Eragon.

Then here are others.  My tracks have been seen, and people are alert to my presence.  Eventually I will be exposed.  Besides, there is nothing here for you.  No farm, no family, and–

Roran’s not dead! he said vehemently.

You finally remember him!  For all his angsting about being alone, Eragon sure is quick to bring up Roran when Saphira starts in on his family situation.

Again we see that, even though these two share a psychic bond that allows them to know what the other is feeling, neither of them makes an effort to understand what the other is going through.  I know Saphira is supposed to have an “alien” personality and understanding of the world, but that’s no excuse for her complete lack of empathy.

But if you stay, you’ll have to explain what really happened.  He has a right to know how and why his father died.  What might he do once he knows of me?

So it’s better for Roran to learn that his father died under suspicious circumstances and his cousin disappeared shortly afterward?  All Saphira is doing here is encouraging Eragon to avoid facing his problems in favor of indulging in reactionary, unhealthy behavior.  I suppose it’s realistic, given that both Saphira and Eragon are fairly young and impulsive, but it’s incredibly irresponsible of Saphira to feed Eragon’s desire for vengeance.

Eragon decides that he does want to take revenge on the men who killed his uncle, concluding that “[n]othing is more dangerous than an enemy with nothing to lose […] Which is what I have become”.  I guess being the the first of a new generation of Riders is nothing to lose, then?  As he’s sneaking out of the house, he overhears Horst and Elain talking about him.  Horst suspects that Eragon’s not telling them everything that happened; this convinces Eragon that he needs to leave now.  Take note of his thought process as he decides what he needs to take with him:

I don’t need a horse.  Saphira will be my steed, but she needs a saddle.  She can hunt for both of us, so I don’t have to worry about food – though I should get some anyway.  Whatever else I need I can find buried in our house.

Got that?  He doesn’t need to bring food; he’s just getting some as a precaution.  Additionally, unless there’s stuff at home that he can’t get elsewhere, he really shouldn’t be heading back to the farm.  That’s the first place Horst will go looking for him once he realizes Eragon has left town.

Conveniently, there’s nobody outside to see Eragon as he creeps around town, stealing supplies.  He feels guilty when he takes ox hides from the tanner and tells himself it’s not stealing because he plans on paying the tanner back eventually.  But then he needs to get food, and, well…

Now for food.  He went to the tavern, intending to get it there, but then smiled tightly and reversed direction.  If he was going to steal, it might as well be from Sloan.

Yeah, stealing is totally fine if it’s from someone you don’t like!  That’s not hypocritical at all!  Especially when you’ve already decided you don’t need to take food with you.

Eragon forces his way inside the butcher’s shop, actually breaking the lock on the door, and grabs as much meat as he can carry.  Theft and property damage?  What a hero!  He manages to avoid running straight into Horst and heads out of the village to the spot where he stashed his leather hides.  But what’s this?  They’re gone!

Eragon whirled around.  Brown scowled angrily at him, and ugly wound on the side of his head.  A short sword hung at his belt in a brown sheath.  The hides were in his hands.

Eragon’s eyes narrowed in irritation.  How had the old man managed to sneak up on him?  Everything had been so quiet, he would have sworn that no one was around.  “Give them back,” he snapped.

“Why?  So you can run off before Garrow is even buried?” The accusation was sharp.

“It’s none of your business!” he barked, temper flashing.

You’re stealing from people and running off immediately after your uncle’s death.  I think Brom is justified in questioning you, kid.

Brom tells Eragon he knows about the dragon: the oval scar on Eragon’s hand, called a gedwëy ignasia, comes from touching a dragon hatchling.  Eragon panics and calls Saphira to him, but Brom tells him he’s already talked to Saphira and she’ll circle above while they talk.  Eragon can’t figure out how Brom can talk to Saphira, even though the obvious conclusion is that Brom is a Rider as well.  He’ll have plenty of chances to not get the hint, too, since Brom declares he’s coming along and Eragon just kind of shrugs and tells Brom to stay out of his way.

“I hope you have enough meat to feed your dragon.”

Eragon froze.  “What are you talking about?”

Brom crossed his arms.  “Don’t fool with me.  I know where that mark on your hand, the gedwëy ignasia, theshining palm, comes from: you have touched a dragon hatchling.  I know why you came to me with those questions, and I know that once more the Riders live.”

GASP!  Things are starting to get exciting now!  And by exciting, I mean the next chapter and a half is nothing but Brom explaining things to Eragon ad nauseum.

Memorable Quotes:

“The only true guide is your heart.  Nothing less than its supreme desire can help you.” (pg. 92)

“A terrible energy and strength began to grow in him.  It grabbed his emotions and forged them into a solid bar of anger with one word stamped on it: revenge.” (pg. 93)

“Yesterday he had had difficulty walking upright, but now he moved confidently, held in place by his iron will.  The pain his body sent him was defied and ignored.” (pg. 93)


3 comments on “Eragon, Chapter 14: On Grief and Grieving

  1. It grabbed his emotions and forged them into a solid bar of anger with one word stamped on it: revenge.

    You know, he’s got a lovely way with words, though not the kind of lovely he was probably going for*. He should enter the Bulwer-Lytton contest.

    *Then again, maybe he was. Maybe he’s just trolling us all.

  2. How can you defy *and* ignore something? I mean, if you’re defying something, you’re acknowledging its existence and therefor not ignoring it.

    If I made an anger-bar, you can be damn sure I’d stamp “vengeance” rather than “revenge.” If you go through the trouble, you should use the cooler-sounding synonym.

  3. Someone said Eragon’s reactions are that of a modern teenagers? It just matches perfectly with everything else also being modern with haphazard medieval decor. Come on, a medieval village with a butcher shop? When everyone lives off the food they produce themselves, they supposedly sell their livestock to the butcher and then buy it back? It just… doesn’t work that way. It’s like Paolini never even read Bone, which has the lovely “granny teaches city boys how to kill a chicken” and the way she’s wipe-your-ass casual about it.

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