Eragon, Ch21: Pointless Characters Ahoy!

Eragon, Chapter 21: Daret (pg 152-160)

When the party reaches Daret, it seems to be deserted.  They enter cautiously, expecting another attack, but they find nothing until they reach the center of town:

They advanced only a few strides before wagons toppled out from behind the houses and blocked their way.  Cadoc snorted and dug in his hooves, sliding to a stop next to Snowfire.  A swarthy man hopped over the wagon and planted himself before them, a broadsword slung at his side and a drawn bow in his hands.  […]  “Halt!  Put your weapons down.  You’re surrounded by sixty archers.  They’ll shoot if you move.”  As if on cue, a row of men stood up on the roofs of the surrounding houses.  [Bolding mine]

So the wagons were knocked over into the street… so they were standing on their ends behind the houses?  But then there was only one wagon?  And it’s small enough to hop over?  I don’t understand how this blockade is supposed to work.

[Eragon] prepared to use magic.  I’ll have to stop the arrows before they hit me or Brom.

I really wish Paolini had given us a bit more information on Eragon’s magic training, because as far as I know Eragon knows how to light a fire and lift a pebble.  I’m sure he’s learned more than that, but somehow I doubt Brom is teaching him combat magic.  Right now I’m forced to conclude that Eragon simply doesn’t know enough magic to help unless he’s prepared to kill everyone around him in an uncontrolled explosion.

The man tells Brom that they’ve been attacked by bandits and Urgals several times, and agrees to get our heroes their supplies if they agree to leave immediately.  He then gives his name, Trevor*, even though he will never appear after his four pages in the spotlight.  When he asks what’s going on outside the village, Brom tells him that Yazuac has been destroyed.  He also mentions that they passed Yazuac almost two weeks ago, which is the first time we get an idea of how long they’ve been on the road.  (Paolini really isn’t clear on travel times, which is unfortunate because most of this book is spent on wandering around the continent.)  It doesn’t really make sense to me, since Trevor mentions that he had good friends in Yazuac; if it was really two week’s riding away, he likely wouldn’t have gone that far, let alone met anybody from there.  Maybe Brom and Eragon were moving extra slow on account of injuries and lesson?

Someone finally brings out the supplies and Brom and Eragon hit the road; Eragon checks in with Saphira, and is met with “simmering anger” – something he doesn’t question or even think about, since we skip right to Brom asking if Eragon used any of his powers while they were in town.  Really?  You’re not remotely worried about a dragon being pissed off at you?  Is one of the Rider powers a complete lack of self preservation?

Brom tells Eragon that he could have used his mind-touching powers to read Trevor’s intentions the same way he can contact animal minds.

“How could I know what Trevor was thinking?” asked Eragon.  “Am I supposed to be able to see into people’s minds?”

“Come now,” chided Brom, “you should know the answer to that.  You could have discovered Trevor’s purpose in the same way that you communicate with Cadoc or Saphira.  […]  It’s a simple thing to do, but it’s a power you must use sparingly and with great caution.  A person’s mind is his last sanctuary.  You must never violate it unless circumstances force you to.  The Riders had very strict rules regarding this.  If they were broken without due cause, the punishment was severe.”

Maybe you could tell Eragon some of these strict rules.  If he’s going to be a Rider, he’s going to have to follow the rules, so you have to tell him at some point, right?  Why even bring them up if you’re not going to tell him what they are?  Oh, right, it’s because you’re fucking useless.  

I, for one, would be much more interested if Eragon had also discovered this ability by accident.  He found out he could link minds with animals by wondering about his connection with Saphira; it stands to reason that he would eventually wonder if that link extended to humans as well.  As much as I hate Brom’s incessant tantrums over not being able to reveal everything to Eragon as he sees fit, it’s much more interesting when Eragon does things on his own than when Brom explains it all to him ad nauseam.  There’s a bit more discussion on seeing into people’s minds, focusing on the ability to block out unwanted intruders.  Eragon will always know if someone is in his mind, and Brom advises him on how to block people out.

When they get back to Saphira, she pins Eragon to the ground while Brom just watches from his horse:

Saphira swung her head over Eragon until they were eye to eye.  He squirmed under her unwavering glare.  You!  Every time you leave my sight you get into trouble.  You’re like a new hatchling, sticking your nose into everything.  And what happens when you stick it into something that bites back?  How will you survive then?  I cannot help you when I’m miles away.  I’ve stayed hidden so that no one would see me, but no longer!  Not when it may cost you your life.

There’s no use pointing out that very little of the trouble Eragon’s gotten into is of his own making (she should really be angry at Brom for that); when the giant dragon decides you’ve fucked up, there’s no stopping her wrath.

I can understand why you’re upset, said Eragon, but I’m much older than you and can take care of myself.  If anything, you’re the one who needs to be protected.

She snarled and snapped her teeth by his ear.  Do you really believe that? she asked.  Tomorrow you will ride me – not that pitiful deer-animal you call a horse – or else I will carry you in my claws.  Are you a Dragon Rider or not?  Don’t you care for me?

So, if her issue was that Eragon isn’t spending as much time with her as she’d like, why can’t she just say so?  It’s not like Brom has a problem with this; he just kind of shrugs when Eragon tells him what Saphira wants and says go for it.  I might be reading too much into this scene and her behavior, but it comes across as Paolini’s idea of the way “females” act.  Perhaps it’s because Saphira is the most possessive character I’ve come across that’s coloring my interpretation, but I can’t help picturing a mixture of the stereotypes of the clingy girlfriend and the overbearing mother.

Saphira finally lets Eragon up after her promises to ride with her the next day.  That night Eragon and Brom spar again, and Eragon snaps the branches they’re using in two during the fight.  Brom declares that they’re done with sticks and moves on to using real swords that have been blunted by magic.  There’s not really much interesting here before the chapter ends, besides the fact that Brom demonstrates their bluntness by slashing at his own hand and freaking Eragon out in the process, instead of inviting him to test the blade himself.  Y’know, because he’s a jerk.

* In addition to the overabundance of names, I’ve noticed that male characters tend to get invented “fantasy” names (Eragon, Brom, Garrow, Roran, Dempton, Horst, Cadoc, Jeod, Ajihad, etc), while women are given mundane names (Marian, Serena, Elain, Katrina, Angela, Helen, Arya).  The only made-up female names are Saphira and Nasuada, and the latter doesn’t come into the book until the last couple of chapters.  There are a few instances of “normal” masculine names mixed in – Neal, Evan, Trevor – but for the most part the male names are made up.  Again, maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I’m getting the impression that this is just another sign that Paolini didn’t really care about his female characters if he couldn’t be bothered to put even a quarter of the amount of effort that he put into naming his male characters.

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