Eragon, Chapter 37: Legacy of a Rider
Well, folks, the moment we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived. (Or maybe it’s just the moment I’ve been waiting for.) Everyone pretty much saw it coming, what with the thinly-veiled Star Wars “homage” that is the plot, and the ham-fisted foreshadowing back in Chapter 26.
The time has come for Brom to die.
Eragon wakes up to find Brom thrashing around on the floor of the cave. He stops convulsing long enough to order Eragon to wash his right hand in wine; this removes some sort of dye or enchantment and reveals a gedwëy ignasia, just like the one Eragon has.
“You’re a Rider?” he asked incredulously.
A painful smile flickered on Brom’s face. “Once upon a time that was true . . . but no more. When I was young . . . younger than you are now, I was chosen . . . chosen by the Riders to join their ranks. While they trained me, I became friends with another apprentice . . . Morzan, before he was a Forsworn.” Eragon gasped – that had been over a hundred years ago. “But then he betrayed us to Galbatorix . . . and in the fighting at Doru Araeba – Vroengard’s city – my young dragon was killed. Her name . . . was Saphira.”
Ellipses . . . don’t make your dialogue . . . any more authentic, Paolini. They just make . . . it a lot more . . . annoying to read.
“Why didn’t you tell me this before?” asked Eragon softly.
Brom laughed. “Because . . . there was no need to.”
No need to? No need to? You didn’t think that maybe Eragon would have obeyed you more if you told him you were a Rider? You didn’t think maybe it would help him adjust to the massive change in his life to know that you understood what he was going through? You fucking asshole, you just didn’t want to talk about it.
I actually have a problem with both Brom’s characterization here and how Paolini handled the problem of keeping Eragon in the dark for plot purposes. Brom could have saved them both so much trouble if he’d admitted from the beginning that he was once a Rider. He wouldn’t even have to tell Eragon everything; he could have kept the more personal stuff to himself and stuck to practical matters like magic and sword fighting. But no, he had to bottle up everything and jeopardize both Eragon’s training and life so he didn’t have to face his past. Meanwhile, Paolini basically shot himself in the foot by making one of the biggest amateur blunders an author can make: having a character withhold vital information for no good reason. He could have taken Brom’s reluctance to dredge up a painful past and made him into a more well-rounded character, but instead he went with a tired cliche that does nothing new with a familiar archetype.
All the problems I have with Brom would have made him a lot more interesting if Paolini had realized what he was doing and gone with it. A man intent on never reliving or sharing his past while attempting to teach a boy who is now connected to that past is a lot more interesting than the stereotype of the wise old mentor.
“After all this time I still grieve for my Saphira . . . and hate Galbatorix for what he tore from me.” His feverish eyes drilled into Eragon as he said fiercely, “Don’t let that happen to you. Don’t! Guard Saphira with your life, for without her it’s hardly worth living.”
Okay, wait a minute.
Galbatorix went mad because his first dragon died, which is explained by the telepathy/shared consciousness between dragons and their Riders. And in the next book Eragon learns to feel the consciousness of living things and can feel them die, so both Galbatorix and Brom probably felt their dragons dying. So, (a) why didn’t Brom also lose his mind, instead of just being a sad old man for the rest of his life, and (b) is Galbatorix the only Rider to ever have lost his dragon before? Or just the only one to have reacted that badly? And wouldn’t the other Riders have a little more sympathy if they share the same bonds with their own dragons and are well aware that he probably felt his dragon die?
Alagaësia needs some therapy.
Also, Brom’s sowing the seeds of some pretty unhealthy co-dependence there. Saphira is already possessive enough; there’s no need to get Eragon in on the act.
“It is the way of things . . . I must. Will you take my blessing?” Eragon bowed his head and nodded, overcome. Brom placed a trembling hand on his brow. “Then I give it to you. May the coming years bring you great happiness.” He motioned for Eragon to bend closer. Very quietly, he whispered seven words from the ancient language, then even more softly told him what they meant. “That is all I can give you. . . . Use them only in great need.”
I think this is supposed to be foreshadowing, but I’m pretty sure it’s just set-up for a deus-ex-machina (which will come from out of nowhere because no one is going to remember this when Paolini finally uses it). Also, way to not tell us what the words are – not that they’ll make any sense to me, but at least it might make this bit a touch more interesting, and then I’ll be sure you’re not just pulling something out of your ass at the last second.
Brom blindly turned his eyes to the ceiling. “And now,” he murmured, “for the greatest adventure of all. . . .”
Laziest. Last words. EVER.
The evening hours were young and the shadows long when Brom suddenly stiffened. Eragon called his name and cried for Murtagh’s help, but they could do nothing. As a barren silence dampened the air, Brom’s eyes locked with Eragon’s. Then contentment spread across the old man’s face, and a whisper of breath escaped his lips. And so it was that Brom the storyteller died.
How does silence “dampen the air”? Sense, make some!
We spent all this time establishing that Brom was more than Eragon originally thought he was, and yet he’s stilled labelled a storyteller in his final scene. Not a Rider, not a mentor or friend, but a storyteller. Way to ignore over two hundred pages of character development there.
With shaking fingers, Eragon closed Brom’s eyes and stood. Saphira raised her head behind him and roared mournfully at the sky, keening her lamentation. Tears rolled down Eragon’s cheeks as a sense of horrible loss bled through him. Haltingly, he said, “We have to bury him.”
“We might be seen,” warned Murtagh.
“I don’t care!”
I’m the designated hero, and I say paying my respects to an old man who barely seemed to tolerate my existence is more important than self preservation!
Don’t worry, Murtagh. Anyone who’s close enough to spot you has already heard Saphira give away your location.
They drag Brom’s body to the top of the hill, and Eragon uses magic to form the sandstone around Brom like a coffin. He even gives him an epitaph, which claims that Brom was “like a father to [him].” He was a pretty shitty father, in that case.
That night he dreamed of the imprisoned woman again.
He could tell that something was wrong with her. Her breathing was irregular, and she shook – whether from cold or pain, he did not know. In the semidarkness of the cell, the only thing clearly illuminated was her hand, which hung over the edge of the cot. A dark liquid dripped from the tips of her fingers. Eragon knew it was blood.
Oh no, Eragon’s love interest is in danger! Better run off toward the next plot point!