Let’s Read Eragon ch. 14 – 15

eragon_book_cover

Chapter 14: A Rider’s Blade

Eragon wakes up following Garrow’s death, and is sad.

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?

Have I mentioned that Eragon doesn’t sound like a teenager? Because he really doesn’t sound like a teenager. Or an adult, if we’re being honest.

The worth is in the act. Your worth halts when you surrender the will to change and experience life. But options are before you; choose one and dedicate yourself to it. The deeds will give you new hope and purpose.
But what can I do?
The only true guide is your heart. Nothing less than its supreme desire can help you.

Are Eragon and Saphira going to talk like this for the whole book? They are, aren’t they?

Saphira suggests that they pursue the Stormtroopers strangers who killed Garrow (because it’s their destiny to achieve the impossible, or something) and after a bit of coaxing he agrees.

Doubt besieged him. It would be such a wild, desperate thing to do. Contempt for his indecision rose, and a harsh smile danced on his lips.

NONE OF THESE EMOTIONS MAKE SENSE

Nothing is more dangerous than an enemy with nothing to lose, he thought. Which is what I have become.

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Eragon steals some leather for a saddle and some meat. When he retreats to the forest to make preparations for Adventure he’s accosted by Brom, who reveals (“reveals” since we already worked it out ages ago) that he knows Eragon has a dragon.

Don’t fool with me. I know where that mark on your hand, the gedwëy ignasia, the shining palm, comes from

Your garden variety fantasy author sticks apostrophes everywhere, but real masters of the craft use umlauts.

Brom can also use dragon telepathy to talk to Saphira, which boggles Eragon’s mind (he’s a former dragon rider, figure it out dude), and convinces her to trust him. Eragon reluctantly agrees to let him come along on their Dragon Adventure, and as they’re leaving Brom mutters ominously to himself for some reason.

“So . . . it starts again. But how and where will it end? My sight is veiled; I cannot tell if this be tragedy or farce, for the elements of both are here. . . . However it may be, my station is unchanged, and I . . .”

Why the hell would anyone say something like this to themselves? There’s literally no reason beyond delivering some mysterious dialogue to try and shore up the reader’s flagging attention. As a general rule, if your story has to go out of its way to tell us how interesting it is, it’s probably not very interesting at all.

“Greetings, Saphira. I am honored to meet you.” He twisted his hand in a strange
gesture and bowed.
I like him, said Saphira quietly.
Of course you do; everyone enjoys flattery.

This is the sort of stuff we could be doing with more of: less portentous as fuck faux-majestic Highe Fantasie dialogue, more endearing character moments where our protagonists seem like real people/dragons (in case you didn’t know, dragons are very personable in real life).

As the wreckage of the farm came into view, Brom’s eyebrows beetled with anger.

They what

The tip of Saphira’s tongue snaked out and tasted the air.

SfSH0YY

They go to a safe clearing in the woods, and Brom gives Eragon a cool fantasy sword (IT’S RED AND ITS BLADE NEVER DULLS) that once belonged to a Rider. This is what gets me about a lot of high fantasy: so much of it has pretensions toward some sort of cultural importance, but at the end of the day a lot of it boils down to LOOK AT THIS AWESOME SWORD IT’S CALLED HEARTSTABBER AND ITS BLADE WAS FORGED IN THE DEMON-MINES OF KAZUULTHROK AND IT SHOOTS LIGHTNING BOLTS. Even A Song of Ice and Fire gets in on the act to an extent.

Brom is cagey about where he got the sword and claims that anyone can learn dragon telepathy and it doesn’t mean anything if they’re able to do it, which sounds like a really clumsy way of trying to hide a super-obvious twist.

And the strangers are the most important thing I need to know about right
now. Do you have any idea who they are?”
Brom took a deep breath. “They are called the Ra’zac.

Enough with the fucking apostrophes.

Brom tells Eragon that the strangers are actually inhuman creatures called Ra’zac, which have beaks and oh who am I kidding they’re wring-wraiths or Nazgul or whatever the fuck those things from Lord of The Rings are.

There’s a long, rambling conversation about how Galbatorix knew about Saphira’s existence, then another long rambling conversation about, like, whatever, it’s not interesting, who cares. The upshot is that Brom knows more than he’s letting on but won’t tell Eragon who he is.

Chapter 15: Saddlemaking

That’s an odd way of spelling “adventure” but okay, I’m sure this is where things get exciting.

When Eragon’s eyes opened, the memory of Garrow’s death crashed down on him. He pulled the blankets over his head and cried quietly under their warm darkness. It felt good just to lie there . . . to hide from the world outside. Eventually the tears stopped. He cursed Brom.

Wait, what? Why is he cursing Brom?

Brom announces airily that he knows how to make a dragon saddle. Eragon amazingly doesn’t remark on this, even though you’d think he’d put two and two together– the dude knows all about the Riders, including information that’s apparently been expunged for ages, he has a Rider’s sword, and he knows how to make a saddle for a creature thought to be nearly extinct. The saddle thing is actually way more of a give-away than any of those other facts.

I’m going to skip over the vast majority of this because it’s just a massive infodump about the design and construction of the saddle, but here’s a little sample:

The main part of the saddle was assembled from three identical sections sewn together with padding between them. Attached to the front was a thick loop that would fit snugly around one of Saphira’s neck spikes, while wide bands sewn on either side would wrap around her belly and tie underneath.

The entire day is spent on this; afterward Eragon and Brom plan out their pursuit of the Ra’zac, then they go to sleep for the night. In fact, a huge number of chapters end with Eragon either sleeping or blacking out, and start with him waking up; someone pointed this out in a comment on the previous post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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19 thoughts on “Let’s Read Eragon ch. 14 – 15

  1. Cameron

    I never get tired of your read-throughs. I’m more excited about your (eventual) “Doors of Stone” read-through than I am about the actual book coming out.

    Reply
  2. reveen

    I think with Eragon specifically the overblown pretentious dialogue and narration comes from the Lord of the Rings movies, the first obviously, since it came out a year beforehand, and Two Towers especially for the later novels. These movies did the same thing, but the combination between actors, music, and how they were shot gave the portentous schtick feeling, and put some real emotion and verve behind it, which this kid is trying to emulate with prose.

    It can work, I think even GRRM of all people makes it work at parts, even though it’s not his schtick. But if it’s execution is anything less than awesome it becomes laughable.

    Reply
    1. Andrea Harris

      I’m pretty sure most of the overblown, pretentious dialogue comes from the fact that it was written by a teenager. The dialogue in the LOTR movies was pretty straightforward compared to the gibbering quoted here.

      Reply
  3. autobaan

    Infodump about saddle making? Why do books do that sort of stuff? To show off that they did the research?

    I have trouble keeping awake when reading detailed descriptions of magic systems in fantasy novels, how did he even think it was a good idea to go on about saddle making?

    Reply
    1. Ben

      Honestly, having read plenty of medieval chronicles, I wonder if this is yet another thing that was used by Tolkien for a feel of authenticity in his fiction and then exaggerated into its current form. Medieval chroniclers, especially churchmen, generally go into the amount of description consummate with the importance of the thing being described to them personally and not to the history that they’re writing. For instance, one of the earliest chronicles of the First Crusade has a step-by-step description of how to build a siege ladder using deerskin; its clerical author clearly knew how and thought it was an important skill that deserved mention, even if it interrupted the narrative of siege for several pages.

      Also, yeah, it’s probably about showing off, too.

      Reply
      1. Signatus

        I’m going for the “showing off”. I understand why a chronicler might find that detail important, after all he is writing down historical events. This has actually helped us a bunch to understand how they lived many centuries before us.

        Paolini is not writing an account of any historical event. From what I’ve read, I think he actually described katana forging technique to work on a european style sword (unsure whether it’s a claymore or a one handed sword). Katanas were forged that way because (again, from what I’ve read which hasn’t been much) the tamahagane steel is of low quality with many impurities and low carbon content. That forced japanese smiths to fold it many times in order to push out the impurities and even out the carbon content. However, the result was a brittle, delicate sword that would dent easily.

        Also, Paolini is using a meteor to forge this sword. Meteors are not magical things from the sky, they’re the construction bricks of planets and contain pretty much what your own planet does. Unless this meteor is made of raw iridium, the sword would pretty much be made of simple iron, maybe steel if the carbon content in the meteor was the right one, and whatever other components he might find (which is not always a good thing). Simple iron and steel would a simple sword make, not a special one. Even if we said; “oh, maybe the metal being used is iridium.” I really want to see how Eragon and his dragon managed to melt that. Iridium has a melting point of over 2400 ºC.

        So Paolini read a book about japanese swordsmithing and thought we all would be as fascinated as he was by it and decided to portray it in his book through the forging of a european style sword. That is research fail, Paolini.

        Reply
        1. Signatus

          Edit To Add (if that were possible)- I know this chapter here is about saddles, not swords, but it seems like Paolini’s tendency to throw unnecessary descriptions at us only increases with each book, as does his tendency to use more and more flowery language.

          The icing of the cake for me was the sword chapter in book three. 15 pages of swordcrafting. 15 pages of something I’m not even interested on. A writer must learn to differ between what pushes his passion and what made his readers passionate about his books. I’m passionate about dogs, but a step by step of dog training lesson expanded throughout a whole chapter would probably bore my readers. Those who might be interested already KNOW about it. Those who don’t are probably NOT interested in it. Focus on the story, not on menial details.

          Less is more. A simple, “Brom helped and taught Eragon how to create and take care of a dragon saddle.” would have sufficed.

          Reply
      2. Andrea Harris

        I don’t recall Tolkien using a lot of that sort of thing in his books. Did you mean Paolini?

        Reply
        1. Ben

          Tolkien didn’t use it a lot, but he had chronicler-like asides that have definitely been blown up into “every object in this world should have a three-century backstory” by his imitators, just like the handful of verse that he included becoming a mandate that any proper fantasy work should have multiple drawn-out poetry readings.

          Reply
          1. Andrea Harris

            Oh yes, the Tolkienites are the definitive example of taking a good thing and ruining it by making everyone sick of it. I’m lukewarm on Tolkien’s “poetry” in the books anyway, but contemporary writers, with very few exceptions, can not write it, because they didn’t grow up when Tolkien did, and they just have no feel for it, and it all comes out sounding like bad Hollywood musical lyrics.

  4. Hal

    I just now realized that “gedwëy ignasia” is probably just the words “gateway insignia” but fantasy’d to hell and back.

    Reply
  5. Vartul

    I actually loved this book as a child. I mean, freaking dragons! And swords, and magic!
    It is sad that it suffers so much with age. Some of my favourite books are those that grew up with me, that hid layers of complexity and depth beneath their simple facade. If only this was one of them.

    Reply
  6. Aaron A.O. (@AaronAO)

    “This is what gets me about a lot of high fantasy: so much of it has pretensions toward some sort of cultural importance, at the end of the day a lot of it boils down to LOOK AT THIS AWESOME SWORD IT’S CALLED HEARTSTABBER AND ITS BLADE WAS FORGED IN THE DEMON-MINES OF KAZUULTHROK AND IT SHOOTS LIGHTNING BOLTS.”

    Isn’t that true to a lot of the myths and folklore that Tolkien used as inspiration to write the LOTR, and thus all of the derivative ripoffs that have followed him?

    Reply
    1. Hal

      Kind of, kind of not. There’s, like, legendary swords and stuff, but one of the characteristics of old myths and stuff is that they’re almost underplayed compared to the bombastic nature of most fantasy nowadays. Here’s the first description of Roland’s equipment from the Chanson de Roland:

      “Count Roland sprang to a hill – top’s height, And donned his peerless armor bright; Laced his helm, for a baron made; Girt Durindana, gold – hilted blade; Around his neck he hung the shield, With flowers emblazoned was the field; Nor steed but Veillantif will ride; And he grasped his lance with its pennon’s pride.”

      Durandal is a very expensive, very good sword (later there’s a passage about how it’s worth more than gold and there’s some general references to its quality), but in general, there’s not a ton of emphasis on it.

      Here’s a description of Hrunting from Beowulf:

      “Its blade was of iron, blotted with poison,
      Hardened with gore; it failed not in battle”

      Again, there’s emphasis on its quality and worth, but it’s not like, a red blade that drips with magic forged in the Volcano Of Phallic Imagery or whatever. The magic swords in mythology and folklore are generally just nicer versions of weapons contemporary readers/listeners would be familiar with. They don’t need to emphasize the specialness so much, because the special quality of these weapons is more of a reflection of the wielder’s glory than the weapon itself. In modern fantasy fiction, the protagonists are generally dull and unremarkable, so their equipment has to be all video gamey to compensate.

      Reply
        1. Signatus

          In some cases a weapon becomes legendary not because of its quality or how special it is, or how magical it is. For example, Tizona, the Cid’s sword, became legendary because of who it belonged to. The man did not became legendary because he owned the legendary sword, the normal, everyday sword became legendary because it belonged to a legendary man.

          It would be nice if fantasy authors exploited that more and stopped making characters an extension of their legendary swords.

          Reply
    2. braak

      yeah something interesting that’s overlooked by most modern fantasy authors is that the reason folkloric swords don’t have special properties (i.e. can cut a mountain, dripping with dragon’s blood, &c) is because having a good sword was miraculous enough in Olde Time Dayes.

      “Hey, that Beowulf’s sword didn’t break for like ten battles and he’s still got it, do you think it’s magic?”
      “Must be, mine got stuck in a shield at the last one and I haven’t seen it since.”

      Reply
  7. Signatus

    “Nothing is more dangerous than an enemy with nothing to lose”

    According to one of my career professors, the most dangerous enemies are those that have something to loose as they will be the ones with something to fight for. Those that have nothing to loose don’t have anything to fight for, so why bother?

    I happen to agree with him.

    For all the deep thoughts Paolini seems to be trying to convey in his characters and he sure has fallen for the biggest cliché ever.

    “This is the sort of stuff we could be doing with more of”

    There are a lot of authors like that, who seem to think big words and deep thoughts equals great writing. I know Dresden Files is not much appreciated around this region but a think I enjoyed about it was that Harry sounded like a real person, with real problems (more or less), and not some biblical figure.

    Sometimes we just need a real person. Writing is not always about conveying deep, Facebook philosophy sentences into your character’s lips. Eragon is a farmboy. He might be a bright farmboy, but a farmboy nonetheless. He doesn’t even know how to read, so why would he be having this kind of deep thoughts about how life doesn’t have a meaning? (spoiler; it doesn’t, deal with it, Eragon). My grandma was a townswoman who never went to school, her father died during the war and she was forced to work since very young. My grandfather has grown ill with senile dementia, and my grandmother wonders why God would punish her and prays to the Virgin Mary for a miracle. No matter how much you try to explain the nature of the disease she doesn’t understand. But when you talk with her about plants and how to better take care of roses over tomatoes, and this kind of stuff, she knows a lot.

    Eragon would be not much different than that, and he would be a farm more interesting character if he was a bright hunter, knowing of the nature around him, about how to seek out and stalk his prey, how to better hunt down deer and boar, how to recognize between and old trail and a young trail. He wouldn’t have such deep thoughts about the meaning of life, but truth is we don’t need them. We need realistic characters that fit in with who they’re supposed to be.

    “but won’t tell Eragon who he is.”

    For no reason at all. I hate this in books.

    “The entire day is spent on this;”

    In book 3 he spends something around 15 pages forging a sword. Look, I’m no master writer or anything but I assume that, if my readers wanted to read about behaviour modification, they’d pick up a book from Ian Dunbar or Patricia McConell, not some fantasy/adventure stuff from a nobody. It’s not bad to include this kind of stuff in your world, and it’s even better when you’ve done your research, but overdoing it to include a step by step of how a sword is forged is not the best way to go.

    Reply

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