Christopher Paolini's family self-published the first edition of Eragon in 2002, when the writer was only a teenager. Paolini, who began the first draft of the book at fifteen, did not have to wait long for Eragon to become his first literary success. He began with a self-directed book tour, sometimes performing readings dressed in medieval costume. Soon enough his work got the attention of publisher Alfred A. Knopf, and his fantasy epic about a young boy and a dragon was a bestseller by the time Paolini was nineteen years old. Originally planned as a trilogy, the series was then expanded to include four books, dubbed “The Inheritance Cycle.”
Paolini's story follows a young boy who is unaware of his fate to become the savior of Alagaësia. Eragon finds a dragon egg while hunting one day, little aware that his life will never be the same again. The story follows Eragon's extensive travels over the land, which is mapped at the beginning of the novel, and includes adventures such as bloody battles, high-flying chases, and intricate sword fights. Paolini also invents several languages in the book, including an ancient language and a dwarf language. Because of his traditional plot devices and character development, his writing has been criticized for being rather conventional. Despite similarities to J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series and other fantasy and science fiction novels, Paolini has been credited with the depth and range of his imagination, leading to a successful film adaptation released
in 2006. The second novel in the series, Eldest, appeared in 2005, and the third, Brisingr, is scheduled for publication in 2008. Paolini cites the beautiful surroundings of his home in Paradise Valley, Montana, as a great inspiration for his writing.
Christopher Paolini started his bestselling first novel, Eragon, while only fifteen years old. Having been homeschooled in Paradise Valley, Montana, Paolini graduated from high school early, via correspondence, and launched his successful writing career. Writing his first and second drafts in two years, the young author published an early version of his novel through his family's own publishing company and then traveled on a self-directed book tour. His big break came when the stepson of a prominent writer purchased the book Eragon; the boy's stepfather spoke with his editor at publisher Alfred A. Knopf, and Paolini's career was launched.
Born in Southern California in 1983, Paolini says he was always a fan of science fiction and is particularly influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien and Bruce Coville. He also cites the natural beauty of his Montana home as providing inspiration for his writing.
Originally planning to write a trilogy based on the young Dragon Rider Eragon, Paolini changed his plans and decided to expand the series and include a fourth novel. Knopf published Eragon in 2002, followed by Eldest in 2005. Sales for Eragon topped $425,000 in the first week and earned Paolini the Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award in 2006. The third book proved too long for one novel and will be written as two, with the first called Brisingr and scheduled for publication in 2008; no titles or publication dates have been released for the final book. Dubbed “The Inheritance Cycle,” Paolini's epic fantasy tale proved so successful that in 2006 it was made into a Hollywood movie starring Jeremy Irons and John Malkovitch.
The Shade leads a group of savage Urgals to ambush a lady-elf and her companions. As they lie in wait for the elf, the stench of the Urgals warns the party of their danger, but the elf's companions are killed anyway. The elf escapes briefly, but once cornered by the Shade, takes a blue stone and makes herself disappear before she is taken prisoner. The Shade kills the Urgals in his rage and vows revenge.
While hunting, Eragon witnesses a fiery explosion that leaves a burnt circle on the ground. In the middle of the circle lies a blue stone, and although Eragon is wary of any magic that might be involved, he decides to take the stone in case he can sell it. Though no one in town can identify the stone, Sloan the butcher almost buys it from Eragon, until he finds out it was found in the mysterious mountain range, the Spine. Eragon's friend Horst buys meat for him when Sloan refuses to sell any to the boy.
Eragon's past is revealed. His mother came to the house of Garrow and Marian when she was pregnant, begging them to raise her baby. She left soon after Eragon's birth, and he never saw her again; Eragon never knew the identity of his father.
Roran, Eragon, and Garrow harvest their vegetables quickly, then must wait for the traders to arrive in Carvahall. When the traders come, Eragon also brings the stone to them but no one recognizes it. At the carnival-like festivities that night, Brom the storyteller tells about the Dragon Riders and their demise by King Galbatorix. He seems, at times, to speak directly to Eragon. Later that night Eragon wonders about the stone and whether he was supposed to find it, and while he sleeps, the stone hatches a dragon. Upon first touching it, Eragon receives a silver mark on his hand. He and the dragon can communicate with their minds. When Eragon visits Brom to ask more about dragons, he learns that the first Dragon Rider, an elf also named Eragon, forged a peace between the elves and the dragons by raising a friendly dragon. Brom explains that dragons are magical creatures that allow their Riders to live long lives. It is clear that Eragon is destined to become this dragon's rider.
Roran announces that he will leave to be a miller, earning money enough to ask Katrina to marry him. He will return in the spring. Eragon continues visiting his dragon, whom he learns is a female and who chooses the name Saphira. She comforts Eragon in his sadness over Roran's leaving. Garrow offers advice to Roran as he goes, and Eragon accompanies his cousin to Carvahall on his way out of town. While there, Eragon learns that some mysterious men are looking for the blue stone. He then faces a surprise attack. When Brom saves him, he notices the silver mark on Eragon's hand and seems pleased.
Saphira becomes very upset when she hears of the dark men in Carvahall and flies Eragon far away despite his concern for Garrow's safety. When Eragon finally convinces Saphira to fly back, he arrives to find his home destroyed and Garrow gravely injured. Brom helps as Eragon struggles to get Garrow to the healer; Eragon himself faints on the way there. Garrow's burns seem magical because they won't heal. Eragon has strange dreams and then awakes at night to find that Garrow has died.
Eragon and Saphira decide to hunt down Garrow's murderers. Eragon steals some supplies from the town. While Eragon is preparing, Brom shows up and offers to join him, which Eragon accepts when he learns that Brom can also speak with Saphira. Brom gives Eragon a sword called Zar'roc and promises to share much knowledge with him—although he will also keep some secrets. According to Brom, the men who killed Garrow, called Ra'zac, are non-magical dragon hunters for King Galbatorix. As they prepare to hunt the Ra'zac, Brom makes a saddle for Saphira and warns that the king will soon hunt her and Eragon.
As they travel, Brom teaches Eragon about dragons, explaining that they choose the one for whom they will hatch. He also begins training Eragon in swordfighting. When they arrive at Yuzuac, they find that Urgals have killed everyone in the village and piled them on top of each other. Eragon is so upset that when he encounters two Urgals, he unwittingly uses magic and destroys them with fire. Brom begins explaining the rules of magic, including the fact that magic saps the user's energy and can kill the user if he or she abuses the rules. Eragon also learns that all Dragon Riders have magic, but that their use of magic is limited by their knowledge of an ancient language. Eragon begins practicing magic by raising a pebble. He also has unsettling dreams about his uncle and cousin.
When Bromand Eragon arrive in Darret, the people are fearful of an Urgal attack. They only buy supplies and then leave quickly. Saphira demands that Eragon ride her instead of traveling on horseback, because she wants to protect him, and Eragon agrees. Eragon's swordfighting has developed so much that Brom now allows him to use his own sword, with the blade protected.
They find evidence that the Ra'zac travel by flying horse and use flesh-burning oil. The oil offers them a way to track the Ra'zac, so they determine to find where the oil is imported into Alagaësia. They head for Teirm, and Brom sings an elven song along the way. Once in Teirm, they learn that the city has been struggling because ships carrying supplies mysteriously disappear. Brom's old friend Jeod gives them a place to stay, but Eragon feels left out of most of their conversations so he uses magic to eavesdrop. With Jeod, Brom, and Eragon decide to break into a record room in the castle in order to examine shipping documents that may lead to the Ra'zac's location. They also decide that Eragon must learn to read.
When exploring Teirm, Eragon visits Angela's herb shop and encounters her werecat, Solembum, who can speak through his mind and knows he is a Rider. Angela tells Eragon's fortune, explaining that he will live a long life, will have the opportunity for true happiness, will grieve the loss of a loved one, will leave Alagaësia forever, and will find true love with someone of royal birth. Eragon keeps his fortune to himself, but goes back to Jeod's house and begins learning to read. Before leaving Teirm, Eragon has a strange dream about a crying woman.
While Bromand Eragon sneak into the castle to inspect shipping records, Solembum warns them that the guards are looking for them. They barely escape and determine to head to Dras Leona to find the Ra'zac. When they leave Teirm, Eragon presses Brom to explain some of his mysterious past. He says that the Varden and the Empire are warring over the next generation of Dragon Riders, that Saphira's egg was stolen from the Empire's set of three, and that Eragon will have to choose where his loyalties will lie. Later, Eragon jumps across some water and breaks his wrist, but he also stumbles upon Urgal tracks. Eragon faces the Urgals, and they see Saphira for the first time. Misjudging his own strength, Eragon kills the Urgals with magic but faints from the effort, causing Saphira to carry him back to Brom. Brom expresses anger at Eragon's impetuousness in showing the Urgals the dragon and revealing his magical abilities.
They continue on their journey to Dras Leona, with Eragon learning to swordfight with his left hand because of his broken right wrist. Eragon bests Brom in one of their fights, revealing that Eragon has gained much strength. Brom emphasizes the pitfalls of fighting exclusively with magic.
They arrive in Dras Leona, and the poverty of much of the city appalls Eragon. They track the deadly oil to a place called Helgrind and plan to impersonate the slaves who deliver supplies there. As they prepare to go to Helgrind, Eragon witnesses a slave auction. Eragon is repulsed by the slave trade and no longer questions his next move: he decides to join the Varden and fight the evil Empire. After entering Helgrind, Eragon is confronted by the Ra'zac and flees the city with Brom. They barely outrun the soldiers, using magic as they ride out of town. Once in safety, Eragon mysterious falls unconscious.
The Ra'zac attack, and Eragon and Brom are in danger until arrows begin flying from a mysterious location. Running away, the Ra'zac throw a dagger at Eragon and Brom jumps in its path; Eragon hears footsteps before passing out. When he awakes, he meets the man who saved him, a loner named Murtagh. With Saphira's help, Eragon tries to heal Brom but besides exhausting himself, he cannot fully heal the deep wound. Murtagh and Eragon decide to have Saphira fly Brom to a cave for safety. Brom, knowing he is going to die, reveals secrets to Eragon. He tells Eragon to protect his dragon above all else because life is too long as a Rider to be without such a close friend; Brom's dragon, also named Saphira, died long ago, and he has been extremely lonely ever since. Brom also explains that he was friends with Morzan before he was one of the Forsworn. He gives Eragon his blessing and then dies. Grieving, Eragon makes a tomb for Brom. Murtagh explains that he is neither loyal to the Empire nor to the Varden, and that Zar'roc once belonged to Morzan. Saphira then explains that Brom told her many things before he died, one of which was how to contact the Varden. She then touches Brom's tomb, and it transforms into diamond. Eragon continues to worry about the crying woman from his dream.
Murtagh and Eragon travel to Gil'ead, which is about a month's distance. Along the way, the two get to know each other, and Murtagh explains all about imperial politics. They also swordfight, and find that they are evenly matched. Eragon thinks more about the woman in the cell and tries to discern her location. Soon after they arrive in Gil'ead, they are attacked by Urgals, and Eragon is captured. He awakes in a cell and feels drugged. From his prison window, he sees the elf-woman from his dreams being led into the same prison. After deciding that there are drugs in the food and water, he does not touch them in an effort to regain a clear head and thus his magic. During this time, the Shade visits him and attempts to discover his secrets. Eragon fools him into thinking he is still drugged, and when he gets his magic back, uses it to escape his cell. He has to fight soldiers, and Murtagh shows up just in time to help him escape. Eragon refuses to leave without the elf, however, and their flight is slowed down when they face the Shade again. When Eragon fights him, he finds that Brom was right and that Shades are much stronger than regular men. Murtagh shoots an arrow between the Shade's eyes and he vanishes. Saphira arrives and saves them by coming through the ceiling.
Saphira helps Eragon, Murtagh, and the elf reach safety. The elf is unconscious and covered with burns and scars, evidence of torture. As Eragon heals the elf's wounds, he vows revenge for her cruel treatment. He also shows evidence of a deep attraction to her. After using enormous energy to heal the elf, Eragon discusses their next step with Murtagh, and the two are frustrated by their options. They decide to go to the Hadarac Desert despite the grave difficulty of crossing such harsh terrain. Eragon puzzles over how to supply the group with adequate water without expending all his energy on magic. They race to the desert, avoiding soldiers in every city, and must cross the Ramr River before they will be safe. Saphira flies each of them over the river, including the two horses. Once in the desert, Eragon is able to extract water from the sand using a minimal amount of magic, keeping them alive until they reach the Beor mountains.
In the mountains, Eragon is out of the Empire's territory and he feels free. Concerned that the elf is still unconscious, Eragon decides to enter her mind to let her know he means her no harm. She is much stronger than Eragon anticipates, however, and she controls him to the point of mental pain. She gives him directions about how to find the Varden and makes him vow upon death that he will not betray her. When he tells Murtagh the plan, they end up brawling because he does not approve. Saphira breaks them up, leading Murtagh to admit that the Varden will not accept him because of his father. The confession is interrupted by the appearance of an Urgal army, causing them to flee. They run into slavers in their flight, and Murtagh decapitates one of them, angering Eragon. The Urgals continue to pursue them, and Eragon flies with Saphira to find an escape route only to discover the Kull, an elite army of Urgals, are now in the Empire's service. When they cannot fend off the Urgals any longer, Murtagh realizes he will have to join the Varden. He confesses that his father was Morzan of the Forsworn and reiterates that the Varden will not accept him. They try to find the Varden anyway, swimming through a waterfall and almost being overtaken by the Urgals, as mysterious men and dwarves drag them into a cave.
Once inside the cave, the men probe Eragon's mind to determine his motives, and Saphira helps protect some of his memories. The dwarf Orik seems to welcome Eragon, while a bald man is greatly suspicious of him. Murtagh refuses to allow a mind probe, later telling Eragon how he was raised in the Empire and left once he realized how evil King Galbatorix is. He refuses to join the Varden. Eragon is paraded on Saphira into the underground city of Tronjheim, drawing a large crowd of people and dwarves to cheer, although he also notices some skepticism. The city boasts beautiful carvings, tapestries, and jewels.
Eragon and Murtagh meet with the Varden leader Ajihad. When Ajihad learns Murtagh's identity, he sends him to prison but seems to protect him at the same time. Eragon then tells Ajihad his story in detail, and Ajihad explains the complex politics associated with the Varden, including fragile alliances with the dwarves and elves. He tells Eragon to be careful because the people will look to him for leadership, and the different factions will seek his allegiance. Dismissed from Ajihad, Eragon and Saphira are well cared for, with comfortable accommodations and plenty of food. Eragon is approached by a mother, and he reluctantly blesses her baby. Confused by their new surroundings, Saphira says, “It seems, Eragon, that we are embroiled in a new type of warfare here. Swords and claws are useless, but words and alliances may have the same effect.” Solembum surprisingly appears in the dragonhold and leads Eragon to Angela, who recently moved into the Varden city. She knows much about the history of Dragon Riders and the Varden and seems mysteriously powerful.
Eragon meets with the dwarf king Hrothgar, who is cautious but generally supportive of the new Dragon Rider. When he leaves Hrothgar, Eragon goes to the library and is confronted by the twins. Also, Ajihad's daughter brings him news that he is permitted to visit Murtagh.
The Varden prepare to fight the Urgals when they discover that they are close to being attacked. They plan to collapse many of the tunnels so the Urgals will enter through a strategic path of the Varden's choosing. The battle will determine the survival of the resistance. Eragon and Saphira are suited in elaborate dwarf-made armor, and Eragon tells Arya, the elf-woman he rescued, to remain safe. They all wait, anticipating battle.
The Urgals arrive and fall into the traps the Varden have set, but still the battle rages and there are too many Urgals to contain. Flying with Saphira, Eragon gains an aerial view and he tracks the progress of three different battles. When Saphira is attacked, Arya helps her and Eragon to the dragonhold to recuperate. Eragon slides down from the hold and faces Durza, the Shade. During their fight, Eragon enters his mind and learns of his troubled past, but Durza still bests him and slices his back with a sword. When Eragon fails, Saphira and Arya burst through the Star Sapphire high up in the drag-onhold, sending thousands of shards falling from the sky and distracting Durza long enough for Eragon to stab him through the heart. Eragon faints just after Durza dies.
While unconscious, Eragon is saved from the overwhelming evil of the Shade's mind by the Mourning Sage and the Cripple Who Is Whole. They call to Eragon, telling him they can provide answers if he comes to Ellesméra. Eragon feels proud that he fought valiantly and without pledging allegiance to anyone. When he awakens, Murtagh details how the Urgals defeated themselves when Durza's evil spirit left. Eragon is happy that the Varden won, sad that he now bears a lasting scar on his back.
Leader of the Varden, Ajihad is known for his wise and just decisions. He accepts Eragon, provides him protection, and advises him about his power. He finds solutions for disputes among his people by maintaining justice and a respect for the spirit of the law.
Angela the Herbalist
Angela is a witch of mysterious power, who owns an herbalist shop in Teirm. She has a werecat who speaks with Eragon through his mind. Angela offers to tell Eragon's fortune—a favor that he accepts after learning that Angela also told Eragon's mother's fortune years before. Eragon's fortune speaks of great adventure and deep loss. Angela reappears later in Tronjheim with the Varden and fights against the Urgals at the end of the novel.
- Eragon was released in an unabridged version on audio CD by Listening Library in 2004. Gerard Doyle narrates. This CD is widely available through bookstores and online merchants.
- Eragon was adapted as a film in 2006, starring Edward Speelers, Jeremy Irons, and John Malkovitch, and was directed by Stefen Fangmeier. Running 103 minutes and rated PG, the 2007 DVD version is available from 20th Century Fox.
- Eldest was released in an unabridged audio CD version by Listening Library in 2005, with Gerard Doyle reprising his role as narrator. This CD is widely available through bookstores and online merchants.
Arya is an elf and the primary female character in the book, appearing in the first pages as the keeper of the dragon egg. When she is ambushed by the Shade, she chooses to send the egg to safety and sacrifice herself. She becomes Durza's prisoner and undergoes severe torture for most of the novel. Eragon has visions of Arya in her prison cell throughout his travels, although he does not know her identity until later in the story. By the end of the novel, it is clear that Arya and Eragon have a deep connection—one that Arya seeks to protect with her refined skills in magic and swordplay. She pledges to guard and defend Eragon because he saved her life, and she comes to his rescue in the final battle. Her role of Eragon's guardian overturns the traditional gender roles of the male rescuer of a damsel in distress. Eragon's fortune speaks of a deeply passionate relationship, and readers are left to assume the fortune refers to Arya:
An epic romance is in your future…. I cannot say if this passion will end happily, but your love is of noble birth and heritage. She is powerful, wise, and beautiful beyond compare.
Introduced as Carvahall's town storyteller, Brom's mysterious past unfolds as he journeys across the land with Eragon. After saving the young boy from a Ra'zac attack, Brom asks to be included in Eragon's journey to avenge Garrow's life. Along the way, Brom's wisdom in matters of magic and strategy become apparent, earning him his student's trust. By the time he dies in battle, Brom's history as a Dragon Rider, his triumphant defeat of Morzan, and his protection of dragon eggs are revealed. Brom becomes a father-figure to Eragon, teaching him the skills—from reading to swordplay—that he will need to be a successful Dragon Rider. Brom corrects and admonishes Eragon throughout his education. At one point, Eragon repeats the cycle of all fathers and sons where he finally physically bests his elder; Brom is a skilled swordsman, but the young Dragon Rider overtakes him after some time. When Brom is killed while saving Eragon from a dagger, Eragon makes his mentor a tomb on a cliff, and Saphira turns it to diamond.
Also known as the Shade, Durza opens the novel by capturing Arya and slaying her companions. He tortures Arya and hunts Eragon for most of the story, nearly killing them both. A Shade is a sorcerer that becomes possessed by evil spirits and cannot be free even if he chooses. By the end of the book, Durza's story is told, revealing his painful childhood and then his possession. His real name is Carsaib, and he is nearly killed by Murtagh but ultimately faces death by Eragon's sword.
Eragon begins the story as a simple farm boy and ends as the potential savior of the kingdom of Alagaësia. Eragon lives with his uncle and cousin in Carvahall after his mother abandons him there soon after his birth. His fate is revealed when he finds a blue stone while hunting. The stone eventually hatches Saphira, the dragon, and Eragon's adventures begin. When the Empire learns of Eragon's dragon, the boy is hunted by the magical Ra'zac and the brutal Urgals. While trying to avenge his uncle's death, Eragon learns of the Dragon Riders from his mentor, Brom, once a Rider himself. He discovers that his namesake was the first elf to raise a friendly dragon, thus creating a fragile peace between the warring elven people and the race of dragons. Learning of his fate, the young Eragon undergoes impromptu training in history, magic, and swordplay under Brom's guidance; Saphira also grows during this time, and her telepathic connection with Eragon becomes an intimate friendship. Eragon relies on Saphira for both physical protection and intellectual wisdom as he faces challenge after challenge. After Brom's death, Eragon declares, “From this moment on, I'll live by the sword. Let the whole world see what I am. I have no fear. I am a Rider now, fully and completely.” Eragon ultimately must face the charging forces of the Empire, the Urgals and the Kull, in addition to the Shade, in order to begin destroying the power of evil King Galbatorix.
King Galbatorix rules the Empire with evil and aggression. He was recruited as a Dragon Rider because of his skill and thus learned fighting and magic according to the Riders' tradition. He was reckless, though, and once his dragon was killed, his madness led him to blame the Riders themselves for his fate. He destroyed the Dragon Riders a century ago by recruiting the minto his evil service and dubbing them the Forsworn. He has two dragon eggs that remain unhatched, but Saphira's egg avoided his capture when Arya sent it to Carvahall. His power can only be threatened by a new generation of Dragon Riders, so he tracks Eragon and Saphira mercilessly. He establishes alliances with the most evil of creatures, including the Shade, Durza, and the Urgals. Eragon knows he will have to face King Galbatorix eventually, but this confrontation does not occur in the first book.
Eragon's uncle, Garrow, raises his nephew alone after his own wife, Marian, dies. He is tough but fair, and his death by the Ra'zac sends Eragon on his journey out of Carvahall to avenge his murder.
Horst is a rich friend of Eragon's family who lives in town. He saves Eragon's life during his argument with Sloan and gives him some much-needed meat to bring home to the family. Eragon pledges to work off the debt by being his assistant in the next year.
Hrothgar is king of the dwarves and fights mightily in the final battle with the Urgals. He asks Eragon's intentions toward the Empire and warns, “If you wish the support of the dwarves within my realm, you must first prove yourself to them. We have long memories and do not rush to hasty decisions. Words will decide nothing, only deeds.”
Queen of the elves, Islanzadi does not appear in the story, but is spoken of by Ajihad and the Varden. She is suspicious of humans, wanting Saphira's dragon egg to hatch for an elf, and will need convincing to trust Eragon.
Jeod is Brom's old friend from his days as a Dragon Rider. He lives in Teirm and houses Brom and Eragon as they search for the Varden. He lives with an unhappy wife, Helen.
The Mourning Sage
The Mourning Sage appears at the end of the story, when Eragon is in a coma-like state. The Sage calls to Eragon through his mind, and tells him to come to Ellesméra. She protects Eragon's mind when he is overcome with evil from the Shade, and she implores, “Come to me, Eragon, for I have answers to all you ask. You will not be safe until you find me.”
Murtagh is a loner who saves Eragon from a Ra'zac attack and becomes Eragon's trusted companion after Brom dies. His troubled past haunts him. He is the son of Morzan, the first Dragon Rider to betray his calling and become loyal to King Galbatorix. When he was a boy, Murtagh's father Morzan tossed his sword at him and gave him a scar across the length of his back. Murtagh is committed to Eragon's safety but resists finding the Varden because of his legacy. The Varden indeed distrust Murtagh, but his identity remains hidden so that he is able to fight in the final battle against the Urgals.
Orik, a dwarf, saves Eragon from drowning outside the Varden's hiding place and also serves as his guide within Tronjheim. He is King Hrothgar's nephew and defends Eragon from the aggressive twin brothers who serve Ajihad.
The Ra'zac kill Garrow in the Empire's hunt for Eragon and his dragon. They are not human, have an aversion to sunlight, and cannot perform magic. But, Brom warns, “Don't make the mistake of underestimating a Ra'zac, for they are cunning and full of guile…. they are the king's personal dragon hunters.”
Roran is Eragon's older cousin, with whom he lives in Carvahall. They interact like brothers, so Roran's decision to leave home to work with a miller and earn money for marriage upsets Eragon. Roran intends to marry Sloan's daughter, Katrina. After he leaves, Roran does not appear again in the book.
Saphira is Eragon's dragon, a female and the first dragon hatched for the new generation of Dragon Riders. She can fly, breathe fire, fight bravely, and reason well. The blue egg that Eragon found in the mountains was a century old, but chose to hatch specifically for the farm boy, and Saphira and Eragon establish an intimate relationship from the start. Having nearly free access to each other's minds, Saphira and Eragon discuss all the major and minor events of their journey through Alagaësia. Dragons are mysterious and magical, and can supplement their Rider's strength when necessary. The dragons themselves, however, do not always know the source or outcome of their powers. When Saphira transforms Brom's tomb to diamond, she explains,
Eragon…I've no more control over my abilities than a spider does. Things like that occur whether I will them or not. Brom told you that unusual events happen around dragons. He spoke truly. He gave no explanation for it, nor do I have one. Sometimes I can work changes by feel, almost without thought.
Sloan the Butcher
Sloan is a butcher in Carvahall and only appears in the early chapters of the story. Sloan is gruff and suspicious, and refuses to sell Eragon meat after a disagreement about the dragon egg. He is the jealous father of Katrina, whom Eragon's cousin Roran hopes to marry, and he betrays Eragon by telling the Ra'zac about his dragon egg.
Solembum is a werecat, a strange magical creature that can communicate with Eragon in his mind. He travels with Angela the herbalist, and appears to Eragon when he wants to lead him somewhere. At the end of the novel, he appears in Tronjheim with the Varden.
Bearing no specific names, the twins work for Ajihad and the Varden. They have limited magical abilities and try to learn words of the ancient language through cunning and intimidation. They are aggressive toward Eragon from his first appearance at Varden headquarters, and they mysteriously leave their post during the final battle with the Urgals.
Brutal warriors, the Urgals are less than human and difficult to kill. They are a race apart and generally remain independent of influence due to their savage reputation. By the end of the story, however, it becomes clear that King Galbatorix has lowered himself to creating an alliance with the Urgals, including the elite and giant Kull. Ajihad, leader of the Varden resistance, says, “I shudder to think of what he promised [the Urgals] in return for their fickle loyalty.”
Good versus Evil
King Galbatorix rules Alagaësia with an iron fist, first by destroying the virtuous Dragon Riders with blood and betrayal, and then by creating alliances with despicable creatures like the Urgals. His rule seems distant to Eragon while still on the farm with his uncle, but becomes closer to him as the story unfolds. Of course the battle is personal for the newest Dragon Rider because King Galbatorix kills his uncle and hunts him down. But it also grows into a moral battle when Eragon witnesses firsthand outrageous practices, desperate poverty, and slavery in Dras Leona. Eragon commits himself to fighting King Galbatorix for the wrongs he faces personally, but also for the many communal injustices he witnesses along his journey. He tells Hrothgar, the dwarf king, “I have grievances enough to fight the Empire until it is nothing but scattered ashes. More than that, though…. I want to aid those who cannot escape Galbatorix, including my cousin. I have strength enough to help, so I must.”
Eragon represents good in its most innocent form. He begins his adventure without any knowledge of the history or politics of the Empire. He is a young, orphaned farm boy hoping to bring home enough meat for his family to survive the winter. As he learns about his fate as the first Dragon Rider's namesake, he is initially reluctant but then grows in his willingness to take on the mantle of responsibility. He acts honorably when tested, even when he makes mistakes. King Galbatorix, on the other hand, represents many forms of evil. First, he rises to power by betraying his friends, even killing a Dragon Rider after his own life was spared. He also seeks to maintain his power at all costs, seeking to control and destroy all Riders and dragons that will not join him. His government brings death and destruction to the land, without concern even for defenseless women and children. The eventual confrontation between Eragon and King Galbatorix will indeed be the meeting of good and evil and will decide the fate of Alagaësia.
Eragon begins his epic journey out of sheer personal vengeance, vowing to kill the murderers of his uncle. But as he learns more about the evil Empire, Eragon feels pressure to join the fight. Brom especially urges Eragon to choose his path before he must face the politics of the Varden. Resisting a position of leadership at first, Eragon fears having to fight the Empire, hoping instead to go into hiding after killing the Ra'zac. Saphira addresses this concern early on, stating, “It is our destiny to attempt the impossible, to accomplish great deeds regardless of fear. It is our responsibility to the future.” Eragon responds, wondering “Am I strong enough for this?” But as he learns the extent of the Empire's evil and about the history of the Dragon Riders, Eragon becomes more and more comfortable with his fate. But he desires, upon recommendation first of Brom and then of Ajihad, to remain independent of forces even on the good side. His goal by the end of the story is to become a fighter independent of King Galbatorix, able to make his own choices rather than letting alliances determine his next steps. Ajihad explains, “You are an enigma, Eragon…. Everyone knows what the Varden want—or the Urgals, or even Galbatorix—but no one knows what you want…. You must understand the unusual nature of your position. There are factions who want you to serve their interests and no one else's…. You must retain your freedom, for in it lies your true power: the ability to make choices independent of any leader or king.” He feels much satisfaction after destroying the Shade and defeating the Urgals, thus gaining this ideal position: “No matter what his trials might be in the future, he was no longer just a pawn in the game of power. He had transcended that and was something else, something more. He had become what Ajihad wanted: an authority independent of any king or leader.” Once the Varden win their first battle with the Urgals, readers anticipate a larger and more direct fight with the Empire, but must wait for later installments in the Inheritance Cycle to see such a conflict. Eragon, however, has made his personal journey from ambivalence to commitment in the fight against evil.
Eragon is a fantasy novel, presenting half-human characters, magic, sorcery, and various invented languages. The genre of fantasy generally presents a world that is not parallel to reality, but instead shows clear differences between good and evil and builds to an epic battle between the two. Often set in a medieval-like world, characters range from human to all kinds of non-human creatures and possess a wide range of magical abilities. Eragon's world is simple, his livelihood dependent on hunting and farming. But when he discovers a dragon egg, he finds himself possessed of complex magical abilities. The rough landscape of Alagaësia, from deserts to mountain ranges, provides a stark contrast to the various abilities of magicians, sorcerers, and demonpossessed Shades. Fantasy novels, while developing an epic moral battle, often end happily, and Eragon presents a fairly neat, if open-ended conclusion. The Varden win their initial battle, and Eragon becomes a hero while remaining independent.
TOPICS FOR FURTHER STUDY
- Paolini states that the natural surroundings of his home in Montana influence his writing in many ways. Choose three descriptions of landscapes in Eragon and roughly sketch them. Consider their larger meaning in the novel. How does Paolini use the landscape to reflect action or character development in these passages? How does the landscape foreshadow action in the story? How might the story be different if the landscape were opposite than it is, lush and green for instance rather than dry and rocky? What do recurring elements, such as the desert, the mountains, or the caves, represent?
- The magic in Alagaësia is not random but instead follows several clear rules. First, make a list of the rules that Paolini outlines as Eragon learns about magic. Next, find examples where Eragon breaks those rules and examine the consequences of doing so. What conclusions can you draw from looking at the rules overall? What is the role of magic in Eragon? What values or moral systems does magic promote in the book? For instance, the fact that magicians cannot bring someone back from the dead without killing themselves reflects a sense of justice. A life cannot be won without paying an equal price of another life. What similarities can you find between the ethics of Paolini's magic and either a world religion or philosophy of your choosing?
- Watch the film version of Eragon. What are the main differences between the book and the movie? Why would the movie alter certain plot points or characterizations? Which characters appear differently on the screen than in your own imagination? How are they different? Consider the elements of the book that were left out of the movie. What logic do you see in the film's storytelling versus the book's narration? What did you wish was included in the movie, and why do you think it was omitted? In your answer, cite anything that appeared in the movie but was not a part of the book. Discuss the tension associated with revising a novel's elements in order to make a compelling movie.
- Study the politics in the Varden city. Draw a sketch of the different alliances that keep the fragile peace within the resistance. Why is it important that Eragon remain independent of the different factions? Are any of the groups represented negatively? How so? Research at least one form of leadership and peacemaking, and determine a strategy that might be effective in promoting a lasting peace between the dwarves, the elves, and the Varden, while at the same time attempting to defeat evil King Galbatorix. What will be the major challenges of such an attempt? How can Eragon aid or challenge these efforts?
Fantasy literature also often provides a contrast between magical and human elements. Saphira, the dragon, offers an excellent example of such a contrast. Dragons, by nature, are mysteriously magical creatures that can fly, breathe fire, and cause powerful things to occur around them. But also present in Saphira is a caring, nurturing friend that Eragon relies on for wisdom and comfort. In a Powell's City of Books interview, Paolini himself explains Saphira's character, saying,
I decided to go in a more human direction with Saphira, my dragon, because the more I thought about it, the more I realized that she is raised away from her species, away from her race, in close mental contact with a human. I considered making the dragon more dragon-like, if you will, in its own society, but I haven't had a chance to explore that. I went with a more human element with Saphira while still trying to get a bit of the magic, the alien, of her race.
The combination of fantasy elements and reality helps explain the ongoing popularity of fantasy fiction. Readers are drawn both to the uncommon and the common, the fanciful and the regular, the magical and the human. In the same interview, Paolini claims to enjoy fantasy novels immensely, and says that he seeks to write his own in the Inheritance Cycle, stating, “[M]y first novel was a way to explore the standard fantasy traditions that I enjoyed reading so much. It was a chance for me to play in this type of world.”
When Paolini published Eragon, his first novel in the Inheritance Cycle, fantasy literature was extremely popular. Unquestionably fueled by J.K. Rowling's enormously successful Harry Potter series, which followed the adventures of a young orphaned wizard, publishing houses and audiences alike are constantly looking for the next great fantasy series. In this atmosphere, then, it is not surprising that Paolini's book finds a ready readership. Like Rowling's novels, Eragon has enjoyed success as a highly lucrative film. Rowling and Paolini only continue the tradition of fantasy, however, on the shoulders of such classic writers like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who each produced similarly popular fantasy epics in the 1950s. Both Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy and Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia series were also released as highly successful movies starting in 2001, five decades after their original publication. Many other such novels have been adapted into film, cashing in on the popularity of fantasy stories, including Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Bridge to Terabithia, The Golden Compass, Artemis Fowl, and The Spiderwick Chronicles. Fantasy literature continues to enjoy avid reception, propelling excellent sales for Paolini's novels.
Eragon, while a popular bestseller, has not generated the kind of critical attention that other fantasy novelists such as J.R.R. Tolkien or even J.K. Rowling have received. Most reviews offer a balanced perspective, criticizing Paolini's conventional plot and dialogue but praising the scope of his imagination. No full-length academic treatments of Eragon appeared within several years of its publication, but several periodicals and web-sites review the novel. Liz Rosenberg in the New York Times says that although Paolini's descriptions and dialogue can be clumsy, the story “never falters in its velocity.” Matt Berman of Common Sense Media says Paolini's plot is “straight out of Star Wars by way of Lord of the Rings but claims the writer is a “major talent” who is just “not there yet.” Susan Wloszczyna of USA Today agrees, saying that the book “owes a debt to Luke Skywalker as the teen hero trains to be a Dragon Rider while avenging his uncle's murder.” Not all reviewers are as critical however; Sally Estes, writing for Booklist states, “It's obvious that Paolini knows the genre well—his lush tale is full of recognizable fantasy elements and conventions. But the telling remains constantly fresh and fluid, and he has done a fine job of creating an appealing and convincing relationship between the youth and the dragon. It's an impressive start to a writing career that's sure to flourish.” Rosenberg offers an apt and succinct perspective on Paolini's limitations and potential:“Some of our greatest writers have written badly, at least some of the time, from Tolstoy to Dreiser to Crane. Paolini has a passionate commitment to his story, and he has created some fine images.” Overall, critics find Paolini's writing to be rather immature, but believe his potential to improve over the course of his four-book series is immense.
Laura Baker has a doctorate in American literature, and is a magazine editor and freelance writer. In this essay, Baker describes character pairings in Eragon that foreshadow possible events in the larger epic story.
The popularity of Eragon can be traced to several elements, including its fantastic creatures, its epic battle between good and evil, and its presentation of a highly developed magical world. While these details make for an exciting adventure, it is often the characters themselves that keep the reader interested in the story. Although Paolini's first novel can be confusing at times, introducing numerous characters in each city without any indication of who will become important to the story, the main characters do deliver. As Eragon learns about his destiny—to rejuvenate the Dragon Riders—his life becomes intimately enmeshed with a large cast of characters, some of whom wish him well and some who mean him harm. Within this world of good versus evil, each of Paolini's main characters have a mirror character, another person who shares much in common with the key player but whose differences foreshadow important elements in the larger epic battle. By analyzing these pairs, readers can begin to understand a system of ethics generated by the story as a whole.
Eragon, who begins life as a humble farm boy abandoned by his parents, is the hero of Paolini's epic. Eragon remains unclear about the circumstances of his birth throughout the first novel, although readers assume the mystery of his mother's disappearance will be explained in later books. Eragon experiences a deep sense of loneliness because of being orphaned, and that loneliness is only intensified after his cousin leaves town and his uncle dies. Eragon's journey away from his home also seems to be a journey to find intimate, family-like relationships to replace his devastated home life. As Eragon travels many miles throughout the novel, he seems to be searching for lasting relationships with other people as well as for a larger purpose to his sufferings.
The troubled character of Murtagh provides a mirror to Eragon's character. From his first appearance in the story, Murtagh acts valiantly in saving Brom and Eragon from an Urgal attack. Once Brom dies from his injury, Eragon is left with only the strange Murtagh for human companionship. When Murtagh reveals his lineage as the son of Morzan, one of the Forsworn, he bares his lifetime of loneliness. Raised by the Empire rather than his parents, Murtagh, like Eragon, felt abandoned at a young age. Even though Murtagh left the Empire once he understood both his father's and the King's evil natures, he spends his life in exile from a world that judges the son by the actions of the father. Both Murtagh and Eragon seem to share a desire to fit in somewhere, to fight valiantly and be respected. As the two characters travel together, they begin behaving like brothers, from practicing swordplay (at which they are evenly matched) to brawling over misunderstandings. The final, most dramatic connection between the characters comes in the last pages of the story, when Durza slices Eragon's back from shoulder to waist, leaving the hero with a scar nearly identical to Murtagh's. Murtagh's own father gave him his scar when he was only a boy. In the closing scene of the novel, Paolini writes,
Durza's blow had left [Eragon] with a huge, ropy scar, stretching from his right shoulder to the opposite hip. Pity showed on Arya's face as she murmured, “You have paid a terrible price for your deed, Eragon Shadeslayer.” Murtagh laughed harshly. “Yes. Now you're just like me.”
The connection between Eragon and Murtagh may foreshadow a deep alliance between the two characters in the end, uniting them like brothers, or it may portend a disturbing Cain-and-Abel-like betrayal between them. Either way, Paolini develops a connection between the two young men that will clearly play a role in the epic fight against the Empire.
Similarly, Saphira the dragon establishes an intimate connection with Eragon in the opening pages of the novel. She and Eragon communicate through their minds, and thus their relationship is deeply honest and close. Saphira cares for Eragon almost as a mother, repeatedly calling him “little one,” and protecting him from danger with an animal's fierceness; she says of Ajihad, for instance, “I am impressed with both Tronjheim and with him.…[but] if he had decided to kill [Eragon], I would have destroyed Tronjheim and torn him apart with my teeth.” As a dragon, she possesses mysterious powers, causing magical things to happen at unpredictable moments. Saphira also has an animal-like identity separate from Eragon, reminding him that she is no slave to humanity but instead remains independent of human control. She reveals her personal loyalty when speaking to Hrothgar, declaring:
I thirst for the blood of our enemies and eagerly await the day when we ride to battle against Galbatorix. I've no love or mercy for traitors and egg breakers like that false king. He held me for over a century and, even now, still has two of my brethren, whom I would free if possible.
Despite Saphira's close relationship to Eragon, Paolini seems to warn against underestimating a magical creature's fierce autonomy.
Solembum the werecat offers a mirror to Saphira's character, being another sentient magical creature that appears throughout the story. Eragon first meets Solembum in Teirm, where it is immediately apparent that they can speak to one another through mind touch. Solembum's tone is so close to Saphira's that at first Eragon mistakes the two. But soon it is clear that the werecat knows Eragon well, determining his identity as a Dragon Rider immediately and offering to help him. Solembum provides Eragon with mysterious advice that will seemingly make sense later in the story, and then repeatedly appears at times when Eragon most needs help. In the castle records room, for instance, Solembum warns Eragon of the guards' impending arrival. He even fights in the final battle, assisting Angela in saving Eragon's life from a charging Urgal. Appearing at just the right moments, Solembum illustrates the intelligence and independence of magical creatures in Paolini's world. Werecats are described as important, but fringe, elements in human events. They are believed to have magical powers and long lives, much like dragons. And Solembum, like Saphira, does not react well to being underestimated. Both Saphira and Solembum reveal a larger theme in Paolini's work, emphasizing that humans are not the only characters with autonomy, intelligence, and personal agendas.
Brom the storyteller and King Galbatorix provide another enlightening connection in the novel. As Brom's identity is slowly uncovered, it is clear that he is one of the most valiant and wise Dragon Riders ever to have lived. It is equally apparent that King Galbatorix is surely the most craven, evil Dragon Rider to exist. Despite such different outward appearances, however, the two characters have much in common. As a young man, Brom was a skilled and well-trained Rider until the terrible day when his dragon, also named Saphira, was killed. On his deathbed, Brom describes his devastation, saying, “After all this time I still grieve for my Saphira…. Don't let that happen to you.” Even though Brom grieved deeply for his dragon many years before he died, he still chose to dedicate his life to eradicating evil. He remained unselfish despite his personal loss, and became renowned for his wisdom and valour as part of the Varden.
King Galbatorix chose a different path, though his experiences were similar to Brom's. Much like Brom, Galbatorix showed great skill as a Rider from a young age, causing some to fret over his quick rise to power. Evil did not reveal itself in the young Rider, however, until he suffered the same fate as Brom: his dragon died. Nothing can devastate a Rider more than losing his dragon, and Galbatorix went mad with grief. Galbatorix began his legacy of brutality by betraying his own friends and paying back mercy with cold-blooded murder. His dark deeds were not limited to personal vendettas but instead grew into a desire for national domination. Galbatorix became the self-appointed king, spreading fear and violence throughout Alagaësia. His heinous acts include mass murder, slavery, imposed poverty, and alliances with savage creatures. Galbatorix's lifetime of evil seems to stem from an event he shared with Brom: the death of his dragon. And though both men suffered the same devastation, their responses to their grief and loneliness could not have been more different. One unleashed a violent fury across the nation while the other dedicated himself to fighting injustice and protecting the oppressed. Paolini develops an intriguing connection between Brom and Galbatorix, further leading readers to wonder if a similar connection might exist between the king and Eragon himself. Only the final novels will tell.
Despite Eragon's sometimes awkward storytelling, the novel develops some surprising ties between its main characters. By establishing an association between both good and evil characters throughout the first novel, Paolini sows seeds for even greater bonds to be revealed as the epic story unfolds. As the Inheritance Cycle's name suggests, blood relationships will most likely play a key role as the narration continues. Many critics and fans liken Paolini's work to the popular Star Wars films; if that comparison proves true, Eragon's birthright just might be royal. If so, who will Eragon, the great savior of Alagaësia but also just an orphaned boy, choose to join?
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
- Eldest is the second book in the Inheritance Cycle and was published in 2005. It continues Eragon's quest to destroy King Galbatorix, and involves his continued training under the watch of the elves.
- J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy was published from 1954 to 1955, and tells the story of the hobbit Frodo's epic quest. He must keep his world safe from a magical ring that allows its bearer to become invisible but also maintains a withering power over the wearer.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was published in 1997, and begins J.K. Rowling's tale of a young orphaned boy who discovers that he's a wizard. In his eleventh year, Harry must begin training at a new school, make new friends, and fight an unknown evil that threatens his life.
Source: Laura Baker, Critical Essay on Eragon, in Literary Newsmakers for Students, Gale, Cengage Learning, 2009.
In the following essay, Rosenberg addresses the book's combination of immature writing and bold storytelling, concluding that Eragon is a substantial work of fiction.
This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.
This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions.
Source: Liz Rosenberg, “Children's Book: The Egg and Him,” in The New York Times, November 16, 2007, p. 1.
In the following interview, Paolini describes his inspiration for Eragon and his plans for a follow-up novel.
Christopher Paolini's debut fantasy novel Eragon recently landed in bookstores—and on bestseller lists—across the country. In this special interview with Teenreads.com, Paolini discusses how he created his magical land Alagaësia. The author also reveals his favorite character from his novel and shares memorable fan encounters.
TRC: Tell us how you created the land of Alagaësia. How long did it take you to develop the history, glossary of terms, and the names of your characters?
CP: I roughed out the main history of Alagaësia before I began writing Eragon. Beyond that I usually created the details and information as needed. For example, I did not draw the map until it became important to see where Eragon was traveling, although once I did, I started to get history and plot ideas from seeing the landscape depicted.
The names of my characters and places are derived from Old Norse, German, Old English, and Russian sources, as well as from my invented languages. Picking the right name is a process that can take days, weeks, or even years. If I have difficulty choosing the correct moniker, I use a placeholder name until a replacement suggests itself.
The glossary took a few hours to compile, after Eragon was finished.
TRC: Who is your favorite character in Eragon? Why?
CP: That would be Saphira, the dragon. Why is a bit harder. She was always the genesis of Eragon's transformation and growth—I was thrilled by the idea of a young man becoming linked with a dragon. As I wrote Saphira, I made her the best friend anyone could have: loyal, funny, brave, intelligent, and noble. She transcended that, however, and became her own person, fiercely independent and proud.
I love writing about dragons, especially Saphira. Part of what makes her so appealing is that Eragon cares for her from the moment she hatches. That makes their relationship very different than if he had suddenly joined up with an age-old dragon. This way, they're both young and exploring the world for the first time.
Saphira is so intelligent, there were times I felt like she was looking out at me and saying, “What do you want!” It's bit frightening to be at the mercy of an imaginary creature within your own head. You have no defenses.
TRC: Can you share what readers can expect from the next two installments in this trilogy?
CP: The same breathtaking locations, thrilling battles, and searching introspection as Eragon, in addition to true love.
TRC: Why did you decide to self-publish Eragon? How did you go about doing this?
CP: My family and I chose to self-publish Eragon because we wanted to retain financial and creative control over the book. Also, we were excited by the prospect of working on this project as a family.
TRC: You made headlines in several genre-oriented publications for the sale of your first book and two follow-ups to Knopf/Random House. What can you remember about the day you were told Knopf wanted the books? How did you celebrate?
CP: I first heard from Knopf—specifically my editor-to-be Michelle Frey—while I was in Seattle at the Northwest Bookfest, promoting the original edition of Eragon. My first reaction was one of disbelief, since I had no idea how Michelle could have heard about Eragon. This was quickly followed by cautious optimism; after all, I had no idea what terms Knopf was willing to offer. Once I did, my family and I were screaming with excitement, a feeling that we still retain every time we look at the new Eragon.
TRC: Your book was reviewed as a self-published title and more reviews are expected to pour in since the book is now available from Knopf. Do you read reviews of your own work? Why or why not?
CP: Yes, I read reviews of my work, although sometimes I wish that I hadn't, even when it is a good review! Why? Because everyone thinks about your work in a slightly different way, and if their views don't correspond with yours, it can be unsettling to see how your writing is interpreted. It can even make you change your writing style in an attempt to emphasize the elements that you think readers have ignored. Despite this, I continue to read reviews because I believe that it's important to know how people are affected by Eragon, because I sometimes learn something valuable about my writing, and also because of the wonderful stories that I often hear from fans—such as the woman who enjoyed Eragon so much, she named her pet tarantula Saphira, after the dragon in my book!
TRC: What fantasy writers inspire you? Why? What other genres and authors do you enjoy reading?
CP: Philip Pullman, Mervyn Peake, J.R.R. Tolkien, E.R. Eddison, Garth Nix, Octavia Butler, and many, many more. I enjoy reading these authors for their interesting takes on fantasy. Peake and Eddison both use incredibly rich, inventive language; Tolkien created one of the first immersive fantasy worlds; Nix has created a great world and story; Butler's ideas are second to none; and Pullman has it all. He is a master storyteller.
I also love science fiction. Dune, by Frank Herbert is a favorite, along with mysteries, horror, thrillers, the classics…anything so long as it's good!
TRC: What is it about fantasy and science fiction that speaks to so many readers on a number of levels? What does the genre “mean” to you?
CP: It's hard to attribute the success of science fiction and fantasy to any one element. Both genres are far too diverse to be able to point to just one thing and say, “This is why people love these books.” However, I believe that a large part of their appeal comes from the exercise of pure imagination and flights of fancy, as well as the intellectual delight of attempting to extrapolate the evolution of technology.
I enjoy fantasy because it allows me to visit lands that have never existed, to see things that never could exist, to experience daring adventures with interesting characters, and, most importantly, to feel the sense of magic in the world.
TRC: When did you “know” you wanted to write professionally?
CP: I've known for a long time that I wanted to tell stories, with books, movies, or theater. In fact, Eragon was originally an idea for a movie. I never intended to become an author; writing Eragon was just a wild challenge for myself, an attempt to produce a book-length work, without any intention of publishing it. Of course, since it worked out so well, I've continued to pursue it.
TRC: What has surprised you the most about being a published author?
CP: The number of people around the country who have embraced and supported Eragon with their incredible enthusiasm.
TRC: How have your friends, family, and local community reacted to your status as a published author?
CP: My family has done nothing but encourage and help me throughout the course of writing and promoting Eragon. They are delighted with the book's success. Our friends and community were surprised at first when I was published, then more than happy to have another local author…especially one so young!
TRC: What has been your most memorable fan encounter so far?
CP: I'm particularly fond of the time when I arm-wrestled a young man to get him to read Eragon. Fortunately I won! The most memorable event, though, has to be when Carl Hiaasen's stepson bought a copy of Eragon in Montana and loved it so much, Carl recommended it to an editor at Alfred A. Knopf. This one incident has completely changed my life.
TRC: Due to your age and your accelerated publishing career, you have a unique history as a novelist! What writing/publishing advice do you give to aspiring writers of any age?
CP: Three simple things: Write about what excites and moves you the most, otherwise your enthusiasm will never sustain you through an entire novel; be persistent and disciplined, otherwise someone more determined will take your place; and be humble enough to accept editorial criticism and learn all you can about your craft.
TRC: In your opinion, what is the hardest part of writing a novel? Why?
CP: The hardest part is maintaining the two points I mentioned above: persistence and discipline. It's far too easy to get distracted from your work, or tire of it and find a simpler project. The true sign of a professional writer is that he or she can—and does—write every day, even without feeling inspired. Writing is not a gift from the gods. It does not spring fully formed from the author's brow. Writing is a craft, and, like any craft, you must practice, practice, practice to hone your skills. This can get boring if you feel that all you must do is connect with your muse and a new best-seller will flow forth. Alas, no. And even if you are a seasoned author and acclimated to the work of writing, it is still dangerously easy to become engaged in minor tasks that-like insidious, scaly carnivores-consume your precious minutes.
TRC: We live in a time when young people have numerous choices for entertainment. What would you like to say to people who may be hesitant about reading a book for “fun?”
CP: Books are the greatest device for transporting you into another person's mind. Movies excel at depicting action with a bit of talk, theater excels at depicting talk with a bit of action, and radio is all talk. But books can take you deeper into people's thoughts and feelings than any other media. Until we invent telepathy, books are our best choice for understanding the rest of humanity.
Source: teenreads.com, “Interview with Christopher Paolini,” in teenreads.com, September 2003, p. 1.
Berman, Matt, “Review of Eragon” in CommonsenseMedia, http://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/Eragon.html?show=overview (February 19, 2008).
Estes, Sally, Review of “Eragon” in Booklist, 99.2 (August 2003): p. 1981.
Paolini, Christopher, Philip Pullman, Tamora Pierce, and Dave Weich, “Phillip Pullman, Tamora Pierce, and Christopher Paolini Talk Fantasy Fiction” in Powell's City of Books, http://www.powells.com/authors/paolini.html (October 2003).
Rosenberg, Liz, “Children's Books; The Egg and Him” in The New York Times, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9803E1D81539F935A25752C1A9659 C8B63 (November 16, 2007).
Wloszcyna, Susan, “More of the ‘Rings’ Magic” in USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/news/2004-01-20-fantasy-films-main_x.htm (January 20, 2004).
Alagaësia Website, http://Alagaësia.com (February 18, 2008).
The official webpage for Paolini's books, this site includes information about the author, details about book releases, and fantasy-related games and activities.
McCaffery, Ann, Dragonriders of Pern, Del Rey, 1988.
Many writers site McCaffery as a direct influence on Paolini's Inheritance Cycle, even calling Paolini's writing derivative at times. This collection includes the first three books in McCaffery's fantasy series about how dragon-riders help the world fight against a threat called the scourge.
Paolini, Christopher, Eldest, Random House, 2005.
In this second novel in the Inheritance Cycle, Paolini continues the adventures of young Eragon and his dragon. He continues his training to become a Dragon Rider, this time in the land of the elves.
Paolini, Christopher, “How I Write” in The Writer, (March 2004) p. 66.
Paolini explains his writing process in detail, sharing how he planned the plot and characters for his books. He also explains how nature influences the fantasy world he creates in fiction.