Eragon Chapter 20

So now it’s time for a whole chapter of clumsy exposition!

“Why do you think those two Urgals were still in Yazuac?” asked Eragon, after they had been on the trail for a while.

“Easy: To jump out and attack us, thus providing the chance for a fight scene. Honestly, all the traveling was kind of boring.”

“I suspect they deserted the main group to loot the town. What makes it odd is that, as far as I know, Urgals have gathered in force only two or three times in history. It’s unsettling that they are doing it now.”

“But whatever the reason is, I’m sure that the Designated Villain is to blame somehow. And I’m also sure that this description of them as mindless brutes with no organization won’t be completely retconned in future books.”

“Do you think the Ra’zac caused the attack?”
“I don’t know. The best thing we can do is continue away from Yazuac at the fastest pace we can muster. Besides, this is the direction the Ra’zac went: south.”

… How is that the best thing? So they can stumble across various villages that have ALSO been attacked?

Also, where did the fucking Urgals come from?! Previously there were just two Ra’zac who went to Carvahall, left, and had nobody else with them. Were they hiding an Urgal horde in their pockets?!

So Brom mentions that there isn’t another town around here… which is GOOD, because another town would probably have been destroyed too. Instead, they’ll have Saphira hunt for them along the river because there are plenty of meaty animals hanging around the river.

  1. I’m totally imagining Eragon pulling a Sokka and telling some animal, You’re awfully cute. But unfortunately for you, you’re made of meat.”
  2. And we all know Eragon loves his meat.
  3. Also, if there’s a small dense strip of trees, how can Saphira swoop down low enough to attack the animals without crashing into the trees or knocking them down?

Then Eragon wants to know how Brom ended up getting his ass kicked by an Urgal.

“Bad luck, really,” grumbled Brom. “I was more than a match for him, so he kicked Snowfire. The idiot of a horse reared and threw me off balance. That was all the Urgal needed to give me this gash.”

  1. Uh, that’s not bad luck. That’s you paying a fortune for a very skittish horse… just because it’s WHITE.
  2. So now even Brom is admitting that his horse is useless.
  3. Is there an actual POINT to all this? I mean, the book was moving along at a pretty decent pace for awhile, and now it’s just Eragon and Brom talking and talking and talking…

“Few know it, but every Rider could use magic, though with differing strengths. They kept the ability secret, even at the height of their power, because it gave them an advantage over their enemies.”

  1. Um, I don’t see how you could keep something like magic a secret if you’re riding out to rule the entire land.
  2. I mean, if there was a forest fire, would they just let it burn rather than showing “I have magic! I can call down rain!”
  3. And how can you use an advantage over your enemies… without people seeing it? Did the noble and heroic Dragonriders just kill everyone who found out about their magic?
  4. Oooooo, I wonder if Eragon will become the most speshully magically talented of them all!

“Had everyone known about it, dealing with common people would have been difficult.”

Yes, those common people are SUCH a nuisance, wanting the Riders to help them with their dying crops and plagues and sick children, and they were TOO AWESOME to deal with boring shit like that.

And in case you’re wondering, no, Eragon never bothers to keep his magic a secret. He’s pretty open about it, and people aren’t that surprised. Hell, the Varden have whole groups of magic-users.

“Many think the king’s magical powers come from the fact that he is a wizard or sorcerer. That’s not true; it is because he’s a Rider.”

… yeah, we knew that already. I mean, we knew he was a Rider. And if he’s a Rider, he therefore has magic because the Riders all had magic.

“What’s the difference? Doesn’t the fact that I used magic make me a sorcerer?”
“Not at all! A sorcerer, like a Shade, uses spirits to accomplish his will.”

No, we don’t see a sorcerer in this series. Thanks for asking.

“That is totally different from your power. Nor does that make you a magician, whose powers come without the aid of spirits or a dragon. And you’re certainly not a witch or wizard, who get their powers from various potions and spells.”

… okay. Again, we don’t see any of these except for Gold-Crapping Elves (who all use magic) and a few token magic-users whose powers are never defined.

So it turns out that back when the Jedi… I mean, the Dragon-Riders were around, kids who were dragon-riders spent years being trained before they got to use magic. Discovering their magic on their own is SUPER-DUPER-RARE, and they were always given special training. I wonder if Eragon will learn more by going to Dagobah and being tutored in piggyback rides by a Muppet.

“The students were presented with a series of pointless exercises designed to frustrate them. For example, they were instructed to move piles of stones using only their feet, fill ever draining tubs full of water, and other impossibilities. After a time, they would get infuriated enough to use magic. Most of the time it succeeded.”

  1. … I don’t get it. So, what, the key to learning something is to just have the person get bored and annoyed?
  2. So by that logic, a child learning to swim should be forced to sit in two inches of water. This will frustrate the kid until they leap into the pool and become an Olympic swimmer.
  3. Plus, that doesn’t sound safe. I mean, if an untrained person gets frustrated enough to blow, their magic comes spurting out? I’m pretty sure they could hurt someone that way!
  4. And so, in all those centuries, the Dragonriders NEVER bothered to come up with a real training regimen for magic?! They would train the kids’ minds and bodies, but not their magical ability?! WHAT THE HEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLL?
  5. Plus, what about the magical language? Did we totally forget that? Or does being frustrated give you linguistic knowledge?!
  6. Because Eragon wouldn’t have made magic fire if he didn’t know the word, and he wouldn’t have known the word if he hadn’t HEARD it.

It also turns out that Eragon is screwed if he encounters ANYBODY who has already been frustrated into their magical powers. This includes Galby and all the Gold-Crapping Elves.

“There isn’t time for formal instruction, but we can do much while we travel,” said Brom.

Time for a horrible training montage!

And this is sounding curiously familiar. It would be VERY unfortunate if Brom taught Eragon just enough about magic to get by, but then expired tragically, and Eragon had to go on a long journey to learn from a hidden master presumed dead about how to become a true Dragon-Rider. Because I’ve never seen that story before. Ever.

“It may please you to know that no Rider your age ever used magic the way you did yesterday with those two Urgals.”

Because you are JUST THAT SPESHUL.

Eragon smiled at the praise. “Thank you. Does this language have a name?”
Brom laughed. “Yes, but no one knows it. It would be a word of incredible power, something by which you could control the entire language and those who use it. People have long searched for it, but no one has ever found it.”

Well, I wonder if someday Eragon will learn it and gain ultimate power. Or Galby will try to. If someone doesn’t, then this whole exchange is totally useless.

“I still don’t understand how this magic works,” said Eragon. “Exactly how do I use it?”
Brom looked astonished. “I haven’t made that clear?”

NO, YOU HAVE NOT! This whole magical system is so inconsistent that it makes my eyes bleed! Paolini has presented us with TWO totally incompatible ways that magic is controlled, and he’s flipping between them like a professional pancake flipper!

Brom took a deep breath and said, “To work with magic, you must have a certain innate power, which is very rare among people nowadays.”

… WHY? Why is it rare? Is it hereditary, and most of the people with magic have died? Is that it? WHY IS IT RARE NOW?

“You also have to be able to summon this power at will. Once it is called upon, you have to use it or let it fade away. Understood?”

I understand perfectly. When you summon magic, you MUST either use it… or not use it.


“Now, if you wish to employ the power, you must utter the word or phrase of the ancient language that describes your intent. For example, if you hadn’t said brisingr yesterday, nothing would have happened.”

… so what happens when you frustrate people into using magic by having them do pointless crap without telling them what to do? Do you just force them to do it until they get angry enough to yell, “Move, you fucking rocks!” and hope the rocks don’t start having sex? Or is Paolini screwing up on continuity within a single page?!

“So I’m limited by my knowledge of this language?”
“Exactly,” crowed Brom.

Unless you get frustrated. Then all bets are off.

And oh, so he’s limited by his own ignorance? Well, it would be nice if SOMEONE had told him about how to use it instead of refusing to tell him anything. Lazy old bastard.

“Also, while speaking it, it’s impossible to practice deceit.”



He spoke, as did Ged, in the Old Speech, for that is the tongue of dragons still. Although the use of the Old Speech binds a man to truth, this is not so with dragons.
– URSULA LE GUIN, A Wizard of Earthsea, “The Dragon of Pendor”

Yes, he just ripped off Ursula le Guin’s entire magical language system, which is, by the way, was the original maker of the whole trope! In case you’re wondering, her magic involves saying the true names of stuff, and this language actually shapes reality instead of the other way around. So you know, if you say “I am a rock” you will turn into a rock, and you can control and change the true name of whatever you say.

And yes, you can’t lie in it because reality will warp itself into whatever you say, so if you try to lie it becomes the truth, and therefore won’t be a lie anymore. Except for dragons… and no, I’m not sure how. If that was mentioned, I must have missed it.

So since Le Guin bothered to actually EXPLAIN why people can’t lie in the magic language in her books, does Paolini do the same? OF COURSE NOT. His characters just can’t lie in the ancient language because… BECAUSE, DAMMIT. Apparently you just can’t do that – if you say something untruthful, I guess you choke on your words like Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle.

In fact, Eragon poohpoohs this poorly-thought-out idea, as well he might. So how does Brom prove his point? He calls a bird to come sit in his hand for a minute. Well, who could argue with THAT? If Disney princesses have taught me anything, it’s that a bird in the hand is worth bad exposition.

“How did you do that?” asked Eragon in wonder.
“I promised not to harm him. He may not have known exactly what I meant, but in the language of power, the meaning of my words was evident. The bird trusted me because he knows what all animals do, that those who speak in that tongue are bound by their word.”

  1. How the hell would animals know that? I mean, is it supposed to be instinctual? Do they LEARN it? HOW THE FUCK DOES THAT WORK?!
  2. And so animals can’t understand the words, which are SUPPOSEDLY THE KEY TO MAGIC.
  3. And he PROMISED not to hurt the bird? Dammit, the word “promise” shouldn’t even apply to this stupid-ass language, because promises lose all meaning when you CANNOT LIE.
  4. It’s like saying, “I won’t fly away” when you aren’t able to.
  5. I mean, if you cannot lie AT ALL EVER, saying that “I super-duper cross-my-heart-hope-to-die swear I will ABSOLUTELY NEVER do this” just isn’t that impressive. It doesn’t ADD anything to the original “I will never do this” statement!
  6. It should be enough to just say, “I will not hurt you.” Not only would that be the truth, but it would also mean you wouldn’t do it in FUTURE.

We’re also informed that elves, like Vulcans, claim that they don’t lie, “but they have perfected the art of saying one thing and meaning another. You never know exactly what their intent is, or if you have fathomed it correctly. Many times they only reveal part of the truth and withhold the rest. It takes a refined and subtle mind to deal with their culture.” So yeah, they’re basically fantasy Vulcans… except they also turn out to be massive snooty douchebags.

Eragon also asks if personal names give power over people. No, I don’t know where he got that idea, unless he read Wizard of Earthsea too.

“Yes, they do. Those who speak the language have two names. The first is for everyday use and has little authority. But the second is their true name and is shared with only a few trusted people. There was a time when no one concealed his true name, but this age isn’t as kind. Whoever knows your true name gains enormous power over you. It’s like putting your life into another person’s hands. Everyone has a hidden name, but few know what it is.”

FUCKDONKEYS, this is just PAINFUL. Again that is exactly what Le Guin did. You know, like with Ged/Sparrowhawk?!

And since Elves crap gold, they automatically know their own true names.

“Elves instinctively know theirs. No one else has that gift. The human Riders usually went on quests to discover it—or found an elf who would tell them, which was rare, for elves don’t distribute that knowledge freely,” replied Brom.

  1. You know, because they’re perfect.
  2. So… elves know their own true names, but how could they know someone else’s?
  3. Do they know EVERYONE’S true names?
  4. And how the hell could going on a quest tell you what your secret magical name is? I mean, I would expect something like… meditation or a spirit quest or… SOMETHING that doesn’t involve wandering around aimlessly until someone randomly calls them “Stan Pines”?

“It can be a terrible knowledge. To know who you are without any delusions or sympathy is a moment of revelation that no one experiences unscathed.”

“You’ll see just how horrifyingly Stuey you are.”

“Some have been driven to madness by that stark reality. Most try to forget it. But as much as the name will give others power, so you may gain power over yourself, if the truth doesn’t break you.”

… yeah, we never hear about anyone suffering any ill effects except being controlled by others. I mean, we see a guy who is controlled by his true name in Book 2, and he just gets pissy about it.

And who wants to lay odds that Eragon will discover his true name just in time to keep the bad guy from controlling his mind or something?

And I’m sure that it would not, stated Saphira.

Shut up, sparkles. Nobody asked you.

Brom blows off Eragon’s demands to know his true name, and says that he can’t help him. Then we switch over to the topic of healing his injured arm.

“Why can’t you or I heal that with magic?” asked Eragon.
Brom blinked. “No reason—I just never considered it because it’s beyond my strength.”

So he can start a fire that won’t go out, but sealing up a cut is too hard?

“I’ll live with it,” said Brom flatly. “Using magic to heal a wound takes just as much energy as it would to mend on its own. I don’t want you tired for the next few days. You shouldn’t attempt such a difficult task yet.”

… um, it doesn’t take THAT much energy to heal a small cut on your arm. Yes, it takes energy, but you wouldn’t be exhausted and hungry because it’s not that important. If it were, we’d all be unable to move because of stubbed toes and scraped elbows.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, Eragon does heal people of stuff like TERMINAL CANCER in the next couple books, but apparently healing a cut would be too exhausting. Yes, I can put your head back on, good as new, but I can’t heal that bruise on your shin.

“Still, if it’s possible to fix your arm, could I bring someone back from the dead?”

… wow. Natural segue there, dude.

Brom tells him that no, apparently resurrecting the dead will kill you, and anyone who has tried got killed.

“There is an abyss beyond life where magic means nothing. If you reach into it, your strength will flee and your soul will fade into darkness.”

What a depressing afterlife – so apparently there IS something after death, but it’s basically a vacuum? That’s bleak. And confusing. I mean, if there are no gods in this world, why is there something after death?

And if there’s no supernatural, that means no souls – so what are you bringing back? Shouldn’t it just be a matter of reviving the body and repairing all damage to it?

Eragon frowned. “This is a lot more complex than I thought.”
“Exactly!” said Brom. “And if you don’t understand what you’re doing, you’ll try something too big and die.”


So then we switch over to Yoda training: Brom picks up a bunch of pebbles, throws away the pebbles except one, and leaves me wondering why the fuck he didn’t just pick up one to start with. So it turns out that Brom wants him to levitate the rock with his mind, using the words “stenr reisa.” Sounds a lot like “stone rise,” but that doesn’t sound as cool.

And through the power of frustration, Eragon goes inside his own brain and accesses his magic, so he can levitate the pebble.

“Not bad for your first time,” said Brom.

“Now, I want you to stand upside down on one hand while levitating those boulders over there. Don’t question me! I’m a crotchety magical mentor!”

So then Eragon asks about that mysterious silver mark on his hand that really doesn’t seem to do anything.

“The Riders always preferred to channel their power through whichever hand bore the gedwëy ignasia.”

And depending on whether they’re a lefty or righty.

Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if you first touched your dragon with something OTHER than your hand? “I can prove I’m a dragon-rider! Just let me take off my shoe/pants/shirt!”

“I’ll buy you some gloves at the next town, if it isn’t gutted. You hide the mark pretty well on your own, but we don’t want anyone to see it by accident. Besides, there may be times when you won’t want the glow to alert an enemy.”

Or… anyone. You would think that the there would be some kind of reward if the common people told the Empire’s soldiers about someone with a silver mark!

Brom insists that he totally doesn’t have a gertrude ignatius… uh, janeway ignition… gedway ignasia, because he is TOTALLY NOT A RIDER and never was, so there!

“Also, you should know that magic is affected by distance, just like an arrow or a spear. If you try to lift or move something a mile away, it’ll take more energy than if you were closer.”

Again, something that never really comes up. And by the way, people frequently use magic to talk long-distance in this series, so… yeah.

“Again?” asked Eragon weakly, thinking of the effort it had taken to do it just once.
“Yes! And this time be quicker about it.”

“It’s either that or get beaten up by a stick.”

So instead of Eragon getting beaten with a stick, he has to spend HOURS lifting the damn pebble. And them Brom gives him vocabulary lessons in the ancient language, even though I doubt an exhausted teenager could memorize those words.

from vöndr, a thin, straight stick, to the morning star, Aiedail.

  1. When would you need to use the true name of a STAR? Can you command a star to do something?
  2. A stick? So, is it a plant or is it just a name for ANY stick?
  3. A name for the morning star? Wow, nothing like Tolkien’s morning star, Eärendil!
  4. And for your information, the “morning star” is actually multiple celestial bodies, including two PLANETS.

That evening they sparred around the fire. Though Brom fought with his left hand, his skill was undiminished.

So they actually spend several DAYS doing this. Eragon levitates his pebble, gets hit with sticks, and learns a few words in the ancient language which are probably useless to him.

And somehow getting hit with sticks turns you into a master swordsman, not careful training and drilling.

The clashes lasted longer as he learned how to fend off Brom.

Slipping knockout pills into his dinner seemed to help.

Now, when they went to sleep, Eragon was not the only one with bruises.

Is it my filthy mind, or did that sound kinda dirty?

And Saphira is apparently getting bigger, again, and she’s causing trouble for their whole secret mission thing.

Because of her size and the way her scales sparkled, she was altogether too visible.

Oh noes! If the Volturi see her, they’ll… wait, wrong sparkling.

Brom and Eragon worried about it, but they could not convince her to allow dirt to obscure her scintillating hide.

So she’s so vain and selfish that she doesn’t care if they get killed. And yes, she’s supposed to be a likable character.

And during these days, Eragon is also getting pissed because the Ra’zac are always ahead of them, and At times he was ready to give up, but then they would find some mark or print that would renew his hope. Uh, he was frustrated because the Ra’zac stayed ahead of them, not because they had lost their trail.

Eragon also has a nightmare where Garrow and Roran are sitting in the wrecked house, and Garrow turns into one of the Ra’zac. This is a decent scene except… Eragon hasn’t seen what the Ra’zac look like, so how could he dream it?


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