I’m grinding my teeth.
Why am I grinding my teeth? Well, this chapter introduces a new character who will appear on-and-off throughout the rest of the series, namely the herbalist Angela. Even many people who don’t like the Eragon books like this character.
Well… I don’t. She annoys the hell out of me, because it always feels like Paolini is jamming her in our faces and yelling, “SHE’S SO QUIRKY! Have you noticed how charmingly quirky she is? BE CHARMED, DAMMIT!” She’s like what non-quirky people think that quirky people are like.
And what makes her doubly annoying is that she’s an insert for Paolini’s sister… who is also named Angela. So she can’t be just a one-time character – she’s all over the place, and she’s Super-Speshul, etc etc. I’m not inherently opposed to including characters based on real people (just take Neil Gaiman and Tori Amos), but normally they should usually be kept small-scale and sparing.
So if you hear a noise like giant industrial gears clashing together while a chorus of cats do their impression of the Xenomorph’s scream, that is me.
The herbalist’s shop had a cheery sign and was easy to find.
Eragon was a little put off by the severed head hanging from the cheery sign, though.
So there’s a curly-haired woman sitting next to the herbalist’s shop, and she’s holding a frog. Eragon and Brom ask her where Jeod’s house, and she… well, just look at this exchange.
He approached the woman and asked politely, “Could you tell us which house Jeod lives in?”
“I could.” She continued writing.
“Will you tell us?”
“Yes.” She fell silent, but her pen scribbled faster than ever. The frog on her hand croaked and looked at them with baleful eyes. Brom and Eragon waited uncomfortably, but she said no more. Eragon was about to blurt something out when Angela looked up. “Of course I’ll tell you! All you have to do is ask. Your first question was whether or not I could tell you, and the second was if I would tell you. But you never actually put the question to me.”
I have met people like this. They are not charming. They are not quirky. They are usually either socially inept or total pains in the ass who think they are being clever. Sometimes both.
And what incredibly important, plot-essential thing is Angela doing?
“Jeod is on the right.”
Thank God she’s in this book. It would have fallen apart without her.
“And as for the frog, he’s actually a toad. I’m trying to prove that toads don’t exist—that there are only frogs.”
“How can toads not exist if you have one on your hand right now?” interrupted Eragon. “Besides, what good will it do, proving that there are only frogs?”
The woman shook her head vigorously, dark curls bouncing. “No, no, you don’t understand. If I prove toads don’t exist, then this is a frog and never was a toad. Therefore, the toad you see now doesn’t exist. And,” she raised a small finger, “if I can prove there are only frogs, then toads won’t be able to do anything bad—like make teeth fall out, cause warts, and poison or kill people. Also, witches won’t be able to use any of their evil spells because, of course, there won’t be any toads around.”
Okay, that might be SLIGHTLY amusing in a humorous children’s book. In this one… it’s not. At all.
Let me list all the ways this irritates me.
- For the rest of the series, Angela is depicted as being very knowledgeable. But on this ONE topic… she’s a fucking idiot.
- And I can only assume that this was some sort of weird comment made by Paolini’s sister, because otherwise it has NO place in the story.
- This is also a reason you should sketch out what magical systems exist in your fantasy world BEFORE you write them into your story, and pretty much stick to those limits. Why? Because the magical system established in this series – which is pretty inconsistent anyway – does not allow for random toads to cause mayhem because… they’re toads.
- We also don’t see anybody EXCEPT Angela referred to as a witch, nor do we hear about any of them. So… who the hell is even TRYING to cast spells using a toad?
Eragon comes to the natural conclusion about Angela’s sanity, and Brom just has to bitch about it.
“It’s possible,” said Brom, “but you never know. She might discover something useful, so don’t criticize. Who knows, toads might really be frogs!”
… you’re a fucking idiot too. Shut up, your Obi-Wan privileges are now revoked.
So they get to Jeod’s house. and after Brom practically hammers a hole through the door, somebody answers. It’s Jeod’s wife, and she insists that her husband is busy.
“Since he is unavailable, would you please give him a message?” Her mouth twitched, but she consented. “Tell him that a friend from Gil’ead is waiting outside.”
“And I’m selling balm!”
So apparently this message is a super-important one, because the woman brings her husband to the door.
At the sight of them, his eyes grew wide, and he sagged against the doorframe, speechless. His mouth opened and closed several times like a gasping fish. He asked softly, in an incredulous voice, “Brom . . . ?”
“Uh, I said I was a friend from Gil’ead. Who were you expecting?”
“Well… um… there was this one prostitute I used to be very fond of…”
Yeah, I could understand Jeod being surprised if Brom had just knocked on the door and Jeod himself had answered it, but in this case, he sent an Oh-So-Significant Message to him… which apparently he was STILL surprised by. And if the message wasn’t a hint at his identity… why did he say it at all?
“I thought you were dead,” he whispered. “What happened? Why haven’t you contacted me before?”
“Well, being a Ben Kenobi clone means I have to stay hidden from everybody for no reason.”
For some reason, Jeod says that they can’t talk there, but he’s gonna take them someplace where they can. Uh… why? Do the villains have his house bugged?
There was a rapier at Jeod’s side when he reappeared. An embroidered jacket hung loosely on his shoulders, matched by a plumed hat. Brom cast a critical eye at the finery, and Jeod shrugged self-consciously.
… so this place is struggling and everyone is facing financial ruin… and he dresses like a fop and carries an almost useless DUELING WEAPON?
Jeod also mentions that the lord of Teirm has ordered everyone to headquarter their businesses in his castle. I assume it’s for money, since there’s mention of rent. Forget castle, that must be a megasized PALACE. Castles didn’t tend to actually be as spacious as people imagine them to be. As in, I’m amazed he has enough room for the servants! Or food storage!
And this isn’t a nice, super-modern castle. Eragon is pretty grossed out by how cold, slimy and nasty it is, and it’s lit only by torches. Despite this, it’s also ridiculously luxurious.
ushered them into a room dominated by a bearskin rug laden with stuffed chairs. Bookshelves stacked with leather-bound tomes covered the walls.
- Bought at Ye Olde Ikea and Ancient Barnes & Noble.
- Okay, I can sorta understand the comfy setting because, well, nobody wants to squat in a cold gross room when you’re doing official business.
- But seriously, Eragon has personally seen more books than probably existed in the whole Middle Ages!
Jeod lights a fire and he and Brom begin bantering. For some reason, he is cheery and happy now.
“And you look the same as you did nearly twenty years ago. Time seems to have preserved you as a crotchety old man”
BUT he’s totally not a Dragon-Rider! Only an idiot would think that! Drop the subject!
Brom then recounts about how, when they were in Gil’ead long ago, he came across a storeroom.
“Fortune smiled on me that hour, for I found what we had been searching for.”
“The biggest blow-up sheep in the world!”
Brom found the MacGuffin and ran out on Jeod, so he ran away and gave it to “our friends,” aka the Varden. Yeah, he doesn’t SAY it’s the Varden, but it obviously is. There’s only two sides in this book, the bad guys and the good guys.
Also, the MacGuffin is the egg. Seriously. Totally obvious. The only question is: why was Galbatorix sticking a dragon egg in a storage room?
Nope, not good enough. I could understand hiding the egg somewhere, but Brom specifically mentions that he found the dragon egg, which is one of only a FEW IN THE WORLD as far as Galby is concerned, in a crate surrounded by other crates in an unguarded room.
I know it could be seen as a really clever tactic, hiding the egg in a big room full of random crap. But if you have people actively looking for the dragon egg, wouldn’t it be smarter to make a secret passage to a secret room covered in protective spells?
“They stored it in a vault, for safekeeping, and made me promise to care for whomever received it.”
YES. Like the idiot sitting next to you going, “Durrrrr, I like butterflies!”
Why is Brom keeping this “object” super-secret? Jeod knows that he means an egg, since Brom says that they were looking for it. Why not just say he was looking for an egg? Eragon hatched it, so clearly he knows about it!
“Until the day when my skills would be needed, I had to disappear. No one could know that I was alive—not even you—though it grieved me to pain you unnecessarily. So I went north and hid in Carvahall.”
Which is totally not like anyone else I can think of.
Except… I’m not sure why he went into hiding from everybody. I mean, he should probably be in hiding from Galby, but he was doing secret missions for the Varden. Clearly he wasn’t hugely valuable. We ARE eventually told the real reason for Brom to be hanging out in Carvahall, but… this excuse doesn’t hold water.
Also, we later learn that the only way for a dragon to choose its rider is to expose it to as many people as possible, because it will only hatch for the person meant to be the rider. Keeping it in a vault ALL THE TIME seems like a bad idea.
Eragon clenched his jaw, infuriated that Brom was deliberately keeping him in the dark.
Behold a glimpse of Eragon’s brain.
How hard is it to put the pieces together? Brom is obviously a former Dragon-rider. He found a mystery object that required his expertise. Eragon got a dragon egg, and now Brom is going everywhere with him.
Since Jeod has a functioning brain, he figures this whole thing out instantly. And instead of telling Jeod the truth, since Jeod is an ally, Brom… lies to him.
“No, it’s not that simple. It was stolen a while ago—at least that’s what I presume, for I haven’t received word from our friends, and I suspect their messengers were waylaid—”
So… you haven’t gotten any news, but you KNOW there were messengers that never got to you… and that makes you just ASSUME it was stolen. Either Brom is a horrible liar, or his lack of logic really lacks at logic!
This is so stupid that Jeod immediately comments on how stupid it is: “But if they haven’t sent any messages, how could you know that it was—” Thank you, Jeod. Brom then completely changes his story: “Eragon’s uncle was brutally killed by the Ra’zac. They burned his home and nearly caught him in the process. He deserves revenge, but they have left us without a trail to follow, and we need help finding them.”
… wha… huh… I… I’m sorry, how does that follow from “the egg was stolen because the Varden messengers were waylaid”? Am I missing something? That only makes sense if the Ra’zac had killed the messengers… which we KNOW is not the case, and Brom has no reason to think so.
Jeod’s face cleared. “I see. . . .”
I don’t. Could you explain to ME please?
Brom brings up the seithr oil and how they need to see the records. Jeod reveals that the books in this room are his trade records, which could take months to look through. Also, he can’t get access to the other merchants’ records because traders don’t get to look at other people’s records. “They fear that we will falsify the results, thus cheating the Empire of its precious taxes.” You know, because they’re smart.
Also, my first thought would be “So they don’t commit fraud against each other.” I’m not clear on how you can cheat on your taxes by falsifying SOMEONE ELSE’S records. “Oh, I’m going to cheat on my taxes by changing the numbers on my neighbor’s tax forms!” It would actually be very easy to falsify your own tax data, because the only records you have access to are… the ones you need to falsify.
Does it show that Paolini had probably never paid taxes at the time he wrote this?
Oh, once again, seithr was an ancient Nordic word meaning “sorcery” or “magic,” often that used by women. Specifically, a shamanic magic used for seeing the future. So it baffles me that Paolini is using the word to refer to oil that burns off your skin.
“I can deal with that when the time comes,” said Brom.
It better not involve the words “these are not the droids you’re looking for.”
But before he reads the confidential information that Jeod can’t get it, Brom wants some rest. So he and Eragon are invited to crash at Jeod’s house. It would be pretty awkward if Jeod was like, “Oh, sorry. We’re sort of renovating the house and the guest room doesn’t have walls right now.”
“Eragon,” said Jeod thoughtfully. “You have a unique name. Few have ever been named after the first Rider. In my life I’ve read about only three people who were called such.”
- Oh come on! Famous and notable historical figures have PLENTY of people named after them! Saints, conquerors (Alexander), literary figures, heroes, celebrities, etc!
- They may not always be in vogue, but at SOME time somebody would have been named after them!
- And yes, I know that people probably wouldn’t want to name babies after legendary Dragonriders while Galby was in power. I get that.
- But… THREE TIMES IN HISTORY, including the original? Galby’s only been in power for a century! Why weren’t people naming their kids “Eragon” left and right before that?!
Eragon was startled that Jeod knew the origin of his name.
Yes, clearly a person who was in league with the Varden AND a former Dragonrider who told YOU what the name’s significance… AND hunted for what was clearly your dragon egg… would know NOTHING of the origin of the historical Eragon!
That’s like saying that a kid named George would be surprised that someone knows about George Washington! Who was so awesome that he might as well have ridden a dragon!
Brom looked at Eragon. “Could you go check on the horses and make sure they’re all right? I don’t think I tied Snowfire to the ring tightly enough.”
They’re trying to hide something from me. The moment I leave they’re going to talk about it.
Thanks for the tip, hamsterbrain. I couldn’t have figured that out without your very important help.
Instead of leaving the room and eavesdropping, Eragon actually DOES go down to where the horses are. Then he conveniently remembers a spell to enhance your hearing, which Brom conveniently taught him before. You know, Brom, if you’re going to keep secrets for NO REASON from your protege, maybe you shouldn’t teach him how to eavesdrop long-distance.
Just as conveniently, Eragon enhancing his hearing does not immediately deafen him.
And no, Jeod and Brom are not saying anything that secret. Basically they’re talking about Jeod’s career options, why he became a merchant, that he lost his last ship. and that the Varden are running low on supplies because Jeod can’t send them stuff for free.
… does it show that Paolini does not understand how to run a business? I’m not well versed in capitalist goings on, mostly because I am poor, but even I know that this is unnatural!
Jeod should not be calmly discussing that he has lost his last ship and all the cargo on it. He should be bouncing off the walls screaming and flagellating himself, because his business is FUCKING DEAD. He has no way of supporting himself and his family!
Let me give you an example:
If you haven’t read the book, this is Robin McKinley’s Beauty, a revisionist feminist take on Beauty and the Beast… which Disney kinda ripped off in places, but we’ll get to that some other time. None of that is really relevant, except the backstory. See, the heroine’s father is a famous merchant with his own shipyard. When he lost all his ships and cargo… HE WAS BROKE. His family lost EVERYTHING. They had to sell the shipyard AND their home to cover debts, and they dropped out of high society.
In fact, the ONLY reason they have a home to go to is because one of the daughters has a sweet husband who builds them a little house out in the country so they can live a newly impoverished life there.
Jeod? His last ship is FUCKING GONE. He has lost cargo, he has lost the means of transporting it, and he has no way of recouping the costs that went into those things. Unless Alagaesia has Ye Olde Medieval Insurance Companies, that money is gone forever and nobody is gonna give it back to him. Unless this guy is the Alagaesian equivalent of Donald Trump, HE SHOULD BE FUCKING BROKE NOW.
Instead, he and Brom act like it’s an inconvenience that he can’t supply vast quantities of goods, FOR FREE, to a rebel group.
“However, the bulk of my business is nothing more than a front to get goods into Surda.”
SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF BLOWN.
Is this guy the Alagaesian Scrooge McDuck? How the fuck can he afford to not only buy and lose ships AND vast amounts of cargo, but give his cargo away FOR FREE to a massive secret organization that can’t pay him? WHERE IS THE MONEY COMING FROM?
I know that merchants are often depicted in fantasy as the fat rich types who are just short of 1%ers (that would be the nobility). But without insurance, any business like this is a total crapshoot. A bit of bad luck, and you’re on the street next to Crazy Larry and his pet air molecules.
“The last one I owned,” answered Jeod bitterly. “Every man on it was loyal and brave. I doubt I’ll ever see them again. . . . The only option I have left is to send caravans to Surda or Gil’ead—which I know won’t get there, no matter how many guards I hire—or charter someone else’s ship to carry the goods. But no one will take them now.”
WHY AREN’T YOU SHITTING YOURSELF AND CRYING?! YOUR LIFE IS OVER!!!!!!!
“How many merchants have been helping you?” asked Brom.
“Oh, a good number up and down the seaboard. All of them have been plagued by the same troubles. I know what you are thinking; I’ve pondered it many a night myself, but I cannot bear the thought of a traitor with that much knowledge and power. If there is one, we’re all in jeopardy. You should return to Tronjheim.”
- So you have all the evidence you need of treachery… but you’re too squeamish to actually consider it.
- You moron. No wonder your business is failing.
- Yes, they’re all in jeopardy, because all the merchants in the area are losing their ships. THAT IS A VERY BAD THING.
- And wait, are ONLY the Varden-friendly merchants being attacked, or are all merchants being attacked?
- Hell, how can whoever or whatever is attacking even tell whose ship is whose?!
Brom refuses to take Eragon there because “They’d tear him apart. It’s the worst place he could be right now.” Yeah, they don’t. At all.
“Can you imagine how the dwarves will react?”
No, not really, because you haven’t explained it.
“Everyone will be trying to influence him, especially Islanzadi. He and Saphira won’t be safe in Tronjheim until I at least get them through tuatha du orothrim.”
- Sadly, this is the last indication that the elves are somehow untrustworthy. By the next book, you’re supposed to distrust dwarves, but care deeply about what elves think.
- I had to google this, but apparently in this series “tuatha du orothrim” means “tempering the fool’s wisdom.”
- I’m pretty sure Eragon will never be done with that.
- Or you, for that matter.
- And if you’re going to use a lot of Celtic names and words, please don’t randomly reassign their meaning. At least change the spelling to “tatha” or something.
- Because “tuatha” doesn’t mean “tempering.” It means “tribe” or “folk” or “people.”
Eragon practically jizzes with joy at the idea of dwarves, then immediately mood-swings into being upset that Brom told Jeod about Saphira without asking him. Dude, has Brom EVER showed any consideration for you? Why would he start now?
“Wisdom,” snorted Brom. “I’m just what you said earlier—a crotchety old man.”
I can’t disagree with that.
Brom shrugs off the idea that other people might want him to do… something, because beating Eragon with a stick is much more important than that.
“But the prospect of a traitor raises troubling questions. I wonder if that’s how the Empire knew where to be. . . .”
Dude, there are going to be traitors… or more likely, spies.
They discuss contacting someone named Ajihad… which is a very unfortunate name for the leader of a morally-righteous rebellion. So Brom is going to send a message to Ajihad, with his ring as proof of who sent it. Of course, Brom isn’t a king or a noble or something, so his ring doesn’t have any kind of weight behind it. It’s just a piece of jewelry, not a signet or something.
Brom grunted. After a long silence he said, “We’d better go out and join Eragon. I get worried when he’s alone. That boy has an unnatural propensity for being wherever there’s trouble.”
“He’s probably been kidnapped by prostitutes and sacrificed to Xenu. You know, stuff like that.”
Eragon snaps out of it and recaps the entire conversation for anyone who has fallen asleep, and then decides that hey, he’ll wait until they leave town to nag Brom into telling him all the answers he wants. Eragon, Brom won’t even admit he used to be a dragonrider WHICH HE OBVIOUSLY WAS. Why do you think he’ll tell you anything?
“Were the horses all right?” asked Brom.
“Fine,” said Eragon. They untied the horses and left the castle.
They also discuss how Jeod has gotten married to a much younger, wealthy woman, and he’s having marital problems. I’ll spare you from hearing about them.
“Of course. That’s my job,” said Jeod, lightening up. He talked eagerly about prices and stores until his house was in sight. Then he asked, “Would you mind if we went somewhere else to eat? It might be awkward if you came in right now.”
“My wife is banging the tennis instructor again.”
They head over to another tavern, which has none of the problems of the last one. So I guess this shows that the problem isn’t general malaise – it’s just that the other one was a shitty tavern with bad service.
When the main course arrived—a stuffed suckling pig—Eragon eagerly dug into the meat,
Because Eragon loves his meat.
but he especially savored the potatoes, carrots, turnips, and sweet apples that accompanied it. It had been a long time since he had eaten much more than wild game.
Finally! Paolini remembers that food other than meat exists.
The two old guys spend hours talking about stuff that presumably isn’t top secret, until Eragon decides to go check on Saphira (who is probably pissed off that they left her behind). Not sure why he doesn’t use that telepathic bond they share to just say, “Hey, how are ya?”
“Wait,” said Jeod. “Are you going outside Teirm?” Eragon hesitated, then reluctantly nodded. “Make sure you’re inside the walls before dark. The gates close then, and the guards won’t let you back in until morning.”
“That’s when the zombies come out!”
Eragon isn’t very worried… and with a dragon, I can sorta see why. He saunters off out of the city and finds Saphira at the top of a cliff, but insists she shouldn’t just fly down. Which makes sense, since he wouldn’t want anyone to see her… but which seems like a big waste of time.
No, he said, eyeing the cliff, that won’t be necessary.I’ll just climb up.
It’s too dangerous.
And you worry too much. Let me have some fun.
So he’s a farmer, a swordsman, a sorcerer, a dragon-rider AND a master archer… plus he can free-climb cliffs. Is this guy a Barbie doll? Is he also a doctor, a president and an astronaut?
And yes, he is wasting precious daylight, so I really hope this stupidity is going to actually lead to Eragon being locked outside and having to deal with some repercussions.
And then Eragon immediately proves that this WAS a waste of time, because he gets stuck on the cliffside, and can’t get up or down.
This is your own fault.
Yes! I know. Are you going to get me down or not?
If I weren’t around, you would be in a very bad situation.
Of course, if you weren’t around, he wouldn’t be in this place at all. He only went up the cliff to get to you, you pile of bitter scales.
You’re right. After all, how can a mere dragon expect to tell a man like yourself what to do? In fact, everyone should stand in awe of your brilliance of finding the only dead end. Why, if you had started a few feet in either direction, the path to the top would have been clear. She cocked her head at him, eyes bright.
I think someone might be a wee bit bitter. Yes, Eragon is a Stu, but she’s the one who’s acted with more open arrogance so far.
Saphira then vanishes, and Eragon pretty clearly thinks she’s left him hanging. This dragon-rider bond is really not all it’s cracked up to be, because it doesn’t seem to extend any further than telepathic conversation. But of course, Saphira goes charging off the cliffside and flapping down in the most attention-getting way she possibly can.
She floated down to Eragon like a huge bat
Bats don’t float.
and grabbed his shirt with her claws,
… and I’m not sure how she does this without tearing right through it.
She brings him to the top of the cliff, and Eragon immediately takes in the view.
The cliff provided a wonderful view of their surroundings, especially the foaming sea,
Okay, who put dish soap in the ocean?!
Is Brom’s friend trustworthy? she asked.
Well, if he isn’t, you two have exactly nobody you can rely on. So you might as well trust him. And I’m not sure where this doubt came from, since it was never mentioned before coming there.
Eragon tells her about everything that happened, and whines, There are forces circling us that we aren’t aware of. Sometimes I wonder if we can ever understand the true motives of the people around us. They all seem to have secrets.
It is the way of the world. Ignore all the schemes and trust in the nature of each person. Brom is good. He means us no harm. We don’t have to fear his plans.
Nice try, Paolini. But frankly, there are only two people in the entire book that have schemed or kept secrets. One is obviously Eragon (because he was keeping a secret dragon in the woods)… but… the other one is BROM, who refuses to tell him anything that could actually help him.
… okay, technically Roran MIGHT have been keeping his marital intentions secret, but… on the other hand, that might have been Eragon being clueless.
So pulling this whole “oh noez, we’re surrounded by people with mysterious motives and schemes!” thing. It might have worked in the next book, when Eragon IS surrounded by people who want to use him. But in this book? BROM is the only person who has kept secrets from Eragon throughout this whole book. Even Jeod is only keeping those secrets because Brom told him too.
So tell me, why can you trust Brom? His creepy secretive ways do not inspire confidence.
Eragon manages to get to the portcullis just before it closes, and the guards are nice enough to not leave him outside to be eaten by wolves. Wait, how did they not notice Saphira? She dropped Eragon off on the ground!
Tapestries covered the stone walls. Elaborate rugs dotted the polished wood floor, which glowed with the light from three gold candelabra hanging from the ceiling. Smoke drifted through the air and collected above.
… shouldn’t Eragon be floored by how luxurious this house is? He’s lived in a buttfuck little village in a house that should rightly have collapsed decades ago.
So the butler – yes, Jeod has a butler, even though he’s allegedly going broke – shows Eragon to his study, where Brom and Jeod are talking about stuff.
I wonder what put him in such a good mood? Why doesn’t he just come out and ask how Saphira is?
Because he’s keeping that secret from Jeod? Because needless secrecy is Brom’s thing?
Eragon turned to Brom. “Do you have any idea how long we’ll be here?”
Brom spread his palms upward. “That’s hard to tell. It depends on whether we can get to the records and how long it will take us to find what we need. We’ll all have to help; it will be a huge job. I’ll talk with Brand tomorrow and see if he’ll let us examine the records.”
THIS ENTIRE STUPID SCHEME MAKES NO SENSE.
Eragon then reveals that he’s illiterate, which is… somehow surprising to Brom. Even though, you know, most medieval people were illiterate, especially since in societies that didn’t have the printing press, all books had to be hand-copied and were enormously valuable. There’s a reason libraries used to have chains…
It’s because books cost SO much, both financially and in time spent, that you couldn’t risk someone stealing them and selling them. That’s why Gutenberg was such a big deal: he was making books CHEAPER and EASIER and FASTER, because you didn’t need a monk to spend two or three years scratching every word out by hand.
Of course, it also meant that no bored young monks would be drawing dick trees on the margins.
No, really. The dick tree is one of the LESS weird ones. Google “weird medieval marginalia,” and be amazed at the plethora of dicks, dicks, more dicks, snails, fart jokes, dicks, rubber spines, killer rabbits (where do you think Monty Python got the idea), dicks, nightmare-fuel monsters, arrows in butts, dicks, balls, assholes, killer birds, a man riding a giant furry flying penis….
You know, maybe we should bring back hand-copied books.
Brom straightened with disbelief. “You mean Garrow never taught you?”
“He knew how to read?” asked Eragon, puzzled. Jeod watched them with interest.
“Of course he did,” snorted Brom. “The proud fool—what was he thinking? I should have realized that he wouldn’t have taught you. He probably considered it an unnecessary luxury.”
… wait, so… not only was Garrow literate, but he deliberately chose for his son and nephew… to be ILLITERATE. ON PURPOSE.
Okay, I officially hate Garrow now. Not only is this a really selfish thing to do, especially just out of “pride,” but he was actively sabotaging both of their futures. Any medieval job would be made easier by the ability to read and write… hell, there were dozens of jobs that would open up for you BECAUSE you could read and/or write, because formal education was relatively rare. So teaching them to read even a LITTLE would have made their lives much better.
And you would think someone who lived in a crappy house that was ABANDONED for fifty years and couldn’t feed his family in the winter would want as many job avenues open as possible. Nope. He wanted those kids dumb, uneducated, isolated and stuck on the farm he didn’t pay for until they died, hopefully being scammed by anyone they traded with because they couldn’t read.
So fuck you, Garrow. Your pride meant more to you than those boys.
Then again, is it surprising? Garrow seems like the kind of bitter asshole who thinks that his current way of life is the only GOOD way, and people who have different jobs/are more successful are wrong and bad and evil. Be a dirt-poor farmer, dammit! It’s the only REAL life.
Brom scowled and pulled at his beard angrily. “This sets my plans back, but not irreparably. I’ll just have to teach you how to read. It won’t take long if you put your mind to it.”
Yes. Yes, it will. Because I’ve actually met adults who are functionally illiterate, and they can’t just pick it up easily past a certain age.
Eragon isn’t thrilled at the idea of being taught something more, because Brom’s method of teaching him ANYTHING involves beating him with a stick. Anything else (like magic) he tries to avoid teaching Eragon.
“You’ll enjoy it. There is much you can learn from books and scrolls,” said Jeod. He gestured at the walls. “These books are my friends, my companions. They make me laugh and cry and find meaning in life.”
- As much as I love books, this is a somewhat anachronistic approach.
- Again, pre-printing society.
- And if Alagaesia’s arc of literature is anything like medieval Europe’s, they’re not particularly find-meaning-in-lifey. They’re narratives meant to entertain.
- And why would you have scrolls in a society that has codices? There’s a reason codices made scrolls completely obsolete – they are inferior in every way except for the ability to play “lightsabers” with them.
“Always the scholar, aren’t you?” asked Brom.
Jeod shrugged. “Not anymore. I’m afraid I’ve degenerated into a bibliophile.”
Brom’s not anyone to criticize. Remember how many books he had in HIS house?
While the old guys are discussing old guy stuff, Eragon examines a big black book, completely at random.
It was bound in black leather carved with mysterious runes.
He can’t read. How would he even know whether they were “mysterious runes”?
It turns out this book is the Domia abr Wyrda, which is apparently banned by the Empire because it chronicles the entire history of Alagaesia. Which means that… you probably shouldn’t keep it prominently displayed on your bookshelf, especially if you are suspected of helping the Varden.
“When it was written, the Empire decried it as blasphemy and burned the author, Heslant the Monk.”
- No, really. We’re not told here why it was decried as blasphemous.
- I can understand the Empire not wanting people to know much about the pre-Galbatorix history, but… this isn’t made entirely clear.
- And wait… a MONK?
- So there is some kind of religion in this world? Because generally monks are in monasteries, and monasteries are for religious contemplation and whatnot.
- And generally they are from fairly large religions as well. Not always, but usually.
- Or did Paolini just know that most book-writin’ in medieval times was done by monks, and therefore… the monk would be the one to do it?
- I also don’t think most monks were referred to as “X the Monk.” Generally if they were famous, they were known by where they lived or by some exceptional thing they did (Brendan the Navigator).
- Otherwise, you signify that they are monks by “Brother” or “Abbot” or “Prior.”
- Also, who is it blasphemy TO? Is this implying that Galby expects religious worship? Because nothing said before or after this implies that!
It also turns out that the writing is in the ancient language, and it’s an excerpt of an elven poem about when they fought the dragons.
“This excerpt describes one of their kings, Ceranthor, as he rides into battle. The elves love this poem and tell it regularly—though you need three days to do it properly—so that they won’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”
- Damn, that’s a long and probably very boring poem. Beowulf could be done in a few hours, and it spans fifty years and three different monster-slayings.
- I can understand WHY you’d want to tell the story… or at least an abridged version of it.
- But I don’t know why they would “love” it.
- Stories meant to warn you of the mistakes of the past are… well, usually are pretty horrifying. They’re not enjoyable or lovable, even if they are powerful.
- Lord of the Rings is a story people “love.” Stuff on the Holocaust… not so much.
- And if you tell stories of heroic kings of the past in a heroic light, you’re more likely to inspire people to think, “Those bastard dragons!”
- Did the Elves have any actual culture or history that WASN’T tied to dragons?
“At times they sing it so beautifully it seems the very rocks will cry.”
You’re doing it a shit job of pretending you’re not a dragonrider.
When they’re heading up to bed for the night, Eragon asks Brom, “is it possible to conjure up an image of something that you can’t see?” That’s called imagination, Eragon. It’s what brings us pictures of dick trees.
Fortunately Brom figures out what he really means, which is scrying, but he claims you can only scry things you’ve already seen, and nothing you haven’t. Paolini will later abandon this limitation, like most of the magical limitations in this series. Because Eragon Am Awsum.
“Because,” said Brom patiently, “to scry, you have to know what you’re looking at and where to direct your power. Even if a stranger was described to you, it would still be nigh impossible to view him, not to mention the ground and whatever else might be around him. You have to know what you’re going to scry before you can scry it. Does that answer your question?”
Yeah, it makes me strongly suspect that scrying is nothing more than imagining something.
“Some Riders used to travel everywhere they could, trying to see as much as possible. Then, whenever war or some other calamity occurred, they would be able to view events throughout Alagaësia.”
Except if those events involved people they hadn’t seen before. Then they were screwed.
Brom tells him not to try scrying until after they’ve left Teirm… but for some reason tells him the words used to activate it. Brom clearly has never met a teenager before.
Eragon then says that he wants to scry Roran, ust to make sure the Ra’zac haven’t horribly killed him. Brom cheerfully says that yeah, that totally probably might happen.
“If that’s true, then the only way to keep Roran safe is to let the Ra’zac know where I am so that they’ll come after me instead of him.”
… okay, even if that were a good idea… which it isn’t… how exactly would you do that? The whole reason you’re in Teirm is because you DON’T know how to find them, and this idiotic scheme of looking through sales records to find their home address is your “best option.”
“No, that won’t work either. You’re not thinking,” admonished Brom. “If you can’t understand your enemies, how can you expect to anticipate them? Even if you exposed your location, the Ra’zac would still chase Roran. Do you know why?”
Eragon straightened and tried to consider every possibility. “Well, if I stay in hiding long enough, they might get frustrated and capture Roran to force me to reveal myself. If that didn’t work, they’d kill him just to hurt me. Also, if I become a public enemy of the Empire, they might use him as bait to catch me. And if I met with Roran and they found out about it, they would torture him to find out where I was.”
Congratulations, Eragon. You are officially smarter than Edturd Sullen, because you can figure out how villains who are evil might decide to act. You get a gold sticker.
“The solution is quite obvious. Roran is going to have to learn how to defend himself.”
… you suck at being a magical mentor. God forbid Eragon swoop back there on Saphira, pick up Roran, and fly back to meet you – which would probably take a couple days by dragon. And it’s not going to help Eragon focus on his mission to tell him, “Well, sucks to be your cousin. They’ll probably torture and kill him.”
“I told you that I had left a warning letter for Roran so he won’t be totally unprepared for danger.”
“But Roran can’t read.”
“Uhh… er… well, I’m sure he’ll get his own subplot in the next three books, which will make him invincible.”
“There is some good in all of this. The king cannot afford to have a Rider roaming around that he does not control. Galbatorix is the only known Rider alive besides yourself,”
Where the hell are the Forsworn?! Did he kill them all even though they were all his followers?!
“but he would like another one under his command.”
“Then he can kill you at some future date for no adequately explained reason, because… villain.”
“Before he tries to kill you or Roran, he will offer you the chance to serve him. Unfortunately, if he ever gets close enough to make that proposition, it will be far too late for you to refuse and still live.”
Wouldn’t that be a very, very effective way of killing him? Agree to work for him while having a dragon, and then stabbing him in the back (literally or figuratively)?
“It’s all that’s protecting Roran. As long as the king doesn’t know which side you’ve chosen, he won’t risk alienating you by harming your cousin. Keep that firmly in mind. The Ra’zac killed Garrow, but I think it was an ill-considered decision on their part. From what I know of Galbatorix, he would not have approved it unless he gained something from it.”
- So what in hell makes him think that they won’t make another ill-considered decision?! They have no overseer, no direct instructions.
- Yes, Galby might make that decision… but he’s apparently not keeping very strict control of his minions.
- So his approval or disapproval doesn’t really matter in relation to Roran. Sure, he might be opposed to Roran’s execution or torture, for that reason.
- But it won’t help Roran if the Ra’zac decide to torture and kill him, because…. even if Galby disapproves of it, he’ll already be dead/mutilated.
- Honestly, it seems like this is something Galbatorix should have given them instructions on. Like, “kidnap the family of whoever the dragonrider is, and deliver them to me unharmed.”
- Oh, and Galbatorix? Paolini later goes the “OMG, he’s crazy so he does stupid things!” route, so all irrational or logical behavior by Galbatorix can be handwaved away.
“Galbatorix wants your willing cooperation. Without that, you’re worse than useless to him. So the question becomes, If you are ever faced with this choice, are you willing to die for what you believe in? For that is the only way you will deny him.”
The question hung in the air.
Brom finally said, “It’s a difficult question and not one you can answer until you’re faced with it. Keep in mind that many people have died for their beliefs; it’s actually quite common. The real courage is in living and suffering for what you believe.”
- Written by a teenager who hasn’t really done either.
- And I’m sure this pithy little comment sounds VERY deep to people who don’t think about what they believe, or whose convictions aren’t very strong. You know, the average Tumblr/Facebook/Twitter user.
- But Brom is essentially calling people who would rather die for their beliefs… cowards. Because he thinks dying rather than being untrue to who/what you believe in is easy compared to continuing to be alive.
- He is also calling people cowards if they are willing to die for any philosophical cause, like the people who fought for freedom in the American Revolution.
- Those guys who got shot and died? They weren’t courageous enough.
- If they were courageous enough, they would have continued living.
- And people who are oppressed for their religious beliefs in the Middle-East, like the Christians and Jews who are killed? They’re cowards because… well, the REAL courage would be to not be brutally slaughtered.
- By abandoning their beliefs.
- Which isn’t exactly “living for what you believe.”
- FUCK YOU, PAOLINI.
- And fuck you, Brom. Just because you were a coward who wussed out rather than actually doing anything useful doesn’t mean that that is “real courage.”
- And you know what? This is no good for Eragon, because you’re telling him, “The only options are cowardly death, or bravely agreeing to serve the evil villain.” Great pep talk, you old coot.