I’m beginning to worry that I have some kind of literary Stockholm Syndrome, because I’ve actually been enjoying Eragon lately.
“The Witch and the Werecat” is another chapter I was looking forward to reading. We’re properly introduced to Angela and the werecat Solembum, both of whom I’ve always rather liked.
Angela is a fictionalized version of Paolini’s sister, and that makes me wonder a couple things. First of all, how much is the real Angela like her fantasy counterpart? There’s no real way I can answer that, so the next question would be, “is it really okay to put someone you know in real life into your novel?”
My immediate thought is to recoil from the idea, but that is largely Twilight‘s fault, considering that waste of paper was originally written as a story for Stephanie Meyers’s sister. Yes, I know Eragon and Twilight are very different books, and Eragon came first, so I’m really not being fair about this. Putting a person you know in real life into a book also brings up the thought of a self-insert main character. I’ve both read and written enough fanfiction to tell you that self-inserts more often than not lead to Mary Sues and bad writing.
So I was a little wary when I came across Angela again, and I have to say that I still legitimately like the character. She’s not some beautiful woman, she’s an old, quirky witch who’s a lot of fun to watch, and I’m glad that she comes back later in the series.
Now, what about the werecat?
Eragon first sees Solembum and assumes he’s a normal cat, and tries to reach out to him with his mind. Solembum responds using the same type of mental communication Eragon shares with Saphira, and Eragon just assumes that he’s talking to her. It was probably done for humorous effect, but he can’t tell the difference between Solembum and his dragon? Really?
The werecat blinked lazily. ‘Knowing is independent of being. I did not know you existed before you bumbled in here and ruined my nap. Yet that doesn’t mean you weren’t real before you woke me.’
…Did Solembum just drop a Schrodinger reference that I would have never understood at age fourteen?
Angela, the herbalist, offers to read Eragon’s real fortune using the knuckle bones of a dragon. This was another scene that I liked a lot as a kid. When I was reading Eldest, I would frequently go back to this scene and try to figure out how all the things Angela tells him would play out.
One of the things Angela starts with is weird to me, though. After casting the bones, she says that Eragon is one of the few that is free to choose his own fate. I honestly would expect the opposite of that Saphira’s egg would have never hatched if he hadn’t touched it–I would call that destiny. I’d think that people more like Jeod and Angela, ordinary people, would have more choice in their lives than Eragon. He has to be a Dragon Rider; there’s no way he can back out.
The bones also promise an epic romance. Yeah, right. It became obvious to me when I first read this book that he would fall in love with Arya, the elf woman in the prologue. In Eldest, he does confess that he loves her, and they are friends, but she often treats Eragon with disdain. I never finished reading the third book in the series, Brisingr, but I didn’t feel a whole lotta love between the two of them there, either.
Plus, Eragon’s confession in Eldest is just cringe-worthy.
The last part of his fortune was that Eragon would be betrayed by someone in his own family. He objects to this right away, saying that his cousin Roran wouldn’t do anything like that.
I make fun of Eragon a lot here for failing to see the obvious, but this was a twist that took me by surprise when it happened near the end of Eldest, and Eragon’s long-lost brother shows up. I really think I should’ve seen that one coming.
Before Eragon leaves the shop, he receives two more pieces of advice from Solembum.
When the time comes and you need a weapon, look under the roots of the Menoa tree. Then, when all seem lost and your power is insufficient, go to the rock of Kuthian and speak your name to open the Vault of Souls.
I haven’t read far enough into the series to know what the “Vault of Souls” is, but I’m intrigued, despite myself.
Like in the previous chapter, I think the foreshadowing is handled well here. Some of the things in Eragon’s fortune happen in this book, and there’s enough information to keep me interested in learning how these things will come to pass.