Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thank You, Eragon

Christopher Paolini is living a writer’s fantasy. After writing a grand story, and self-publishing it, some kid read it and loved it. This kid happened to know someone who knew someone at Alfred A. Knopf, a big publishing company under Random House. A few suggestions later, Paolini’s novel hit the national scene and became wildly popular.

Now he’s working on the last installment of his Inheritance Cycle, of which Eragon was the first. They tell the story of a young man who finds a dragon egg. The egg hatches, and he winds up fighting with the dragon against a powerful tyrant. These books set the bestseller lists on fire. Eragon was his breakout hit; his very first novel. Eldest broke Random House records. So did Brisingr.

Why do we want these kind of stories? You know what I’m talking about. The Lord of the Rings. Star Wars. The Chronicles of Narnia. Transformers, even. Stories of good and evil at war, with powerful forces, vast scales, and something  huge at stake, like the fate of the world. Maybe even the universe.

How many movie trailers have you seen that try and get that mood? You know the type. Frenzied action scenes, desperate-looking heroes and heroines, ominous shots of villains and minions, and urgent choral music. The trailers for the seventh Harry Potter are perfect examples…

We are not the only generation who likes this sort of thing, ether. Cecil DeMille, if you remember him, was the James Cameron of his day; the Ten Commandments was an Avatar for sheer special effects and grandeur.  There weren’t as many movies like that in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but the rise of Tolkien and George Lucas brought it back with a vengeance.

So why do we like them?

I submit that we sense something in these stories, these specific sorts of stories- and that we want it. Badly. When I see King Theoden and his Rohirrim roar and ride upon Mordor’s army, I get this feeling roaring with them in my heart. And it’s not just because it’s a grand show. It’s something I can’t describe for sure, but can guess and be confident. It is the feeling of war. A deep war. A war deeper than any war on this earth; World War Two is a gang fight compared to what I speak of. I speak of our own spiritual struggle.

We want to be King Theoden, riding into certain death, and riding because he knows what is good and that he will fight like a madman to preserve it. We want to be Luke Skywalker, standing before  Emperor Palpatine and refusing to accept the dark side of the Force. We want that courage. We want that devotion. We want that suffering. We want that purpose.

I put up such an illusion of purpose in my modern life, but at times I sense I’m not hooked up to anything, that I am not anything at all… unless I’m hooked up to God. In the end, what I want and what you want is to be hooked up. To go on a quest. To pour out ourselves into something; something worth dying for.

Which is exactly what these heroes and heroines do. We watch them because they are the humans we know we can be, and what we want to be more than anyone else. We want to join them in the cosmic struggle, so clearly seen in the fire in their eyes and the urgency in their cries.

Look at Eragon again. If you haven’t read it and the other books, I would certainly do so. They aren’t quite as deep, original, or even coherent as The Lord of the Rings, but they still show you that quest. I cannot thank Eragon, and his creator Christopher Paolini, enough. With his first novel, Mr. Paolini wasn’t afraid to go after that quest, and try and take our breath away, and make our souls burst into flame. He didn’t do it as well as the masters, but he put in a darn good effort.

Thank you, Eragon. Thank you truly. I’ve followed you on a magnificent journey, and may you smite that foul King Galbatorix when your author comes out with Book IV.


  1. Great post! I definitely get that feeling with the Lord of The Rings. Not so much with Eragon. I stopped reading the Eragon series after the second book. The series is very good writing by a teenager, but it's still written by a teenager. I also hated all the elf atheist BS. Elves are supposed to be very spiritual creatures, not more attractive versions of Christopher Hitchens.

  2. Haha, Button I know what you're talking about. WAAAAAY more attractive than Hitchens though. But those Eragon books are feeding kids a taste for adventure, quest and purpose, and I do believe that the atheisitic elves are balanced well by the existence of the dwarf gods.