Chapter 8: Rudely into the Light…

We’ve returned to filler chapters, but at least the cliffhanger is resolved (sort of). I guess that means it’s back to not holding your breath while waiting for something to happen. At any rate, there are a couple of problems in this chapter besides the fact that it’s filler and accomplishes nothing.

Ok, so the baby’s being born. Also, it’s a difficult birth and people are concerned that Elain might die in the childbirth. Arya is assisting with the birth, which leads to some anti-Elf racism. Let’s hear it for our heroes! Racists that like to attack people when their backs are turned!

Anyway, there’s some activity and eventually Arya comes storming out to talk to one of the other Elves named Invidia. Personally, she’s one of my favorite characters. Mainly because of her graphics cards.

Eragon catches up to Arya and asks her how it’s going. She says it’s not going well, and Eragon asks why it’s taking so long and if there’s some way that Arya could speed it up. Arya says that she could’ve gotten that puppy out within half an hour but Gertrude and the other women will only let her use the simplest of spells because they’re afraid of magic and Elves. Frankly I don’t see how they’d be able to stop her, but she seems as if she’s just being diplomatic about things.

The whole process drags on and on (and on) until finally the child is born, but tragedy strikes. Although the child is healthy, she has a cat lip (which based on the description, I’m pretty sure is a cleft palate). Arya goes to get Eragon to heal her, and he asks why she can’t heal her. Here’s the explanation:

“If I rework the child’s appearance, people will say I have stolen her and replaced her with a changeling. Well I know the stories your kind tells about my race, Eragon—too well. I will do it if I must, but the child will suffer for it ever after. You are the only one who can save her from such a fate.”

This is what we call mixing mythologies. For those of you who are only familiar with Tolkien’s Elves and all the carbon copies out there (including Paolini’s), it may come as a surprise to you that there is a whole different set of Elf folklore out there. In pre-Tolkien folklore, Elves were more like malevolent fairies, and changelings were sometimes swapped for human children for a variety of reasons. They may take the human child to be a servant, because they love human children, or even just out of pure malice. The changeling left in the child’s place could be an enchanted piece of wood that would soon appear to grow sick and die; it could be an old Elf that wants to be coddled by humans.

Now, notice how none of that makes any sense when talking about Elves of the Tolkienian variety. The changeling couldn’t be an old Elf, because the size difference would make that infeasible. If the child grew up happy and healthy, it couldn’t be enchanted wood. Also, the target is all wrong. Elves were supposed to take beautiful, healthy children and leave the parents with something they wouldn’t want. This is the opposite case where it’s implied that Arya would be accused of taking a defective child and replacing it with a healthy one. Even the pre-Tolkien Elves wouldn’t have gained from such a trade, so how does it make sense for Elves in this story?

Ok, so the lesson is: if you’re going to draw from multiple mythologies, make sure that everything you borrow makes sense!

Eragon is nervous about healing this child. Now why might he be nervous when he’s healed so many people before? Well, it’s because healing a baby kind of reminds him of what he did to Elva. But he’s resolved to heal her, so he takes her to his tent. Oh, did you think the cliffhanger was actually going to be resolved in one chapter? No, no! With a cliffhanger as tense as childbirth, you need to resolve that over two chapters!

Chapter 9: A Cradle Song

He heals her, and he uses a song to do it. That’s really all that happens, but don’t worry, there are still some problems in the execution worth looking at.

The first is that he spends about half an hour (and several pages) on just the prep work. He needs to think of the right words, formulate the spell, go over the words to make sure he has the correct pronunciation, etc. Does anybody else remember when Eragon was walking around healing people and cured someone’s cancer? I don’t recall him spending a half hour trying to remember the Elvish word for cancer or tumor or whatever, or agonizing over the correct pronunciation for shrink. So remember everyone: cancer is easy to cure, but cleft palates are hard.

Also, there are these two excerpts:

Gently, ever so gently, he transferred the newborn from his arms onto the blankets, as carefully as if she were made of glass.

and

Slowly, ever so slowly, the fissure in the girl’s gums and palate fused into a seamless whole, the two sides of her cat lip pulled together—her skin flowing like liquid—and her upper lip gradually formed a pink bow free of flaws.

I honestly started giggling when I read the first one. Or perhaps I should say that happily, ever so happily, I giggled in mirth at the strange repetitious repetition.

This next one, however… Well, here’s the main excerpt:

He and Saphira tried to avoid touching her mind with theirs—not knowing how the contact might affect her immature consciousness—but they still brushed against it occasionally; her mind felt vague and indistinct to Eragon, a thrashing sea of unmoderated emotions that reduced everything else in the world to insignificance.

Does anybody else remember when Eragon touches the minds of animals and gets a sense of their little animal thoughts? Well, apparantly, animals in Eragon’s world have thoughts, but not baby humans; their minds are vague and indistinct with nothing but unmoderated emotions. As the father of a baby human and having once been a baby human myself, I’m actually offended by the implications of this.

Anyway, after the process, Eragon gets the urge to bless the girl. You think he would’ve learned after Elva, but, no. So, does everyone remember how he blessed Elva to “be shielded from pain” but accidentally got the grammar wrong and instead said “be a shield from pain,” which cursed her to feel others’ pain and drove her to prevent that pain in order to prevent her own? Here’s the blessing he decides to give the newborn: “May you be happy.” I’m sure that’ll work out fine. I mean, there’s certainly no chance that that could possibly make it so that she only feels the emotion of happiness, leading to situations where she’s happy when you’re supposed to be sad (like funerals, injuries, etc.) further leading to her being ostracized because it’s unnatural to be happy all the time like that, but, hey, at least she’ll be happy about being driven away from human society. Yeah, that blessing can’t go wrong when spoken in the original language just like a spell.

The chapter closes out with everyone oooing and ahhhing over Eragon’s work. All right, the father who’s daughter has just been healed, I can see that, definitely. The entire village? Ok, they’re a close knit group, so maybe… But all the Elves? Actually, it’s even worse than that. Arya even tells Eragon, “Not even our most skilled enchanters could improve on your gramarye.”

Oh yeah, the first time he’s ever cast a spell like that, and the first time he’s ever done it in song, and he does it so well that not even the most skilled of the Elves could’ve done it better. That’s our Gary Stu. He’s the best and everyone has to let us know that.

Personally, I would’ve thought it would’ve been a lot better if one of the Elves had come up to Eragon and said, “Your work on the child was quite good! Well, for a human, of course. You did much better than any other human could have.” But we can’t give our hero backhanded compliments like that, can we? Otherwise, how will we know that he’s the best?

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Comment

  1. Taku on 23 September 2012, 08:47 said:

    I think this is also the first chapter in the entire series that non-evil characters have viewed the elves as anything other than walking embodiments of grace, beauty, wisdom, and so on. It’s quite a sudden reversal of attitudes. I think there was one mention (a throwaway line, really) by a Dwarf in Eldest that elves were “capricious” (and that can be put down to a series of cliches about the little folk, one of which is that many people who have written about fairies in the past have used the words ‘capricious’ or ‘flighty’ at some point), but nothing even approaching this level of mistrust in the rest of the series.

    And guess what? After this chapter and maybe one other, it is almost never mentioned again.

  2. Pryotra on 23 September 2012, 10:46 said:

    I mean, there’s certainly no chance that that could possibly make it so that she only feels the emotion of happiness, leading to situations where she’s happy when you’re supposed to be sad (like funerals, injuries, etc.) further leading to her being ostracized because it’s unnatural to be happy all the time like that, but, hey, at least she’ll be happy about being driven away from human society.

    That would be very, very creepy. I mean ‘may you have a good life’ might be alright, but really, with a super literal language, any blessing could be a curse.

    But we can’t give our hero backhanded compliments like that, can we?

    That would be been rather interesting. Then there might have been conflict between the elves massive egos and the other characters. Or…wait…maybe the elves had a hand in the creation of this whole problem!

    No…wait…I’m thinking of the Storm Dragons fanfic…

  3. Epke on 24 September 2012, 13:51 said:

    Eragon’s blessings remind me of that fairy in Ella Enchanted who gives the worst gifts. To the protagonist, she gives the “Gift of Obedience” :/ The problem I see with Eragon’s latest blessing is that it is either useless, or monstrous:

    1. May you be happy as in a possibility, which basically makes the blessing useless.
    2. According to Earthsea rules that Paolini stole was inspired from, his actions have now fundamentally changed the little girl’s personality. What if she can’t feel anything but happiness (and other close emotions, like joy, love) and everything else just leaves a void? How damaged will she become when some relative or friend dies and she just stares and waits for something happy to happen?

    Well I know the stories your kind tells about my race, Eragon—too well.

    Has these ever been mentioned before? At least in passing?

  4. Finn on 24 September 2012, 14:47 said:

    @Epke I was thinking of Ella Enchanted too!

  5. Asahel on 25 September 2012, 23:52 said:

    Well I know the stories your kind tells about my race, Eragon—too well.

    Has these ever been mentioned before? At least in passing?

    Ha, not only have they never been mentioned before, but Eragon—a human—isn’t familiar with these stories purportedly widespread among the humans. I’d speculate that perhaps Carvahall, being isolated, perhaps didn’t spread so many anti-Elf stories, but that seems unlikely since the Carvahall villagers seem to display more anti-Elf sentiment than any of the other Varden.

  6. Nate Winchester on 27 September 2012, 11:18 said:

    Anyway, there’s some activity and eventually Arya comes storming out to talk to one of the other Elves named Invidia. Personally, she’s one of my favorite characters. Mainly because of her graphics cards.

    That joke just made my day.

    “If I rework the child’s appearance, people will say I have stolen her and replaced her with a changeling. Well I know the stories your kind tells about my race, Eragon—too well. I will do it if I must, but the child will suffer for it ever after. You are the only one who can save her from such a fate.”

    You know what would have been cool? Had Eragon suffered this reputation after returning from the Elves and had to deal with some prejudice himself.

  7. Asahel on 27 September 2012, 12:24 said:

    You know what would have been cool? Had Eragon suffered this reputation after returning from the Elves and had to deal with some prejudice himself.

    To be fair, Eragon does face some prejudice from some of the villagers when they see him again. Everyone notes how much he’s changed, and some of them even speculate that perhaps it’s not for the better. Although it does beg the question, why is it if the Elf fixes the baby, the baby must’ve been switched out for a changeling, but if the guy who’s essentially been made into a half-Elf fixes the baby, he definitely won’t switch it out for a changeling?

    If I’m a person that’s suspicious of Elves and prejudiced against them, why would having Eragon, who looks part Elven, be ok?

  8. Tim on 25 May 2013, 10:00 said:

    Yes! More shoes!

  9. swenson on 25 May 2013, 20:18 said:

    “superb in frisk dead” is such a wonderfully loony quote that I’m tempted to leave it there, but I suppose I shall remove it. :)