As a preface for an article I’m about to write, I need to write out this point first: the character of Eragon in Paolini’s Inheritance cycle. By the way, spoiler alert. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I would like to firmly establish 3 main points: First, Eragon is not (or at least not supposed to be) a sociopath. Second, the story could be improved if he were. Third, Paolini probably won’t do that.

What do I mean Eragon is not/not supposed to be a sociopath? For one thing, Eragon’s characterization is handled poorly, but as far as I can tell, he’s supposed to be a traditional hero. So, when he goes on these bouts of sociopathy (and there are myriad examples here, ranging from his spurning of Murtagh when his kin probably needed his empathy the most, his treatment of Sloan, and the terrible behavior towards the unarmed, fleeing soldier that I’ve already mentioned in a previous article), I take this as poor characterization. The reason why I don’t say Eragon is a sociopath despite the examples in the text that would seem to indicate it is because, to my mind, that would mean that Paolini is intentionally forging him into a sociopath. Which leads right into the next point.

I think Paolini should make Eragon a sociopath. Frankly, I see that as about the only way of salvaging the story. The story is impossible to finish with Eragon cast as the hero because, even if the 4th book were good and corrected every previous mistake, it would still be dragged to the bottom of the lake by the firm anchors of the first three. However, the 4th story could actually work as a deconstruction of the traditional fantasy hero if we learned by the end of it that 1) Eragon really is a sociopath and 2) the story has been written by an unreliable narrator who’s been trying to tell the story of Eragon in as positive a light as possible (because he’s afraid of the über-strong sociopath with a dragon) while still sticking to the basic facts. But what about the first books?

Well, there are already plenty of examples of Eragon’s sociopathy. If we learned that the good/heroic parts were exaggerated by a scared scribe, they would suddenly make sense. Plus, there are other small clues. Eragon is from Carvahall, and the text tells us that all the people of Carvahall are descended from mad royalty. Perhaps Eragon inherited a touch of madness? Eragon’s mother allied herself with the evil usurpers (or if we go so far as to also recast the bad guys, she later fell for the evil rebel, Brom). How about the vicious double standard between dragons and Ra’zac? They’re both predators that have been known to consume humans, but dragons are noble and can be reasoned with while the Ra’zac are OMG evil! Could this be a writer wary of upsetting the sociopath’s dragon? Notice the amount of pandering that Nasuada does to Eragon and his family. Is she concerned about what might happen to her if he’s not kept happy? Also, look at the relationship between Arya and Eragon. Is she slowly warming up to him, or, as he grows more and more powerful, is she becoming resigned to the fact that he’ll eventually do whatever he wants and there’s little she can say or do to change that?

Granted, this doesn’t fix all the story’s problems (why is Galbatorix content to sit in his throne room letting an opposing Rider run rampant even though he’s supposed to be the most powerful thing in the world and could’ve stomped his enemy flat basically any time he wanted?), but it would be a much more interesting turn of events than anything we’ve seen thus far in the story. It is probably the only way to make the 4th book of any real interest at all.

But it won’t happen.

There are many reasons for this. First, even if he did (or at least read this article), I don’t think it’s the story he wants to tell. He wants to tell a story of a good hero vs. an evil villain—not a sociopath on the good guy’s side vs. an evil villain (or, even darker, a rebel sociopath vs. a benevolent dictator as seen through the history written by the winners). Second, he has no real reason to do this. He’s going to make plenty of money off the 4th book, and, the irony is, if he pulled this kind of last book change on everyone, it would be a better story, but it would also alienate his fanbase and net him less money. In this case, writing the better story would be the less desirable option (at least monetarily).

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Comment

  1. Nate Winchester on 26 March 2009, 22:26 said:

    First?

    The story is impossible to finish with Eragon cast as the hero because, even if the 4th book were good and corrected every previous mistake, it would still be dragged to the bottom of the lake by the firm anchors of the first three. However, the 4th story could actually work as a deconstruction of the traditional fantasy hero if we learned by the end of it that 1) Eragon really is a sociopath and 2) the story has been written by an unreliable narrator who’s been trying to tell the story of Eragon in as positive a light as possible (because he’s afraid of the uber-strong sociopath with a dragon) while still sticking to the basic facts. But what about the first books?

    Since when has PaoPao let anything like continuity slow him down? Reading D:TL has taught me that apparently continuity is old-fashioned.

    Well, there are already plenty of examples of Eragon’s sociopathy. If we learned that the good/heroic parts were exaggerated by a scared scribe

    And at the end of it M.Night shows up and says, “What a twist!”

  2. Reggie on 26 March 2009, 22:34 said:

    I was hopeful until I found out that you were talking about the Inheritance Eragon. I was hoping you’d be talking about John Eragon, the infamously bizarre Classical poet.

    Also, nice article, and if he did make Eragon a sociopath in book IV, it would be my most favoritest evar.

  3. Puppet on 26 March 2009, 22:39 said:

    Eragon would be so much better that way. I always kill off my characters or have them go insane, in my story evil wins XD

  4. SlyShy on 26 March 2009, 22:40 said:

    That could seriously redeem the series for me. If Eragon became a twisted reflection of the choices the rebellion made, and the story concluded with the world in shambles, caused by the corruption of man. Mm.

  5. Dan Locke on 26 March 2009, 23:04 said:

    It wouldn’t work at all. The story is clearly told by an Omniscient Narrator. For the narrator to actually be an inhabitant of the book’s world would completely contradict what the story is. It would be like watching Star Wars and finding out at the end that it was just Chewbacca telling a story to his kids or something.

    Besides, the purple prose really doesn’t lend itself to that kind of thing.

  6. falconempress on 27 March 2009, 01:33 said:

    I recall a similar essay written by Rob Oakes:

    http://www.oak-tree.us/blog/index.php/2009/01/21/brisingr-sociopath

  7. Asahel on 27 March 2009, 03:03 said:

    @Dan — I’m pretty sure the Omniscient Narrator is the least of the problems in trying to save the series.

    @falconempress — Ah, yes, I recall that essay. It’s a bit different from mine, arguing that Eragon is a sociopath instead of that he should be a sociopath. (A minor but important distinction.) At any rate, I heartily recommend that anyone looking for a more in-depth look at textual examples of Eragon’s sociopathy ought to check out that essay. Thank you for linking it.

  8. falconempress on 27 March 2009, 06:05 said:

    that is why I said it is only similar:)

    sorry for not saying this earlier – your essay definitely hits the nail on the head. Sadly, I am pretty certain the series would not end like that. Eragon, after all, is supposed the be the archetypal hero, who, in the end, saves the day, the world and gets the hottest chick in the series (because glancing ovet somebodys ravaged and bruides back and being turned on by it = twu wuv). And also, what you propose would actually make sense, be interesting, and turn the whole thing into something semi – decent.

  9. Dan Locke on 27 March 2009, 15:30 said:

    @Asahel

    @Dan – I’m pretty sure the Omniscient Narrator is the least of the problems in trying to save the series.

    You completely missed my point.

  10. Juniper on 27 March 2009, 17:13 said:

    Your idea is too good to be true. It’s an interesting concept that someone ought to look into. Not Paolini, but someone. You?

  11. Legion on 27 March 2009, 17:23 said:

    The underlying problem is that CP is so horrible at characterization that he will fuck up whoever he intends to characterize. He accidently portrayed Eragon as a sociopath because he was going for epic hero. Who the hell knows what he’ll end up with if he attempted sociopath!Eragon.

  12. Tiefling on 27 March 2009, 17:31 said:

    There was an oooooold Epistle (back in the day) that also argued for Eragon’s sociopathy, or to be correct, psychopathy. I doubt it’s online, unless someone archived it?

  13. Diamonte on 27 March 2009, 18:20 said:

    @ Tiefling

    I have all the old Epistles saved on my computer as a Word Document. If you want them, you can e-mail me at kschneider19@yahoo.com

  14. Asahel on 27 March 2009, 18:40 said:

    @Dan Locke

    No, I didn’t miss your point. I simply disagree. The reasons I disagree are stated in the article. It would be less like finding out Star Wars was a story told by Chewbacca (which would leave us scratching our heads at how Chewie knows what happened in the parts he wasn’t around), and more like finding out that Eragon’s story was written by Alagaesia’s version of Homer (i.e. less talented) under threat of a deranged “hero”—we don’t wonder how he knows what happened in the parts he wasn’t around because he’s clearly getting whatever info he needs from Eragon and/or is completely making it up. Now do you see what I mean?

    @ Legion

    Do you suppose if Paolini tried to make Eragon a sociopath, he might actually end up with an epic hero? :D Fun thoughts.

  15. Dan Locke on 27 March 2009, 19:12 said:

    @Asahel

    No, I didn’t miss your point. I simply disagree. The reasons I disagree are stated in the article. It would be less like finding out Star Wars was a story told by Chewbacca (which would leave us scratching our heads at how Chewie knows what happened in the parts he wasn’t around), and more like finding out that Eragon’s story was written by Alagaesia’s version of Homer (i.e. less talented) under threat of a deranged “hero”—we don’t wonder how he knows what happened in the parts he wasn’t around because he’s clearly getting whatever info he needs from Eragon and/or is completely making it up. Now do you see what I mean?

    No, I really don’t. Roran’s shenanigans take up about a third of the red and black bricks, to say nothing of the other character arcs like Nasuada’s.

  16. swenson on 27 March 2009, 19:30 said:

    The underlying problem is that CP is so horrible at characterization that he will fuck up whoever he intends to characterize. He accidently portrayed Eragon as a sociopath because he was going for epic hero. Who the hell knows what he’ll end up with if he attempted sociopath!Eragon.

    He’d probably end up with an epic hero. Figures.

  17. Juniper on 27 March 2009, 19:33 said:

    “Homer” might have be making up their stories, or being forced by Roran and Nasuada as well. They are both in with Eragon, aren’t they? But let’s not give CP too much credit. He’s not doing it anyway, so no reason to hope.

  18. Snow White Queen on 27 March 2009, 20:22 said:

    Teehee.

    Sociopath Eragon would be fun.

    Actually, a sociopath ‘epic hero’ would be awesome.

    Any takers?

  19. Asahel on 27 March 2009, 22:10 said:

    No, I really don’t. Roran’s shenanigans take up about a third of the red and black bricks, to say nothing of the other character arcs like Nasuada’s.

    Juniper already mentioned this, but allow me to reinforce it:

    You do realize that stories with omniscient narrators are still written by single individuals? And that it would make sense for a writer chronicling the exploits of the Varden to also write about the cousin of the great hero as well as the leader of the Varden?

    So Dan Locke, that’s my last attempt at explaining this to you. If you don’t understand yet, you likely never will, so I’m just dropping it now.

  20. Matty Lee on 27 March 2009, 23:27 said:

    The only problem that I have with this whole “Monk/Scholar records Eragon’s life” idea is that at least in the first book, Eragon is portrayed quite unflatteringly, he cries and whines a good deal, in Eldest he’s a stalker, and in Brisingr he’s a psychopathic murderer. It’s rather strange that this writer would choose to include the events detailed that show Eragon in this light, rather than focusing on more “Heroic” parts of Ergy’s story. He can do all the portrayal he wants, but if I were a “homer” type writer, I wouldn’t include the scenes where Eragon is taken into Horst’s house, and he randomly stares at things and cries.

  21. Legion on 27 March 2009, 23:51 said:

    Do you suppose if Paolini tried to make Eragon a sociopath, he might actually end up with an epic hero? :D Fun thoughts.

    He’d probably end up with an epic hero. Figures.

    Nope, wouldn’t be surprised. >_>

  22. The Wall on 28 March 2009, 00:34 said:

    Guys, Paolini already tried at a sociopath, or atleast some form of “madness”. He ended up with Galbatorix, who is a king who is doing nothing but trying to run his country peacefully after usurping a (presumably) racist military junta. The one scene he was in, he tried to resolve things with the elves diplomatically while Oromis did little more than yell “LALALALALA, I can’t hear you.” Perhaps not an epic hero, but one of the most reasonable people in Inheritance atleast.

  23. falconempress on 28 March 2009, 09:45 said:

    Perhaps not an epic hero, but one of the most reasonable people in Inheritance atleast.

    Funny, huh? The Big Bad is actually the only person who doesnt suffer from any obvious form of mental disorder (Eragon – psychopathic murderer, Roran – psychopathic murderer – must run in the family; Nasuada – uh, slashing, Angela – her quirks would fill a psychiatry textbook, Arya – dead on the inside). And the guy who is supposed to be batshit insane, as Paolini keeps hammering into the readers heads, is the only one who makes any sense! I would actually root for the guy if he DID anything instead of just geeking out about Pokemon!Arena in his basement in Whatsitsname

  24. The Wall on 28 March 2009, 16:55 said:

    How about we recount every character he tried to portray one way, but wound up portraying another?

    Eragon: Jesus, where do we even begin? Good? Ha. Smart? HA! A complex character, likable, vulnerable, interesting, a good hunter, a great swordsman. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. We could fill the whole page talking about how Eragon ****ed up everything he did.
    Murtagh: He is portrayed as a morally harsh rival to Eragon but ended up as a sympathetic character with the most complex characterization.
    Saphira: he wanted her to be her own character. She is a plot device, nothing more.
    Oromis: A wise, logical and reasonable mentor. Skip to the end of Brisingr, he is acting like a 5 year old while the enemy is trying to be diplomatic.
    Galbatorix: Explained earlier
    Elves in general: the perfect and beautiful species. They are racist, nudist hippies with a holier than thou attitude who everyone outside the books hates.

    Feel free to add your own.

  25. - on 7 April 2009, 03:37 said:

    Lets not forget that The empire is able to inspire thousands of soldiers to arrive at the burning plains and later battlefields with ease, and who is it who resorts to poison? The so called good guys. Who whips people for disobeying orders that would have lead to senseless loss of life? The good guys. Who brutally besieges a city that has done nothing more then be in there way? The good guys. Who has made no attempts towards peaceful negotiation, and scoffed at them when they were offered? The good guys.
    Well, as of this moment, I don’t care what Christopher writes. I will write my own ending on fanfiction.net entitled ‘rooting for the empire’.

  26. animeze on 2 December 2009, 16:20 said:

    The good guys did do a lot of senseless crap! I totally agree with the above comment. I was deeply upset by Roran’s punishment even though he saved many lives; including the fool who issued the stupid orders…there’s just too much to complain about in this series, and I honestly don’t see Eragon becoming powerful enough to defeat Galbatorix unless the 4th book exceeds 2000 pages. With no mentor I don’t see it happening…and let’s also hope that Eragon finally gains a ‘self’ in the last one.

  27. fffan on 9 February 2010, 03:21 said:

    This is a little off topic, but did anyone else wonder why Brom didn’t pull out a little energy from the vast energy stores in his saphire ring and stitch up that wound that was given to him by the razaac? It may have been adressed in the book with some hopelessly ridiculous excuse like, “Brom’s death was a plot device so there.” or something i can’t remember.

  28. Asahel on 9 February 2010, 15:56 said:

    @ fffan:

    I’ve filed that one under “It’s been explained, but I don’t care enough to look it up.” Paolini was asked the very same question in an interview and responded that Brom had left the ring with someone else earlier in the book. I’ve not gone back to see if that’s true, but that’s what he said about it.

    Of course, even if it is true, there’s no way Brom would’ve let someone else have that ring no matter what, so it’s still sort of a plot hole.

    Why, yes, this ring has enough power to save me and my young charge from certain death. Wanna hold on to it for a while as we go into increasingly dangerous situations? Thanks!

  29. Danielle on 9 February 2010, 19:31 said:

    I think Paolini just made up the whole energy-storage-device thing in Book 2, and didn’t bother to come up with a feasible explanation for why Brom didn’t use it to heal himself in Book 1. Paolini would never admit it, but I’m pretty sure that’s what happened.

  30. Amelie Rose on 28 October 2010, 14:54 said:

    “I was deeply upset by Roran’s punishment even though he saved many lives…”

    Personally, and maybe surprisingly even to me, I think that was just about the only bit of the book that I actually liked. How many times does the good guy get off with no punishment at all for insubordination just because they’re heroic? I guess Roran’s still Kirking a bit, since he did end up leading a bunch of men, but at least it seemed more sensible that way.
    I was a bit peeved by how ridiculously overdramatic the punishment was made, though. It was portrayed as completely unreasonable even though it wasn’t, whether it saved lives or not – the guy disobeyed orders (not to mention – pile of bodies. High as a house. Still killing. Meet your heroes). Or perhaps it was just the irritating amounts of angst surrounding it.

    I’m all for him being made a sociopath. I think that would make just about the only really interesting twist the series would have. But it won’t happen – think of the distraught pre-teen fans! And, of course, the profits lost.

  31. Sìlfae on 18 June 2013, 09:47 said:

    Since sometime ago I wasn’t even aware of this surprisingly deep analysis of Eragon regarding his behavior; reading this article and the one on Apolitically Incorrect shone a new light on the matter for me.
    On my reading of the books I suppose I didn’t see it because on one hand I didn’t expect it and on the other the current vibe in fantasy literature had already accostumed me to heroes-in-name-only so I wasn’t brought to dig into the actual level of atrocity reached by Eragon.

    Returning to the topic, I would think it is still possible to consider the Cycle as a writing from an unreliable narrator even considering the events of the fourth book (I know obviously it is not how Paolini conceived it, but continuing to pretend is more fun).

    As for the inconsistencies pointed out both in the article and the discussion, I think they can be easily covered: by considering Asahel’s hypothesis I would think of the Inheritance Cycle as an Aeneid sort of work: naturally the scared Scribe who wrote it didn’t witness the events personally, he knew more or less what he was writing about and wanted to please the new immortal Mage-Emperor with his work.

    He wanted to make Eragon “realistic”, therefore the crying and the occasional beating, but, on the other hand, he wanted to show what a powerful and vengeful person he can be against his enemies. And of course what a brilliant and highly moral leader he’s to his subjects. After all, Achilles whines too in the Iliad and refuses to go to fight, letting his comrades die, just because the general doesn’t want to give him the girl (<em>Aww…</em>).

    Now, for the Galbatorix’s objection, the most common line of thought that I read of in ImpishIdea is that the King was actually a reasonable good authority figure, which our hypothetical scared Scribe should transform into a mercyless mad tyrant, but it is not just that. If we assume in the reality of events Galbatorix wasn’t really evil and was just depicted as a villan so that Eragon can be righteous when he slays him, couldn’t he be depicted as powerful, when he actually was not, so that Eragon could happear more heroic in his victory?

    You could say that the King never left Uru-baen because he was a weak old man who never even had the chance to replace his first dragon and was in fact pretty scared in his own right of Eragon’s growing power and there really wasn’t any such thing as Eldunarì. The scared Scribe could have made up those too.. right? Nobody saw them, nobody knew about them, not even the elves.
    The final confrontation between Eragon and Galbatorix wasn’t public after all, there were no witnesses besides the young Rider’s loyal lackeys to see if it really was that epic battle of over-powerful magicians.

  32. Grrarrggh on 24 October 2015, 17:49 said:

    I totally agree with you and think that your idea would have been pretty much the only way to save the series. A question though. People always mention Eragon murdering the young soldier who begs for his life. What should non-psychopath hero Eragon have done if you had written that?

  33. Asahel on 27 October 2015, 09:47 said:

    I totally agree with you and think that your idea would have been pretty much the only way to save the series. A question though. People always mention Eragon murdering the young soldier who begs for his life. What should non-psychopath hero Eragon have done if you had written that?

    Hey, there! What a surprise getting a question on this after so long!

    Anyway, about the infamous young soldier scene: There’s some great information on it that falconempress linked above. I also go into some detail on it in this article.

    Basically, it’s like this, though: If I had written it, the scene probably wouldn’t exist. It seems to me the scene exists to show a contrast on when it’s not OK to kill an unarmed person (as with Sloan earlier in the book) and when it is OK to kill an unarmed person (as it purportedly was in this instance). The trouble is that Eragon is too powerful for such a situation to ring true. I’m meant to believe that the unarmed boy is a threat because if he gets away, he’ll warn the Empire, but I don’t believe that. Eragon doesn’t use magic to alter the boy’s memories of the event or restrain him in anyway, which he surely could have. And even if he does simply just let him go, what’s the boy going to do realistically? Eragon and Arya travel much faster than he does; they’d probably be out of imperial territory before he even finds anyone to tell what happened!

    But, let’s play Devil’s advocate for a moment and assume that the boy, though unarmed, did present a real threat to Eragon’s survival. How would I write that? There are several ways to go with it. The one I’d choose is that Eragon would spare the boy and take the threat he presents in a “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it” way. Then, I’d either have Arya (utilitarian that she is) kill the boy instead and argue with Eragon that she had to, there was no other way, blah blah blah, or they would have to face (and overcome somehow) the threat posed by letting him go.

  34. Robyn on 9 March 2017, 18:20 said:

    Maybe it could end up like a Merchant of Venice like story, with the focus on a Shylock like Sloan vs an Antonio like Eragon. Maybe Sloan didn’t lose everything, maybe he has a religion, or something else that he loves that he didn’t lose, and Eragon wants to take that away from him too, and since it’s a story with a downer ending, like in the Merchant of Venice, he succeeds. Also, Sloan relies on the laws of a new government, which since he was away for so long, he had no idea that it was biased against him. Also, because he’s a butcher, he can’t be a citizen, and Eragon harrasses him before Sloan gets revenge. Also, Eragon’s other buddy marries a beautiful girl, and Katrina and her new husband steal his things and make fun of him.