Ice edged the streams, and small pools were completely frozen over.
Wait, the previous day Eragon was just prowling around with no winter gear on, with no real mention of a serious chill, and the streams were supposedly flowing down from the mountains. Now suddenly everything is freezing?
Speaking of the mountains, Paolini drops some hefty infodumps on us here: The Spine was one of the only places that King Galbatorix could not call his own. He could call it Crazy Pete's, but not his own. Stories were still told about how half his army disappeared after marching into its ancient forest. A cloud of misfortune and bad luck seemed to hang over it.
Yeah, we're totally stuck in Mirkwood here - all we need are some giant spiders and a bunch of wood-elves throwng a dinner party. In case you're wondering, we get a bit more insight into the whole Spine thing in the fourth book, but it's... sort of superfluous by then.
And if King Galbatorix - which apparently means "fat king" according to the wonderful people of antishurtugal - rules over the entire country, the Spine technically still is his anyway. It's like saying that if you have a bathroom with a door that sticks and won't open, it isn't "your own" because you can't go inside.
And contemplating this map that Paolini created, I'm not sure why it's called "The Spine." Presumably that implies a backbone of some kind, but since it connects nothing, is waaaaaaay off to one side and isn't even the biggest mountain range in Alagaesia, it isn't very appropriate. Is it because it vaguely resembles a spine?
Though the trees grew tall and the sky shone brightly, few people could stay in the Spine for long without suffering an accident.
The interesting thing about this is that Paolini never actually explains what makes the Spine so incredibly eerie and, by implication, cursed. Yes, in Inheritance we find out WHY it's considered a bad place... but we're never told why the king (whom everybody hates) being defeated would somehow make the place cause accidents.
We know the gods didn't do it because every smart (read: non-dwarf) person in Alagaesia is a devout and immovable atheist. We know the spirits didn't do it because the only spirits we see are ridiculously dumb. So what, did someone make a magic curse? We want answers, dammit!
Eragon was one of those few—not through any particular gift, it seemed to him, but because of persistent vigilance and sharp reflexes.
In other words, he's the only one who is outstanding enough to go inside the Spine because he is, after all, the author's Stu.
Every time he thought they had surrendered their secrets, something happened to upset his understanding of them—like the stone’s appearance.
So what does he do? He picks up the potentially dangerous exploding rock and decides to take it home. I hope he doesn't find any prettily patterned poisonous snakes, because he'd probably bring THEM home too.
So Eragon toddles along home and the leagues steadily disappeared. Different countries have different definitions for "league," but I'll assume that Paolini doesn't know this and is only using the common American definition.
Unfortunately, this is an awful lot of "leagues" for a person to walk in a day - a league is three miles. I'm assuming that all this walking takes place in only one day - he's walked almost all the way home, which is multiple "leagues," and apparently at a consistent rate. That implies at LEAST nine or twelve miles, but implicitly much more. And he's doing all this without stopping or eating or even drinking some water! Is this kid even supposed to be human, or is he just so special that he can walk continuously all day at a fast pace?
Gorged with hundreds of tiny streams, the river was a brute force,
Evidently Paolini is unaware that this is how rivers usually are - they are generally fed by smaller water bodies. This doesn't usually make them "gorged," just natural. And for that matter, why would a river be so "gorged" in late autumn when everything is cooling down and meltwater would be on the decline?
So Eragon goes wandering home, and saw little of the wary wildlife. Maybe they're afraid that he'll sneak up on them and NOT shoot them.
A bit past noon, he heard the Igualda Falls blanketing everything with the dull sound of a thousand splashes.
... has Paolini ever heard a waterfall? They don't usually sound like a thousand splashes, dull or otherwise, because the water tends to turn into one big splash. And it doesn't so much splash as roar continuously.
The trail led him onto a moist slate outcropping,
Would it have killed him to say "wet"? "Moist" makes it sound like the rock is secreting its own fluids or something. It sounds gross. (Yes, I am one of those people grossed out by the word "moist).
Also, "moist" usually means something that has absorbed or is secreting the moisture. Slate doesn't do that. Ever.
So then he saunters down to Carvahall, a teeny tiny village with tiny farms, and which despite being near the bottom of a waterfall (and therefore near a RIVER) has lots of dead grass. Which you find right near a river. Because water kills grass.
Far in the distance it flowed past the village Therinsford and the lonely mountain Utgard. Beyond that, he knew only that it turned north and ran to the sea.
This sounds very impressive until you realize that "Utgard" is not the sort of name you're supposed to give a mountain. Anything ending with "gard" means "enclosure" or "stronghold," so it's a better name for a city or castle. And since Utgard is "lonely" I'm assuming that there aren't a lot of cities on it. Then again, it fits in perfectly with the ridiculously modern Carvahall, which seems more like a a modern mountain resort than a medieval village.
Seriously. The place has visible lights that can be seen from a distance and everything.
Carvahall’s lights shimmered nearby in the twilight; the houses cast long shadows.
Carvahall: The only place in GenericMedievalland with functional electric lights... because candles don't shine brightly enough to be worth noting, especially outdoors. At dusk.
So what are the buildings like? Why, they're a pleasant assortment of nicely-sized houses with an assortment of roofing styles (both thatched AND shingled) with chimneys. Smoke billowed from the chimneys, giving the air a woody smell.
Stretching assumptions about the comparable time period in European history, the presence of these things IS possible... although chimneys were pretty inefficient until the last few centuries. They wouldn't "billow" woody smoke. Hmm, apparently GenericMedievalLand looks exactly like a historical American settlement. Who knew those existed in generic Anglo-Norse Fantasyland?!
Buuuuuuttttt... then Paolini makes a big fat misstep, declaring that The buildings had wide porches where people gathered to talk and conduct business. Uh... NO. Wide porches around impoverished medieval huts in the butt end of nowhere, large enough for a bunch of people to gather? What is Alagaesia, the Deep South?
Yes, there were porches in medieval times, but they looked nothing like modern porches, verandas and patios. They were more like foyers. The kind of porches he's describing tend to be more modern... and generally more common in hotter climates where people would gather outside to escape the heat.
Also, why would you gather and conduct business... out on the porch? Are your kitchens too dirty to hang out and talk in?
So we're also told that the windows have candles and lamps in them. Since it's not DARK-dark outside, and these medieval hovels with their luxury porches and modern chimneys also seem to have windows, this seems rather wasteful. Especially since in GenericFantasyLand, you would need to acquire lamp oil or candles by MAKING them. By hand. With materials you can only gather some of the year (like beeswax).
Eragon heard men talking loudly in the evening air while wives scurried to fetch their husbands, scolding them for being late.
Remember, dudes: ordinary women suck! They're whiny nags. Better to lust after elven ice princesses who want to get a restraining order on you and probably sleep with a can of Mace.
So apparently Eragon doesn't encounter a single solitary person as he wanders towards and through the town. You would think at least one person would be walking around or sitting on their giant luxury porches on wicker rocking chairs. And then.. more anachronistic and illogical stupid appears:
Eragon wove his way between the houses to the butcher’s shop, a broad, thick-beamed building. Overhead, the chimney belched black smoke.
... words fail me.
- Why would a butcher's shop have a chimney that has a lot of black smoke?
- The point of a butcher is to sell RAW meat that people can take home and cook - we're not talking an industrial coal-burning factory here, or even a blacksmith's. Chopping and packaging raw meat requires no fire! NONE AT ALL!
- But I suspect this is a bit of Paolini's very very subtle foreshadowing that maybe the butcher isn't a nice person. After all, he has POLLUTING BLACK SMOKE despite being a butcher with no need for anything that would generate such smoke. STUPID STUPID STUPID STUPID...
- Why is the butcher's still open if the place is shutting down for the night?
- And... how can a butcher even work in a medieval society? They had no refrigeration methods back then - not even an icebox. The meat would GO BAD in a matter of hours unless it was preserved in some way... which was not the purpose of a butcher!
- Why the hell does Carvahall have a butcher anyway? This town is the size of a shoebox, is surrounded by lots of hunting land, and is apparently too impoverished to buy the meat. No wonder Sloan is grumpy - he's in the worst possible location for his business.
- But again, I think this is more of Paolini's Subtle-As-A-Sledgehammer foreshadowing - since he later proclaims that vegetarianism is the only acceptable moral choice even for starving medieval peasants, obviously he would make a butcher one of the Bad Guys.
Anyway, Sloan's establishment is a nice warm room with a nice fire and a big butcher block for chopping apart dead animals on. Except...
Everything was scrupulously clean, as if the owner spent his leisure time digging in obscure crannies for minuscule pieces of filth.
You can tell Paolini did all his research in modern butcher shops, because I can think of few places that would be LESS clean than a medieval butcher's. Oh, I'm sure they'd sluice the blood off the floor and so on, but these people shouldn't know about germs. About contamination. About food poisoning.
Then again, Sloan probably gets no business because his location sucks, so what else does he have to do all day other than clean?
A small man, he wore a cotton shirt and a long, bloodstained smock.
Does it make ANY sense that a dude who keeps his establishment sparkly clean would be walking around in a bloodstained apron? Oh yeah, subtle foreshadowing again.
An impressive array of knives swung from his belt.
I have little experience with butchers, but I'll make a wild guess and say that they probably don't hang their very sharp tools off their clothes. Partly because if you tripped... you would die.
He had a sallow, pockmarked face, and his black eyes were suspicious. He polished the counter with a ragged cloth.
And sallow people and/or pockmarked people MUST be evil. There are no sallow pockmarked people who are good, fine, upstanding citizens who are kind to small children and kittens! NO, they are evil! Same with people who are suspicious of weird boys who prance in to sell them exploding rocks. Evil, I say! Only ever trust the pretty people!
So we're told that Eragon doesn't like Sloan, because Sloan always treated him with disdain, as if he were something unclean. I'm liking Sloan more and more. Not only is he an obviously brilliant businessman to stay afloat in a business desert, but he also hates Stus.
But despite Eragon's dislike of Sloan, his epic failure as a hunter means he has to buy meat from the butcher... despite having no money. I can't see this ending well.
“What, no money?” the butcher cut him off sharply. “And you expect to buy meat! Are the other merchants giving away their wares? Should I just hand you the goods without charge?"
And this is not an unreasonable reaction. I'm sure Paolini intended it to show how greedy and nasty Sloan is, but this is how commerce works. You pay money (or something of value) for goods and services. Sloan has no reason to think that this annoying, impoverished teenager who has to hunt because he can't BUY meat suddenly has something valuable (like a gem), so why would he humor someone who seems to be wasting his time?
"Besides,” he said abruptly, “it’s late. Come back tomorrow with money. I’m closed for the day.”
Again, not unreasonable. He's obviously not getting any business except a whiny teenager who just said he has no money, so why stay open at night when, as we're told, everyone is going home for the night?
Eragon glared at him. “I can’t wait until tomorrow, Sloan."
... and why not? He's been wandering out in the woods for a week not accomplishing anything at all, but he can't wait another twelve hours to show Sloan his shiny exploding rock? Does the fairy godmother take it back at midnight? Is someone going through lethal beef withdrawal at his house?
And what kind of hero tries to sell a potentially EXPLOSIVE item to an unsuspecting businessman?! For all he knows, it explodes every 48 hours and could kill Sloan! Shouldn't he take it home and set it a safe distance from the house for a few days? WHY IS THIS SCENE HAPPENING?
So Eragon whips out his giant blue rock and plops it on the counter, announcing that he can pay with this. Sloan thinks that Eragon stole it... which actually makes sense. Eragon is an impoverished teenager with an obvious sense of entitlement - a week ago he wasn't able to buy Sloan's meat (does that count as a homoerotic moment?), and now he saunters in with a big jewel-like rock that he clearly thinks can pay for whatever he wants.
He found it? Would you believe that in the same situation? Of course not! There aren't any mines nearby, and Eragon is flat broke. Where would he get a giant gem? The only reason he DOES have it is because of magic popping it in front of him. If the readers didn't know that that had happened, it would only be logical to assume he stole it.
But of course this is another sign of what a rotten, greedy person Sloan is. Daring to doubt the endless virtues of the Stu! HOW DARE HE!
With a calculating look, he set it down. “It’s pretty, but how much is it worth?”
Which is a good question, although clearly intended to show that he's an Evil Greedy Bastard who is taking out his personal dislike of the Stu rather than being a normal businessman. He's a fricking butcher, not a jeweler (although it wouldn't shock me if Carvahall had one of those too) - and since he's running a business here, pretty doesn't pay the bills.
“I don’t know,” admitted Eragon, “but no one would have gone to the trouble of shaping it unless it had some value.”
Unless they were as dumb as the great hunter who stalks injured animals when surrounded by sleeping ones.
And no, effort does not automatically equal value - a rich person could just have thought it was a pretty color and had it polished as a paperweight. Little soapstone sculptures aren't made of very valuable materials, but they're still made and sold - they just aren't very expensive.
And if you think about it, Eragon is also being a deceitful douchebag here - not only is he trying to get a businessman to give him his wares for some random object that MAY or MAY NOT be valuable, but he's failed to mention that oh by the way, this stone thingy either got magically transported from who-knows-where or it RANDOMLY EXPLODES.
“But how much value? Since you don’t know, I suggest that you find a trader who does, or take my offer of three crowns.”
HOW DARE HE! I mean, how dare he expect to get something with a definite value for his meat! He should just assume that Eragon knows everything and that a pretty rock from him is the same as lots of money!
Seriously, Sloan seems like the smartest person in the book thus far. He's actually being very generous with Eragon, being willing to trade a week's worth of meat for an unknown quantity that might end up being virtually worthless. And he's telling Eragon that if he wants more, he should have it valued so Sloan - or any other businessman - can know what they're getting.
That isn't the act of a rotten greedy bastard, but the act of a businessman with a brain. But he's not catering to the Stu, so KILL HIM! BURN HIM ALIVE! STONE HIM!
“That’s a miser’s bargain! It must be worth at least ten times that,” protested Eragon.
Well boohoo, whiny Stu. You don't KNOW for a fact that it's worth more than that - it could just be a lump of pretty marble that got polished in a river, and it might even be dangerous to Sloan. You're just trying to hustle Sloan for as much as you can get, and at no cost to yourself since you got the stone for free. Sloan is just being savvy; Eragon is being greedy and dishonest.
I feel sorry for any local businesses where Paolini lives, because he apparently thinks a small-town businessman has plenty of money to waste if somebody brings him a pretty rock of dubious value. And if they don't assume that it's megavaluable, they must be evil greedy bastards who are Picking On The Little Guy.
The traders were a nomadic group of merchants and entertainers who visited Carvahall every spring and winter.
They brought a selection of DVDs, candy and counterfeit designer handbags.
They bought whatever excess the villagers and local farmers had managed to grow or make, and sold what they needed to live through another year: seeds, animals, fabric, and supplies like salt and sugar.
So evidently Eragon's family is totally inept at buying stuff ahead. This doesn't really speak well of their intellects, especially since it clearly hasn't occurred to them to hunt for food until the VERY LAST MINUTE before winter. For that matter, why does he want to have fresh meat from a butcher's? Dried meat or smoked meat would make more sense. Because... dried/smoked meat DOESN'T ROT OR GO BAD.
For that matter, how come they're completely dependent on eating meat through the whole winter? They're not kings or anything. Peasants usually ate mostly staple foods - bread, preserved fruits and vegetables, legumes, root vegetables, and other such foodstuffs. Seafood would also be a viable option, especially since they live next to a freaking RIVER. So what's the obsession with meat as the only source of wintertime food?
Eragon throws a little bitchfit on the spot, but reluctantly agrees to sell the rock to Sloan for his price. Then when Sloan is about to go get him his meat, he also asks where Eragon found it. When Eragon tells him, he goes ballistic.
“I won’t deal with anything you bring back from those damned mountains! Take your sorcerer’s stone elsewhere.” Sloan’s hand suddenly slipped and he cut a finger on the knife, but he seemed not to notice. He continued to scrub, staining the blade with fresh blood.
This is perhaps the first example of Sloan NOT being business-savvy, and getting so weird and freaked-out that it actually leaves you wondering WHY. It's also a fairly realistic reaction for someone kind of frayed psychologically, rather than the fill-in-the-stereotype-blanks Evil Nasty Asshole. We later find out the reason, and it makes sense.
But again, I think this is meant to show that he's a rotten bastard, even though a person with a functioning brain would assume, "Clearly this is a sensitive issue for Sloan, and I've upset him. He's also clearly lost interest in the rock, and he has a selection of very sharp knives, so maybe I should go find someone else to sell this to."
Because the Stu cannot be brushed off by ANYONE, the "hulking" blacksmith Horst and Sloan's teenage daughter Katrina come in to get involved.
His powerful arms were bare to the elbow; a great expanse of hairy muscular chest was visible through the top of his shirt. A black beard, carelessly trimmed, roiled and knotted like his jaw muscles. “Sloan, what have you done now?”
- If I were Sloan, I'd be SO happy that the half-naked hairy man is walking around my place of business. I bet he sheds as much as Khloe Kardashian.
- Doncha love how the assumption is that Sloan is at fault here, rather than the teenage idiot from a family of meat-obsessed morons who is demanding that Sloan buy his pretty rock and supply him with a winterlong supply of dead animal?
- How does a beard roil and knot? It sounds like he has the beard of Cthulhu.
“Nothing.” He gave Eragon a murderous gaze, then spat, “This . . . boy came in here and started badgering me. I asked him to leave, but he won’t budge. I even threatened him and he still ignored me!” Sloan seemed to shrink as he looked at Horst.
... um, I may have missed something, but that last sentence doesn't seem to fit the rest of it. He sounds enraged.... and then suddenly he's shrinking in fear. You can't just switch that off.
“Is this true?” demanded the smith.
“No!” replied Eragon.
Actually, YES. Eragon DID badger him, and Sloan was actually pretty tolerant of him considering the douchebagginess of Eragon's attitude. Then when he found out the facts about the exploding rock, he changed his mind and told Eragon to leave. Eragon didn't leave, because he apparently thinks an agreement is still binding even after the other person finds out that there's something rotten in Denmark. Or Alagaesia.
“I offered this stone as payment for some meat, and he accepted it. When I told him that I’d found it in the Spine, he refused to even touch it. What difference does it make where it came from?”
What different does it make what his reason is? He hadn't given Eragon the meat yet, and since Eragon had failed to give him the full background beforehand, it isn't unreasonable to cancel the deal. Obviously Sloan has a problem with the Spine, and anything more than that isn't his business.
For that matter, shouldn't most people in a small close-knit community know if one of them has some kind of weird prejudice against the Spine? And since the Spine is supposedly a bad-luck magnet that causes accidents in every non-Stu, you would EXPECT lots of superstition about it.
“Why won’t you trade with him, Sloan? I’ve no love for the Spine myself, but if it’s a question of the stone’s worth, I’ll back it with my own money.”
Evidently Sloan is the only smart businessman in town, because this moron is willing to buy a vast quantity of meat for someone else with no hope of being recompensed, merely because Sloan blew off a whiny little bitch. Yeah, he's obviously SUCH an awesome person.
And since we later discover the reason that Sloan hates the Spine, it also begs the question: Why do none of these people seem to either know or care why? Oh wait, he's the evil bastard butcher who doesn't like the Stu, so nobody cares about him.
“This is my own store. I can do whatever I want.”
True. In most such transactions, they have the right to refuse service.
Katrina whines at Sloan, and Sloan yells at her to go to the house because it's none of her business. Katrina’s face hardened, then she marched out of the room with a stiff back. Clearly Sloan is also an evil person because he told his daughter to quit butting in on business, which she apparently knows nothing about, but got involved with ONLY because she wants to bonk Eragon's cousin.
Yes, that is the whole reason she's supporting Eragon. Or at least I assume so because hey, there's no OTHER reason she would automatically side with him.
Horst tugged at his beard before saying reproachfully, “Fine, you can deal with me. What were you going to get, Eragon?” His voice reverberated through the room.
“As much as I could.”
Why doesn't Horst just find a medieval flush toilet (which I'm sure Carvahall has) and throw his money down it? He must know that he won't get his money repaid by Eragon, who is an inept hunter from a family of money-poor food-squandering idiots who aren't bothering to buy STAPLE FOODS. So why precisely is he willing to bankrupt himself in the interest of Eragon?
Oh yeah, I forgot - Eragon, merely by virtue of existing, has every good person loving and worshiping him, and even willing to waste their money because his family can't provide for itself.
“Not selling to me would be a very bad idea,” stated Horst.
So now he's threatening the guy if he doesn't sell him his own wares? Paolini doesn't seem to understand how a monopoly works - Sloan apparently has all the meat in this godforsaken little town, and apparently nobody has managed to get any on their own. Threatening the only source of meat in town isn't very smart.
Anyway, Sloan reluctantly gets the meat, takes the money and then ignores them, and frankly I can't blame him at all. They're both douches, and willing to bully him so that Eragon will get his precious meat that he couldn't wait twelve hours for.
“Thank you, Horst. Uncle Garrow will be pleased.”
... but probably won't pay him back. Because they're totally broke. And they suck at hunting.
Horst laughed quietly. “Don’t thank me. I’ve wanted to do that for a long time."
He's wanted to waste money just to "show" Sloan? Wow, mature.
"Sloan’s a vicious troublemaker; it does him good to be humbled. Katrina heard what was happening and ran to fetch me. Good thing I came—the two of you were almost at blows."
- I don't see how he's being a vicious troublemaker by simply refusing to buy something from the Spine.
- Nice loyal daughter Sloan's got.
- Uh, no they weren't. Eragon was standing there whining, and Sloan was trying to ignore him and get him out of the building.
Eragon offers Horst the pretty rock, and Horst tells him to keep it - presumably because he has no proof it's actually worth something, just like "vicious troublemaker" Sloan. Instead he expects Eragon to actually work his skinny ass off as an assistant the following spring, which actually makes good business sense.
Of course, we know will NEVER happen because Eragon's got a Heroic Quest awaiting him, and heroes rarely ever go home after that. Or if they do, it ain't for long. And it certainly isn't to do menial work.
Horst had two sons, Albriech and Baldor, both of whom worked in his forge. Taking one’s place was a generous offer.
What's generous about it? It's repayment for a LOT of money, so it's not exactly generosity. It's called REPAYING A DEBT.
He was glad that there was a way for him to pay Horst. His uncle would never accept charity.
This doesn't seem to have concerned Eragon much before, when it was basically all about getting what he thought he was entitled to.
Then Eragon tells Horst to tell Katrina that his cousin Roran told him that he'll be in town soon, that Roran thinks she's the prettiest girl in the first grade and he totally wants to go steady. For some reason, repeating this to another man makes Eragon all embarrassed... which is the first unintentionally hilarious homoerotic moment in the series. May they never end.
Horst asks him to stay to dinner despite having bought him the best cuts in the entire village in exchange for labor that he's never gonna get. But Eragon has to go home with his rapidly warming lumps of raw meat that are about six minutes away from developing deadly bacteria, and which have no fridge or icebox to prevent that from happening. The horrible deaths, they are coming!
The pearlescent moon peeked over the mountains, bathing the land in a ghostly reflection of daylight. Everything looked bleached and flat.
Paolini doesn't seem able to figure out whether the moonlight is supposed to be pretty and poetic (ghostly reflection... pearlescent), or dull and creepy (bleached and flat). He should figure that out before he starts writing about it.
So Eragon wanders over to his house and..... oh man. The house had a shingled roof and a brick chimney. Eaves hung over the whitewashed walls, shadowing the ground below. One side of the enclosed porch was filled with split wood, ready for the fire. A jumble of farm tools cluttered the other side.
- FOR FUCK'S SAKE.
- What farmer leaves his tools outside? Not only could they RUST, but they could be stolen.
- Riiiiight, this is totally the house of an impoverished medieval peasant family who are too poor to have enough staple foods for the winter, and who can't even do basic business in the town because they have no money.
- Penniless medieval farmers all lived in modern cottages complete with a screen porch and a BRICK chimney. Riiiight.
- By medieval hovel standards, this was a fucking palace.
The house had been abandoned for half a century when they moved in after Garrow’s wife, Marian, died.
I sincerely doubt that a house that nice with accompanying barn would actually have been abandoned all that time... and even if it HAD, it would be a RUIN. It might be livable after five years, but fifty? Wouldn't it rot? Wouldn't it be infested with vermin?
That brings me to another pet peeve: why do half the people in here have plausible normal-ish names like Marian, Katrina, Sloan, even Horst, yet we also have weird names like "Eragon"? I can stomach it if people are coming from different cultures, but these people all live in the SAME town.
Wait, I've got it: the degree of implausible weirdness equals the importance to the plot and the level of Stuiness.
People considered the distance dangerous because the family could not rely on help from the village in times of trouble, but Eragon’s uncle would not listen.
Thus ensuring that something horrible will happen and nobody will come to help.
Eragon also covers that they have a bunch of livestock - some of it edible - including chickens and a cow which could presumably provide at least a LITTLE food. But apparently Eragon and his family are too stupid to realize that milk comes from moo cows and eggs come from chicken butts, because he just whines to himself about how they don't have a pig this year (presumably for eating).
He saw a light move behind a window as he wearily reached the porch. “Uncle, it’s Eragon. Let me in.” A small shutter slid back for a second, then the door swung inward.
So they not only have a modern chimney and an enclosed porch, but they have WINDOWS and SHUTTERS? Does Paolini's knowledge of medieval architecture come entirely from real estate brochures?
And now it's time for Uncle Garrow: His worn clothes hung on him like rags on a stick frame. A lean, hungry face with intense eyes gazed out from under graying hair. He looked like a man who had been partly mummified before it was discovered that he was still alive.
I suppose this is meant to convey what a hard worker he is and what a hardscrabble life he has, but it makes him sound more sinister than Sloan - especially the "lean hungry face" and the mummified skin. Weird.
Cue description of the house's kitchen, and WHOA.... A second door opened to the rest of the house. The floor was made of boards polished smooth by years of tramping feet.
What the hell? REST of the house? I thought these people were so poor they couldn't afford a roast and didn't have any staple foods for the winter. But they have multiple rooms?! It's official - Paolini's ideal of a GenericMedievalFantasy house is a pretty rustic cottage with all the modern conveniences. Do they have running water and flush toilets?
Eragon's uncle then starts throwing a massive bitchfit because Eragon let Horst buy them the now-rancid lumps of raw meat, and he lets unky rant for awhile before telling him that Horst basically is letting him work off the debt months from now.
"If we can’t feed ourselves, we might as well move into town. Before you can turn around twice, they’ll be sending us used clothes and asking if we’ll be able to get through the winter.” Garrow’s face paled with anger.
- Why would it be cheaper to live in town?
- Isn't it generally considered more desirable to be around PEOPLE, and not to live in the butt end of nowhere on a farm that apparently doesn't produce anything?
- Where would they even live in town, since they don't own a house?
- They CAN'T get through the winter, so why does he consider that so insulting?
- Is anyone else getting a huge "Uncle Owen from Star Wars" vibe from this dude, except skinnier and angrier?
- And by that, I mean somebody just rang death's doorbell.
Garrow continues throwing a fit, screaming at Eragon about how he's going to get both his work and Horst's work done, and Eragon basically whines about how he doesn't know. Of course, Eragon spends the rest of his time in Carvahall slacking off with no repercussions, so clearly this isn't really an issue.
“Besides, I found something that could be worth some money.” He set the stone on the table.
"I found a pretty rock! We're millionaires!"
Notice how when he's not trying to hustle Sloan, it COULD be worth some money, rather than DEFINITELY being worth LOTS of money.
Garrow bowed over it: the hungry look on his face became ravenous, and his fingers moved with a strange twitch. “You found this in the Spine?”
I'm not sure what Paolini is trying to convey here, but it screams "evil greed" more than anything Sloan does. A bit more than even the SHADE does. In fact, this is exactly the sort of thing you'd expect from a budding villain who will later steal it from the hero.
“And to make matters worse, I lost my best arrow. I’ll have to make more before long.”
So apparently Eragon is a fletcher who hasn't made any money off this skill, assuming he's not as bad at making arrows as he is at shooting them. No wonder they're poor. And pray tell, why didn't he pick the arrow up and take it home, since he didn't hit anything with it?
Garrow and Eragon ramble about the weather while Garrow practically drools all over the exploding rock, which seems more and more sinister every time Paolini points out that he's lusting after it like a naked lady. Then Garrow says that Eragon has to help Roran harvest the barley and squash, which is weird because it seems like they have a LOT of nonmeat food that doesn't count in Eragon's tiny brain.
“Here, keep it. When the traders come, we’ll find out what it’s worth. Selling it is probably the best thing to do. The less we’re involved with magic, the better. . . ."
Interestingly, Sloan had exactly the same attitudes, yet it's evil and nasty from him and paternal advice from Garrow.
And there's a brief moment of character development... for Sloan. It turns out his wife was killed in an accident on the nearby waterfall on the Spine several years ago. Ever since then, he's had an understandable aversion to the Spine.... which for some reason nobody has ever bothered to tell the younger generation about, so they can avoid pissing him off.
But of course, this character development that humanizes Sloan, so Paolini hurriedly assures us that hey, Sloan was TOTALLY in the wrong to not want to accept something from the Spine, and he was just being a meanie bastard to Eragon just because he's a meanie bastard. Because reasons.
Eragon stumbled to his room, pushed the stone under his bed, then fell onto the mattress.
... ROOM? In a medieval hut in the middle of nowhere, belonging to a very very poor family who can't afford enough food to make it through the winter, all three residents have separate bedrooms for themselves alone? Does he have his own bathroom? How about a spa tub? Ooooh, I bet they have double vanities in their marble bathrooms!