Friday, August 14, 2015

Eragon Chapter 5

The dragon was no longer than his forearm, yet it was dignified and noble.

I don't know about you, but I find it hard to consider animals that small "dignified and noble." Cute, yes. Teeny weeny, yup. But they have to be at least the size of a cat before they can count as dignified or noble.

And baby ANYTHINGS aren't really dignified or noble. Not only are baby anythings meant to look cute and endearing, but they tend to do things like poop, stumble, barf, squeak and other undignified things.

Its scales were deep sapphire blue, the same color as the stone. But not a stone, he realized, an egg.

So nice that Designated Hero has now realized the fricking obvious. Has he also figured out that that big shiny yellow thing in the sky might be the sun?

The wings were several times longer than its body and ribbed with thin fingers of bone that extended from the wing’s front edge, forming a line of widely spaced talons.

Kippurbird provided a great snark of this, so I'd advise checking out her diagram. But I'll basically sum this up: I have NEVER seen a dragon wing described this way. Google "dragon wing" and some great examples of the accepted dragon wing come up.

But even if you think, "Well, he's doing something different," there is a reason WHY all those dragon wings have the same core design. Anything like a dragon's wing would have to have some kind of evolutionary basis, so they're usually conceived as being like a bat wing, with fingers branching out across the wing from a central "hand."

But the way Paolini describes it - with "ribbing" "extending" from the "front edge" - it sounds like the "fingers" don't come from a central source, but are just spaced through the wing. I canNOT imagine how THAT evolved, or from what.

Two diminutive white fangs curved down out of its upper jaw.

Holy shit, it's a vampire dragon! Seriously, I can't think of any biological reason for a dragon to have only two little fangs sticking out.

Its claws were also white, like polished ivory, and slightly serrated on the inside curve.

That seems like rather nasty talons for a little tiny baby creature to have. Most baby creatures don't have fully developed claws/teeth because they don't yet know how to handle them.

Eragon shifted slightly, and the dragon’s head snapped around. Hard, ice-blue eyes fixed on him.

I don't know what Paolini means by "hard," but usually it means a "hard" expression… which you wouldn't expect from a creature that got introduced to the big bad world about ten seconds ago. Intelligent baby animals who aren't blind and deaf at birth tend to be a little more...

Yeah, like that.

So BabyVampireDragon goes exploring the wall, and this is rather cute actually. Lots of exploration, bumping into walls, squeaking, and chewing on Eragon's clothes. Unfortunately, we still have no idea what ERAGON thinks of this -- he just smiles, doesn't think "Awwwww, it's so KEWT!", "Cool, it's a baby lizard-thingy" or even "HOLY CRAP, A DRAGON!"

Then Paolini apparently gets tired of baby antics, so Eragon develops a new and magical Sue Characteristic:

A blast of icy energy surged into his hand and raced up his arm, burning in his veins like liquid fire.

Is it burning like fire or icy? Which one?

An iron clang filled his ears, and he heard a soundless scream of rage.

…. so why does he hear iron clanging and a oxymoronic (how can you hear a scream that is soundless?) scream? Is Garrow finally sick of the racket?

Anyway, when he gets up his hand is all numb because TA DA: he's got a pretty white oval in his palm. Wanna bet this is a SUPER SPESHUL AWESOME scar that only the Dragon Riders get? And guess what: He's got a telepathic connection to the Baby Vampire Dragon. The Dragon doesn't seem too worked up about it, and after an initial freakout Eragon just…. gets used to it. I think most people would react a little more strongly to HOLYCRAPBABYDRAGON!

It's also worth noting that this dragon really doesn't act like you'd expect a big winged reptile to act - it acts like a cat. It rubs against Eragon's leg, it purrs, it nudges you for more foodies, and all that sort of crap. I'm not exactly sure where Paolini got the inspiration for this, but it's kind of weird. Like encountering a lizard that wags its tail and pants when it's happy.

They felt like old parchment, velvety and warm, but still slightly damp.

Damp damages parchment, so… bad simile.

Hundreds of slender veins pulsed through them.

Not to nitpick too much, but… well, in wings that small, "hundreds" of veins wouldn't really be easily detectable by touch.

Anyway, Baby Vampire Dragon is hungry, so Eragon gets up to get it some food or something…. which they can't spare, because clearly his entire family is on the verge of starvation and now they've got a carnivorous mouth to feed. Interestingly, Mr. My-Family-Will-Die-Without-Meat doesn't give a second thought to this.

This was a dangerous animal, of that he was sure.

Wow, what tipped him off. The fact that it's a DRAGON? And they aren't really known for being harmless little puffs of cuteness?

Yet it seemed so helpless crawling on his bed, he could only wonder if there was any harm in keeping it.

… because of course, it'll be that tiny forever. Operating on that logic, I think I'll adopt a baby tiger.

So he comes back with a pair of strips of dried meat (why don't we ever hear about them drying the meat?) and baby dragon just gobbles them down. Then it goes to sleep.

He faced a painful dilemma: By raising a dragon, he could become a Rider. Myths and stories about Riders were treasured, and being one would automatically place him among those legends.

So his motivation to raise this dragon doesn't stem from any liking for it, or "awww it's so cute," or even "COOL! A Dragon!" It's all about his ego and wanting to be a legend?!

However, if the Empire discovered the dragon, he and his family would be put to death unless he joined the king. No one could—or would—help them.

That's quite a con. Hmmm, lessee, being a super-revered legend… or death. Or both.

The simplest solution was just to kill the dragon, but the idea was repugnant, and he rejected it. Dragons were too revered for him to even consider that.

And…. why are they revered? Because they went together with Dragon Riders, who were so pathetically ineffectual that fourteen dudes on dragonback were able to KILL THEM ALL?

Besides, what could betray us? he thought. We live in a remote area and have done nothing to draw attention.

Of course not. No chance THAT will happen.

That said, this is a ridiculous claim. Eragon's showed it to other people in his town, including somebody who doesn't like it. He's flashed it to the traveling merchants. So if Morlock Holmes happens to blab to the wrong person, he'd have the Designated Villains on his back like a bad rash. I wouldn't be surprised if Galby, being a half decent ruler, has standing orders given to the troops to hunt down anything that sounds vaguely like a dragon egg - you know, foot-long, gem-colored, unbreakable, appears in big explosions. With big fat rewards for any snitches.

What's more, what does he plan to do when the dragon gets bigger? And starts flying? I doubt any of the local wildlife could be easily mistaken for a dragon, and it would make the dragon visible for miles around.

The problem was convincing Garrow and Roran to let him keep the dragon.

"It hatched out of my rock, daddy! CanIkeepitcanIkeepit PLEEEEEEEZE!"

Neither of them would care to have a dragon around.

What with it being a large, carnivorous reptile that would get them killed when the Empire inevitably finds out about it… I can see why.

I could raise it in secret. In a month or two it will be too large for Garrow to get rid of, but will he accept it?

Okay, whoa whoa whoa. Back up here.

  1. I don't see why Garrow would have any trouble getting rid of a LARGE dragon compared to a small one. He might not kill it, but certainly he'd want it to go away.
  2. So Eragon is risking the lives of his whole allegedly-beloved family… because he wants to be a Dragon Rider.
  3. Without a second thought about what will happen to them if he's found out.
  4. This isn't a stray kitten being kitten in a closet. This is a very large, potentially dangerous animal that has been OUTLAWED on pain of DEATH.
  5. How the hell does Eragon know how long it takes for a dragon to grow? For all he knows, it takes a thousand years for it to get from hatchling to horse-sized.
  6. Apparently Paolini doesn't know about the laws of physics. On that amount of food there's no way the dragon would be anywhere NEAR "too large."

Even if he does, can I get enough food for the dragon while it’s hiding?

In a word… no. Not unless he plans to steal whole cows daily from his neighbors.

It’s no larger than a small cat, but it ate an entire handful of meat!

Because small cats are incapable of eating that much meat.

All the same, he wanted the dragon. The more he thought about it, the surer he was. However things might work out with Garrow, Eragon would do everything he could to protect it.

This would be a much more touching moment if he hadn't admitted a moment ago that he basically wants the dragon so he can be a Super Speshul Dragon Rider. The dragon itself is just a means to an end. What. A. Douche.

He noticed that the white oval on his palm, where he had touched the dragon, had a silvery sheen. He hoped he could hide it by keeping his hands dirty.

I doubt it. It's a sign of Stuey speshulness, and the fact that it appeared somewhere easily seen (rather than the back of his left knee) points to future exposure through this.

Eragon gingerly picked it up and left the quiet house, pausing to grab meat, several leather strips, and as many rags as he could carry.

  1. That meat better be dried.
  2. His uncle was just leaving leather straps lying around for…. no reason?
  3. He better hope his uncle didn't have plans for any of the above items, because Garrow will be pissed.

He goes wandering off into the woods and eventually finds a tree on a knoll. We're not told WHY he selects this tree or location, just that he does. I can only assume that he's choosing his location completely at random.

With a few deft movements, he made a noose and slipped it over the dragon’s head as it explored the snowy clumps surrounding the tree. The leather was worn, but it would hold. He watched the dragon crawl around, then untied the noose from its neck and fashioned a makeshift harness for its legs so the dragon would not strangle itself.

This is actually a rather sensible moment for Eragon, especially considering that he's displayed the intellect of a not-very-bright brick up until now.

Next he gathered an armful of sticks and built a crude hut high in the branches,

I can't help but imagine this as looking like Eeyore's house, except in the trees.

And pray, how is this little donkey-shack in the trees staying together? Sticks don't tend to just adhere together. And for that matter, does that mean he's just climbing the tree and constructing it WHILE he's up there?

So he puts the dragon inside and it starts eating another chunk of meat that his family allegedly will starve without, and Eragon telepathically commands it to stay where it is.

A dim acknowledgment came tentatively through the link, but Eragon wondered if it really understood. After all, it’s only an animal.


First of all, this is a not a good sign about the Rider/Telepathic-Companion relationship. Not only does he want to shelter this dragon based entirely on his own ego, but he thinks of it as "only an animal" despite having a TELEPATHIC CONNECTION to its little blue brain.

Secondly, this is a dumb assumption to make. He has NO IDEA whether this is a thinking sentient creature or not; he's assuming this on the basis of about one hour of exposure to its ways. What's more, IT'S A BABY. Does he think that human babies spontaneously develop an adult intellect and understanding literally overnight? Then again, this IS the guy who doesn't realize that milk and eggs are edible.

After a hurried walk home, he sneaked back into his room to dispose of the egg fragments.

Since they are harder than diamond, how is he planning to do that?

He was sure Garrow and Roran would not notice the egg’s absence—it had faded from their thoughts after they learned it could not be sold.

So his family is dumb AND mercenary. And I somehow doubt that they will magically forget about the footlong bright blue rock that Eragon was making a fuss over.

When his family got up, Roran mentioned that he had heard some noises during the night but, to Eragon’s relief, did not pursue the issue.

Given that Eragon was screaming his head off and there was a taloned creature squeaking and scrabbling around his bedroom, I would expect that SOMEONE would notice.

Also, I can see why these guys are dirt poor. They have livestock but funny noises in the night cause them to… keep on sleeping.

Before long he headed back to the rowan, carrying sausages he had pilfered from the cellar.

… that noise you heard was my brain exploding.

Is Paolini even pretending to have continuity in this book, or is he just shooting randomly in whatever direction the Stu's Destiny demands? The entire opening chapters of this book were devoted to the Designated Hero wanking on endlessly about how OH NOEZ IF I DON'T GET MEAT MY FAMILY STARVES. Yet he's casually STEALING meat products from his family! Not even any worry or angst, or any concern about stealing from his uncle.

What's more, he'd have to keep doing this for months, maybe YEARS. Clearly the dragon is not like snakes who can eat a mouse and then are fine for the next month. So now not only is our hero a selfish jerk who tries to weasel businessmen out of their money, a political idiot unhealthily obsessed with meat, but he's also a THIEF. But it's becoming increasingly clear that anything Eragon does is Good, while the same things (or far less) done by Designated Villains and Antagonists is pure evil.

With apprehension, he approached the tree. Is the dragon able to survive outside in winter?

A little late to start worrying about that, huh? Well, baby dragon IS still alive, and starts gobbling the sausages and apparently has also been eating the local wildlife.

It struck him that he did not know if the dragon was a he or a she. He lifted and turned it over, ignoring its squeals of displeasure, but was unable to find any distinguishing marks.

Shockity boo. It's hard for nonprofessionals to tell the difference between male and female reptiles and birds. I'm not quite sure why Eragon is so surprised that he can't tell.

And by "distinguishing marks," does he mean a penis or a vagina?

It seems like it won’t give up any secrets without a struggle.

A little whiny just because it doesn't like being flipped on its back and having its nethers examined?

So he then goes all Vlad Taltos, putting the dragon on his shoulder and wandering off into the woods. This leaves us with an interesting question: what is he NOT doing while he's off in the woods with his dragon? He's a freaking farm boy, and they weren't exactly known for their large quantities of free time - especially since they have livestock. Shouldn't he be shoveling cow poop or something?

The snow-laden trees watched over them like solemn pillars of a great cathedral.

This is a very nice bit of writing here, and quite evocative.

The only problem with it is that… well, nobody except a handful of minor antagonists and dwarves (which clearly make Paolini uncomfortable) believe in anything. Elves, peasants, city dwellers, dragons - all of them are basically atheists or at best agnostics. There's a bit of lip service to blessings, gods or the sort, but no actual belief systems. It's pretty obvious that the vast majority of the populace is not only atheistic, but has NEVER been anything else.

"What IS this building? What is it used for?!"

So… it raises the question, how come Eragon even knows about cathedrals if there is no religion to build them? And even if there are religions, how would Eragon SEE a cathedral? He's living out in the backside of nowhere, and apparently has never been outside it in his life.

In that isolation, Eragon showed the dragon what he knew about the forest, not caring if it understood his meaning. It was the simple act of sharing that mattered. He talked to it continuously.

Don't let us intrude on this by actually SHOWING us. Clearly talking about this whole life-changing event is enough.

Anyway, he spends the entire day off with Baby Vampire Dragon. The ENTIRE DAY. That cow crap will not shovel itself, and amazingly Roran and Garrow don't seem to mind.

He spends the night freaking out about what will become of the baby dragon overnight, but apparently it's just lonely. More stolen food and rags, meaning that Garrow must be a real idiot to not notice that random rags, scraps of leather and chunks of valuable MEAT are absent.

A smooth routine was quickly established. Every morning Eragon ran out to the tree and gave the dragon breakfast before hurrying back.

May I mention again that Our Hero is stealing FOOD in the dead of winter, which even he claims that his allegedly dirt-poor family cannot afford to replace?

Anyway, apparently his uncle isn't willing to put up with this crap indefinitely, and Eragon is expected to do chores - and of course, once he's done, he goes rushing off to baby vampire dragon. Apparently his uncle and cousin are curious about why he's spending all his time outdoors… in the woods... in the dead of winter. Eragon won't answer. I suspect they're expecting a knocked-up farm girl to appear on their doorstep any day now.

After the first few days he stopped worrying that a mishap would befall the dragon. Its growth was explosive; it would soon be safe from most dangers. The dragon doubled in size in the first week. Four days later it was as high as his knee. It no longer fit inside the hut in the rowan, so Eragon was forced to build a hidden shelter on the ground.

Paolini is not even pretending that he's sticking to the basic laws of physics - and no, "it's magic" is not an acceptable excuse. He is not feeding that dragon anywhere near enough for it to grow that much. And unless they have a large number of extremely large birds wandering around the trees in that area, the dragon isn't getting enough food for that kind of growth.

Allow me to cite another book series, Naomi Novik's Temeraire series.

In the first book, the titular dragon does essentially two things once he's out of the egg: eat and sleep. Mostly eating. In the first HOUR, he eats an entire goat, two whole chickens (bones included) and a twelve pound fish… and he's STILL willing to eat more. Yes, Temeraire grows at an astronomical rate, but he also EATS at an astronomical rate - and even as an adult with no more growing to do, he still eats whole cows!

I doubt Eragon is filching that much food from his kitchen.

In fact, it grows SO much in the first FORTNIGHT that Eragon has to let her head off into the Spine and hunt her own food.

The first time he untied it, only the force of his will kept it from following him back to the farm. Every time it tried, he pushed it away with his mind until it learned to avoid the house and its other inhabitants.

I thought he claimed he was gonna come clean to his uncle and cousin once the dragon was bigger.

Farmers would notice if game started disappearing from Palancar Valley.

Nah. If Garrow is any indication, then the farmers probably wouldn't notice if their property magically went missing and they never had any explanation for it.

The mental contact he shared with the dragon waxed stronger each day. He found that although it did not comprehend words, he could communicate with it through images or emotions.

So as you can guess, it spends the rest of the series "talking" in italics.

Soon Eragon could contact the dragon anywhere within three leagues.

… okay, assuming that the dragon is hanging out WITHIN nine miles, and that it flies more than nine miles away to get food… then how does Eragon know exactly where it is and how far that distance is? It's not like the dragon has a GPS on its head.

As the dragon matured, its squeaks deepened to a roar and the humming became a low rumble, yet the dragon did not breathe fire, which concerned him. He had seen it blow smoke when it was upset, but there was never a hint of flame.

Yes, I totally hope my dragon starts spewing flame, despite the fact that it's living in a FOREST FILLED WITH FLAMMABLE TREES.

Its hard scales were as tough as chain-mail armor, its teeth like daggers.

This is sounding suspiciously familiar. Are its claws like spears and the shock of its tail a thunderbolt?

But apparently Eragon failed to predict that it would become glaringly obvious that there's a dragon there - giant footprints, poop, torn up trees, and so on. So he decides to finally tell his uncle and cousin about the creature that could get them killed by association.

He wanted to do two things first, though: give the dragon a suitable name and learn more about dragons in general.

I don't really see why he wants to do these first. It's not like giving it a name AFTER showing his uncle and cousin will really make a difference.

To that end he needed to talk with Brom, master of epics and legends—the only places where dragonlore survived.

He MUST be desperate. This strikes me as being like a person who needs surgery, and enlists a Grey's Anatomy writer to do it. Epics and legends are, by their very nature, more about the storytelling experience than about cold hard facts and information. That's where myths come from.

So Eragon takes the next possible opportunity to go to Carvahall, and we finally get some hard descriptions of what life with Vampire Dragon is like.

The dragon dived toward him, pulled up sharply, then leveled off above the trees.

I'm honestly amazed that they haven't been busted yet with all those flashy flying moves.

Anyway, the dragon is all pissed because Eragon's going away for a day or so, and Eragon tries calm it down. Then the dragon suddenly says his name, and Eragon gets spooked and runs off like a little kid.

  1. Why is it a BAD thing to suddenly find out that an animal isn't just an animal? I would be thrilled if I found out my dog was actually sentient! And could talk to me!
  2. How exactly did the dragon find out what Eragon's name is?
  3. Unless Eragon has the infuriating habit of referring to himself in the third person, when would the dragon have heard his name? Even in his mind, people don't tend to think of their names!

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