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Brisingr Part Fifty Six

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Ahh... back on the wagon. Off the wagon? I'm not sure.

Did you miss it?

In this chapter we get to see more of the dwarf religion as Eragon goes to visit the dwarf bodyguard's mother. Also, I start to think that Paolini has a fetish for dismemberment.

Different from how Paolini usually begins his chapters (and I don't mean the waking up and the going to sleep parts) we start with Eragon already at a place and then flashing back to how he got there.

He is in a place that is surprisingly inexactly described for Paolini, which in this case, good for him. It's one of the few places where I feel the description almost works.

Hundreds of feet below Tronjheim, the stone opened up into a cavern thousands of feet long with a still black lake of unknown depth along one side and a marble shore on the other. Brown and ivory stalactites dripped from the ceiling, while stalagmites stabbed upward from the ground, and in places the two joined to form bulging pillars thicker around than even the largest trees in Du Weldenvarden. Scattered among the pillars were mounds of compost studded with mushrooms, as well as three-and-twenty low stone huts. A flameless lantern glowed iron red next to each of their doors. Beyond the reach of the lanterns, shadows abounded.

I think the 'three-and-twenty' could have been left out, but other than that it's a place that I can picture in my mind. I could even draw this. It's not overly drawn and flowered nor overly detailed. It gives enough information to produce an image without being overwhelming.

For some reason Glûmra, the dwarf guard's mother, can speak the human language. I say for some reason, because from what we learn about her it doesn't sound like she'd be the type to know it. I suppose a niggling detail.

After the attack, Eragon contacted Orik and told him what happened. Orik told him to flee back to the safety of the more civilized and protected areas. IE the ones that he controlled. Orik, meanwhile, goes to CSI the crime scene. When he comes back, he tells Eragon that they have to figure out who attacked him before the clans meet again in the morning. He wants to prevent a clan war by keeping the attack secret for as long as possible. As for Eragon, he wants him to remain in hiding so that his attackers don't know if he's dead, injured, or just fine. This is to keep them off balance. I'm not too sure of the wisdom of this. I would think that letting the attackers know they failed would be better so that they would be warier of attacking next time. Initially, Eragon goes along with this but he starts to get bored and wants to know if there's anything he can do.

Namely go and talk to the family of the dwarf who was killed protecting him.

This is decided to be a good idea. It'll keep Eragon busy, after all, and hidden away underground. Before he goes, Orik tells Eragon that the deep dwellers are even strange for dwarves. Again I think of Terry Pratchett. Anyway, with his guard and translator, Eragon goes down to visit the mom and tell her the bad news, with the orders that he's to stay down there until called back up.

We don't get to see Eragon inform the mother of what happened to her child, something I think I would have liked to have seen. It would be an important character growth moment. How would he handle such a thing? How would she have greeted him when he arrived. Hundreds of important things skipped over. Instead we go straight to the mother, Glûmra, crying her heart out and wailing at the loss of her child as Eragon stares at the walls and ceiling being rather uncomfortable.

Interestingly, there are windows in the hut. I say interestingly because there is no reason for a dwarf who wishes to eschew sunlight to put windows in a hut deep, deep, deep down underground where there is no sunlight to go through. Sure there could be the lanterns, but most of the light would be coming from inside and not out. The windows, though paned, would merely let heat out of the hut. Anyone who has been in a cave knows that they're frightfully cold. The dwarves would likely do what they need to do to prevent heat loss and make it as efficient as possible (so I would hope), thus not putting in windows. But, homes have windows, much like houses have rooms (going back to Eragon's poor family's multi-bedroom home back in book one).

After wailing and beating her breast for a while, Glûmra goes over to the kitchen, takes a cutting knife and cuts off a bit of her finger.

Yes. Really.

Then, at the height of her wailing, Glûmra caught Eragon’s eye as she rose from the table, went to the counter, and placed her left hand on the cutting board. Before Eragon could stop her, she took a carving knife and cut off the first joint of her little finger. She groaned and doubled over.

Eragon never questions why, he just decides not to offer to heal it because it might be an insult. He does wonder if he should restrain her least she hurt herself again. Which is a good thing. Normally he would just sort of stare. He never asks her why she did that.

I'd kinda have liked to have known.

When she's done mutilating herself, she bandages up her finger and thanks Eragon for telling her about the death of her son. She wants to know who was responsible for the attack on her son and surmises that it was the Az Sweldn rak Anhûin because they don't like Eragon. This segues into taking about Eragon and how the Az Sweldn rak Anhûin were silly to attack him because he destroyed the Shade thus protected their city from destruction. And not only that but his dragon was going to fix the Star Sapphire and make everything all better.

Eragon is their only hope.

She says that when the find out what clan did this to her and her son she will kill them all. Not really that but there will be vengeance against them. Eragon urges her to join with Orik and she says she'll think about it before starting to cry again.

Getting up she goes towards a corner of the room near a weapons rack (because all dwarves use weapons) and Eragon is afraid that she'll cut off another part of her body. Instead she goes to a shrine. There are dwarf idols there.

The brass rings sewn on top of the silk drapery clattered against one another as Glûmra swept aside the cloth to expose a deep, shadowed shelf carved with runes and shapes of such fantastic detail, Eragon thought he could stare at them for hours and still not grasp them in their entirety. On the low shelf rested statues of the six major dwarf gods, as well as nine other entities Eragon was unfamiliar with, all carved with exaggerated features and postures to better convey the character of the being portrayed.

... and? Such as...?

Come on now. You're leaving me hanging. Here's a perfect opportunity for more description and we don't get it. What sort of idols would a household dwarf shrine hold? A god of soup spoons? Of mushrooms? Of what? Of lying? What do they look like?

Glûmra takes an amulet from her bodice and holds it tightly while singing a dirge. This comforts her and she tells Eragon that her son is with her husband feasting with the gods and other fallen dwarves. Eragon wants to know how she knows this. She tells him that she knows this because the world couldn't have made itself. By trusting them she frees herself from the burden of her flesh. Eragon really wants to believe.

She spoke with such conviction, Eragon felt a sudden desire to share in her belief. He longed to toss aside his doubts and fears and to know that, however horrible the world might seem at times, life was not mere confusion. He wished to know for certain that who he was would not end if a sword should shear off his head and that one day he would meet again with Brom, Garrow, and everyone else he had cared for and lost. A desperate yearning for hope and comfort filled him, confused him, left him unsteady upon the face of the earth.

And yet.

Part of himself held back and would not allow him to commit to the dwarf gods and bind his identity and his sense of well-being to something he did not understand. He also had difficulty accepting that if gods did exist, the dwarf gods were the only ones. Eragon was certain that if he asked Nar Garzhvog or a member of the nomad tribes, or even the black priests of Helgrind, if their gods were real, they would uphold the supremacy of their deities just as vigorously as Glûmra would uphold hers. How am I supposed to know which religion is the true religion? he wondered. Just because someone follows a certain faith does not necessarily mean it is the right path. . . . Perhaps no one religion contains all of the truth of the world. Perhaps every religion contains fragments of the truth and it is our responsibility to identify those fragments and piece them together. Or perhaps the elves are right and there are no gods. But how can I know for sure?

Here's the thing. Why don't the humans from where Eragon comes from have a religion to answer those questions he has. That is the purpose of religion. To bring order to the craziness of life. Or to bring a sense of order to it. My mother, who got her degree in comparative religion, says that one of the main purposes of religion as well is to explain what happens after we die. it explains it. Every human culture has an afterlife. The idea that Eragon could have grown up without one, without ever asking where his parents when when they died. Or anything. This goes back to the lack of curiosity that Eragon shows at the world around him and to the things around him. He doesn't care or is curious to know what happens to people when they die. At least until now when it could happen to him.

Now, the idea that he needs to know which religion is the true religion is also silly. There isn't any reason why they can't all be true. That all the gods couldn't exist at the same time. Or there has to be One Right Religion. Or you know, fall back on his own... oh wait, he doesn't have one. Right. He grew up in a void.

What should have been is that her conviction makes him wonder well what about his own beliefs and god(s)? There should be a discussion, perhaps, of their two beliefs. Of how what he was taught was different maybe than what she was taught. Of how in his religion her son would be doing this or that. Of him trying to comfort her with that.

Or this chapter could have been cut out all together. Actually, I've been saying that a lot lately, but I think it's because we've completely stalled for whatever plot we may have had and it all feels like filler.

Glûmra invites him to stay the night until he's called back up when Orik needs him.

And looking at that, it's a rather dirty sentence.

For the most part, I rather like this chapter. It's one of the better ones, and I like the dwarfs. Could this be a bit of miss aimed fandom? They started out rather boring in the first couple of books, but now that I'm seeing more of them, I do like them. Some of the stuff in their culture is a bit loopy, but it makes more sense than any of the other things that I've seen in the books.

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