Over Hill Land and Mountain pt. 3 Edit
Continuing on our Urgal Infodump we get a description of their villages when Eragon asks what they're like. It seems like Paolini is going for the noble savage cliche with the urgals now. As they're no longer just "Evil" they need some form of culture. Now I know that Paolini is trying to create a unique culture here, so will try to keep that in mind and try a bit to not apply "our" values on it, but there are some things that just don't make sense.
The first bit of information we receive about the Urgal's home villages is that they're well hidden. Which, as mentioned earlier, seems to contradict the whole urgal way of life of warriors and war lovers. Personally, I would have the urgals as nomadic tribes wandering around as they are a confrontational and war like race, they would have to move constantly to find new conflicts and other ways to prove their bravery and indulge in their culture. Hidden villages indicate a people who don't want conflict, they want to be safe and protected.
Also, now that I think about it, if the urgals have been around as long as the elves at least why are they still living in "primitive" villages? Why haven't they built cities by now? Or taken over a part of the land to claim as their own like the elves and dwarves have. If they're so war like they should have easily conquered large bits of territory as their own. There's no reason why they shouldn't have a country or territory of their own if they've been there so long. Humans, elves and dwarves have cities, why shouldn't urgals? Their society is far to primitive for the area they live in with all these other "advanced" societies, especially since they are supposed to be as proactive as they say they are.
This is another one of those moments of contradictions that are found in the Inheritance Cycle. Paloini doesn't seem to consider the full ramifications of his "actions". Of what it would mean to be a war like race. Of how their society would and should work. Instead he takes two ideas and tries to patch them together without considering the consequences of what it is that he's done.
Now that we've got that bit of a rant out of the way, on to more of their culture.
One of the things that they do is to carve totem poles (though they're not called that) to protect their villages.
“There is much I could tell you,” rumbled Garzhvog. His heavy eyes pensive, he worked his makeshift toothpick around one of his fangs and then said, “We take logs, and we carve them with faces of the animals of the mountains, and these we bury upright by our houses so they will frighten away the spirits of the wild. Sometimes the poles almost seem to be alive. When you walk into one of our villages, you can feel the eyes of all the carved animals watching you. . . ”
First off, before we get any where deep, when I think of burying something, I think of puttig it all the way underground so that no one can see it. That being said, if these poles are burried how can you see them seem almost alive and feeling like they're watching you. Is this before or after they're burried. If it's after does it feel like they're trying to look up your pants? Now, I do know there are traditions out there of buring "idols" in areas for protection and good luck. I remember reading a newspaper article about people buring St.Christopher figurines in their yards to help sell their houses. But I would think that if you're going to have something that scares away spirits you'd want the spirits to be able to see them. Unless they are underground spirits, which have not been indicated. I imagine if you know that the poles are there you can feel their eyes watching you, but still, I think it would be more effective if they were above ground.
The next bit of urgal culture we learn about are the “namna”.
It is a strip of cloth as wide as my outstretched hand. The namna are brightly colored, and the patterns on them depict the history of the family that lives in that hut. Only the oldest and most skilled weavers are allowed to add to a namna or to reweave one if it becomes damaged. . . .”
I’m going to guess that as wide as an urgal’s outstretched hand is about the size of a large hardback book. Which is rather small for a family history. But then from what else is said it looks like Urgals believe in nuclear family unit. After all it is the pair of urgals that live there whose history is recorded and the namna is rather small for a large family history. The fairy tale that was told also gives that feel. I would think that they would have a more “clan” like structure with extended families all living together. But then again if they’re such a war like race perhaps they’ll end up fighting and killing each other if they’re all in one house. But then again if they’re all in their own homes then they would need larger areas than what a village would take up to house all the families because they would need a house for each pair. And then their children would need homes. And etc. Clearly this is more of a modern day suburb type of family structure than anything else. Since they’re trying to remain hidden (for some godforsakenreason).
My head hurts.
In conclusion it doesn’t make any sense.
As for the namna itself, it’s an interesting idea. I’m trying to figure out how the patterns would depict history and not really coming up with anything though. It would have been nice for some sort of example to have been given. The word pattern is such an abstract word that it could be anything and yet these are supposed to be specific things that depict concrete events. Sadly Eragon doesn’t ask for any more elaboration and we go into a brief discussion about mated pairs making “hearth rugs” during the winters that take five years to make and by the end of the five years they know they have a good mate or not. I don’t know how making a rug will tell you these things.
I think he’s trying to go with the idea of making a home and hearth with the rug, but there should be I still want to say something more. I want more discussion about this. But it’s once again one of those things that are just spitted out as a random fact and then forgotten. Rather like one of those facts you get while on a tour. The sorts you can later use on Jeopardy.
“I’d like urgal culture for two hundred Alex.”
“These are brightly colored cloths that are hung on the doorways of uragl homes and tell the family history.”
“What are namna?”
Our continuing twenty questions turns to how the urgals know the human languages. Eragon wants to know if they kept slaves or not.
Garzhvog returned Eragon’s gaze without flinching. “We have no slaves, Firesword. I tore the knowledge from the minds of the men I fought, and I shared it with the rest of my tribe.”
Tore the knowledge from their minds. Tore the knowledge from their minds. How did they do that? Does he eat their brains? Mind melding? Long conversations as they tried to kill each other? It's an incomplete thought that sounds finished. And yet Eragon doesn't question it, again. He doesn't delve deeper. He takes what is given at face value never wondering more about it.
He has no depth, no desires here to learn more. If he did he would question. And it's not even as if he cares. This entire section is just so that we can learn about the urgal culture, but even then we don't learn anything. The idea of tearing the information out of someone's mind has so many implications. Are the urgals telepathic? We're not told because our avatar into the world, Eragon, isn't curious enough to ask. He has no curiosity. He has nothing. He has no reason not to be nothing though. Here he is a young sheltered man out in the great big world and he has no questions. Sure he asks questions, but he doesn't pursue the answers and the questions that should come up from the answers he gets.
Instead they try to go onto moral ground. Eragon mentions that the urgals have killed many humans and Urgal mentions that Eragon has killed many urgals. Eragon brings up the baby on the pike from book one as an atrocity of the urgal kind. Urgal brings up something else that once again makes no sense if you think about it.
“Before I got my horns,” said Garzhvog, “my father took me to visit one of our villages along the western fringes of the Spine. We found our people tortured, burnt, and slaughtered. The men of Narda had learned of our presence, and they had surprised the village with many soldiers. Not one of our tribe escaped. . . . It is true we love war more than other races, Firesword, and that has been our downfall many times before. Our women will not consider a ram for a mate unless he has proven himself in battle and killed at least three foes himself. And there is a joy in battle unlike any other joy. But though we love feats of arms, that does not mean we are not aware of our faults.
Okay, so if we are a war like race in the mountains I would think that we would have things like guards to protect our village. And of course scouts that keep an eye on the out the surrounding area. An army would not be the easiest thing to hide in a mountainous region, especially from people who lived there and knew the area. And were you know, interested in war like things. So they shouldn't have been taken by surprise. They could have evacuated. Or ambushed or something. Seriously. They likely shouldn't have been killed that badly if everyone was supposed to be.
I'm starting to think though, that they're not war like so much as they like fighting. Which doesn't make someone war like. More like bullies. And the women like the biggest bullies.
After a little bit more discussion, they go to sleep.
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