Chapters Down the Rushing Mere-Wash, Drifting
Our chapters begin with the statement that Eragon made an effort to learn his guards' names. This comes off as sounding as odd to me in two different ways. One is that he believes himself above the guards and therefor actually has to remember that they have names as opposed to calling them "you" or "dwarf" or that he's so detached from reality that he's making himself try and act human. The point that I'm trying to make here is that he has to make an effort it's not something he would do naturally, at least that's what the text implies by calling it out. If the text had said something like, "The Dwarf names were difficult to remember because of their pronunciation," that would be different. The dwarf names are, "Ama, Trihga, Hedin, Ekksvar, Shrrgnien -which Eragon found unpronounceable though he was told it meant Wolfheart, Dûthmér and Thorv." (page 140) Once again it looks like the cat was on the keyboard for the names. And if Shrrgnien means wolf heart which part is wolf and which part is heart? And doesn't it mean that one of the words won't have any vowels? If you are going to give a name a meaning that is a compound word remember that the name has to break up into two distinct words.
Once past the names, Paolini forgets how to transition between two sentences as he writes, "Each raft had a small cabin in the center. Eragon preferred to spend his time seated on the edge of the logs watching the mountains scroll by." The missing transition should be the word "however" or "but" because otherwise there's no connection between the two sentences. And another thing about the second sentence is the anachronism of "Watching the mountains scroll by". Scrolling by refers to the action of moving the scrolling bar in a computer window to see more of a page. It's something that's computer specific in its use, and something that only a computer culture would use. The fact that it's used by Eragon (for we are in his point of view) is ridiculous because it's not a way he would think to describe the passing of the mountains.
We learn that Brom helped found the Varden. In a stunning amount of coincidence he was the only rider left alive after Galby became king.... rather like Obi-Wan Kenobi, last of the Jedi Knights after the purge, yes? No, it's only my imagination! These similarities between Brom and Kenobi are just the fabrications of my over wrought mind! I banish them into the darkness! BEGONE FOWL THOUGHTS! (and yes, I mean Fowl, with lots of feathers and everything. Now leave me alone and let me be in my happy place.)
Dwarf also tells Eragon that his parents are dead and that Dwarf King adopted him and made him his heir. Instead of feeling any sort of emotional response to this, Eragon thinks about himself and how the Dwarf king has been kind to him. Eragon then tries to chat up Arya.
He asks her what the name of his sword means. She tells him "Misery is your sword. And so it was until you wielded it." This name is of course appropriate for the Sword of Morzan the man who betrayed the Dragon Riders and killed a whole bunch of them...except for one problem. Morzan got his sword at the end of his training. Which would have been before he betrayed anyone. There is no reason to name the sword "misery" before the rider has done anything horrible with it. This indicates that the elves who made his sword and named it knew that he was going to do something horrible with it... so why did they give it to him in the first place instead of, I don't know stopping him? It would have been better to have renamed the sword after all the bad things that Morzan had done with it. Much like Aragorn's sword Narsil got renamed Anduril once it was reforged.
Eragon and Saphira then go flying together and have a Randomly Generated Encounter with three small dragonish creatures. That are telapathic. Fire-Lizards anyone? They fight and then it's over. There was no purpose for that scene at all.
Then we learn about a strange Dwarfish custom of drilling holes into your hand so that you can put spikes in them. As Shrrgnien pulled off his gloves and held his scarred hands over the flames, Eragon notices that a polished steel stud - perhaps a quarter of an inch long- protruded from each of the dwarf's knuckles except on his thumbs.
"What are those?" he asked.
Shrrgnien looked at Orik and laughed. "These are mine Ascûdgamln... mine 'fists of steel'." Without standing, he twisted and punched the bole of an aspen, leaving four symmetrical holes in the bark. Shrrgnien laughed again. "The are good for hitting things, eh?"
Eragon's curiosity and envy was aroused, "How are they made? I mean, how are the spikes attached to your hands?"
Shrrgnien hesitated trying to find the right words, "A healer puts you in a deep sleep, so you feel no pain. Then a hole is -is drilled, is drilled through the joints..." he broke off and spoke quickly to Orik in the dwarf language.
"A metal socket is embedded in each hole," explained Orik. "Magic is used to seal it in place and when the warrior has fully recovered, various sized spikes can be threaded into the sockets."
"Yes, see," said Shrrgnien, grinning. He gripped the stud above his left index finger, carefully twisted it free of his knuckle and handed it to Eragon.
Eragon smiled as he rolled the sharp lump around in his palm. "I wouldn't mind having 'fists of steel' myself." He returned the stud to Shrrgnien.
"It's a dangerous operation," warned Orik, "Few knurlan get Ascûdgamln because you can easily loose the use of your hands if the drill goes too deep" He raised his fist and showed it to Eragon. "Our bones are are thicker than yours. It might not work for a human." "I'll remember that." Still, Eragon could not help but imagine what it would be like to fight with Ascûdgamln, to be able to strike anything he wanted with impunity, including armored Urgals. He loved the idea. (page 145)
What ever happened to brass knuckles? Sam Vimes used them quite efficiently and you can get spikes on them, without the need to drill into your hands. And putting them into the joint would be impossible to still keep the use of the hand. But we already realized that Paolini failed Biology. And then there's that lovely last paragraph. Where Eragon loves the idea of being able to strike with impunity. He's actually looking at the idea of causing bodily harm and possibly even death to another living being and loving it. This is not a normal human behavior. Usually when someone has a liking for extreme violence there is something wrong with them. But here Paolini has Eragon revel in the idea, making him appear to be callous and blood thirsty.
Our purple prose award tonight goes to this description of Eragon falling asleep, "He closed his eyes and sank into the warm dusk that separates consciousness and sleep, where reality bends and sways to the wind of thought and creativity blossoms in its freedom from boundaries and all things are possible" (page 146)
Eragon then has another vision, of a hand pointing down at a dead person, rather like the vision of Arya. So this is just another speshul power that Eragon has, the ability to see the future in his dreams.
To give us a bit of dwarf culture, Paolini wrote us a song,
Down the rushing mere-wash
of Kilf's welling blood
We ride the twisting timbers,
For Hearth, clan and honor
Under the ernes' sky-vat,
Through the ice-wolves' forest bowls.
We ride the gory wood,
For iron, gold and diamond
Let hand-ringer and bearded gaper fill my grip
and battle-leaf guard my stone
As I leave the halls of my fathers
for the empty lands beyond
It sounds rather like the elf poetry that Brom chanted to Eragon in the first book. The same lack of rhyme and meter, same stilted verse, same odd word usage. If the words weren't things that were typically associated with dwarves "iron, gold, diamond, stone, clan" I wouldn't know that this is a piece of Dwarven poetry. In fact there is nothing to say that it's not Elf poetry except for the fact that everyone knows that elves aren't into gold and iron and stone. Trying to read it out loud it's stumbling and awkward. Any sense of flow is continually lost. Also most poetry and songs in Medieval cultures tended to rhyme or have a repeating pattern in it to make it easier to remember and sing. This song has none. It has more in common with modern free verse than something in a fantasy culture would have.
Arya and Eragon then talk about his vision where she tells him that it's something that is linked to the very fabric of magic and only a few people can do it. Oh, and we learn that the dragons do have a hive mind. Or ancestral memory. I like hive mind better. But while this supposedly gives Saphira a lot of information beyond her years which could be interesting, if it was used properly, like if Saphira kept on getting memories of things and being amazed at what she remembers. After all it would be pretty strange to remember something before you were ever born. But instead it's completely brushed off as a side note and probably never referred to again.
They drift some more and then one night Eragon goes and practices his sword. He does some fancy maneuvers with his sword when all of a sudden his back starts hurting again and he faints. So that's three fainting incidents. One mention of Arya's eye color, one random urgal attack ... and what else was I keeping track of? Never mind. Eragon angsts about the pain and bitches at everyone who tries to be nice to him. Dwarf goes and talks to him a little and then gives him a shiny to distract him. It's a puzzle ring and Eragon is immediately entranced by it. In fact the ring is so distracting it makes him forget the terror he just endured. Unfortunately I'm not sure what terror he's referring to because I can't recall anything terrorish happening to him.
The next morning Eragon Saphira and Ayra watch the sun rise. It's all very pretty and then, "Arya looked at him. Eragon met her gaze, and something lurched within him" (I don't know about you, but we call that an erection down in my parts) "He flushed without knowing why, feeling a sudden connection with her" (and that would be lust) "a sense that she understood him better than anyone other than Saphira," (you're a teenage boy looking at a hot girl there's not much that needs to be understood here) His reaction confused him, for no one had affected him in that manner before (it's called a crush. Did Garrow never explain to you the birds and the bees?) (page 155)
Eragon ponders his crush or "odd sensations he could not identify" for most of the time while working on the ring. When they make camp Dwarf goes hunting with a composite bow. That is a bow made of horn or other stiff material like bone. Eragon is impressed with that bow and feels like his isn't good enough. It's smaller but a lot sturdier making his seem thin and weak. When he asks Arya about elven bows she says, "We sing our bows from trees that do not grow". I have no idea what that means. But I do know that Ogier from the Wheel of Time can also sing things from trees. I imagine we'll learn what exactly that means when we reach the elven lands.
Apparently traveling by river is slower than traveling by zombie horse because it takes them days to travel the same distance that it took to reach the Varden on horse back.
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