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Epistle the Fifth

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 Eragon Shadeslayer – Sociopathic Gary StuEdit

Luke Skywalker. Frodo Baggins. Daenerys Targaryen. Harry Potter. Garion. Lyra. Martin the Warrior. Eragon Shadeslayer.

The Epistler would like to play a game today. It is a game centred around a song. Which of these things is not like the other, and which of these things does not belong? Let us examine the above list. What do all these have in common? All of them are names of memorable and popular heroes. These were characters who did great things; defeated enemies, solved riddles and problems, learned valuable lessons, survived and won through against all odds. They were vividly drawn and handled by their creators, and, above all, they became like close friends to those who witnessed their adventures.

All of them bar one.

The Epistler will not patronise the reader by explicitly stating which one; he trusts the intelligence of his readers enough that he will not draw this out any longer.

In Epistle the Third, the Epistler made the observation that Eragon is a Gary Stu – the male version of a Mary Sue. He also, in Epistle the Second, flippantly suggested that he was sociopathic. This second suggestion was intended to be humorous, but the Epistler’s curiosity won through and he conducted some research on sociopathy. To his mingled surprise and amusement, he found that Eragon fits the criteria of sociopathic personality disorder quite well.

But he fits the criteria of being a Mary Sue far more effectively. Epistle the Fifth shall provide evidence toward both points.

What is your name? Is it Mary or is it Sue?

The Epistler found a Mary Sue test at http://www.springhole.net/quizzes/marysue.htm, and answered the questions as they pertained to Eragon. Some answers had to be guessed at, but even taking this into account Eragon’s score was a whopping 123. This score is not just huge – it is off the charts. The results chart says the following:

50+ Definitely a Mary-Sue in both cases. Although role-playing is more lenient than fanfic writing, you should definitely consider toning down some of the Mary-Sue traits.

This test was intended for fanfiction characters. Hence, it is absolutely appropriate. A second test, found at www.ponylandpress.com/ms-test.html, gave a result of 113, which means: 71 points or more: Irredeemable-Sue. You're going to have to start over, my friend. I know you want to keep writing, but no. Just no. Not convinced? The Epistler is more than happy to elaborate. So what, exactly, is a Mary Sue? The Epistler found the following definitions:

“…a fictional character who is portrayed in an idealised way and who is generally lacking in any truly noteworthy flaws (or having his/her flaws romanticised)… characters labelled Mary Sues, as well as the stories they appear in, are generally seen as wish fulfilment fantasies on the part of the author”. ~Wikipedia.org

“A Mary Sue is a new character introduced into a world via a fanfic. She’s beautiful, powerful, has a perfect personality, falls in love with the author’s favourite canon character, and generally pisses the reader off.” ~Pottersues

The Epistler will briefly summarise the most common traits of Mary Sueism.

1. Sues tend to be good-looking 2. They have tragic pasts 3. They also have special powers 4. Every ‘good’ character automatically loves them 5. The Sue receives all the attention in the story – a Sue is like a black hole into which all else is inevitably sucked. They can even warp the laws of space and time 6. Sues are also generally the same age, race and gender as their creator 7. They do the things their creator would like to do 8. They have romances with canon characters the author finds attractive 9. They often have special companions/sidekicks (eg a talking cat) 10. They are more powerful than even the most powerful characters 11. They own special personalised weapons/other special items which no-one else has 12. They have silly, overly fancy names, often including titles 13. They learn things with unrealistic speed 14. They are extremely annoying

So, how does Eragon fit into this definition?

1. We don’t know if he’s good-looking in Eragon, since Paolini never bothers to describe him beyond his ‘intense brown eyes’ and ‘dark eyebrows’. However, in Eldest… ‘more beautiful than any man, more rugged than any elf’… the Epistler need say no more

2. Eragon is an orphan who never knew his mother and who has an unknown father (now where have we encountered this scenario before?). He also loses his guardian and his home under violent circumstances

3. Let the Epistler think about this for a moment… Eragon becomes a master swordsman in a matter of months, can use magic, has 1337 archery and hunting skills at age 15 (and let us not forget that he is the only person brave enough to hunt in the Spine. At age 15), can see the future in his dreams, is a dragon rider, and has a healing ability that rivals Wolverine’s

4. The Epistler can only think of one character on the side of good who did not automatically kiss Eragon’s skinny behind – Vanir the elf. However, Vanir changed his mind following the Deus ex Machina Ceremony. Every other character with whom Paolini wants us to sympathise adores Eragon. Anyone who dislikes him is evil

5. Let us not beat about the bush – the whole of Alagaësia revolves around Eragon. Even the evil King is obsessed with him. No matter where he goes or what he does, Eragon is the centre of attention 100% of the time. Every other character defers to him. Even the far wiser Oromis kowtows to him and puts up with his continual rudeness and arrogance without complaint. Even Saphira, who is supposedly Eragon’s equal, has no apparent life away from him or any concerns or interests of her own (see Epistle the Fourth)

6. White teenage male. That is all

7. This is no contest. Paolini himself said that Eragon is his daydream, and that Eragon the character does the things that he himself would like to do

8. Arya is Arwen. This we know to be fact. Both Elvish princesses with black hair with whom the rugged hero falls in love. She exists for no reason at all beyond being Eragon’s love interest. She has no character development – all the prose concerning her talks about how beautiful she supposedly is. Eragon loves her, and she will inevitably fall for him as well. Apparently Paolini is a rather lonely man

9. Saphira is Eragon’s sidekick (do not suggest she is Eragon’s equal. You will be laughed at). As Epistle the Fourth pointed out, she exists purely to make Eragon cooler and more powerful

10. Eragon is ridiculously powerful. He can out-match the most experienced swordsmen after having first picked up a sword a mere few months earlier. There is no-one in the Varden who is anywhere close to matching him in magical ability. He is more or less a one-man army – no-one can face him in open battle and win (except for Murtagh, who apparently only won because he cheated)

11. Eragon has Zar’roc – one of only two special magical shiny rider’s swords definitely known to exist. It can cut through anything, it has a cool red blade and an improbably big ruby set into the hilt. It also has a cool name. It is unbreakable and never needs to be sharpened. Too bad Murtagh steals it

12. Eragon Shadeslayer, Argetlam, Shur’tugal, Eragon-finiarel… blah blah blah. He has enough ‘cool’ titles/extra names to make a personalised stationary designer gibber 13. Our ‘hero’ manages to become a master swordsman in under a year. He learns how to read and write in a week. He masters magic in a very short space of time. One thing the Epistler finds puzzling is as followers: Paolini makes several references to riders in the past being chosen and beginning their training at only ten years old. If all riders took as little time as Eragon to train, that would have meant a lot of fully-trained twelve-year-old riders flying around the place. The Epistler is far more amused by this than he probably should be

14. If there were a single word in Entish, Elvish or the tongues of Men to express how completely and irredeemably annoying Eragon is, the Epistler would dearly like to know it so that he may carve it into Paolini’s forehead

If all of this proves insufficient to persuade the reader, the Epistler will simply refer to Paolini’s own words. Eragon is my daydream. Eragon does the things I would like to do. He started out as me but changed into his own character (the Epistler must stifle an incredulous cough at this point).

Why would anyone need further proof? Paolini admitted it himself. Eragon is his self-insert who does the things that he would like to do. In other words, he was created for no reason other than pure wish-fulfilment and self gratification. Or, to put it more simply, Eragon is a Mary Sue.

Eragon Shadeslayer: Ye Olde Faux-Medieval Sociopath

Mary Sues are quite common in both original fiction and fanfiction. However, Eragon also bears the less common distinction of apparently suffering from antisocial personality disorder. The Epistler did a little research and uncovered the most common traits of sociopathy, which are as follows:

1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest. This may seem a little shaky at first. The Epistler had difficultly analysing it, since it would appear that, in fact, Eragon is perfectly law-abiding and has never been arrested.

But after pondering on it for some weeks, the Epistler suddenly had a revelation. Eragon is a criminal of the first order – he’s a member of the rebel army, guilty of repeated acts of high treason against the ruler of Alagaësia, not to mention disturbing the peace, ignoring a peace offering, using dishonourable tactics in battle, breaking out of prison and freeing a known supporter of the rebels who was guilty of smuggling stolen goods.

Yes, Galbatorix is ‘the bad guy’. But he’s still the King, and legally speaking he has authority over everyone who lives in Alagaësia – including our righteous hero. Eragon grew up under his rule, and by all accounts had a fairly peaceful childhood. The Empire did not harass him or his family, he had enough to eat and a roof over his head – from all we’ve seen so far, the most evil thing Galbatorix has done is (gasp!) make people pay taxes. But we must remember that the much-maligned King is trying to fight a war against the Varden, and that wars are expensive. The fact that he got his throne through violent rebellion does not change the fact that he is the King and Eragon is his subject. If one looks at it from an unbiased perspective, the Varden are nothing more than a group of terrorists. The Epistler urges his readers to consider this. If the Varden did not exist, there would be no war. The Empire’s citizens would be able to live peacefully, and there would be no armies wreaking destruction on the landscape. War profits no-one – once the Varden wins (there is no doubt whatsoever that they will), they will place their own candidate on the throne and so will begin a new Empire, which will have no essential difference whatsoever from the previous one. It will still be a dictatorship, it will still have been placed there by bloody and violent rebellion, and the common people will still have to pay taxes.

Eragon, of course, is completely unaware of any of this. However, by this logic, once the glamour and black-and-white morality has been stripped away, we can see that he is, at bottom, a criminal. The Varden stole Saphira’s egg from the King, probably murdering a few people in the process. Once Eragon found it and became a rider, his duty should have been to pledge himself to the Empire and use his newfound power responsibly. However, since the King is just so evil (we shall ignore the fact that Kings generally rule Kingdoms and that Empires have Emperors), he does not do this. Instead he joins the Varden, and during the course of both Eragon and Eldest he commits numerous criminal and terrorist acts, without showing the slightest trace of remorse. He kills Imperial soldiers – men who were merely doing their duty – destroys property, lies and steals, refuses all offers of clemency, and in general does his best to create chaos wherever he goes. And we know perfectly well that he will not at any point be brought to book for any of this, because God – otherwise known as Paolini – loves him too much for that to happen.

2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure. Eragon is a poor liar, but is one of the most self-centred individuals the Epistler has ever had the displeasure of reading about. Consider this… has he at any point achieved anything notable during the course of either book, on his own? ….not really. He escapes from prison only because Murtagh and Saphira help him. He makes it to the Varden because of them and Brom. He only kills Durza because of Saphira and Arya’s intervention – without them he would have been killed. Not a single one of his ‘heroic’ exploits succeeded because of his own cleverness, strength or daring. Eragon is a pathetic child who calls himself a grown man yet needs someone to hold his hand every step of the way. He takes no pride in doing anything himself.

And yet he never appears to notice this. He takes his friends absolutely for granted, expecting them to wait on his every command and indulge the childish tantrums which invariably take place whenever someone does not rush to help him at every turn. He is also utterly ungrateful – witness his ‘grudging’ thanks to Brom after the aforesaid makes him a saddle, his constant whining to Saphira, his outright rudeness to Oromis, his pathetic bewilderment and emotional blackmail when Arya rebuffs his sickly-sweet romantic approaches, the hysterical abuse he throws at the already much-abused Murtagh, his brother and apparent whipping-boy, his sulky rage over Vanir’s refusal to kowtow to him, and his generally condescending and overbearing behaviour toward every other character in the book. The Epistler admits that Eragon does not lie or deceive to get his way – but he does not have to.

Eragon is a spoilt brat wearing a hero’s armour and carrying a sword. He treats every other character in the book like his personal entourage, and yet accepts the respect he gets as if it is his due. Is it any wonder, therefore, that the Epistler is rooting for the Empire to win?

3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead. This is no contest. Even other characters remark on Eragon’s rashness and stupidity. He constantly rushes into things without a second thought (only to be miraculously saved every time, but this is beside the point). This trait is probably supposed to be endearing – our hero is meant to be a hot-headed but courageous lad who has a lot to learn… blah blah blah. The Epistler has a better way of putting it: he’s a moron.

4. Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults. On numerous occasions in the books, Eragon has temper tantrums, usually over something trivial. It is a little unfair to add that he constantly fights and kills people as a solution to his problems (i.e. he would rather not work for the nasty ol’ King), given that he is a fantasy character and that is what fantasy characters do… but the Epistler used up all his charity a very long time ago.

5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others. This has already been covered more or less in point 2, but the Epistler will recap. Eragon is constantly putting himself and other people in danger, usually because he is too stupid to think about anything for more than two minutes together. He is extremely reckless, and this cannot be overlooked given that he lives in a world where danger is ever-present and real, and the consequences are, frequently, death (or, at least, they would be if Paolini knew anything about a little thing called ‘realism’. Let us interpret it the way he apparently wished us to)

6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain steady work or honour financial obligations. If you will indulge the Epistler for a moment… he just had an hilarious mental image of Eragon trying to obtain a job at McDonald’s. To return to the topic at hand, Eragon is indeed irresponsible. In spite of the fact that everybody is relying upon him, he constantly does stupid and irresponsible things which get himself and other people into trouble; his apparent inability to think ahead only compounds the felony.

7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another. Now this is the real killer. One day, perhaps, in the far distant future, some deranged person will go through the trilogy-to-be and make a tally of all the people Eragon kills, but for now it is safe to estimate that it stands at at least a hundred.

Now… in Eldest, when Eragon’s cousin Roran is forced to begin fighting and killing people, he keeps a mental count of all his victims and angsts about it. It is lame and unconvincing, but at least in this case Paolini made an attempt at showing some realism – Roran is shocked by the fact that he has killed people. Eragon, however, has no such reservations. At no point in either book does he truly feel remorse for anything, even something as heinous as killing another living soul. In Eragon, when he first kills a group of urgals, he has no reaction beyond (to quote Ivy), “OMG I gotz magick??!!”. He pats himself on the back for having discovered his magical abilities, but doesn’t pause for a second to consider the fact that he has just become a killer. Yes, the victims were evil, beastly urgals, but they were still, technically, people. And yet Eragon feels nothing at having killed them. Later on he kills human beings with a similar lack of reaction or human feeling. Where is the disgust? Where is the guilt? Where is the horror? He acts like a robot. In the, uh, glorious final battle of Eldest, he uses the uber-speshul magical death words (the Epistler has a name for these: cheap cop-out) to instantly kill dozens of Imperial troops, and his only real thought is ‘geez, this is just too easy’. And this is after he’s been told that there is no life after death and that this life is all anyone gets.

…Does anyone else see the internal contradiction here, or is the Epistler hallucinating? This is not all. After Murtagh ‘dies’ at the beginning of the book, Eragon feels (or rather, thinks) sad for exactly a paragraph, and then forgets about him for the rest of the book. When he reappears at the end and reveals that he is now working for the Empire, Eragon screeches at him about how he was ‘mourning’ for him (liar), and goes on to be a complete asshole toward him – taunting him about the scar he got from his violent father, and continuing to hurl abuse at him after it is already clear that he has been coerced into his current position and is now more of a victim than ever. Once the fight is over (and Eragon has been soundly defeated, much to the reader’s pleasure – this reader, at any rate), he continues to feel sorry for himself and barely spares a thought for Murtagh at all – after he has discovered that they are brothers, no less.

There are even more examples to be had of Eragon’s selfishness and lack of remorse. Elva is an excellent one. When he discovers that he unintentionally cursed the child instead of blessing her, he is dismayed for approximately one minute before he moves on to other things and forgets all about the matter. He suffers from no lingering guilt or anxiety whatsoever, and when he finally meets his victim face-to-face, he briefly apologises and promises to try and remove the curse before he wanders off and forgets about her again for the rest of the book. Somehow, the Epistler is not taken in by this display of remorse.

Strangely, however, he goes to pieces over having killed a few rabbits.

The diagnosis is now complete: Eragon is a sociopath. He fulfils every single one of the criteria. As a bonus, he also displays a few of the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, namely:

1. A grandiose sense of self-importance 2. Requires excessive admiration 3. Strong sense of entitlement 4. Takes advantage of other people 5. Lacks empathy (again) 8. Arrogant affect (he accepts being the Last Hope of pretty much everything with scarcely a pause. One would expect some feelings of self-doubt or at the very least embarrassment, but apparently Paolini thinks otherwise)

From the accounts he has read, it would seem that narcissists, far from actually being special, have very little personality to call their own. Instead, they create a false personality from bits and pieces of the personalities of other people whom they regarded as an authority. They adopt other people’s tastes and opinions as if they were their own, they have sterile inner lives and resent having to do anything for themselves, and they don’t talk about their feelings…

…does this sound at all familiar?

Eragon is a blank slate of a character. He never thinks for himself. Instead he mindlessly repeats things which other people have said, has no real opinions or beliefs of his own – he has no individuality. Everything he is is a quotation of some sort; he becomes a vegetarian atheist like Oromis with little or no resistance, and never shows any resentment over the fact that he is being changed by powers outside of his control.

Narcissists also show an inability to change as a person based on their experiences, which, again, is true for Eragon. He begins as a selfish, immature brat, and stays that way right to the end of Eldest, in spite of all the huge changes that have taken place in his life. His view of the world changes not one iota. (For more information about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, see www.halcyon.com/jmashmun/npd/howto.html)

The Epistler does not pretend to be a qualified psychologist, but it is easy to see from this that Eragon has some serious issues. He is a Gary Stu of the first order, with Sociopathic and Narcissistic Personality Disorder thrown in as a bonus.

What is even more hilarious about this is that Paolini almost certainly does not know it. The Epistler will refrain from making cruel comments about how author and protagonist may have a lot in common – he has no right to say such things, and nor does anyone else who does not know Paolini personally.

However, the Epistler feels he is able to safely say that it is unlikely that Paolini put as much thought into his works as went into a single one of the Epistles written thus far. He speaks of ‘searching introspection’ as if he were a literary mastermind, but there is no way he can have applied much of it to the works that have made him so wealthy and famous. If he had done so, he surely would have realised that his beloved hero has a mental disorder and urgently needs psychological attention. Meanwhile those who read his books must suffer through an endless string of Eragon whining, Eragon throwing tantrums like a four year old, Eragon magically getting stronger without doing any work, Eragon being praised to the skies by a bunch of yes-men other characters, and Eragon doing stupid and irresponsible things and getting away with it without so much as a slap on the wrist.

…and this is the character whose name is currently being shouted from the rooftops and whose exploits have made his creator a hero to children all around the world.

There will be no further Epistles. The Epistler is now going to seek out a good exorcist to help him commit suicide. Fare thee well, readers.

the Epistles
Epistle the Third ~*~ Home ~*~ Epistle the Sixth

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