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Mark Twain Early Sporker

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It appears that Christopher Paolini has something in common with a classic piece of American Literature. This piece of literature being the books of Fenimore Cooper. And this is not a good thing. At least according to Mark Twain. And as Mark Twain is an expert at literature and what a good story is, I'm going to take his word for this.

Mark Twain declares that the books, Deerslayer and Pathfiner violate eighteen out of nineteen rules of literary writing. I would like to say that Eragon and Eldest also violate these rules.

These rules being and Coopers offenses (Paolini's in italics).

1. That a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere. But the "Deerslayer" tale accomplishes nothing and arrives in air. If we look at Eldest, we are currently almost done with the book and we haven't accomplished anything nor have we ended up anywhere, as nothing has happened.

2. They require that the episodes in a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help to develop it. But as the "Deerslayer" tale is not a tale, and accomplishes nothing and arrives nowhere, the episodes have no rightful place in the work, since there was nothing for them to develop. Again, in both Eragon and Eldest, we have found numerous random scenes where nothing has happened could have been cut entirely

3. They require that the personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others. But this detail has often been overlooked in the "Deerslayer" tale. Seeing as how Paolini's characters are all about as alive as a corpse, I think once again, he breaks this rule.

4. They require that the personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there. But this detail also has been overlooked in the "Deerslayer" tale. Any one know why Elva is there? Anyone? Please, tell me. What about Angela?

5. The require that when the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject at hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say. But this requirement has been ignored from the beginning of the "Deerslayer" tale to the end of it. As everyone in Eragon and Eldest seem to have varying speech patterns and we have random conversations for no reason, again this is another mark.

6. They require that when the author describes the character of a personage in the tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description. But this law gets little or no attention in the "Deerslayer" tale, as Natty Bumppo's case will amply prove. The heroes of Paolini's work often do things worse than the villains and the Villain appears to have done nothing wrong at all.

7. They require that when a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven- dollar Friendship's Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a negro minstrel in the end of it. But this rule is flung down and danced upon in the "Deerslayer" tale. Like mentioned at point five, with the varying speech flows that everyone has, they wander all over the place.

8. They require that crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader as "the craft of the woodsman, the delicate art of the forest," by either the author or the people in the tale. But this rule is persistently violated in the "Deerslayer" tale. I believe this goes to Eragon's Zombie horses and traveling feats. As well as that missing army.

9. They require that the personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable. But these rules are not respected in the "Deerslayer" tale. Um... Eragon learning how to become a swordmaster in less than a month everyone?

10. They require that the author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and in their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones. But the reader of the "Deerslayer" tale dislikes the good people in it, is indifferent to the others, and wishes they would all get drowned together. Paolini's characters have about as much interest as a lump of salt.

11. They require that the characters in a tale shall be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency. But in the "Deerslayer" tale, this rule is vacated. I can't tell what anyone is going to do at any given point. It's like spinning a wheel. They don't act from past actions, but as Paolini needs them to act.

Then there are these smaller offenses that they both violate.

12. Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.

13. Use the right word, not its second cousin.

14. Eschew surplusage.

15. Not omit necessary details.

16. Avoid slovenliness of form.

17. Use good grammar.

18. Employ a simple and straightforward style.

The rest of the essay is here. But I think it's fascinating how similar they are. Perhaps Cooper was the Paolini of his day? Or at least as bad in his craft as Paolini is.


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