“Big Twenty” – Angela the Herbalist… Who or What Is She?

The Big Twenty is Shur’tugal’s twenty week long series of in depth discussion and theorizing, all centered around twenty core questions, loose ends, and theories in the Inheritance universe. The Big Twenty is the ultimate fan guide to happenings in Book 4 — and we hope you’ll join us for the adventure! To learn more about the Big Twenty, view our announcement article.

Angela the witch. Angela the herbalist. Angela the justwhattheheckisshe. Angela is a character of many names, faces, and abilities; and for all of her mysteries, two certainties remain: Angela will always sit atop fans’ favorite characters list, just as she will always top the lists of favorite Inheritance moments.

My role as a curator of the Inheritance community over the past seven years has offered me a unique glimpse at the inner workings of fan discussions, theories, and hopes; I’ve witnessed the birth and destruction of literally hundreds of theories and one thing never ceases to amaze me: the theory power surrounding Angela the herbalist. In light of this, the second Big Twenty article will explore who or what Angela is at her very core. Join us on this unique adventure while we delve deep into the mysteries surrounding her character and explore all of the possibilities surrounding what Angela truly is.

We first encounter the witch and her werecat companion in Teirm at the start of Eragon. The pair showcase their abilities of foresight by offering Eragon a unique glimpse into his own future. Angela explores the love and peril ahead of him, whereas Solembum offers Eragon several prophecies – some which have yet to come to fruition. The pair have made various appearances in the books since their grand entrance in Eragon, ranging from their room at Farthen Dûr to the battle of the Burning Plains. The witch has revealed many unique sides, from poisoning Empire soldiers to caring for Elva, the child whose future was destroyed by Eragon’s failed blessing.

Angela is a powerful and formidable ally and enemy. For reasons unknown, the witch has chosen to ally herself with the Varden. It’s clear she does not like or agree with Galbatorix, feelings that may result from her history living during the time of his uprising.

Angela’s Role in Book 4

Angela has climbed the ranks as one of the most debated and beloved characters in the Inheritance Cycle since her first appearance in the books. Christopher Paolini himself has discussed Angela’s rise to fame, often touching upon the fact that Angela was first included as a joke character. The response from fans and his own enjoyment of the character has led him to feature Angela in more prominent roles. Paolini has recently said that Angela will be playing a vital role in Book 4:

  • Angela will be involved with a Shade in Book 4, though the circumstances remain unknown.
  • Angela will play a large role in Book 4: “There is a lot more to Angela than meets the eye. If you like her, you’re in for a treat with Book Four. Angela gets several crowning moments of awesomeness therein.”

Mysteries, Loose Ends, and Lingering Questions

Mystery surrounds Angela the herbalist. The core of today’s Big Twenty “investigation” will focus on who – or what – Angela is. It is important to identify where Angela comes from, as we feel it will explain many loose-ended questions and theories. Before tackling each “What is she?” theory, we need to identify, understand, and explore each of the mysteries tied to Angela. Isolating a question and dissecting the information surrounding it can often lead to new discoveries. Below are some of the most popular questions, answers, and loose ends:

  • Age – While never specifically revealed, Angela’s age is often touched upon or alluded to. We know from Angela herself that she is much older than she appears. She has witnessed events few humans live to recall, yet still walks with the grace of a young human. Just how old is Angela?
  • Expansive knowledge – Angela’s wisdom is constantly referenced in any scene the witch appears. She commands incredible knowledge of events, both past and present, and always seems to know information she should not know. Many turn to her for reason and advice; few underestimate the extent of her knowledge. How does Angela gather this knowledge? (Much of this ties back to her age – clearly she is old enough to have witnessed many events prior to and during the Riders’ fall.)
  • Appear where the action is happening – Angela has managed to appear suddenly wherever core events are occurring. From Tierm to the Varden’s various war camp, the witch has witnessed it all. How does she travel with such ease and haste?
  • A werecat companion – We are specifically told that werecats only choose to remain around important individuals. Solembum and Angela appear to be very close companions. Of all the “humans” (we’re assuming here) in Alagaësia, why did Solembum choose Angela? What keeps him at her side?
  • Trust among Varden and elves – We know that Angela is one of few to have never had her mind searched while entering Farthen Dûr. We also know that Angela has visited Ellesmera on more than one occasion – a rare feat for non-elves. What reason do the Varden and elves have to trust her?
  • Dragon knuckle bones – There’s no denying the rarity of possessing bones of a fallen dragon. Angela has not revealed where these bones have come from, but it’s safe to say that few in Alagaësia possess such items. Where did she get these bones? Are they related to Glaedr’s missing arm? How did she learn to use them to predict the future?
  • Hated by the werecats – The most shocking revelation in the first excerpt from Book 4 was the werecat king’s hatred toward Angela. Why would the elves and Varden trust Angela, yet the werecats do not? If the werecats dislike Angela, why has Solembum stuck by her side for so long? What has she done?
  • Trained by Tenga – Tenga remains another one of Brisingr’s greater mysteries. We only encountered hermit briefly, yet later learned that this man was once Angela’s teacher. What is Tenga searching for and what are Angela’s true feelings toward him? (Tenga will be the subject of an upcoming Big Twenty article.)

Will all of the above questions and mysteries be resolved in Book 4? We highly doubt it. Book 4 will certainly be a large book aimed at concluding the plot we’ve come to love over the past decade, but we think it’s safe to say that Christopher will want some semblance of mystery to remain around his most interesting character. Allowing Angela to carry on her legacy as “who-the-heck-is-she” rather than revealing everything seems like a choice the author would make. One thing is for certain: some of the above questions/loose ends will play a role in the final book.

Who or What Is Angela?

Angela’s vague past leaves an incredible amount of wiggle room for fan speculation and theories, resulting in a host of theories ranging from the outlandish to the interesting. We’ve rounded up what we feel to be the best theories surrounding who or what Angela is and will dissect each from an objective angle. Our goal is to get to the root of each theory to determine whether or not there is any possibility to its beliefs and if so, what the theory may mean for Book 4.

Angela is Selena the Black Hand

We’re confident from the get-go that this theory, while interesting to ponder, holds no truth; there’s simply too much working against it. First we’ll explore fan reasoning for believing that Angela may be Selena, mother of Eragon and Murtagh: Angela is old and her past is vague; she’s powerful; a formidable opponent on and off the battlefield; she knows of Brom and the prophecies surrounding his future; and many of her more mysterious qualities, such as her ability to travel without being noticed, match those of the Black Hand’s.

The evidence against this theory – and there’s a good bit of it – is much more compelling. For starters, Angela is said to be over a century old. For her to be Selena, or Selena to be Angela, Selena – and Garrow, her brother – would have had to have been over a century old. While not entirely impossible, it isn’t plausible – someone would have noticed, be it Eragon, Roran, or one of the many Carvahall villagers.

We also know that Brom had met Angela on more than one occasion, never recognizing the witch. Surely Brom would have recognized the face of his former love, even if it had changed in some way. Similarly, Oromis was shown a fairth of Selena yet did not recognize the woman as Angela. He had met Angela before and if the two – Angela and Selena – had any sort of similarities in appearance, someone as intelligent as Oromis would have picked up on it.

There is no specific evidence against the latter two bits of “supporting evidence”. Yes, both Angela and Selena were formidable and feared opponents… but the same can be said about many of those in Alagaesia. The evidence against this theory isn’t conclusive, but it is compelling and we are simply not convinced. We’re going with “Sorry – not happening!” on this one.

Angela is a Half-Elf

Another theory with little supporting evidence, sadly. We’ve heard this theory making the rounds since half-elves were first declared possible by Christopher Paolini. Half-elves are the result of love between one elf and one human. The possibility for half-elves to exist has been confirmed, however specific instances of this phenomenon has not – there are no confirmed half-elves in the series.

Fans like to believe Angela to be a half-elf for several reasons, the most compelling of which include: her age, her prior visits to Ellesmera, her remarks that her mind would drive an individual mad – similar to the way an individual would react in an elven mind, her knowledge, and her abilities with magic and physical combat.

This is where the compelling arguments against step in. Angela herself – along with the story’s narrator (for all intents and purposes, Christopher himself) – have referred to Angela as a human on more than one occasion. Angela bears no physical traits of someone with half-elven heritage – no pointy ears, no elven beauty. Angela has no known control over magic, as all elves do, and is not known as an elf (or half-elf) to Arya, who would surely know and recognize a half-elf if she saw one.

Supporting evidence, as mentioned above, includes her prior visits to Du Weldenvarden as well as her expansive knowledge of the ancient language. We’re just not sure that these few pieces of supporting evidence are enough to overlook the evidence against this theory. It is interesting that Angela has visited Ellesmera in times past, but she wasn’t the only person to do so. A fun theory for sure, but this is another theory for the “not likely” list.

Angela is a Grey Folk

This is where the Angela theories begin to grow mysterious. Christopher Paolini first introduced the Grey Folk to readers when explaining how the ancient language was created. The Grey Folk were a once-mighty race who chose to tame Alagaesia’s wild magic, binding it to their language – the ancient language. The power needed to perform such a great feat drained the Grey Folk, leaving the race as a shell of their former selves. It is believed that this race slowly faded in time, no Grey Folk known to remain in Alagaesia.

The little we know of the Grey Folk make debating such a theory challenging. We know Angela to be highly mysterious, powerful, and extraordinarily knowledgeable of the ancient language, although she does not appear to be able to practice magic. This matches with what we know of the Grey Folk after binding magic to the ancient language: wise people with expansive knowledge of their creation, unable to perform magic. We know that they were talented and intelligent people, just as Angela is. And most importantly, little is known of them… just as little is known of Angela’s past.

Angela is ancient, mysterious, and knows a bit more about the ancient language than she should. She studied under a powerful and reclusive hermit – another individual whose origins are unknown. She has the looks of a human but the age of something much more ancient. Could it be that Angela the herbalist is a member of or descendent of the Grey Folk?

It’s possible.

Angela was once a Dragon Rider

Another decent theory with little supporting evidence. Fans enjoy speculating that Angela may have been, prior to the Fall of the Riders (or even earlier, depending on her true age), a Dragon Rider. It is speculated that like Brom, Angela lost her dragon and is cursed to live on in immortality without her dragon.

This theory would explain several loose ends: her age (Riders do not age like humans), her knowledge of the ancient language (Riders are proficient in the ancient language), her knowledge of key events (having been around during the Fall, possibly even playing an active role), her trust among the Varden and the elves (both groups would have trusted and allowed a loyal Rider to enter their respective cities). This theory may also explain why Solembum chooses to remain at her side: a fallen Rider is a great companion for a werecat.

However, there are several facts working against this theory. Most importantly, many groups and individuals – the Varden, Oromis, Brom, Arya, etc. would have recognized Angela if she was a Rider. Oromis, an Elder Rider, would have likely known each pupil to pass through Vroengard prior to the fall. Brom, a student during this time, likely would have encountered Angela as a Rider. Additionally, if Angela was at one point a Rider, the witch would still be able to perform magic – and powerful magic at that. Her knowledge of the ancient language has been confirmed on numerous occasions, yet the witch has been unable to cast spells.

Another fun and interesting theory we’re forced to doubt. The evidence against this theory seems too strong to allow its possibility.

Angela is a Candidate for Green Rider

We’d love to elaborate on this theory, but it’s going to have to wait for our Big Twenty article(s) discussing potential candidates for the vacant position of Green Rider!

King Galbatorix is Really Angela in Disguise. No, Really.

To be honest, we’re not sure where this theory initially spawned from. We won’t claim to take credit – we know it was born somewhere in the comments or on Inheritance Forums. It’s a brilliant theory (however outlandish), and we know that Christopher Paolini himself is rather fond of the idea (though admits its outlandishness).

Angela is Galbatorix. Galbatorix is Angela. The core of this theory is that Angela is the true string-puller in Alagaësia, explaining her knowledge, age, abilities, and mystery. Angela splits her time between Urû’baen and the Varden’s roaming war camp. The “witch” uses powerful magic to conceal her identity, creating the ultimate disguises: Angela the herbalist and King Galbatorix.

And Solembum? Well that’s simple – Solembum is Shruikan, and Shruikan is Galbatorix. The ultimate companion – a werecat and a dragon. No one would ever suspect that behind the werecat’s false identity rests an ancient, century-old black dragon.

This is a ridiculous theory (and one we would touch upon more if this article was not so long), but it’s fun to ponder. What if Galbatorix really was Angela?

“Avoid roasted cabbage, don’t eat earwax, and look on the bright side of life!”

Angela has grown from a semi-joke character inspired by Christopher Paolini’s sister (of the same name) to one of the most unique, hilarious, and idolized characters in the Inheritance Cycle. Her quotes have left this writer in stitches on more than one occasion; her actions have spawned hundreds of theories ranging from the accurate to the outlandish.

All we know for certain is that with Angela, one should always expect the unexpected.

We want to hear from you! Answer these questions in the comments below:

  • Out of the above theories, which do you think best fits Angela?
  • Do you have a theory of your own regarding Angela that was not included?
  • Why do you think Solembum has stuck with Angela for all these years?
  • Why do you think the werecats hate Angela?
  • Why do you think Angela knows so much of the ancient language yet is unable to perform magic?

Be sure to vote in this week’s Big Twenty poll and share your thoughts, theories, and opinions in the comments below!