“Big Twenty” – Galbatorix: A Method to the Madness? Exploring His Book 4 Secrets

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.

Galbatorix is the Inheritance Cycle’s ultimate bad guy — or is he? Our detailed exploration of Galbatorix, including how he came to be and what motivates him to continue down his wicked path, uncovers some interesting insights into what we can expect from the character in Book 4 and beyond. Is there more to Galbatorix than meets the eye? What motivates the tyrant? Will he die in Book 4? And most importantly, is there an even “bigger baddie” behind Galbatorix? We answer all of these questions and more in this week’s installment of The Big Twenty!

What happened?

The story of Galbatorix’s descent into madness is one that both fans and members of the resistance in Alagaësia are familiar with. However, it never hurts to refresh ourselves on what exactly led the once-promising Rider down a path of madness, betrayal, and murder.

Galbatorix was one of the lucky human children chosen at the age of ten by a dragon hatchling. He was plucked from relative obscurity and thrown into the world of Dragon Riders, immediately beginning his training on Vroengard. It was there that the Rider and his dragon, Jarnunvösk, rose above their peers. Galbatorix was noted as being both talented and arrogant – traits that would slowly lead the Rider to self-destruction.

It’s impossible to forget the story of the fateful night during which Jarnunvösk was killed and Galbatorix’s madness began. Some argue that Galbatorix’s madness had begun creeping in long before Jarnunvösk met her end, but it’s a moot point now. As the story goes, Galbatorix and several fellow Rider ventured into the Spine (without permission from the Elder Riders on Vroengard) to hunt Urgals with their young dragons. The group camped for the night, but they were not as careful as clever as they had thought. During their sleep, the group was ambushed by enraged Urgals bent on revenge. Galbatorix and the others fought valiantly, but they were no match for the Urgals.  During the fray, Jarnunvösk was struck in the heart by a stray arrow – a wound which Galbatorix was unable to heal. The young dragon died in her Rider’s arms.

Galbatorix wandered through the wilderness, lost, afraid, alone… and mad. It is said that losing a dragon will often push its Rider over the edge. Losing your partner, best friend, and a being with which you shared your mind with could kill even the strong-willed Riders. Galbatorix may have physically survived the loss, but mentally both mentally changed – and unsound. He was someone new, dark and twisted. And he was bent on finding a new dragon to bond with.

Galbatorix took this desire to the ruling council of Riders (which included Oromis), requesting that they give him another dragon hatchling to bond with. His request was denied and Galbatorix was seen for what he had become: deranged, paranoid, and destructive.

The seed of madness was planted.


Ultimate Goals: What drives Galbatorix?

Every individual, especially the bad guys, has a motivation or drive. Something drove Galbatorix to commit these initial acts of madness, and something continues to drive Galbatorix. There is a motivation, or multiple motivating factors – methods behind the madness. But what are these?

Evil for the sake of being evil – It’s safe to say that at this point, Galbatorix is so twisted and demented that he is evil purely for the sake of being evil. Now, in his head, it’s likely that he does not see what he does as being evil or wrong; quite the contrary, actually. This is all about perspective. To Galbatorix, the war he waged against the Riders and the oppression he champions against his “subjects” in Alagaësia is the right thing to do. Those jerks in the Varden, Surda, Farthen Dur, and Ellesmera? Yeah, they’re the evil ones. At least they are in the demented mind of a dark Rider king.

Killing the Riders wasn’t enough; Galbatorix needs more – The Fall of the Riders was not enough to satisfy his hunger for death, destruction, and revenge. At the point where the war began, Galbatorix was beyond salvation. He was bent on destroying those who had “wronged” him and the organization which allowed it. Galbatorix systematically wiped out those who had taught him, those who were once his friends, and individuals who denied him a new dragon. All who opposed the Rider were killed. But was this enough? Does he crave more?

Creating a new Alagaësia in his image – Let’s not forget: this guy is crazy. He’s bent on creating a new Alagaësia, one which is a perfect interpretation of his ideal world. He wants to be the one and only king – Alagaësia’s supreme ruler. He wanted to dismantle and crush all who oppose him. He wishes to unite all of the races – but only under him, as one. He wants to usher in a new generation of Dragon Riders (more on this below), Riders who share his view of the world and who will obey their king to the death.

This means wiping out Eragon and Saphira, the Varden, Surda, the elves, and the dwarves – or bending them to his will.

Rebuild the Dragon Riders – Galbatorix has made no secret of his desire to usher in a new generation of Dragon Riders loyal only to him. To do this, Galbatorix needs Saphira (the only living female dragon). The only dragons in his control – Shruikan, Thorn, and the green egg – are male.

Dragons and Riders trained by him, created in his image, would be the ultimate weapons of destruction. This new generation would not only be a new generation of Riders – they would be a new generation of the Forsworn. Unstoppable henchmen who follow his orders without fail. An army of Dragon Riders under his control would finally allow Galbatorix to gain and maintain control the parts of Alagaësia’s currently out of his grasp. With these Riders and his supply of Eldunari, the resistance armies would fall, just as they did during the Fall of the Riders. Galbatorix would have the reach needed to rule all of Alagaësia with an iron fist.

He seeks something, but what? – One of Galbatorix’s main motivations may be that which we know he seeks. Don’t let that confuse you… we don’t know what it is that he seeks, just that he seeks it and grows closer to discovering it every day. But what is it?

The popular consensus is that Galbatorix is seeking the true name of the ancient language, which would give the dark Rider immeasurable power over all magic (and beyond that, all people and things bearing a true name). It would be the final piece of the puzzle and would certainly result in “GAME OVER” for the resistance. How could anyone, especially a lone Rider (Eragon), hope to compete against an insane Rider with knowledge of the ancient language’s true name, a cache of Eldunari, and another Rider and dragon at his side?

Another popular theory is that Galbatorix is spending most of his time seeking out Eragon’s true name. If this is in fact what he seeks, it’s worrying that he claims to be close to a discovery. Knowledge of Eragon’s true name would give Galbatorix control over Eragon, and while Eragon would never willingly serve Galbatorix, he wouldn’t have much of a choice.

The only comfort is our knowledge that Eragon would understand what needed to be done if Galbatorix were ever to discover his true name. Rather than allow himself to be controlled and used against the resistance as another one of Galbatorix’s pawns, Eragon would likely take his own life. However, Galbatorix would ultimately accomplish his end goal: removing Eragon from the resistance.

Ultimate drive – resurrecting Jarnunvösk? – Fans have proposed that Galbatorix’s ultimate goal, even from the start, could be bringing his first dragon back to life. Christopher has told us that while Galbatorix discovered a way to bond with Shruikan using dark magic, it’s a perverted version of a true dragon and Rider bond. They were never – and will never – be a true dragon and Rider. It would not be much of a stretch to assume that Galbatorix still misses Jarnunvösk; after all, it was her death which caused all of which has happened to him and Alagaësia.

But how would Galbatorix resurrect Jarnunvösk? Could this really be his ultimate driving force? If Galbatorix were to posses her Eldunari, or knowledge of how to reclaim her soul, could he one day attempt to use the Eldunari or her soul to bring her back to life? Raising the dead is something no reasonable or sane magician would ever attempt – but we know that Galbatorix is neither reasonable nor sane.


We haven’t seen much of Galbatorix – Why?

We’re three books into our four book series and have yet to truly encounter Galbatorix. However, the death of Oromis and Glaedr at the end of Brisingr – while incredibly awful to read – did bring us a bit closer to the elusive evil king. Why has he remained so withdrawn?

If we were the joking type (we are), we’d tell you that he’s anti-social and would rather spend his time in his room, sulking about his tough life and plotting new ways to be evil. You know, typical villain stuff. Painting his nails black, brushing his hair to the side, brooding. But we doubt that’s the case.

We know that Galbatorix is hard at work “seeking something”. We have no idea what he seeks, but it must be important. After all, the most powerful (and evil) being on Alagaësia wouldn’t spend vast amounts of time attempting to discover the true name of bunnies or pondering the existence of an Alagaësia-style Santa Claus, would he? It’s likely that he’s holed up, spending as much time seeking out this unnamed secret without fear of interruption or attack.

Another reason we haven’t seen Galbatorix leave Urû’baen is because of the protection it offers. He may not fear Eragon and Saphira on their own, but is he ready to stand against Eragon, Saphira, the Varden, Surda, the dwarves, and the elves? Maybe, but probably not. Leaving the ultimate protection offered by Urû’baen before he is truly ready to end things once and for all would be foolish – even for a twisted being like Galbatorix.

We also have to consider fantasy precedent. How often do you hear of the evil overlord leaving his lair? Hardly ever. Often times, the evil individual is a coward; rather than do his bidding himself, he’ll send endless waves of mindless army men to fight for him. He’ll employ wicked henchmen (Durza, the Ra’zac, brainwashed Urgals) to do his dirty work.


Is there a greater power at play?

As we’ve discussed in past articles, we know that there is darkness beyond Galbatorix. In Eragon’s Guide to Alagaësia, Eragon warns his new pupil of an “unnamed shadow” stalking the land. Is it possible that Galbatorix, in “gamer terms”, isn’t the true “final boss”? Is there an overlord beyond Galbatorix himself? Is Galbatorix being controlled, instructed, or manipulated by a greater power?

If there is indeed an unnamed shadow stalking the lands, one which even Eragon fears, where did it come from? How was it never noticed before Galbatorix’s assumed death in Book 4? One very likely scenario is that this shadow was always there, working behind the scene… controlling Alagaësia from afar, through another individual – the face of evil.


Behind the madness, is there a greater threat? Is this unnamed shadow controlling Galbatorix, and through him, all of Alagaësia? When Galbatorix finally falls, will the true darkness be revealed?


Will Galbatorix fall?

If we knew this answer, all the fun of the fourth book would be gone. Sure, we all want Galbatorix to die. Stories often end with good triumphing over evil. We’re sure Inheritance will have some sort of happy ending, but not all happy endings mean the bad guy dies. No, it’s safe to say that there are several possibilities.

Galbatorix could win. We doubt it, but it’s possible. Despite our loathing of Galbatorix, we cannot ignore his cunning, vast intelligence, and perhaps most dangerous, his insanity. He will do whatever he can to ensure victory. He has had decades to plan and prepare. He has armies of thousands ready to do his bidding and the allegiance of some of Alagaësia’s most feared beings. He has an ancient and likely powerful dragon at his side, its mind warped to do his master’s bidding. He has an apprentice dragon and Rider, enslaved by their true names, fighting at his side. And he has an unknown amount of Eldunari, many of which he has bent to his will.

The resistance is powerful; they are driven by a noble and courageous goal of overthrowing a tyrant and restoring peace to Alagaësia. They are compromised of powerful races, each bringing their own vast armies, talents, and unique abilities. But they are taxed; they are constantly mobile, pushing across an unfamiliar land in Galbatorix’s territory. At their helm is a single dragon and Rider, who, while powerful, are no individual match for Murtagh and Thorn, let alone Galbatorix himself.

Until something more happens for Eragon, Saphira, and the resistance, the odds do not look good.

However, we don’t think evil will win out in the end. Galbatorix will fall, whether by death or banishment. The Varden must succeed. Failing would mean the ultimate demise of an entire continent of people.

Will Eragon, Saphira, and the resistance spare Galbatorix’s life? Faced with the decision to execute the tyrant or to strip him of his seat, power, and aids (Murtagh/Thorn, Eldunari, etc)… which will they choose? If they banish Galbatorix, how can they ensure that he is never a bother again? If they kill him, how can they be seen having done the right thing in the eyes of Alagaësians who still recognize Galbatorix as their king?