The story of a lonely elf — once carefree and joyous, now filled with jealousy and rage — is a cautionary tale told among the elves, who hope to protect young elves from falling prey to such emotions. Linnëa was once a beautiful and talented elf who enjoyed spending her many days singing to the plants and trees of Du Weldenvarden. Her mistake – sharing her love and trust with a young and immature elf – resulted in betrayal, murder, and the Menoa tree.
Linnëa is now the Menoa tree: a mighty and ancient tree which guards over the plants and trees within Du Weldenvarden. Within this ancient tree rests the sentient consciousness of a once-great elven maiden. To this day, some of the elves’ most important events and celebrations take place under the Menoa tree; however, one event stands out the most for our heroes, Eragon and Saphira: the recovery of the brightsteel needed to forge a final Rider’s blade. Something was taken from Eragon that day. What did the Menoa tree take? How will it impact Eragon and Saphira in the future? We explore this and more in this week’s Big Twenty article!
An Elf and a Tree
The tree is also a sentient female being with a glacial sense of time appropriate to a tree’s long life, and intimately bound up with the story of an elf named Linnëa.
Although she was young and beautiful, Linnëa’s elf lover grew tired of her. When she caught him cheating on her, she killed him in a fit of passion. She escaped in to the heart of Du Weldenvarden, where she used the ancient language to magically fuse her body and consciousness to the Menoa tree and has since become guardian of Du Weldenvarden.
Understanding the Menoa Tree
The largest tree in the great forest of Du Weldenvarden, the Menoa tree is gigantic enough to allow a dragon to nestle in its branches – which it has, on many occasions! We’ve visited the tree during Eragon’s varying journeys through Ellesmera, and the site has been home to several key events which have and will continue to shape Eragon’s future.
Christopher explained the tree better than anyone else could:
A lone pine tree stood in the middle of the clearing. No taller than the rest of its brethren, it was thicker than a hundred regular trees combined; in comparison, they looked as puny as windblown saplings. A blanket of roots radiated from the tree’s massive trunk, covering the ground with bark-sheathed veins that made it seem as if the entire forest flowed out from the tree, as if it were the heart of Du Weldenvarden itself. The tree presided over the woods like a benevolent matriarch, protecting its inhabitants under the shelter of her branches.
During Eragon’s first visit to the tree, he “encountered an immense entity, a sentient being of such a colossal nature, he could not grasp the limits of its psyche. Even Oromis’s vast intellect, which Eragon had been in contact with in Farthen Dûr, was dwarfed in comparison to this presence. The very air seemed to thrum with the energy and strength that emanated from” the Menoa tree.
He continued to observe that the tree’s “thoughts moved at a measured pace as slow as the creep of ice over granite. It took no notice of Eragon nor, he was sure, of any single individual. It was entirely concerned with the affairs of things that grow and flourish in the bright sunlight, with the dogbane and the lily, the evening primrose and the silky foxglove and the yellow mustard tall beside the crabapple with its purple blossoms.”
It’s difficult to imagine a tree of such immense power and size… capable of sentient thought. We later learn that it’s capable of revenge, hate, and anger – all qualities one would have never considered a tree could possess.
The Menoa Tree’s Involvement in the Cycle
Firstly, the Menoa tree is the site of the Agaetí Blödhren, the centennial elven celebration of the ancient pact that formed the Dragon Riders. During the festivities, the tree is decorated with hundreds of multicolored lanterns, creating a rainbow effect. The celebration, performed around the gigantic tree trunk, is done with respect so as not to offend the tree. It was here, and during this celebration, that Eragon’s life was changed dramatically: the dragons bestowed upon Eragon the gift of elven strength in addition to healing him of ailments, altering his features, and other gifts.
The Menoa tree was also central to a piece of cryptic advice – which some would argue constituted as a prophecy – given to Eragon by the werecat, Solembum. When Eragon first met the werecat many months ago in Angela’s herbal shop, the werecat stopped him to advise: “When…you need a weapon, look under the roots of the Menoa tree.”
It wasn’t until their second visit to Ellesmera, after Eragon had already visited the Menoa tree on numerous occasions that the advice finally came into play. As Eragon was searching for a sword to replace Zar’roc, he and Saphira visited the Menoa tree and asked for its help. When the tree did not answer, Saphira bathed the tree in fire, a hasty and unwise decision which angered the tree. Eragon was forced to beg forgiveness for her error. The tree did relent and offered to give Eragon the brightsteel he sought if he agreed to give her what she wanted in return. Eragon agreed; the tree then revealed the brightsteel among her roots, but she remained silent when Eragon asked what she wanted. Her wish remains a mystery, and a point of a few interesting theories.
(We used The Inheritance Almanac to gather a large amount of information used in this section – we highly recommend checking the book out! It’s the only official companion guide to the Inheritance cycle, allowed by Christopher Paolini himself!)
So – What Did the Menoa Tree Take?
The key sign of what the tree may have (or may have not) taken is found within the twinge Eragon felt in his lower belly during this exchange. This alone seems quite innocuous during a first reading of Brisingr, but within context – attempting to understand what was taken – it begins to reveal something more. What could the tree have taken?
One of the most popular theories is that she took his ability to father children. Linnëa was irreparably jaded towards men after her lover’s betrayal, and the thought of her wanting to prevent a man from producing offspring does not seem like a far reach. In Eragon’s haste to acquire the brightsteel, he may have ruined his chances to father a family, so that Brom’s lineage is officially at an end.
Another, seemingly more unlikely theory, is that the Menoa tree will be the one to compel Eragon to leave Alagaësia forever, which was another part of Solembum’s prediction. The fact that one part of his prediction came true gives fairly good credence to the other part coming to fruition as well. Considering the Menoa tree’s tie to one part of the predictions surrounding Eragon’s future, it may not be too much of a reach to assume that the tree, and by extension, Linnëa , will play more roles in Eragon’s fate. Is it too farfetched to believe that Eragon being forced to leave Alagaësia would be hinged on what he and Saphira would have to do to get the weapon from under the tree’s roots?
Some fans also choose to favor the idea that the Menoa tree has yet to take anything from Eragon other than his pledge.
Time for Fans to Weigh In
Fan response to last week’s “fan involvement” in the Big Twenty article was overwhelmingly positive – and fans had some really great contributions! Because of the success, we wanted to offer fans another chance to contribute to our Big Twenty series. We asked Shurtugal.com Facebook Fan Page visitors to share their Menoa tree theories with us, and we received some incredible results!
Lemuel H: “She took his dignity.”
Robert R: “Perhaps there was more to Eragon’s transformation during the Blood-Oath Celebration than just physical or magical, perhaps there’s a new part of him that he didn’t know about (whether it’s an internal organ or certain part of his being) that the Menoa Tree took from him (as he had some strange feeling in his abdomen afterwards).”
Kylen A. M.: “It was his favorite pair of socks. DARN YOU MENOA TREE!!!!!!!”
Casey S: “I think the Menoa tree is going to ask something ridiculous of Eragon, like bringing her Galbatorix’s or something like that. And if he can’t do it she’ll claim either his life or Saphira’s instead.”
Liam A: “it’s something that she took already, so cannot be a task, I think she took the most important thing for him, his true name, so nobody can use it against him, but how do you know if somebody took your true name?”
Ben R: “People say she took Eragon’s fertility. I think she took Saphira’s. We’re never told how dragons reproduce, but we have been hinted that it’s not typical. Eragon felt a twinge of discomfort in his gut, which resulted from his being connected to Saphira. The Menoa Tree had a grudge against dragons, and Eragon told her that Saphira was the only hope for the future of the dragons. He could have the metal, if there wouldn’t be any more dragons to burn down the woods”
Nathan F: “A memory perhaps, I mean it doesn’t need to be a ‘physical’ thing, to be taken away from him… could be love for someone, hatred for someone? Personally I think it’s a memory.”
Aaron P: “I think the Menoa tree took Eragon’s word. As in what he felt in his stomach was the weight of the pressure from his promise. It was a big deal for him. He never promised something to a tree.”
Fabio M: “Eragon may have changed so deeply during the Blood-Oath Celebration that he actually became a permanent human-elf hybrid, capable of transmitting such characteristics to his offspring. The Menoa tree may have sensed this “oddity”, this curious new species, and may want to preserve it as the future of the elf-race in case this perishes, or just to start a new, “improved” species of her own (for what, I don’t know).”
Eric W: “Although I agree with the “reproduction” theory, I think she took it for a very specific reason. She is going to use it to recreate a new version of herself when she withers. I believe there is a end to her power soon, and she feels the power of Galbatorix messing with the flow of magic, and she is going to use her power to help the elves win the war, this killing herself, but creating a new, more powerful, guardian with Eragon’s ‘ability to reproduce.’”
If you want your voice heard in future Big Twenty articles, “Like” us on Facebook! Be sure to weigh in in the comments below — What do you think the Menoa tree took from Eragon? Did she take something from Saphira instead? Will we ever find out what was taken?