Mike Macauley:Saphira and Fírnen really only knew each other for a very brief amount of time, and yet in that amount of time Saphira was able to realize that Firnen was the mate for her. How did she know that after knowing him for such a short period of time?
Christopher Paolini: One, she’s not looking for a lifelong partner. That’s not what dragons do. She has a lifelong partner. That’s Eragon. What she’s looking for is a father for her children. And she’s not even looking for a stay-at-home father, either. Or a father whose going to stick around. She’s looking for, you know, good mating stock. And also, there’s not a lot of time available to either her or Fírnen.
And two, she can touch his mind. She can feel his mind and I think that would allow her to get to know Fírnen far faster than she would if she had to just talked to him over coffee and say, “What kind of art do you like?” or “Do you enjoy sucking the eggs out of the shell or do you just eat the whole creature? Or eat the shell whole? How do you hunt? How do you eat eggs?” You know, things like that. I think that, for example, Saphira would have gone after Thorn with just as much eagerness if Thorn hadn’t been in the situation he was. Saphira and Thorn probably would have gotten along like a house on fire, so to speak. Romantically at least, if the circumstances had been different. Although that probably would have been a little weird for Murtagh and Eragon.
MM: I was just going to ask… “Isn’t that weird for the two Riders in the situation?”
CP: Yeah. Murtagh and Eragon probably just would have ridden in opposite directions, sat with their backs to each other, and done their very best to think about difficult math problems.
MM: [LAUGHS] We actually have a great follow-up to this: Why don’t dragons mate for life? This question submitter went on to say that “they’re definitely intelligent, thinking, feeling creatures. Perhaps far more, even, than humans. So why aren’t they capable of long, sustainable love for a mate or do they ever settle down as they get older?
CP: Well you do have to draw a distinction here between the wild dragons and the dragons bonded with the Riders. And keep in mind that we’ve never seen, in this series, a technically wild dragon. Although I think some of the Eldunarί that Eragon interacts with on Vroengard were wild dragons. But even then, we don’t see them out and about and moving on their own, so to speak. The wild dragons would live in, as I said, a thunder of dragons. A flock of dragons. There would be a group of them and they would certainly go and hunt on their own and live on their own whenever they wanted. But there would be loosely allied groups of wild dragons, you know, in the Hadarac Desert and a few other places in Alagaësia. So even though they didn’t mate for life, the parent of your children, if you will, was probably still around when the hatchlings were growing up.
The other thing is the Riders’ dragons would tend to mate a lot longer and for longer periods than the wild dragons. And there I think you would see bonded dragons pairing up and probably staying together for years at a time. Maybe decades at a time. Maybe longer. But I think the dragons have a different attitude toward all this and part of that is just their biology. They mate and that’s sort of a rather ferocious event, and it’s something that they may do more than one time. But that’s not really something that they really link to the relationships they have outside of the mating. So I could see a female dragon who might very well mate with a male dragon that she wouldn’t necessarily want hanging around afterward… just because she thinks he’s got big wings and bright scales, and he’d make a good biological father for the children.
MM: That’s a very interesting answer! When you first answered the first question, I figured there was no hope for dragons ever having life friends. But now you’ve explained it and it’s sort of a whole separate thing. It makes a bit more sense.
CP: Yeah. So, again, if Saphira and Fírnen could stay around each other they would probably remain very, very close. Although, that initial passion would probably subside a bit after a time. But they’re both bonded dragons, with Riders and all that. So if they were wild dragons, Saphira would probably just have mated with him and said, “Thanks a lot bud!” and flown off on her own.
MM: Interesting. There are actually a lot of dragon questions today. Which is funny because I don’t think we gave any time to the dragons last time we spoke.
CP: Not much, unfortunately.
MM: This is their revenge. So, next question: What color was Galbatorix’s first dragon and what was she like?
CP: You know, I can’t remember if I gave the color of his first dragon or not. Off the top of my head, I’m not sure if I did. I have the feeling that I might have written it one time and maybe I cut it out of one of the drafts. So I’m not going to commit on a color at the moment. So it’s whatever color you want it to be at the moment.
MM: [LAUGHS] No color at all, just invisible.
MM: Was Shruikan always completely mad from the get-go or did he gradually descend into madness?
CP: I think there was certainly a descent. I think that he was probably fighting Galbatorix extremely hard in those first few years when Galbatorix first captured him and enslaved him. But a hundred years is a long, long time. You know, by the time Eragon meets him, of course, he’s pretty much gone.
MM: I’m not sure you’ve figured this out but, before that happened, what was he like?
CP: Well, I mean, he was very young and he didn’t really have a lot of time to develop his personality away from Galbatorix before he was captured. So, you know, he would have been very similar to any fairly young dragon: very hungry and very curious.
MM: Murtagh was given a warning before he departed at the end of Inheritance. The fan who submitted this question is wondering: Is Murtagh in a metal state where he can heed that warning or is he likely to plunge into those dangerous circumstances as a way to vent?
CP: I think Murtagh will probably get himself into a certain amount of trouble. He’s that sort of a person. Just like Roran would get himself into a certain amount of trouble if he was in Murtagh’s position. I don’t think he’s going to get himself, at least in the short term, into massive, massive amounts of trouble. But, you know, just enough trouble to keep his life interesting.
MM: True to his character, then! Next question: How did the Riders choose the next leader of the Riders when the position was vacant?
CP: That’s a great question. Basically, there were a couple ways that they did it over their history. Initially, of course, the Riders weren’t really an inclusive organization. You know, they started simply among the elves, and among the elves it was pretty much based on seniority. Even past that, once humans were incorporated into the pact, Riders’ seniority counted for a lot. If you had an elf that was 500 years old, 600 years old, or older, obviously you would want to defer to that person’s judgment over someone who is 50 years old.
So after humans were brought into the Riders, and then after the Riders moved to Vroengard, the process they used would probably be somewhat similar to how the dwarves choose their monarchs: there would be a quorum of some kind. There would actually be an election, or at least a choosing among those qualified to choose. So I don’t think there was really a super official process. It was really like, ok, one guy dies or one woman dies and all the elders would get together and say, “Ok. Who do we choose next?”
MM: That’s a time a lot of people want to see, those glory days of the Riders, if you ever do write a prequel novel. But who knows, those kinds of decisions could also be in Alagaesia’s very distant future as well.
Next question: Now that Eragon and Saphira have left Alagaësia, as well as Murtagh and Thorn, will the humans receive a new egg to have a new opportunity for a new human Rider?
CP: Yes. It won’t be right away because, as Arya mentioned, the humans technically already have a Rider in Eragon. So it’s going to be a process. I mean, they’re going to try to keep it proportional, one Rider from each race. And of course we do already have an elven rider as well in Arya. But once there’s another elven Rider, once there’s a dwarf rider, and once there’s an Urgal Rider, then we’ll go for another human, another dwarf, another Urgal. And go from there.
There will probably always be slightly more elven Dragon Riders than of any other race because they were the first members of the pact between the dragons. And even though that pact has been reworked, I think there will, given the elves’ affinity for magic and all that, probably always be a slight propensity for a greater number of elven Riders verses the others. And it might be a very slight advantage but for every, say, ten human or ten other Riders there might be eleven elven Riders.
MM: Will there ever be an amount where they say there are too many Riders, we’re not going to have any more hatch?
CP: Well, there are all the dragons which were stored and which already have the spells on them which will allow them to be bonded with Riders. And they’ve already been in stasis, if you will, for so long, that I think that Eragon and the dragons and everyone want to make sure those dragons hatch as quickly as possible. After that, they’ll probably concentrate more on raising the dragons, the wild dragons, and just reestablishing the dragon population before even beginning to consider more Riders.
I mean, for there to be more Riders, you would have to take the eggs which were unbonded and cast spells on them, or you’d have to wait until dragons start laying new eggs and casting spells on them. So it’s not something I think Eragon would, or anyone else would be attempting right off the bat. You know, trying to bring about more Riders than they already have eggs for.
MM: Now, that leads me into another question. Because it will be up to the Riders and the elves to rebuild the race of wild dragons, they’ll be different as a race, won’t they?
CP: Well, to a certain degree. There is some biology involved in here. A dragon is a dragon is a dragon. There are some wild animals you can’t domesticate even if you raise them by hand, in a house and all that. They’re still a wild animal. And I think the same is true of the dragons, you know. The first generation raised by the elves, and Eragon, and Saphira may be slightly more friendly towards humans, and elves, and dwarves, and Urgals. But they’ll still be pretty much wild dragons, as wild dragons always have been.
MM: It’s cool to think about, too. And I suppose you’re going to have bonded dragons raising the first wild dragon hatchlings, but then you’ll also have the Eldunarί from the wild dragons to help raise them. So maybe you’ll have that nice balance there where they won’t be too different from their ancestors in that first generation.
CP: No, and I’m sure the wild dragon hatchlings are definitely going to give Saphira and Eragon a few headaches.
MM: That would be fun to see, I think. I love any scene in which Saphira gets frustrated and I could just see her, you know, having to return each night to devour a barrel of alcohol to cope.
MM:So Inheritance really sets a stage for Nasuada and her anti-magic agenda. We see her not liking magic, or at least the idea of unrestricted and unregulated magic, and her desire to establish a new society of magicians. Will this society carry over from the one that existed within the Varden, Du VrangrGata, or will she state with a clean slate, forming an entirely new organization from the ground up?
CP: New from the ground up. I mean, basically she’s going to incorporate Du Vrangr Gata, that organization. But the one she’s forming is pretty much from scratch.
MM: Is that a good thing or a bad thing for magicians? She doesn’t seem too friendly toward them.
CP: Well, it is what it is. If I were a magician, I wouldn’t like it, but I think she’s got very good reasons, as does Eragon for leaving and all of that. It’s a very, very difficult issue. It’s certainly something that I will address in much greater detail when I return to Alagaësia.
MM: I’m guessing we don’t have to worry too much about her getting too crazy and too out of line toward magic users because Arya can still fly down and slap her on the wrist if she needs to.
CP: Well if anyone’s ever seen the Babylon Five television show – I know you have Mike – in some ways I viewed the organization for magicians as similar to the Psycore from Babylon Five, which was an organization designed to control and keep watch over telepaths for the exact same reason that Nasuada is worried about magicians. Of course the Psycore wasn’t the most benign of organizations, but it was also a rather necessary one from many points of view. So I thought it was an issue that was worth exploring.
If you look at the history of Alagaesia, the whole history of magic is an attempt to control magic; the Ancient Language was an attempt to control the wild, unbounded magic; the magic without language, without words. Now, Nasuada is taking it a step further.
MM: And so, we will hopefully see that in the future then. Or what comes from that I suppose.
MM: I’m not sure if you’ll be able to answer this but we’ll ask anyway: Where exactly has Murtagh and Thorn gone?
MM: North? Just North. Okay, we’ll try another then: Did any elves or Urgals stay in the homeland that they initially came from? Are they still there? Or is that place completely desolate now?
CP: No comment!
MM: Hey, not bad – look how far we came without a single “No comment!” answer! Okay, let’s try another… again: What color were the eggs left with the dwarves and Urgals?
CP: I have no idea. I will decide that at some point, but not at the moment.
MM: I’m assuming they will not be blue, or green or red.
CP: Maybe not, but there are only so many colors you can go through before you have to use some of the primary ones again. They were not tie-dye though. No tie-dye dragons.
MM: All right, no tie-dye dragons.
Do dragons always chosen Riders who are good and noble or have there been dragons who have chosen anybody they know to be evil or self-centered?
CP: No – well, that’s the wrong way to think about it. Dragons choose the people they think will be the best match for themselves, not whether the person is good or evil. So if the dragon is inherently from a good-natured disposition, or as good-natured as dragons get, then they’ll choose someone who is a good match for that personality. But if you’re as angry, frustrated, and hurt like Thorn was, you choose someone like Murtagh.
MM: A lot of good questions this interview! Here’s another: Why didn’t you include werecats in the Riders’ pact?
CP: Ah. You know, I went round and round with that one. Mainly because they’re not really a major race in Alagaesia if you think about it. I mean, the whole point of the Riders’ pact is to control hostility between the races. That’s why the Riders were initially formed between the elves and the dragons. That’s why the humans were brought into the pact after they came to Alagaesia. That’s why the Urgals and the dwarves have been brought into the pact; in every case it’s been to forestall hostility. The werecats don’t attack other races. They’re not a threat. So it’s not needed from a security standpoint, if you will.
On the other hand you could say that it’s not fair that the werecats are not Riders. I don’t think the werecats would want to be Riders. It would be kind of fun to see a werecat Rider, but I don’t think they would want to be Riders either. I don’t think they would like the idea of being joined to another creature.
MM: Hmm. I mean, like you said, it would be very cool to see that, but it also does make sense. They seem very, very private and independent.
CP: I mean, if you make that kind of argument for the werecats you have to start asking about others… well what about the Ra’zac? Assuming there were lots of Ra’zac around, why not make them part of the Riders as well? It’s kind of a question of where do you draw the line.
MM: Right, well that’s where you draw the line.
CP: Yeah, that’s where I drew the line.
MM: New question: Will Rhunon stay in Du Weldenvarden or travel with the Riders to their new home?
CP: Well she didn’t go with them-
MM: No, I think the individual asking this question meant more down the line.
CP: You know, I’ve never thought about that.
MM: It seems like it’d be the ultimate retirement home, a perfect place for her.
CP: On the other hand, she does have her own little place set up in Ellesmera and as Arya mentioned, she doesn’t really leave very often. So she may be perfectly comfortable where she is. But I don’t know, maybe down the road.
MM: Was Cuaroc, introduced to us at the Vault of Souls, a wild dragon or a Rider’s dragon?
CP: To be honest, I forget. I think he was a wild dragon.
MM: That was a popular question, actually.
CP: I’m pretty sure he was a wild Dragon.
MM: Okay. Next question: You mentioned two kings of the wild dragons. Did the dragons ever have a monarchy or was it merely a more primitive form of keeping order, like animals in the wild?
CP: It was more like the head of a pack or a tribe.
MM: Okay, interesting. Shades now: Is it possible for a shade to become “good”?
CP: That’s a very interesting question and not one I’m really going to go into here. Let’s just say there’s a lot more questions about Shades that have yet to be addressed.
MM: Sounds to me like we’ll be seeing some Shades in future books! Here’s a good one, but I’m guessing it’s another “No comment!” question: What happened to Tenga and why did you put him in Brisingr?
CP: Great question, no comment.
MM: Yep, thought so. I loved this one: Did Galbatorix ever love somebody?
CP: He loved his first dragon. He really did, honestly and truly. As much of a spoiled brat as he might have been, he loved his first dragon. That’s why losing the dragon hurt him so badly.
MM: So what you’re saying is after losing his first dragon, love was just broken and gone for him?
CP: Yes. I mean, I don’t think he really fell in love with anyone after that. No.
MM: Okay, another no comment one question, but I’m going to ask it because it was asked by fans so many times: Why do the Urgals call Angela Mooneater?
CP: Because she ate the moon, of course.
MM: And that’s your equivalent of “no comment”.
CP: That’s right. But for those who really want a little bit more information, I’d tell them to go read “Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Mark Twain.
MM: Well there you go – two birds with one stone. Lots of people are asking for new reading recommendations as well, so they have something to read now with a possibility of a glimpse into some hidden meanings.
Another no comment question, but as is now a trend, I’m going to ask anyway: Where did the belt of Beloth the Wise go?
CP: Great question. No comment.
MM:Is it potentially important? ‘Pay attention to it, readers,’ type thing?
CP: Well it’s not unimportant. I mean, a big magical artifact suddenly disappearing for a while, that’s cause for concern, yes.
MM: Well you say “for a while,” so it might reappear at some point.
CP: That’s right, it might.
MM: What did Angela say to the High Priest in Dras Leona?
CP: She told him her name.
MM: Oh. Interesting!
CP: Or one of her names. But it was one of the truer names that she has.
MM: Have you figured that out in your head? Exactly what it was?
CP: Well the name wouldn’t mean a lot to readers. It’s more that you’d have to understand the context. When she told him the name, the High Priest recognized her and knew who she was from his experience and that’s what scared him so badly.
MM: On the subject of names: If you had to give the true name of the Ancient Language an English equivalent, what do you think that would be?
CP: Boy, that’s a tough question. I mean, it would probably be equivalent to the name of any language. Like calling English “English” or French “French”, or what have you. It really is just an arbitrary word that is the symbol of what the language represents.
MM: I don’t know why I found that question so interesting, I just did. Because of course, you won’t reveal it in the Ancient Language, so it’s an interesting little way to figure out what it might be in our languages.
CP: You’ll notice that most languages refer to the people who speak the language. The English speak English, the French speak French and the Grey Folk are the ones that came up for the Ancient Language. So whatever term or name they had for themselves is probably what the name of the Ancient Language is.
MM: Do you know what that term is?
CP: No comment
MM: [LAUGHS] Well another ‘no comment’ is coming because of this question: What happened to Oromis’s sword?
CP: Great question. I know exactly what happened to it. Something I’ll probably be writing about at some point, past that… no comment.
MM: So it is still in your mind, it did go somewhere.
CP: Oh yeah, I don’t forget magical swords.