“The Fork” – Murtagh’s dinner utensil or the crossroads the dragon and Rider face?

“The Fork” is one of three short stories included in the upcoming book The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm – Tales from Alagaësia (Volume 1: Eragon), and the odd novella title has us puzzled!

We can trace “The Fork’s” public origin to a cryptic tweet in June hinting at the contents of one of Christopher’s in-progress short stories:

The book’s announcement definitely confirmed that a story involving a fork – literal or otherwise – made its way into the book. Additional teases from Christopher over the past few months led to a second conclusion: “The Fork” must be a story about or involving Murtagh.

If this is the case, “The Fork” would be the first time* a story set in Alagaësia is told from Murtagh’s perspective. The news that Angela narrates her own novella, “The Witch” (referred to as a “memoir”) leads us to believe that “The Fork” will be no different.

*If it is from Murtagh’s perspective, it wouldn’t technically be the first time: the self-published edition of Eragon included a chapter written from Murtagh’s perspective. It was ultimately cut from the Random House version of the book. However, the chapter will soon see the light of day in the upcoming Barnes & Noble exclusive collector’s edition of Eragon, releasing on 12/31/18.

What about Thorn?

It’s safe to say that if “The Fork” is Murtagh’s story, Thorn will be as involved as Saphira was in Eragon’s story. As dragon and Rider, the two share a connection at the deepest level and have suffered together over the course of the Cycle. Would they part long enough for Thorn to be absent from an entire short story? Unlikely.

Where does it fit in the timeline?

This one is a bit tricky, as Christopher teased that FWW and the stories within “take place after the Inheritance Cycle… Sorta. It’s complicated.” [S] Our best bet is that Murtagh’s story will take place after the Cycle, but the author’s cryptic comments do leave open plenty of possibilities: Murtagh’s early years in Urû’baen (before his escape), his service as Galbatorix’s right-hand-Rider, the year since the Cycle ended (living in self-imposed exile), or… the present!

Current whereabouts

Let’s start with where we know they aren’t. It’s safe to assume that the pair heeded Umaroth’s warning to stay away from Vroengard, El-Harím, and any place “where the ground grows black and brittle and the air smells of brimstone.” They definitely aren’t in Du Weldenvarden – if they strayed even an inch into the forest after having killed Oromis and Glaedr, there’s no doubt that they’d be instantly repelled, if not attacked. As far as we know, they haven’t made an appearance in any populated area.

Our best guess is that the duo have been living north of where the map ends, right above Ceunon. Jeod’s Letter cites rumors that they were spotted flying along the border of Du Weldenvarden north of Ceunon. Not too far from civilization, but enough that they’d rarely, if ever, encounter others.

Their rumored appearance does raise an important question: were they hunting… or were they headed off on a new adventure? If it’s the latter, are they the “unexpected visitors” Eragon encounters (as mentioned in the book’s synopsis)?

How can an entire short story be framed around a fork?

This is a tough one. It’s unlikely that the story is entirely centered around “The Fork.” We believe there are two very distinct possibilities for its meaning:

A dinner utensil: Even if the story is related to the fork mentioned by Christopher, it’s hard to believe the core of an entire short story revolves around it. Rather, the fork could act as a vehicle in a greater story exploring the pair’s loneliness, boredom, and remaining sense of humor. We’re definitely making a lot of assumptions here, but our thoughts keep going back to the idea that it represents the ongoing struggle of exile.

Two outcasts hiding in the wilderness in complete solitude… is it really a stretch to imagine the pair seeking cheap entertainment from the nearest entertaining object?

Crossroads: Murtagh and Thorn have endured and/or created a series of hellish nightmares throughout the Cycle. Murtagh has been a lonely soul for the entirety of his life, before and after his escape from Urû’baen, and we believe the Rider has two competing individuals trapped within:

The orphan: raised under the watchful eye of a tyrant with only his sparring trainer to fill the role of father figure in his formative years. A boy who risked all to escape from Galbatorix, setting out to forge his own path. The companion of a stranger and his dragon seeking to bring about the downfall of the man who took his only friend. A determined fighter eager to prove his loyalty, independence, and worth as a man free of Galbatorix.

A bringer of evil: an image of the father he so despised. A warrior coerced into carrying out despicable acts and crimes against those who he once fought alongside (and may even love). A murderer. A mind bent to the will of a tyrant. And now, a lost soul filled with regret.

Murtagh and Thorn have an important choice to make – a fork in the road, if you will. Freed from their bonds, they now have the opportunity to reflect upon the unforgivable atrocities they committed. Will they live out the remainder of their lives in solitude, unable to come to terms with their actions, choosing not to seek forgiveness from others or themselves? Or will they take time to reflect on their past and seize every opportunity to learn, grow, and make amends? Eragon, Saphira, and Umaroth offered to help the pair forge a path of redemption once they’re ready. The Eldunarí watched Murtagh and Thorn from afar, just as they did with Eragon and Saphira, and clearly saw the kind souls and potential within.

Which path will they choose?

Conclusions

There’s a whole lot of conjecture in this article. While we may have completely missed the mark with all of our predictions, it’s still fun to explore the potential future of one of the series’ fan-favorite characters.

We’d love to hear your thoughts! What do you think “The Fork” is about? Let us know in the comments!