Sixth Q&A with Christopher Paolini – May 2010

(Interview released May 14th, 2010)

What are the different elf houses and what do their names mean? I know of 6 houses (Drottning which means queen), Rilvenar, Miolandra, Thrándurin, (Haldthin which means thornapple), and Valtharos. Are there more?
- JosephShadeslayer (paraphrased)

Christopher Paolini: Elvish family names are much like our own: some have obvious meanings—like thornapple—and some don’t, or, if they did, the meaning has been forgotten in the passage of time. As for the names you listed, I haven’t yet done translations for them, except for Oromis’s house, which I’ll keep to myself for the time being. Also, dröttningu and dröttningu are titles, not family names. I actually haven’t mentioned Arya or Islanzadí’s family name anywhere in the series.

Last time Christopher Paolini said there would be complications if someone touched a hatched dragon before the chosen person did. What kind of complications? Can they be fixed? How would the dragon react?
- bbcat (paraphrased)

Christopher Paolini: A person not chosen by a hatchling who touched said hatchling before their intended Rider would interfere with the proper functioning of the spell that forges the bond between Riders and dragons. Would the damage be irreparable? Not necessarily, but it would depend on whether other spellcasters were close at hand, spellcasters who had a close knowledge of the spell between Riders and dragons and who could, in essence, reset it so as to allow the proper bonding to take place. Even if that happened, the person who originally touched the dragon would still have a gedwëy ignasia, and he or she would always share a connection with the dragon along with the dragon’s actual Rider. If any of this happened maliciously, I wouldn’t put it past the dragon to kill the intruder at some point. Dragons don’t look kindly on meddlers.

If a Dragon Rider’s dragon dies, does the Dragon Rider remain immortal?
- Priffarandas

Christopher Paolini: If the Rider was an elf, then yes, since elves are functionally immortal anyway. If the Rider was a human, then no. He or she will experience a much longer lifespan than they normally would, but, in the end, they will age and die like everyone else. Brom, for example, was well over a hundred at the start of Eragon. He was far from decrepit, but his youth had long since deserted him.

I was wondering how people gain the ability to use magic in Alagaësia? I know that Roran tries at various times to get a pebble to float but can’t seem to. Is it a gift given at birth? Does one have to inherit it from lineage?
- Theendispossible (paraphrased)

Christopher Paolini: That’s a very tricky question. The ability to manipulate energy with one’s mind—which is what magic is—seems to be present in every creature in Alagaësia to a greater or lesser extent. In some people it’s so atrophied as to be nearly nonexistent: someone who can receive telepathic sendings but not reach out with their own mind to another being’s consciousness, for example. In others, it’s present just enough to allow a person to both send and receive thoughts and maybe, with a great deal of concentration, cast a spell or two. And then there are those people for whom the whole endeavor is naturally easy, like an elf.

Complicating the issue are three other factors. One, even if they have the ability to use magic, most people don’t use it because they don’t know about it and have no training in it. Two, the difficulty most people encounter when they try to cast a spell is a mental difficulty and has nothing to do with the actual amount of energy the spell will drain from their bodies. Angela the herbalist is a skilled magician, but she’s not considered very powerful because casting spells is extremely difficult for her (and sometimes she can’t even do it) regardless of how much energy the spell will require. That’s why she augments her ability with potions and enchanted objects. Three, one’s innate talent can be improved over time with a variety of methods: practice (this is ridiculously hard, but it does work), becoming a Rider (not an option open to most), becoming a Shade (not the smartest choice in my opinion, but that’s never stopped anyone), and one or two other tricks that I’d like to keep up my sleeve for the moment.

It’s because of all these difficulties that most people and creatures (yes, animals can use magic as well) tend to cast their first spell when they are under extreme duress, as Eragon was in Yazuac. And once you’ve cast your first spell, it’s usually—though not always—easier to cast another one.

So, as you can see, there are any number of reasons why Roran might not be able to use magic. That’s not to say he couldn’t if he were pushed hard enough or if he had the right instruction, but until he learns to find that little place in the back of his mind and reach through it to feel the flow of energy within his own body, he’ll never be able to lift that darn pebble. Ultimately, it’s a question of talent, discipline, desire, and, one would hope, knowledge of the ancient language, although that’s not a prerequisite for casting a spell.

(As a side note, since most people think you need the ancient language to cast a spell, if they don’t know it, they never even try to work magic. This in-and-of-itself limits the number of successful magicians in Alagaësia.)

I know, it’s complicated, but all these factors give me a range of magicians of varying strength, which is useful for storytelling purposes.

Shades. So far there have only been two Shades in the IC, Durza and Varuag. I’ve noticed that both were formerly human males and I was wondering if any of the previous Shades had been something else other than a human male. More importantly, is it possible for a female human or both genders of the dwarves, elves and urgals to become Shades?
- ShadowOfTheMoon

Christopher Paolini: This is alluded to in Book Four, but the short answer is that spirits can possess the body of any creature, human or not.

Of all the Urgal warriors (or clans) that exist in Alagaësia, how many (or what percentage) are currently allied with the Varden? 
- Baboo

Christopher Paolini: The vast majority of them are now allied with the Varden. There are still a few clans who refuse to consider working with their ancestral enemies, but all the rest hunger for revenge upon Galbatorix and have gathered under Nar Garzhvog’s banner.

Was there ever a case of a dragon hatching for someone who didn’t want to be a Rider?
- Karan

Christopher Paolini: Yes, and an unhappy tale it was too.

When magic users store energy in an object (like the Riders’ swords or other gems), is there something preventing other magic users from using that magic against them?
- number1eragonfan

Christopher Paolini: Rider’s swords have a whole host of protective spells woven about them that prevent just that sort of thing from happening, as does Aren, Brom’s ring. However, most objects aren’t protected so.

How old was Brom when he died?
- Feedme24601

Christopher Paolini: About a 120. I haven’t needed to work out the exact number, though, so that figure might be off by five or ten years.

Who were the three fighters who could defeat Brom, he mentioned in Eragon when Eragon beat him while sparring near Dras Leona?
- KVSDheeraj

Christopher Paolini: That’s a story that I intend to tell another time. However, keep in mind that Brom was exaggerating a little. There were certainly more than three people who were able to defeat him when he was still a young man learning swordsmanship. It’s only after the fall of the Riders that he became as formidable as he was.

When Arya and Eragon were returning to the Varden after Eragon left Helgrind, a soldier said, ‘Unless we be searching for Murtagh. You heard what Morzan’s spawn said well as I did.’ What did Murtagh say?
- Many people asked this question

Christopher Paolini: I knew that would catch people’s attention. . . . Let’s just say that there have been some difficulties between Murtagh and Galbatorix that we haven’t been privy to.

Not yet at least.

In the chapter “Among the Clouds” in Brisingr, Eragon and Saphira stop at the edge of Fernoth-Merna and Eragon notices the ruins of an abandoned castle across the way from which he gets an ominous feeling. The exact quote is “The abandoned building seemed gloomy, ominous, as if it were the decaying carcass of some foul beast.” Why does he get such a feeling about that castle? Whose castle was it? 
- Guest123 (paraphrased)

Christopher Paolini: It was a dwarf castle that was destroyed in the Îdgand Era, when Grim Halfstave killed Queen Forna and seized for his own the granite throne under Tronjheim. Eragon found the castle ominous because, well, it looked rather ominous.

There are actually quite a lot of ruins in the Beor Mountains. The dwarves have had more than a few wars amongst themselves, not to mention their ancient conflicts with dragons, Fanghur, Urgals, and the gigantic bears and boars that reside in the mountains. Another famous battle was the Siege of Kvôth, which was attacked during the War of Iron, which pitted humans against dwarves and knurlan against knurlan in a dispute over ownership of the iron mines in the western foothills of the Beor Mountains. The human king at the time, King Thedric, did his best to forestall bloodshed by meeting in secret with the dwarf Ivaldn in the city of Furnost, but his efforts proved unsuccessful and, in the end, it fell to the Riders to restore the peace.

Just a bit of history that got cut from Brisingr.