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.
Fans have whispered about Brom’s seven ancient language words since their hidden delivery during the Rider’s final moments in Eragon. What were they? Why were they concealed from us? How will they be used? How powerful are these words? Are they each individual spells or are they one large spell? Are they even important?
These questions and more are the focus of this week’s Big Twenty article, which explores every possible aspect of the popular “Seven Words” debate. We draw conclusions of our own, but more importantly, we explore all options and all possible conclusions. Join us!
An Early Conclusion
This theory has been along for a loooooong time – think back to mid-Eragon, in the series’ early days. There’s these words! They are magic! They were hidden from us! They must be important! But perhaps not.
As far as theories go, we believe this is the weakest of the most popular theories and definitely one of the series’ most over-hyped theories; we just don’t see any merit in the “exceptional importance” of these words. For the sake of this article, we’ve donned our “Objective Hats” and have written both in favor and against the theory!
Exploring the Theory’s Origin
“He motioned for Eragon to bend closer. Very quietly, he whispered seven words from the ancient language, then even more softly told him what they meant. “That is all I can give you. . . . Use them only in great need.”
Let’s set the scene: Brom is on his death bed and he, realizing his role as the only mentor available to Eragon at this point in time, attempts to ensure Eragon’s future safety by teaching him words of power which will aid and protect him in the challenging days to come. This idea is perfectly sound and his motivation is clear.
Why would Brom have withheld these words from Eragon up to this point? Simple: he wasn’t ready for them in his training. Similar to Oromis, Brom was pacing the lessons Eragon learned based on what he was able to handle at the time. We saw this when Brom initially withheld information that would have taught Eragon about Riders’ magic prior to the events in Yuzac. Brom wanted to ensure that Eragon did not trifle in areas he was not prepared for. With Brom fading from the picture and no new trainer in Eragon’s immediate future, the dying storyteller enabled Eragon to care for himself with these seven words.
There’s a key phrase in what Brom told Eragon: “Use them only in great need.” This sentence implies that these are powerful and/or important words that should be reserved in dire situations. More than likely, these are words of death meant for quick and efficient killing, as Brom’s parting knowledge would certainly not be seven powerful cookie baking words! But just how powerful could these words be?
Another odd question to ponder is why Christopher chose to shield these words and their meaning from the reader. Was it intentional? Almost certainly… but for what reason? Was it to maintain mystery surrounding the words so that they can be used as powerful plot devices in the future? Or was it simply because Christopher didn’t see any importance in revealing the actual words? Perhaps his goal was to show the reader that Brom was hoping to enable Eragon to survive without placing any real importance on the actual words – not intending them to be the subject of future theories.
Viewpoint: This Theory Has Merit
We only see one possibility for this theory holding merit, and it isn’t a likely one – but let’s explore the possibilities! Brom was a powerful and mobile figure during the Fall of the Riders; we know that he was directly responsible for slaying numerous Foresworn and their dragons on his own, in addition to founding the Varden and personally hunting Galbatorix’s most notorious right-hand man: Morzan.
Keeping the above in mind, we can easily deduce that Brom was a capable warrior, and because of his training as a Rider, a formidable spellcaster as well. However, when we catch up with Brom years after the Fall during the events of Eragon, we’re specifically told that Brom’s magical powers are but a shadow of what they once were. The fallen Rider’s powers have been severely reduced, allowing him only the smallest of spells.
This raises a question that must be answered to determine his capabilities: how quickly do a Rider’s exception powers with magic begin to diminish after the death of his or her dragon? If Brom was still powerful during the hunt for Galbatorix and his henchmen, it’s possible that Brom utilized powerful magic – offensive and defensive – to rid Alagaesia of the dark Riders. With that in mind, the spells, abilities, and wards used by Brom to defeat the Forsworn would be incredibly useful to Eragon. How did Brom manage to kill the Foresworn and their dragons without a dragon of his own? What tricks did he use? What tactics? These questions are key in the current fight against Galbatorix, as Brom’s strategies could be directly utilized in Galbatorix’s hopeful defeat.
So this theory, in a nutshell, revolves around these words being a powerful spell (or spells) used by Brom in the direct deaths of the Forsworn. This is a warrior who single-handedly, no dragon included, ended the lives of Galbatorix’s most powerful henchmen. He had a strategy. He knew what he was doing. These very words could be the key to what he did to defeat them…
And if so, these are seven very important words.
How did he find these words? Brom was well-traveled, intelligent, and adventurous. It is entirely possible that he happened upon hidden secrets, lost texts, and more in the oddest of places. Perhaps one of these books contained a hidden gem. Perhaps researching information gathered along the way lead to the creation of new spells, the discovery of long-forgotten spells. Perhaps he encountered a wise hermit in the ruins of an ancient elven village who pointed him in the right direction…
Viewpoint: This Theory Has No Merit
As we mentioned above, we believe that this theory really holds no merit… and in the grand scheme of things, it’s been over-hyped by fans. We’ve seen two additional books released with no further evidence that these words are important beyond their context in the middle of Eragon. Surely we would have seen them in play, or at least mentioned, before Book 4.
Would these words not have been used by Eragon? It’s likely they already were and we, as readers, just didn’t know it (meaning Christopher didn’t specify). Remember, these words were given to Eragon as words to use only when absolutely necessary… and we had many of those moments. Capture at Gil’ead. Fighting Urgals. Battle for Farthen Dur. Training with Oromis. Battle of the Burning Plains. On and on and on…
And one of the most compelling examples listed above leads us to another question: if these words were going to come into play down the line, Eragon as a character would constantly remind himself of them. He would have spoken with Oromis about them – asked him of their origin, their true power, how to better use them. He, and Christopher as the author, would not leave himself or the readers in the dark about words of importance.
Even if Eragon has simply forgot these words – if they are of great power and importance – Oromis would have attempted to teach the same words to Eragon during their training. He didn’t (if he had, we’re sure Eragon would have observed that they were words Brom had already taught him).
It’s important that not everything omitted from the books is done so to conceal a grand scheme from the reader. Why, if these words weren’t important, wouldn’t Christopher have simply mentioned them? That question pretty much answers itself: in the world of publishing, where every useless line is cut to keep a book flowing in the readers’ minds, one irrelevant line will be cut to save space and keep the story flowing. Why waste page space on, “Eragon! I have seven words for you! Plus I shall tell you their meaning! Brisingr! Fire! Adurna! Water! Etc. etc. etc.”?
In the end, the most compelling evidence against their argument is the lack of mention since Brom’s death. Eragon’s “family betrayal”: mentioned. Eragon’s love life: mentioned. The Rock of Kuthian and Vault of Souls: mentioned. Needing a new weapon: mentioned. Brom’s Seven Words: completely forgotten.
If Eragon had been sitting on some hidden and untapped gem – seven brilliant words to solve all of Alagaesia’s ailments and restore peace to the troubled continent – don’t you think he’d have used them by now?
Brom was neither an exceptional spellcaster nor an Elder Rider. Brom was simply Brom the Rider, still relatively young at the time of Saphira 1’s death. Where would he have obtained information that Oromis and Glaedr, Elders and leaders among the once-great group of, wouldn’t have known?
Brom’s Seven Words in Book 4
As for their appearance in Book 4… we’re willing to bet one copper coin that not only will these words be in Book 4, but they’ve already been in Eragon. And Eldest. And Brisingr. They just weren’t mentioned as being those words. These are words that Eragon has regularly used since Brom’s death, now part of his regular ancient language vocabulary.
As with all of our posts, it’s important to remember that we are fans privy to the same information you are. We have had no special glimpse at Book 4, and because of that, our confidence in one specific theory should be taken with a grain of salt. We could be as wrong as the theories we rail against! Never count a theory out because “Mike on Shur’tugal said so” – weigh the facts, do the research, and come to your own conclusion. And perhaps in November, “Mike on Shur’tugal” will be wrong!
Take the above facts and compare! Debate! Reach your own conclusion! Then be sure to share that conclusion with us and other fans in the comments below. We are curious to hear your thoughts. Do you think this is an over-hyped theory, or do you believe these words will be of importance in the final book? Will Eragon speak them to open the Vault of Souls? Will Eragon string them together to defeat Galbatorix? Are these words already in play?