“Big Twenty” – Elva in Book 4… A Powerful Ally or a Fear-Worthy Enemy?

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.

Elva is one of the most unique and fear-worthy characters in the Inheritance Cycle. It’s easy to forget that this once-normal baby is now a two year old abomination, permanently maimed by a well-intended but horribly-backfired blessing bestowed upon her by Eragon and Saphira at the behest of her caretaker, Greta.

Elva is a potential tide-turner in the war against Galbatorix and a force to be feared. Nasuada’s passionate attempts to convince the young girl to retain her pain-inducing powers for the sake of the Varden’s survival hammered home the importance of her powers, especially in the hands of the Varden, and re-enforced the thoughts on everyone’s minds: Elva needs to keep her powers until the death of Galbatorix in order to help aid in Galbatorix’s survival. But it wasn’t that simple, and Elva has since had her curse altered. She now acts on her own, a neutral piece on the board, and has the power to sway in either direction: good or bad.

Who and What Is Elva?

The Inheritance Almanac, the official companion guide to the Inheritance cycle, summarizes the bizarre-yet-appealing character of Elva rather eloquently:

Also known as “Farseer,” this young female member of the Varden is a heartbreaking example of well-intended magic gone awry. As a baby, Elva lived within Farthen Dûr in the care of the hermit Greta. During one of Eragon’s visits, Greta offered the baby to be blessed by the young hero. Eragon gave her his blessing, and Saphira touched her brow, leaving there a silvery star-shaped patch. It was assumed that only happiness would follow, but Elva began to age rapidly, eating constantly, growing far faster than a normal child, and manifesting the strange ability to predict others’ suffering. Her eyes and voice resemble those of a wizened old woman’s. Her caretaker consulted with Angela the herbalist, who sent the werecat to alert Nasuada. Nasuada asked Angela to keep an eye on Elva to make sure she didn’t become dangerous. Meanwhile, during his stay in Ellesméra, Eragon learned from Oromis that in his haste and inexperience in the use of the ancient language, he had bestowed a curse, not a blessing. Elva can sense and predict pain in those around her and feels compelled to shield them from it. If she resists the urge, she becomes physically ill.

It was decided that Elva’s strange powers to predict pain and suffering could be used in the service of the Varden’s leader. Elva saved Nasuada from Drail, a Black Hand assassin, tackling the Varden leader before a metal dart struck her. When Eragon returned to the Varden after his training in Ellesméra, he attempted to remove Elva’s curse but was only partly successful. Now Elva can still sense pain but can choose to ignore it—which makes her all the more dangerous.

The Orphan and the Caretaker

Elva was once the charge of Greta, her caretaker and the woman who requested the ill-fated blessing from Eragon and Saphira those many months ago in Farthen Dur. Elva’s “condition” has since seen the girl grow out of Greta’s control, and at the request of Nasuada, Angela has taken over as caretaker and a teacher of sorts to the cursed youngling.

However, following her outburst after Eragon’s semi-failed attempt at reversing his “blessing”, Elva has made it clear that she no longer has any desire to be cared for or looked after. Instead, Angela has pledged to continue working with the girl in hopes of teaching her manners, control, and keeping her on the proper side of Alagaesia’s conflicts.

Unnatural Powers and Abilities

When Elva sees a person, she senses all the hurts that beset or are about to beset the individual. The magic in her blood, a result of Eragon’s failed blessing, drives Elva to do what she can to protect people from the pain she senses, no matter what the cost. This magic has forced her body to age faster than normal (having the appearance of a four-year-old after only two years of growth) in order to be able to protect those she has sensed will be hurt or are hurting.

This gift (or curse) allows Elva to sense when harm will befall an individual, allowing her to be a useful tool in war. Her talents have been used to guard important leaders, such as Nasuada, in and out of battle. However, these benefits do come with a cost; in areas of great pain or suffering, the feelings within Elva grow unbearable, forcing her into deep sickness, and in many cases, blacking out.

Eragon’s Guilt and Pledge to Right a Wrong

Eragon’s guilt over causing this child’s life to be destroyed by pain and suffering drove him to discover a way to reverse his initial blessing. While this task is not unheard of, it’s also incredibly challenging and dangerous to perform. If the spellcaster is not careful of his intent, he can end up worsening the original effect.

When presented with the decision, Elva was delighted – a chance at normalcy is not something anyone would turn down, especially one suffering as much as Elva. However, not everyone saw eye-to-eye with Eragon and Elva on their decision to right the wrong. Nasuada, leader of the Varden, pleaded with Elva to reconsider her position and wait until the war against Galbatorix is finished. The powers “gifted” to her by this curse are too valuable to the Varden to lose in the middle of the war, she argued. While many agreed with her, Elva did not change her mind.

A Failed Attempt… Or Was It?

Eragon’s “failed attempt” to cure Elva of the failed blessing was a clever plot device by Christopher. This allows Elva to take on an entirely new role in Alagaesia’s conflicts. This change allowed her to finally voice her stance on helping the Varden: as long as she doesn’t have to suffer, she won’t, even if that means the Varden losing a powerful tool. This revealed that Elva’s alliance wasn’t as cut-and-dry as once thought; instead, it’s clear that Elva will bounce between those who benefit her the most.

Additionally, the half-fix applied by Eragon allows Elva to continue being a useful tool to the party she allies herself with without the negative toll it would normally take on her body. If she learns to properly control her new power (as Angela has offered to teach her), Elva can work past the physical and mental anguish to harness the ability, allowing her to hone in on immediate threats. This will be invaluable in the final conflicts.

Most Importantly, What Role Will Elva Play in Book 4?

Elva’s unique powers are exactly the type of ability the Varden needs within their arsenal in order to counteract the varying powers Galbatorix possesses, setting him eons ahead of the Varden’s efforts. However, Elva has made it clear that she no longer plays for any sides; instead, she is now a neutral party, feeling no obligation to any individual. Should the wrong decision be made, this could spell doom for the already-hurting resistance movement. However, if she is to join the proper side, the Varden could be enhanced by her ability to predict pain and suffering before it happens. Let’s explore all of the possibilities!

Elva Will Most Likely Stick With the Varden

At this point in the series, we see this as being most likely. Whether she likes it or not, Elva has made friends among the Varden – Eragon, Saphira, Angela, Solembum, and Nasuada have all come to enjoy and respect her. She may be young, but she’s also intelligent; how many people are going to be accepting of what they will see as an abomination? Magic may be prevalent in Alagaesia, but how many mutant future-predicting talking two year olds are there? We see no real incentive for Elva to join Galbatorix. What more does she need? What benefit does Galbatorix have to offer which she cannot already find within the Varden? Elva is an underdog, as are the members of the Varden, and she’ll likely stick with her kind.

Fan Opinions!

We’re going to try something new this week and offer a variety of varying opinions on Elva’s role in Book 4, all from Inheritance fans! We asked followers on our Shur’tugal Facebook page (over 9,200 followers and counting!) what they thought would happen to Elva in Book 4. We selected some of our favorite theories, which we think represent a wide range of ideas and viewpoints, and have left them below.

Alexis K: “I think that Galby knows about her. That he has already sent assassins out to kill her. Personally, I believe she will either be killed by an assassin of the King or be killed saving one of the other major characters.”

Zoie B: “Elva will be the one to uncover Galbatorix’s weakness for sure. The only question is whether she will reveal it and if so, to whom? She’s gone from being one of the Varden’s greatest assets to a bit of a rogue element in the war. Her distaste for Eragon (by the way, how did that happen? She forgave him in Eldest!) will cause strife and conflict. She is also a possible future dragon-rider. Her gedwey ignasia tells us that much. Greenie’s rider? Most likely not. But almost definitely a rider for one of Saphira’s sons or daughters.

Elva turns to the dark side, and I think she won’t, then the Varden are pretty much doomed. Elva is already evil in a way, her childhood was stolen and her life twisted beyond any comparison, and this has made her cold and cynical and verging on insane (or maybe that was being brought up by Angela). With the stocks of Eldunari and a girl who can predict any suffering, which means pretty much anything involving the war, Galbatorix’s power will be far too great to overcome.”

Josie F: “I think Elva will appear to betray the Varden, but in the end she will be the cause of Galbatorix’s downfall.”

Jai M: “I personally think that Elva will ultimately be the one who causes the death of Galbatorix. She could read his every move and coupled with Eragon and Saphira I think they’ll stand a good chance. Plus she could possibly help them find all the Eldunari?”

Cody O: “Elva will more than likely be a key character in book four, we all know that with Angela as her care taker she won’t be allowed to join Galbatorix, if anything I believe that Angela is going to make her a type of “apprentice” and teaching her how to use her abilities. As far as plot goes though, she will be there at the end with Eragon and Saphira”

Tabitha K: “I believe that with Elva it’s not so simple as Galbatorix or Eragon’s side. She’s been through a lot, yes, but her choices in Brisingr really reveal the self serving side of her personality. A side that I believe has been hidden due to her physical pain because of the curse. Elva is more than capable of creating her own ‘side’ to this war, with followers she can manipulate and maneuver like pieces on a chess board. I do believe that she knows Galbatorix’s biggest weakness, but I have serious doubts that she would simply give this information away. If the Varden do get it from her it’s going to cost them deeply.”

Ultimately, we want to know what you think will happen to Elva. Will she disappear and be absent in the final book? Will she continue to fight alongside the Varden? Will she allow herself to be manipulated? Will she die at the hands of Galbatorix? Will she join the Empire?