| January 21, 2009 8:23 pm

While the timeless struggle between good and evil has been at the center of Western literature for nearly three thousand years, modern psychology has given us an insight into why some people devolve into heroes and others into villains. One important framework is provided by the mythology of the sociopath. Sociopaths are marked by several important characteristics: impulsivity, irritability and aggression, deceit or manipulation, lack of concern for the safety of others, irresponsibility, or being unconcerned about hurting or stealing. Sociopaths have lost their conscience and soul. They are evil because they can be. Sociopaths don’t come with baggage, don’t need a back-story or some greedy motive. They just are.

In Christopher Paolini’s, Brisingr, we get something rather unexpected: a sociopath in the role of hero. Brisingr’s author never explicitly states that Eragon, the novel’s main protagonist, is an unfeeling void; quite the contrary, actually. The omniscient narrator, the cast of supporting characters, and even his dragon laud Eragon’s actions as careful, considered, and just. A careful reading, though, doesn’t reveal this. Rather, nearly every action shows either rash judgments or cold calculation. This represents somewhat of a departure of Paolini’s earlier work (Eragon and Eldest). Despite the weaknesses of the earlier books, the character of Eragon was at least likable. Of course he was brash and headstrong, but he at least tried to do and say the right things.

In Brisingr, however, we are presented with another person. Eragon has little mercy or understanding for anyone around him (either friend or foe). This trend only gets worse as the novel progresses. Steadily, we proceed from actions which are merely foolish to those which are profoundly disturbing. Consider how Eragon acts in the first few hundred pages of Brisingr. In the opening chapters, Eragon commits genocide. He later circumvents justice in order to condemn and abandon a man in the desert. Last, he kills a child in cold blood while the boy is begging for mercy. In this essay, we will look at these three scenarios in detail and show that Eragon has lost his way, his conscience and his soul.

Genocide

Brisingr opens where Eldest leaves off. Eragon and Roran are headed to the secret lair of the Ra’zak to rescue Roran’s fiancé, Katrina. She was abducted, when her father (Sloan) betrayed the village of Carvahull to the evil empire. In the manner of all damsel in distress clichés, the villain is vanquished and hero triumphs. In Brsingr, however, there is an added layer of unintended complexity.

You see, the Ra’zac where the creatures responsible for the death of Eragon’s uncle and Roran’s father. And yes, while the Ra’zac are indeed alien and frightening, it is important to remember that they are not human. In contrast to another fantasy author, J.R.R. Tolkien, who primarily used the orcs and trolls of his universe as muscle for the greater villains, Paolini instead chooses to weave the Urgals and Ra’zac into the larger tapestry of his world. They are a part of nature and add to its natural balance.

The Ra’zac. Image Source: Inheriwiki.

When seen in this light, Paolini’s treatment of them is very difficult to understand. At multiple time points, he describes the Ra’zac as being "inherently evil." Yet, no justification is given for this label. The Ra’zac share the aggression of the Urghals and the cunning of men; yet, neither Urghals or men are "inherently evil," why are the Ra’zac considered to be? We do not blame a tiger or bear for mauling a man in the woods, nor do we blame a shark for attacking swimmers or surfers who are playing in the surf. Like so many other things in Paolini’s world, unfortunately, the answer to this question appears to be: they just are.

While similar to Urghals or men, the Ra’zac share most in common with a race that is treated in a substantially different manner: the dragons. Both are large carnivores that feed on a variety or prey. Both have been known to eat and terrorize men, elves and dwarves. Both races compete for the same hunting grounds and food source. Both are intelligent and cunning. And while the dragons are treated as the most beautiful and noble creatures of the land, the Ra’zac (and their closely related kin, the Lethrblaka) are treated as horrors which are have both earned and deserve their destruction.

But Eragon and Paolini go further. In their last confrontation, knowing that it is about to die, the Ra’zac makes a request:

"I am the last of my race, Shadeslayer. We are ancient, and I would not have us forgotten. Would you, in your songs and in your histories, remind your fellow humans of the terror we inspired in your kind? … Remember us as fear!"

For a being of ancient and "intrinsic" evil, this request is profoundly … reasonable. No virgins are going to die or horrors be freed from long imprisonment. Eragon’s refusal to grant it is somewhat baffling. By rashly condemning the Ra’zac to nightmares and legends, Eragon’s action lacks prudence, justice or wisdom. There are far worse things than (accurately) remembering your enemies and their horrors.

In fact, there are very important reasons why the names of Nero, Attila, Stalin and Hitler are remember and reviled. It is far more costly to forget monsters and their horrific crimes than it is to remember and instruct. Forgetting evil and how it happened enables others to pursue the same roads to power. Tolkien understood these principles. He took great pains in his own work to demonstrate the consequences of forgetting. From his notes (later published as the Unfinished Tales), we learn something important. While Sauron, the great satanic villain of the Lord of the Rings, rose to power through treachery and deceit; he was enabled because those he conquered had forgotten who and what he was.

Eragon’s interaction with the Ra’zac makes explicit something that is previously only hinted at. He willfully (even gleefully) exterminates the last members of a sentient race and in a rage attempts to extinguish their memory. These are not the actions of a hero, or even of an anti-hero; but of a villain and unfeeling monster. And like a true sociopath, Eragon treats the members of his own race with even less consideration or feeling.

Judgment

One of Tolkien’s most interesting and complex characters is that of Goll
um
: murderer, thief, liar, and addict. Gollum is shown to be merciless, dangerous and cruel. Further, he is manipulative, destructive and evil. In summary of his creation, Tolkien said, "After ages alone in the dark, Gollum’s heart was black and treachery was in it." Even so, there is a lot going on with Gollum: bouts of confusion and alteration, addiction and maliciousness. Yet, despite his treachery and evil, no one is quite sure what should be done with him. When Bilbo has an opportunity to kill Gollum and provide "justice and resolution," he pauses and instead chooses to leave the vile creature alone.  At one point during their conversation on the origin of the Ring, Gandalf and Frodo discuss Bilbo’s actions:

Deep down by the dark water lived old Gollum, a small slimy creature. I don’t know where he came from, nor who or what he was. He was Gollum – dark as darkness, except for two big pale eyes in his thin face. He had a little boat, and he rowed about quietly on the lake; for lake it was, wide and deep and deadly cold.
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

"What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature when he had a chance!" cried Frodo.

"Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand," said Gandalf. "Pity and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity."

"I am sorry," said Frodo … "I do not feel any pity for Gollum."

"You have not seen him," Gandalf broke in.

"No, and I don’t want to," said Frodo. "I can’t understand you. Do you mean to say that you, and the Elves, have let him live on after all those horrible deeds? Now at any rate he is as bad as an Orc, and just an enemy. He deserves death."

"Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment."

Tolkien uses Gollum to explore notions of justice, mercy and ultimately redemption. In many ways, Tolkien’s implicitly says that it is beyond the right of any to pass "final" judgment for, as Gandalf explains to Frodo, "[E]ven the very wise cannot see all ends." Each of the main characters in the Lord of the Rings face two interlinked tests. The first occurs when the character encounters the evil Master Ring. The second occurs when they encounter Gollum, the creature most possessed and twisted by it. Tolkien uses his character’s responses to these two challenges as a way to highlight their weaknesses and virtues. Indeed, in Tolkien’s world, good isn’t defined by ends, but rather by means.

Consider one of the very best and underestimated of Tolkien’s characters, Frodo. When he and Gollum are thrown together, Frodo attempts to heal and redeem Gollum. Unpredictably and surprisingly, Gollum responds to this. Prior to finally betraying Frodo and Sam, Gollum is as conflicted about his love for his new master as he is about his relationship with the Ring (his Precious). This is admittedly deep water, and it is both ironic and somewhat fitting that Gollum dies as the savior of all free peoples. Tolkien highlights that even if his actions were despicable, unintended good might still come of them.

Either deliberately or by accident, Paolini’s work also contains a Gollum: the old butcher of Carvahull, Sloan. In addition to being the butcher of Eragon’s home village, Sloan was also the father of Roran’s fiancé. And just as Gollum has two identities which can be difficult to reconcile, we see the same in Sloan.

Like Gollum, Sloan is a pathetic creature who has both betrayed others, as well as having been doubly betrayed himself. He has been broken, starved and tortured. His eyes have been pecked out by his captors. He is blind and lost in nearly every sense of the word. Despite his murderous actions, Sloan acted for what might be described as noble reasons: love of his daughter, Katrina. Sloan has also suffered greatly for his choices and at the time of his rescue, he is no longer a threat.

Yet, even in this pathetic and pitiable shape, Eragon feels the need to take "action" against him. He starts by humiliating Sloan and magically forcing him to live. Next, he strips him of those things that he might wish to live for, namely: the opportunity to see his daughter, embrace her and explain his actions. Eragon compels Sloan to travel north toward the elves, a race of alien beings who can neither understand him nor his motives. He will spend the rest of his life among them in silent exile.

Sloan will be tormented by conscience and deprived of any ability to amend to those who were affected. This is not justice, but a cruel mockery and perversion. From his actions, it becomes clear that Eragon understands neither the purposes nor processes of justice. It is important to review what those are since justice has had a particular meaning. It is not driven by personal feeling, animosity or hatred; but rather by laws and statutes. It is dispassionate and attempts to treat all equally, regardless of station, standing or influence. The accused are given a chance to confront their accusers and challenge the evidence against them. Last, justice is executed by those who were harmed or by their proper representatives.

Instead of delivering Sloan to be judged by those he has betrayed, Eragon instead subverts the process. Without seeking input from anyone, Eragon chooses to deceive those most intimately concerned with Sloan’s outcome and crimes: his daughter (Katrina) and her future husband (Roran). It is ironic just as Sloan lied and betrayed those closest to him, Eragon chooses to follow the same path. Eragon does not consider evidence, accusation, or motive. He merely pronounces Sloan as guilty. He then creates a punishment which is deliberately brutal and cruel.

There is still a further dimension in Eragon’s treatment of Sloan which is even more disturbing, though. He chooses to abuse both his magic and power, for, Eragon knows Sloan’s "true name". Within the framework of Alagaesia, this means that he has complete and full power over him. Eragon also seems to feel that his status as a "dragon rider" grants him a special right to trample roughshod over his captive. Consider the scene where Eragon first reveals his identity to the man he has just "rescued":

The Butcher sat slumped against the left hand wall with his head upon his knees. Both arms were chained to an iron ring. His ragged clothes barely covered his pale, emaciated body. The corners of his bones stood out in sharp relief and underneath his translucent skin. His blue veins were also prominent. Sores had formed on his wrists where the manacles chafed. The ulcers oozed a mixture of clear fluid and blood. What remained of his hair had turned gray … Eragon then realized that the Ra’zac had pecked out Sloan’s eyes.

Christopher Paolini, Brisingr

A sense of destiny and doom descended upon Eragon. He felt as if he were the instrument of two merciless overlords and he replied in accordance … so each work struck like a hammer blow and carried all the weight of his dignity, station and anger. "I am Eragon and far more. I am Argetlam and Shadeslayer and Firesword. My dragon is Spahira, she who is also known as Djartskular and Flametongue … We have fought Urgals and a Shade and Murtagh, who is Morzan’s son. We serve the Varden and the peoples of Alagaesia and I have brought you here to pass judgment upon you for murdering Byrd and for betraying Carvahall to the Empire."

Thrusting out his mind, he engulfed Sloan’s consciousness in his own and forced the butcher to accept memories that confirmed the truth of his statements. He also wanted Sloan to feel the power that was now his and to realize that he was no longer entirely human. And while Eragon was reluctant to admit it, he enjoyed having control over a man who had often made trouble for him.

This is a performance which is fit for Sauron, or Galbatorix, not the principal hero of the saga. It is disconcerting that Ergaon takes joy in subverting an already broken and helpless man before choosing to rape his mind and steal his will. It gets even worse when his motivations are explained. Whereas the villagers of Carvahull are direct victims of Sloan and his betrayal, Eragon was conspicuously absent when the empire and its soldiers came. Instead, Eragon revels in his actions because Sloan was a bully and "made trouble for him."

The last sentence in that passage is particularly damning when considered in the context of how Eragon chooses to leave Sloan: abandoned in a pathless desert with neither food nor water. Whereas Eragon has the ability and power to survive, by draining the energy from the land with his magic and drawing water from the soil, Sloan does not. It is unknown if this crippled, blinded, half starved old man can successfully cross the expanse – even with the enchantments that Eragon has placed on him.

Unlike Frodo, who accepts responsibility for Gollum without passing judgment; Eragon first chooses to condemn and then abandon. Rather than deliver Sloan to be properly judged by those he has wronged, he chooses to be a cruel vigilante and subvert justice; while lying to those closest to him. In the process, Eragon discovers that he enjoys dominating and controlling a man who made his life "difficult." These actions reveal a completely misguided character that is devoid of a moral compass or center.

Mercy

If Eragon’s actions with Sloan might be called misguided, there is only a single word to describe a confrontation between Eragon, Arya and a company of Empire soldiers: evil. It is important to consider these events in their proper context. After dealing with Sloan, Eragon has begun his trek back to the Varden. While doing so, he meets Arya as she searches for him. As the two travel together, they are stopped by a band of Empire soldiers and a confrontation ensues. After killing the majority of the group, this is what happened next:

Only three soldiers remained alive. Arya was grappling with two of them some distance away while the third and final soldier fled south along the road. Gathering his strength, Eragon pursued him. As he narrowed the gap between them, the man began to plead for mercy, promising he would tell no one about the massacre and holding out his hands to show they were empty. When Eragon was within a arm’s reach, the man veered to the side and then a few steps later changed direction again, darting back and forth across the countryside like a frightened jack-rabbit. All the while, the man continued to beg, tears streaming down his cheeks; saying that he was too young to die, that he had yet to marry and father a child, that his parents would miss him, and that he had been pressed into the army and this was only his fifth mission and why couldn’t Eragon leave him alone? "What have you against me?" he sobbed. "I only did what I had to do. I’m a good person!"

"Why are you doing this? You’re a monster!" screamed the man. With an expression of pure terror, he made an attempt to dash around Eragon and return to the road. Eragon overtook him in less than ten feet, and as the man was still crying and asking for clemency, Eragon wrapped his left hand around his neck and squeezed. When he relaxed his grip, the soldier fell across his feet, dead.

Paolini seems to directly repudiate the wisdom and morality of Tolkien’s work. Gollum (a vile, vicious and dangerous creature) is left alive because Bilbo could not bring himself to "strike without need." Yet, Eragon chooses to coldly terminate the life of a defenseless soldier for no other reason than convenience. It might even be worse than that, however. From the passage, we learn some important things: the soldier is young; he was pressed into service; he is the child of apparently loving parents; and this is only his fifth mission. This list gives rather strong evidence that the soldier is little more than an innocent boy and may even be younger than Eragon’s stated sixteen years.

Murder is the only word which can accurately describe this action and its gut wrenching justification. In a deliberately cold and calculated manner, Eragon exterminates an utter innocent. The entire scene is given haunted poignancy as the child cries, pleads and begs for his life. (The audiobook recording is particularly haunting.) And as a moral justification for Eragon’s action, Paolini offers the following: "Devoid of emotion, [Eragon] shrugged. ‘He was a threat.’" It is with this line that one of Brisingr’s most dangerous and evil lies is finally given description: great need justifies extraordinary methods.

Consider the scene for a moment. Both Eragon and Arya are powerful magicians. They have just killed ten armed men without difficulty. Yet, a single child is as a sufficient threat that he must be coldly dispatched? Hardly. We already know that in Paolini’s world, magic users can put people to sleep (as Eragon did to Sloan), alter memories (Eragon checked Katrina to ensure that hers had not been tampered with) and bend reality. Eragon murders the soldier because it is the most convenient of the alternatives available.

Conclusion

Good ends do not justify evil means. Tolkien, from his experiences on the trenches of World War I and later during the Nazi bombardment of Britain, understood this instinctively. Brian M. Carney provides a nice summary of Tolkien’s position in an opinion published in the Wall Street Journal:

In Tolkien’s world, the temptation of evil is one that all, or nearly all, of his characters must confront. The argument of Tolkien’s tale—controversial to be sure—is that while intentions matter, the way we act is far more important than why we act. His story, for all its narrative brio, presents a serious rebuttal to the idea that good ends justify using evil means.

… That Tolkien, who wrote "The Lord of the Rings" during World War II and published it shortly after, saw this as a message for his times was made plain in the foreword to the second edition … Tolkien [later said] that by compromising with Stalin in Europe and using the atomic bomb against the Japanese, the Allies had failed to live up to the standards set by his best fictitious characters. In our world, Tolkien concluded, referring to the diminutive, earthy creatures at the center of his tale, "Hobbits … would not have survived even as slaves."

Tolkien may have written in perilous times when the flame of light and wisdom appeared
to sputter and there were armies at the gate. But as the events of September 11 and the 2003 Iraq War show, there are still threats to our culture and democracy. This time, though, they are internal. We are not threatened by exterior conquest, but by the risk of losing our souls as we attempt to provide for our security. In that struggle, Eragon, Eldest and Brisingr will not help. Paolini reduces questions of good and evil to points of convenience. He attempts to show that sometimes genocide is justified; it’s okay to co-opt justice in the name of vigilantism; and that murder can be acceptable if it is convenient enough. In the struggle to keep civilization’s collective soul, why would we emulate a hero who has already lost his?

Comments

37 Responses to “Eragon Shadeslayer: Sociopath”

Apolitically Incorrect » Truth and Fiction sent a pingback on January 21, 2009

[…] of nearly everything. So … let’s get started. First up is a detailed look at how Eragon became a sociopath. Next, we’ll look at how Nesuada managed to

Kawnliee wrote a comment on January 22, 2009

Excellent essay. It’s intriguing to watch how the two characters of Sloan and Eragon have crossed paths throughout this series: In the first book Eragon was very likeable, displaying few sociopathic tendencies and mostly foolishness (which can be expected of a fifteen-year-old). At the same time, I disliked Sloan, not necessarily because he was evil, but because he was not a pleasant character or the type of person I’d want to be around. Now, their positions have nearly reversed: while Sloan is still not a particularly pleasant character, I can sympathize with him and his motivations. Sloan was foolish, obviously, but he’s an uneducated peasant: this can be expected. Eragon, who has transformed himself, both physically and mentally, and is now one of the most powerful people in Alagaesia, proves himself unworthy of holding the power that he has. Eragon is no longer even slightly likeable.

There’s an interesting point that you raised which I didn’t notice until now: Eragon chooses to subvert true justice by giving Sloan a chance to defend himself in front of his peers and his accused. It occured to me that when Sloan “betrayed” the village, Eragon was not even there. He does not even have the benefit of having been there and seen what Sloan did: at best, he was told the story of Sloan’s betrayal by others, and does not know whether it is true or not, or the full extent of what happened.

Rob Oakes wrote a comment on January 22, 2009

Thank you for the compliment. As I was working on the essay, re-reading the passages I wanted to use, and seeing what others had said on the subject; I went from using the “sociopath” thing as a slight embellishment to a completely different opinion. Eragon actually is a sociopath, in every way and possible shape of the word. He is by far the most destructive in this book, but if you look back at the other books, all the tendencies are there. This stood out when I really starting looking at the Sloan case.

As you point out, he has gotten the story from second-hand sources only. Further, CP doesn’t ever bother to flesh out what actually happened. I doubt very highly that Sloan said to the empire, “Burn the entire village and kill everyone.” Much more likely, he reported that Eragon and Roran had the dragon egg. The empire has ruled Carbahull for more than 100 years, and by all accounts, they’ve never been unfair or destructive. If this were the real world, Sloan’s betrayal might be categorized as “involving the authorities.” Of course, it isn’t the real world (nor even a realistic reflection) and since we are in the Pao-verse, it might be monumentally unfair to expect the characters to act believably.

Kawnliee wrote a comment on January 22, 2009

I’ve been pondering writing an essay on the Empire for some time now, and recent events in Brisingr, I think, have convinced me to actually sit down and write it. Notably, the fact that Eragon views Sloan as having “betrayed” them to the Empire. Treason is and always will be considered one of the greatest crimes, despite the fact that it’s often done for the best of reasons. Carvahall, the Varden, Roran, and Eragon are all traitors to the Empire, but oddly enough, they never think of themselves that way. They don’t even bother to think that to others, they might be considered traitors, while still being willing to do what they’re doing because they believe it’s for the right reasons (that Galbatorix is evil/the Empire is corrupt). Sloan has never sworn an oath of loyalty to Carvahall. Not only was Sloan doing what was legal, he was also (from a certain point of view) doing what was RIGHT.

Okay. Now I need to go write that essay.

Justin wrote a comment on January 23, 2009

I hadn’t really realized just how far Eragon went til I read your essay. However, until I read the final book I’m willing to give Paolini the benefit of the doubt in that he seems to know where the story is going. Hopefully these sociopathic tendencies will either be put to good use, removed after he realizes what he’s become, or at least acknowledged by the supporting cast.

Apolitically Incorrect » Books Do Not Need Baths sent a pingback on January 25, 2009

[…] recently, I’ve been involved in a few creative pursuits; though a more accurate description might be response to the creativity of others.

Kenyon wrote a comment on January 26, 2009

Excellent writing. I could never push my way through the first book of this series, but have read LotR. You do an excellent job of breaking it down and really demonstrating what a horrendous character Eragon is. Fantastic.

ankur wrote a comment on January 27, 2009

hey there r unnecessary comparisons wid other books and i dont know y u people go on comparing every fiction books wid harry potter . i am a casual reader and i found the books to be damn interesting and upto my expectations.

Berseker wrote a comment on January 27, 2009

Wonderful essay. I still find Eragon´s actions VERY disturbing, weeks after reading it. He´s everything a hero is not supposed to be and yet there´s no one to call him on it. Your essay is very clear and well-written, and it was a delightful read.

Ichigo wrote a comment on January 29, 2009

Superb essay, excellent references and well-planned (which is more than I can say for any of the Bricks!). If only Paolini took the time to really THINK about what his self-insert was doing and the way it affected our view of him. Eragon has become a disturbing character, but the sad thing is Paolini probably thought he was making him more ‘heroic’ and casually powerful. It scrambles the mind!
You are fantastic!
~Ichigo:)

[…] … I’ve gone and done it.  I got a nasty email.  My somewhat thoughtful comments on Eragon and Inheritance have apparently scraped a few ragged nerves (not mine, thankfully).  […]

smallcatharine wrote a comment on February 3, 2009

Great essay!
The only thing you missed is Eragons sheer hypocrisy in killing the soldier, if you compare it to the slavekeeper incident in the first brick.
Correct me if I’m wrong on any details (stopped reading at the end of that scene years ago) but the situation was as follows: Slaver tries to capture Eragon and Murtagh, and recognizes them as renegades. Murtagh unexpectedly defeats slaver and mooks. Slaver demands to be let go, announcing his intention to inform on M&E. Murtagh kills slaver, Eragon has temper tantrum, insisting slaver should not have been killed. Murtagh points out that (without magic) he had no other way to prevent slaver from tatling. Eragon has temper tantrum again.

Rob Oakes wrote a comment on February 3, 2009

@smallcatharine

I hadn’t even really thought about the events of the first book, but you raise an excellent point. Sometiimes I wonder if Paolini thinks about his characters and way in which they have “grown” throughout the series. We have Eragon in the first book throwing fits and tantrums when others are needlessly hurt. By the third book, he is killing in cold blood. Surely, he couldn’t have intended to have such a character arc. Could he?

Y Ddraig Goch wrote a comment on February 4, 2009

Throughout the Inheritance Cycle, I have found that Eragon has gradually morphed from a somewhat likeable child (but Mary-Sue nonetheless) into a twisted, despicable monster. Even in Eldest it was apparent that he has begun to take delight in his own vindictiveness, such as when he taunts Murtagh for being ‘disfigured’ by the scar on his back. When I came across the three examples above, however, I had three quite vocal moments of: “What the Hell?!”. The character of Eragon has become so vile and needlessly cruel that I feel that he has supplanted Galbatorix as the villain of the piece, because at least Galbatorix is insane. What’s Eragon’s excuse?

I can only hope that this is intentional, and that it will all resolve itself into some kind of incredibly convoluted Aesop about corruption or ‘true’ evil. But going on what we have seen of Paolini’s work so far. I would say that this is highly unlikely.

Jared Ferguson wrote a comment on February 9, 2009

I think this is a great essay. Starting by saying that i do have some problems with some of the statements. The fact that eragon kills the young soldier is a problem you said you were going to put it into context, and you did the opposite. The soldier would have told someone else about the two because he would have no choice. If eragon has the ability to see if peoples minds have been tampered with, you don’t think gaby’s magicains would be able to do so as well? Second this is a simple fact of war i’m sorry a little harsh but arya character unstands perfectly kill or be killed. By taking out the soldier he might have saved several vardin soldiers, or maybe even his own life after some more missions the boy could have grown into a good soldier and remember eragon can still be killed by a sword. Remember the dwarf king that died by a rookie when he triped? It is as simply as he removed a threat, cold maybe, but needs to be done if he is going to survive. Also the argument against cold reason as a negative is incorrect. People who think without emotion are often great leaders who make correct decsions. Example 3 soldiers are traped in a building, it will take 15 soldiers to save them expected 5 soldiers will die what do you do? Do you try and put more at risk? or cut your losses. Cold reason is a double edge sword the men who are traped say save the men going in say. why? please send response to e-mail. thank you

[…] e-mails from readers who took some issues with an essay that I published, entitled “Eragon Shadeslayer: Sociopath.” In this essay, I looked at how the principal hero of the Inheritance Cycle, by Christopher […]

katie wrote a comment on March 2, 2009

Excellent, wonderful essay. I know that it’s been previously circulated that Eragon is psycho, but I adore you thorough and complete analysis nonetheless. When reading the passages you have included within your piece, I am reminded of why, in the end, I went from not caring about Eragon to truly, outright despising the series.

- wrote a comment on April 7, 2009

Lets not forget that The empire is able to inspire thousands of soldiers to arrive at the burning plains and later battlefields with ease, and who is it who resorts to poison? The so called good guys. Who whips people for disobeying orders that would have lead to senseless loss of life? The good guys. Who brutally besieges a city that has done nothing more then be in conveniently located, and gives themselves over to looting? The good guys. Who has made no attempts towards peaceful negotiation, and scoffed at them when they were offered? The good guys.
Well, as of this moment, I don’t care what Christopher writes. I will write my own ending on fanfiction.net entitled ‘rooting for the empire’.
Feel free to read.

Josh wrote a comment on May 5, 2009

The ends don’t justify the means.

It’s amazing how often this is said, and how often people let it pass without a second thought.

Would you shoot and kill someone in order to protect someone you love from being killed? Could you only do it if it were happening at that moment? If, stranded on an island with your son/daughter/mother/father/sister/brother/wife/husband/whatever, alongside a psychopath whose sole desire is to rape your loved one and possibly eat their delicious face, would you not kill them before they ever attempt to commit the acts you know they will inevitably do?

Could any of the situations you listed be handled better? Perhaps, but when Eragon found sloan, he felt obligated to do something besides leaving Sloan where he was, essentially torturing him. Outright killing him was out of the question because that’s a final judgement that cannot be reversed. Instead, he contemplates Sloan’s situation and past actions to such a degree that he discovers Sloan’s true name. Around this point in your essay, I began to question whether or not you actually read the novel or simply skimmed through it. Do you understand what it takes to discover someone’s true name? It takes understanding that person, as they are up to that stage in their life, completely. Every defining aspect of that person’s personality, their dreams, their loves, their hatred, their flaws, everything. Oromis taught Eragon that understanding breeds empathy. While Eragon may not have necessarily liked or even agreed with Sloan’s decisions, he understood what drove Sloan to do what he did. He felt for Sloan’s pained love for Katrina and his potential loss of her. She was Sloan’s everything and the last thing that could reminds him of his lost wife. Eragon forced Sloan by using his true name to travel to the land of the elves, and made certain that Sloan would not die along the trip. He did not exile Sloan as you stated (another reason I believe you either did not read or at least did not understand the novel), he forced Sloan to remain with the elves and attempt to change the man he had become.

If Sloan remains the same man who murdered, albeit out of love (selfish love, but love) the man who would betray his village in order to tear his daughter away from her love, then Sloan would indeed be stuck with the elves until death. However, he explained to Sloan that if he truly changed who he was, he would no longer be bound by Eragon’s words. Do you understand what that means, dear? It means that Sloan could leave the land of the elves, Sloan could see Katrina if he so wished, and Sloan could live a happy life as a changed man without the burden of his crimes on his heart. Eragon even convinced the elves to return Sloan’s sight if he changes. This isn’t an act of rash judgement without appropriate consideration, but rather the most just act anyone can do in such a situation. Eragon maintains that Sloan will be punished while the hatred and anger fester in his heart, and ensures that Sloan’s punishment will end and he will even be rewarded if he changes.

I think Paolini could have done a bit better than simply stating the Ra’zac are inherently evil, perhaps giving a reason why or some more in depth back story as to why they are driven to do what they do. Perhaps they were created long ago by an evil elven wizard or member of another race who harbors a great hatred for humanity in general. Would that still make them evil since they’re no more at fault for being created for an evil purpose than being born with humans as their natural prey? Probably not, though regardless, you have to remember that this is a story, and whatever the author has stated as fact in a novel is assumed to be fact in that world. Not to mention Eragon was told this by both Brom and Orosmis, who he knows are both old and wise. In Eragon’s mind, the Ra’zac are undoubtedly evil, and all of their actions thus far have confirmed this belief. Perhaps he still should not accept this without further inquisition if he were to be considered truly wise, but how would he go about attaining this information? Roran would not rest until they are destroyed, and Roran is one of Eragon’s few weaknesses that puts the entire land of Alagaesia in danger. How would he capture and bring back both the Ra’zac, Roran, Katrina, and himself on Saphira’s back? Surely she could not hold five people at once, even if possessed of the strength, how would they keep their bodies on her own? Even reducing the number by one, remaining behind in this situation as well, would Eragon dare leave Katrina and Roran alone with two Ra’zac who may awaken at any time? Nor could he simply capture one, for if one dies then the race dies regardless. No, Eragon knew that the Ra’zac would die, for they were too much of a threat to the Varden and their cause to leave alive, regardless of their race being destroyed as a result.

Regarding his refusal to allow them to be remembered in stories, there is no reason for him to allow this by your own reasoning. You dislike that they were stated to be inherently evil, and you wish to blame it on their nature. If this is the case, what lesson is to be learned from their actions? They are neither human, elf, urgal, dragon, nor dwarf. Their actions are not, by what you appear to believe, the result of a lack of morality, but rather due to how they were created. They can no more control their sadistic desire to reign terror over humans in general than Eragon can control his need to feed himself.

While the soldier may be considered an innocent and an unwilling participant on the “wrong side” of the war, alongside all of the soldiers Arya and Eragon killed if you wish, he cannot be given special exception to in order to simply save his life. Eragon would be risking the lives of many innocents for but a single one. Leaving a witness that can give information to Galbatorix is a risk they cannot afford at such a crucial moment during the war. The only option beyond this, which is a great risk since they’re in the midst of enemy territory near a collection of dead soldiers (they explain this in the book, by the way), is to attempt to purge or alter the memories of the man. Perhaps you don’t agree, though throughout the Inheritance series, it has been drilled into Eragon again and again that a person’s mind is a very sacred place and intruding should not be taken lightly, much less overwriting and altering the information. You would have Eragon violate this young man in such a deeply intimate way(and not a good intimate, in case you’re confused), force him to lose part of his memory and therefore his being while risking the chance of a mistake which may cripple the man or cause him great pain, and then also risk the man being interrogated by Galbatorix and Galbatorix’s mages which you know will be violent and painful, all to simply maintain a ridiculously ineffective moral “code” during a time of war where the lives in the balance are not counted by single heads, but rather droves of people, if not entire cities and races in some cases? You may call Eragon a sociopath for using calculated decisions, but you’re far worse by showing a bias towards a definite moral path without consideration for the gray area that may do more good in the long run.

Funny, another point regarding you and your lack of reading and/or comprehending the novel(s) comes up. Oromis explains to Eragon that the greatest tool a man can have is logic. A man can be morally righteous for the wrong reasons. Logic will lead a man to come to a well thought out decision/conclusion to any question, which he can then apply to his own moral standards. Your essay is not based on logic which you then happened to notice meshed with what you felt was morally right, you simply attempted to forge “logical” statements to explain your moral views. There’s a vast difference between the two, and that difference is why people who might appear cruel at times and who may end up with blood on their hands will be the ones we turn to during times of need. What about the people who spend more time protesting about how the world isn’t perfect by their definition than actually doing something to change it, you ask? Why they’re forgotten as time passes, while the ones with tormented dreams at night are the ones who are remembered and used as examples for future generations.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ve forgotten to cover some obscure things I wanted to comment on by now, but I’ve done a bit of what I wanted to, at least. Ah, and being of a logical mind doesn’t make one a sociopath, because sociopathy requires a clear lack of empathy. Eragon’s character “shifts” over time because he goes from a foolhardy boy who /often/ goes by what his heart says instead of thinking about things beforehand, to a man who was taught by the elves in the ways of logic who only semi-frequently goes by what his heart says without thinking, then attempts to make the situation as right as possible after the fact, as he does with Arya, Sloan, Murtagh, the dwarves, and pretty much any other situation you can come up with. Eragon is still that character you loved during the first book, but he’s going to shift and change as time progresses, and he’s going to become darker as his soul becomes stained with blood, even if it’s blood spilled to save the lives of many more.

No, Eragon would be a sociopath if he did /not/ change after all he experienced and was put through. Now do you mind sitting down with perhaps all three books and actually reading them for enjoyment instead of rushing over the pages while busily contemplating how you’re going to try to make it look bad on the internet?

Balacenia wrote a comment on May 26, 2009

Really i agree with josh, Eragon only does this because they are necassary, and with the city, what would of happened if they hadn’t beseiged it. Galbatorix would of came and attacked the Varden from behind, also did Eragon just attack them and kill them. NO! he even said, throw down your weapons and no-one will be hurt, some agreed and he said to the others that they were Not to be harmed. So really Eragon isn’t some cruel heartless fiend. And don’t forget it is WAR. So you do have to do some rotten things, no-one said that they liked poisoning the soliders or killing the men, and also when Eragon comes up with things like his glee with invading Sloans mind, he looks at this and thinks about it and realises why he thinks that and that he shouldn’t, ut it’s necassery. And Eragon does make certain that Sloan will survive by sending animals who will help sustain him on his way, also don’t forget eragon may be a strong magician but he doesn’t understand the limits of his power yet, so he will make some mistakes, AND when arya starts sticking swords in the soliders etc. Eragon says “haven’t we already done enough” meaning he didn’t want to kill the soliders but he knew it was Necesary

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Gabrielle wrote a comment on June 23, 2009

Woha, come on, Eragon a sociopath ? Througout the book he’s always feeling sick because of all the men he has killed ! He even feel bad when killing ANIMALS and is now a vegetarian (for the record he’s basicaly a farmer …) so please how can you honnestly state that he’s a cold blood killer ?

Concerning the ‘homicide’, may I remind that it’s war time ? So I guess you eventually have to kill people/Urgals/Raazac, because see, the point in a war is to win and if no one can bare to kill the foes, then I guess Galbatorix wins which I suppose is waaay better for everyone’s sake …
It’s not like Eragon can afford to let his opponents live while trying not to get killed by them.
It’s like WW2 : the Germans were humans too, some agreed with the Nazi doctrine, some were forced to fight for it but at the end, to free the world from the Nazi domination, people eventually had to kill the (mostly German) soldiers who were standing in the way of freedom, regardless of the weak possibility that one of them might be enlisted against his will …

Moreover, concerning Sloan : no offense because I’m not here to judge or argue but only to give my opinion, and I think you must have a twisted mind yourslef to even THINK Eragon felt joy when actually NOT killing Sloan … do you imply that he did not kill the butcher out of sadism ?
Worse, you seem to kind of defend the butcher by saying the latter acted for love of Katrina … so Sloan has actually betrayed his daughter to the Raazac, telling them where she is, only for love of his daughter of course -the fact that he had been humiliated just before has nothing to do with it !
Eragon, on the other side, tries to give a 2d chance to him, by revealing him a true name can change and by not revealing him that he could have his eyes back if he were to change, which means Eragon wants to believe Sloan can change …

Thus I can’t get why you believe Eragon is evil and a sociopath whereas (according to me) he’s almost too kindhearted and concerned about everyone ! He does everything he can to help Alagaësia and tries to do it in the best way possible which means he’s not willing to kill if he can afford not to (which obviously is rare but happened with Sloan and the slave merchant in the first book).

Jacob wrote a comment on August 13, 2009

Interesting… I accept your point with the Ra’zac, but comparing them to the dragons based on a war with the Dwarves and Elves (not Humans) thousands of years before the present date in the storyline is not justified. The Ra’zac have no reason to kill humans or other sentient species, and working with Galbatorix makes them valid targets.

Eragon specifically AVOIDED killing Sloan because deciding who lives and dies in such a manner would make him as bad as Galbatorix in his eyes… I don’t know if you read the entire series or not, but someone’s true name can change if their nature changes. As such, if Sloan truly regrets his actions, Eragon’s spell will no longer affect him and he would then be able to leave.

The third example… Eragon did it out of necessity. Galbatorix forces all the Empire’s troops to swear loyalty to him in the Ancient Language, making it impossible for them to betray him even if they wanted to. If Eragon let him escape, he would give away their location, and Eragon and Arya would have been attacked by Murtagh or even Galbatorix himself as a result.
He could possibly have entered his mind and changed his memory, but this is not guaranteed to work, and could certainly be detected by another sufficiently powerful spellcaster (remember when Eragon did this with Katrina after they rescued her?). As it is, if the soldier hadn’t ran away and had kept trying to attack Eragon, then I assume you would have had no problem with him being killed?

(Yes, I am a fan of the series, but I can accept some people’s points about it, but not when they make arbitrary criticisms for no real reason…)

Daniel wrote a comment on August 26, 2009

Ok, I understand your point, but if you read those two sections you mentioned fully, then you will see that Eragon DID in fact know what happened as he went into Katrina’s mind and examined her memories to check for any spells Galbatorix may have put on her, also I belive that he was correct in his judgment as Sloan WOULD have been put to death by his “peers” and regarding the point of cruelty in his punishment. Yes, it may have been cruel to send him wandering in the desert, but remember. Eragon was one of the most POWERFUL spell casters in all of Alagaesia and something tells me his spells would work. ALSO he consulted islanzadi BEFORE he passed judgment on Sloan. And as a final point, we must assume that Eragon’s spells would hold, therefore it was only like a exile that he inflicted apon Sloan especially considering that

“if the butcher demonstrated that he truly regretted his crimes, reformed his ways, and lived as a better person, Queen Islanzadi would have her spell weavers restore his vision”

So, it comes down to a question on basically the death penalty debate in modern day society. Prison, or death.

Lachie wrote a comment on September 9, 2009

I am not sure, but I assume the essay is loosely founded on irony/sarcasm/all that, with a few underlying messages to do with good vs. evil and means vs. ends. Certainly not something worth writing a wall of text to rebut, Josh.

Anyway, really nice essay. To think that this geek is getting millions in royalties for his rot! Shameful.

Ari wrote a comment on September 11, 2009

Ah, what a wonderful essay. You did a great job with it – dunno what else to say.

Bella wrote a comment on September 22, 2009

Good essay. I never really look too much into any book I’m reading, and I really do like the series. Personally I thought Eragon came off as a little wiser or more mature in Brisingr, not as a sociopath.

Scott wrote a comment on October 1, 2009

I get the feeling that most of the people clammering about here claiming that your essay was “so brilliantly written” are nothing more than simply riding the bandwagon of hating on a certain book series more because it’s trendy than by actually judging the books objectively and fairly and coming to their own conclusions (sorry for the run-on sentence).

As a casual fan of the Inheritance Cycle, I concede that Paolini’s works aren’t the greatest fantasy books ever written, but I feel that considering he is for the most part still a young novice writer, he’s produced some good work and is genuinely maligned for reasons that are over the top and ridiculous.

Your comparison of the Ra’zac to simple animals doesn’t really add up. Sure, we don’t hold it against tigers and sharks when they eat innocent people because they are merely dumb animals that have only their base instincts and animal sensibilites to act on. the Ra’zac are not the same. They are sentient, cogniscent and self-aware beings who still prey on humans because they are naturally evil. In real life, we condemn heinous criminals like rapists and murderers for acting on their basest emotions and instincts because as humans, society demands that they rise above such impulses and conform to morality and law.

The Ra’zac act as violent animals, monsters; torchering, killing, kidnapping and serving a corrupt military regime because in return their indulgences are rewarded and encouraged. They are easily proven evil by their actions alone, so your claim that there is insufficient evidence to show that they are evil is inaccurate. They are not the same as dragons, which have in fact been reasoned with and have learned to co-exist and cooperate peacefully with the other races prior to Galbatorix’s reign.

Also, why should Eragon grant the last Ra’zac’s request? Why give satisfaction and appeasement to a murderer and villain out of undeserved respect? The creature wanted to continue to be a force of terror and fear beyond its death, if only as a memory. Eragon rightly would not indulge this depraved wish. The case for genocide here was actually justifiable for once, as the Ra’zac were monsters that were beyond redemption and had no good qualities worth saving.

Also, as is the case with Sloan: he may have acted out of love for his daughter Katrina, but he still betrayed his fellow countrymen to a hated government, which also resulted in the deaths of some of those countrymen, and also further placed their lives in danger until Roran led them to the Varden. Justice was required. Eragon didn’t “abandon” him in the wild. The enchantments he placed on Sloan made it so he would reach the Elves alive no matter what (even with the aid of animals around him) and would eventually have a chance to redeem himself if possible (which, IIRC, would enable him to someday see Katrina again if his true name changed).

As for the young soldier, Eragon was forced to kill him because there was no conceivable way of sparing him (even with magic) without Galbatorix eventually gleaning the knowledge of the soldier from him via telepathy. And after that, the soldier might have been executed anyway for failure. Eragon acted out of necessary self-preservation for himself, Arya and the Varden, not out of any cold, unfeeling sociopathic impulse. To do otherwise would have put everyone he knew at risk, if not imminent danger, as well as cost everything. You also neglected to mention that afterward, Eragon heavily regretted the deed, as he consitently has regretted killing all the other adversaries he has encountered.

Lastly, you keep measuring Inheritance to the Lord of the Rings saga rather than judge Paolini’s works by their own merits. This is perplexing, because most people harshly judge CP for borrowing elements from Tolkein, and yet you berate him for doing things differently. Tolkein may have been an excellent author, but he is not the final word when it comes to morality or social justice, and yet you seemingly place him on that pedestal.

Is Eragon otherwise a bland, stereotypical fantasy hero? Sure. Is he a friggin sociopath? Of course not.

Ethan wrote a comment on October 7, 2009

rubbish.

to write about how cruel and merciless Eragon is, for example when he attacks the soldiers with Arya on the way back to the Varden, or his choices he made with Sloan, is just nonescene. If you had payed any attention to the book you would have realised that Eragon struggles with these decisions. In the book it states how troubled he is with killing the soldiers. The very reason he uses Sloan’s true name is so that he can be merciful. In the book, Eragon makes his choice and does not kill Sloan. Surely this is an act of mercy. We learn that Sloan is alive and reaches Du Weldenvarden – not harm comes from Eragon’s MERCY.

Besides, why do we need to look for morals and lessons in these books. Can we not jsut enjoy them for what they are: hugely imaginative pieces of literature from a wonderfully creative young author.

As far as I am concerned you, and the people who have posted comments that support you, have the complete wrong idea about what Paolini is trying to do in his stories.

Nick wrote a comment on December 18, 2009

Wonderful essay, and a very good examination of the disturbing trend in the inheritance books. My chief problem with the books is how idiotically simple Paolini makes the whole thing, everything Eragon does is good so it is justified. Utter rubbish, vile methods to achieve a supposed good fundamentally taint. I also find it funny that so many supporters of the book find torture to be less cruel than a simple clean death,

Jake Pemar wrote a comment on January 21, 2010

I think you didn’t realy read these books, you only put in paragraphs that support your theories. If you continued to read, then you would have realized that Eragon never wnated to kill te soldier, but the soldier’s oaths in the ancient language would have forced him to tell Galbatorix that Eragon was traveling alone in the Empire, and that eragon was traumatized for weeks after havng to kill the poor soldier. In another example, the witch-child, Elva, once stopped Eragon from reversing his accidental spell, which cursed her to hear everyone’s suffering ad force her to help them, by telling him that reversing the spell would be unjust, because i might kill her, and who was he to decide who lives and dies? This played upon Ergon’s deepst doubts, and froze him in thought long enough for her to escpe, only with the spell only half reversed, so she can hear people’s suffering, predict attacks on her and others, but not be obliged to stop them, even though the magic tells her exactly how to. She has said herself hat she will use these power’s on her enemie, but she has yet to decide who her enemies are. Also, you fail to notice that even though Eragom did not tell Sloan, the Elves will heal his blindnes if he changes his ways and shows regret for what he did, which he has yet to do. By doing this, Sloan will have to change a critical part of his personality, by doing this, he will change his true name, freeing himself from Eragon’s spell, so it is entirely up to Sloan how bad his punishment is, not Eragon. Now for the Ra’zac, it was no genecide, but revenge for the murder of his Uncle Garrow, the murder of Brom, the kiddnapping of Katrina, and the destruction of his familie’s farm. The Ra’zac are not like bears or tigers, they only eat humans, elves, or dwarves, not other animals. They came, as far as Brom could tell, from whatever land humans came form before they entered Alasgaësia, where they terrorized humans for untold eons. If they are not inherently evil, they are the closest you can get. The dragons did not hunt humans, eelves or dwarves, but fought them in a war long ago, before the Riders’ time. That very war was the reason for the creation of the Riders by the elves, to prevent such a war from ever recurring. True, the Ra’zac were the last of thier kind, but is it not genocide to develope a drug and rid the world of the HIV virus? The Ra’zac are just as destructive, and Eragon didn’t have genocide in his mind when killing them anyway. By the way, you misspelled Urgal 3 times. Atra du evarínya ono varda, Rob Oaks-vodhr!

Jess wrote a comment on January 23, 2010

So just because Eragon claims to feel remorse he doesn’t have to be held responsible for his actions? He callously crushed the throat of a frantic, unarmed child soldier without even giving the kid a chance to fight back just because it was convenient for him. And then Paolini tacked on pointless and contrived and overly angsty paragraphs about “woe is me, I killed a poor little kid just as easily as blinking my gorgeous jelly-filled eyeballs.” Eragon’s actions prove he is a natural-born killer, and the narrator is a historical revisionist who tries (and fails) to paint him as sympathetic.

Rather than bringing Sloan to the Varden and giving him a trial, or bothering to GIVE HIM HIS EYES BACK, Eragon uses magic to forcibly alter the very nature of Sloan’s existence and then force him to wander the earth in circles for what may take thousands of years if not forever just so that he’d be able to see his daughter again. By the time Sloan reaches the Elves his great-grandson seventy-seven times removed would have died of old age. Even the Wandering Jew did not have such a gruesome fate. And then Eragon gets all sad over it like he does for all of the other gruesome fates he meets out on anything that crosses his path. Does it never occur to him to just stop?

Killing the Ra’zac? Why didn’t he do the same to Sloan? Why didn’t he give THEM a fate worse than death like he did for the poor butcher? Just because the Ra’zac kill and eat human beings does not mean they’re evil. Humans do WORSE things to EACH OTHER. Eragon hardly has the moral high ground: it’s just petty revenge. He didn’t even TRY to make them suffer for totally WRECKING HIS LIFE.

Eragon’s so-called remorse is nothing more than a ham-fisted plot device to convince the reader to sympathize with him. At no point does he ever stop what he claims makes him feel sad, and proves unnaturally proficient at slaughtering and torturing his former species. It’s doesn’t matter what the historical revisionist masquerading as a narrator says the characters feel, what matters are their ACTIONS. Which are pretty over the top. Since Eragon’s essentially a physical god at this point, I’m honestly wondering why he doesn’t just walk up to the capital, raze the city to the ground, and crown himself Emperor of the silly little insects that scramble around him.

brett wrote a comment on February 3, 2010

the razac are animals and they eat humans as food. apparently when the riders learned of their existence in alageasia they tried to eradicate them in the past as well. so if the ra zac teamed up with galby for protection and serve him in order to be able to survive how is that evil? the difference between the hero and protagonist in a book is generaly supposed to be that the hero takes the harder path, and does things that they believe are the right thing to do, no matter the cost, so that they dont lower themselves to the level of the antagonist. killing enemy soldiers at least is different because if you look at them as your enemy and lose empathy for them it is easier to kill, to force yourself to kill so you wont be killed. but when its an unnarmed child screaming for mercy, it takes someone whos very dead inside and very cowardly to walk up to them say sorry but i have to do this and then strangle them. then just shrug and say oh well he wouldv eventualy told galby that we were here tonight, it was safer to just kill him. offering this kid mercy here and just putting him into a deep sleep wouldv shown eragon to be a good person, an honourable person who feels sympathy for those around him and refuses to kill out of convenience, someone who fights not only galbys empire but galbys ideals and his means of gaining his ends.
some people have said that eragon cant endanger the varden, he needs to put their good before his own feelings or thoughts on any situation. however putting the good of the varden first should also mean upholding the ideals the varden was founded on. they came into existance to take down galbatorix because they see him as someone who stomps on people with no feelings of sympathy or compassion. someone who uses their power to force people to do what they want and forces their ideals onto others. well the varden have shown themselves to act in the exact same way. if eragon keeps going down this path, when the varden finaly takes over they will have become the empire. no one will stand up to them because they are led by an all powerful dragon rider who murders without feeling anytime he feels his empire is in danger. and he will use his power to force people to do what he wants. also forcing sloan to swear in the aincient language and do what he wants. hetook away sloans free will, and he circumvented justice. it dosent matter what you think someone deserves, its never within someones right to go around the real law. him thinking that just because hes a dragon rider he has the right to sentence people is sickening and him sitting there thinking maybe someday sloan will look back on his crimes and become a better person for them is also bullshit. he did wat he did for a reason, he didnt want to be a rebel and he didnt want hius daighter hurt. why in the hell should he be forced to go into exile and turn into the type of person eragon thinks he should be.

Jake Pemar wrote a comment on February 8, 2010

@ Jess
If you read the third book, you would have known that it only took sloan 4 or 5 weeks to reach the Elves. He is living an okay life with them. They provide food, clothing, and housing for him, but have not yet restored his eyes. Eragon killed the Ra’zac not only out of revenge, but also as an act of war. The Ra’zac were servants of King Galbatorix, and powerful enemies of the Varden. Killing them was a blow to the Empire. Even though he dislikes killing, he does it for the good of all of Alasgaësia. He fights for the freeedom of all those being oppressed by the Empire, and for the re-establishment of the Riders. Eragon is no god, his powes have limits, and he would be easily overpowered by Galbatorix, if they meet in combat. So there is no chance of him razing Uru’baen or becoming king anytime soon. Eragon has said repeatedly that if he had a choice, he would give the throne to Nasuada (leader of the Varden) instead of taking it himself.

Flakey wrote a comment on February 22, 2010

“He fights for the freedom of all those being oppressed by the Empire, and for the re-establishment of the Riders” The riders have never gone away though. The riders were in charge when there was a group, The riders are in charge when there just King Galbatorix, and the riders will be in charge when Eragon takes over. No matter how people try to dress this up. This is not a battle for the freedom of the people, it more about a power play between the powerful of the land.

Alico wrote a comment on March 22, 2010

I agree with you here, but I don’t think Paolini was making a mistake here. This is just showing how Eragon will not be fit to be a king. Eragon says this himself, as if he became a leader, he would just be another undying king. Power does corrupt, there is no question there, so Eragon has trouble with his. Why do you think he is destined to leave Alagaesia forever? He is bound to that prophecy, and it will come true. He will not be king, nor will he stay in this land. What is not said, though is how he will leave it. I think his best bet is death, dying as he kills the wicked king, sealing magic and dragons away with both deaths. The time of the riders is over, and Alagaesia would be a better place without magic and Dragons, if you ask me.

Andrew wrote a comment on July 7, 2010

For your first point, and if anything I say has been repeated, then I apologize, the Ra’zac were a threat. The way they killed Brom and injured Roran are proof of their danger. If not killing them in their lair all at the same time (a more difficult task than killing them one by one, perhaps) then killing them when Eragon’s company was attacked. The extinction of the Ra’zac was bound to happen sooner or later. Those who play Chess, or Go, or Checkers, or any other game of strategy and pick off the most threatening units aren’t called sociopaths. Eragon, the Elves, and the Varden are at war with Galbatorix.

Second point: True Sloan was cruel towards Eragon, but there’s a reason: Eragon hunts in the Spine, the deathbed of Sloan’s wife and Katrina’s mother. Eragon’s feelings were conflicted towards Sloan due to the Elves teachings, that one mustn’t hurt another unless the other person means you harm in any way (physical or magical). Eragon did not banish him to the desert. In fact, why banish him when he could have left him to die in the Ra’zac’s lair? Eragon gave Sloan his staff and guided him with Sloan’s true name and special wards. No animal would approach Sloan unless it was to give itself to him as food, water would be no problem, and he would have an internal magical GPS to guide him to Ellesmera, where the Elves would give him company. If he should repent, the “harsh” restrictions placed around Sloan would apply only to his old name and not to whatever new true name that he would obtain in repentance. In addition, Sloan would gain his vision back.

Third and final point: Yes, the soldier was a child, but remember how harsh Galbatorix is. He commands his soldiers with their true names, and protects himself under penalty of instant death, should anyone find his own out. He’s a powerful magician containing hundreds, if not thousands of Heart-of-Heart’s, and the last dragon egg in the known world. That child, though normally fully deserving of Eragon’s mercy, was a soldier of Galbatorix. If that kid came back to his parents with tales of his unit being attacked, no doubt, though in the secrecy of his own home, Galbatorix would have spies. They would know the details and bring the child in for questioning, and they would be unmerciful. Eragon of course is calculating, and sometimes a bit cold, but when you’re warring against a tyrant, totalitarian king, you kind of have to be. He’s cautious because he’s the only Dragon Rider free of Galbatorix (Not counting the hiding/deceased Oromis and Glaedr), and he’s wanted on the opposite side, or dead.

Sociopaths are people who are incapable of telling right from wrong, and simply act. Eragon isn’t a Sociopath. His beliefs disallow him to eat meat, he’s taught by a father who instills a stubborn kind of right and wrong, and his station as the last free Rider requires him to be bound from head to toe in the conflicting values of his oaths to the Dwarves, Elves, men, and even to Dragons. Every single race has imbued Eragon with proper right and wrong values, making it impossible to be a sociopath.

Care to comment?