Why?!?! - An Author's note

For a final project in Fantasy Fiction (check out sf@sf- its a great resource for everything fantasy and sci-fi) I decided to do a timeline. But I couldn't do any ordinary timeline, right? I mean, that would be entirely too easy.

So for your pleasure, and my pain, this is a timeline showing the progression of magical education since A Wizard of Earthsea was published in 1968-- to see if apprenticeships have died in the wake of the magic school phenomenon... or if they're coming back. Or even more interesting, if they never left in the first place.

And even though this is for a class, I plan on working on it for.. well, forever. So any and all feedback is welcome, and appreciated.

Enjoy the journey through time, my weary travelers. Because here... we... go!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

2002- Paolini & Eragon

ATTENTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!

Alagaesia.com's summary:


"Fifteen-year-old Eragon believes that he is merely a poor farm boy- until his destiny as a Dragon Rider is revealed. Gifted with only an ancient sword, a loyal dragon, and sage advice from an old storyteller, Eragon is soon swept into a dangerous tapestry of magic, glory, and power. Now his choices could save - or destroy- the Empire."



Now, since this is one of my FAVORITE fantasy series of all time, I apologize if I spend and inordinate amount of time babbling about how awesome it is. Really. 

Let's talk about Eragon and Brom: 

Brom serves as mentor to Eragon, educating him to be a Dragon Rider. In this sense, Eragon is an apprentice. 

Paolini tells us: 

"Brom explained how dragons mate and what it took for their eggs to hatch. 'You see,' he said, 'when a dragon lays an egg, the infant inside is ready to hatch. But it waits, sometimes for years, for the right circumstances. When dragons lived in the wild, those circumstances were usually dictated by the availability of food. However, once they formed an alliance with the elves, a certain number of eggs, usually no more than one or two, were given to the Riders each year..'" (112)

The education that Eragon is taking part of is an informal, hurried, and imperfect apprenticeship. Brom is the only source of information that Eragon has access to (at the very least, Brom is the only one who doesn't want to kill or enslave Eragon for that information). 

When it comes to magic, Brom explains: 

"'This magic--for it is magic-- has rules like the rest of the world. If you break the rules, the penalty is death, without exception. Your deeds are limited by your strength, the words you know, and your imagination'" (139)

Brom only explains this to Eragon after he has already used magic, so in this case the education is only as necessary. 

 "He also learns that 'magic consists in this, the true naming of a thing' and 'is worked only by those beings who speak ... the Old Speech.' However, there are limits to the power of a Mage; the Master Namer tells the pupils that a Mage 'can control only what is near him, what he can name exactly and wholly. And this is well. If it were not so, the wickedness of the powerful or the folly of the wise would long ago have sought to change what cannot be changed and Equilibrium would fail.'" -Pat Pinsent (paragraph 1, The Earthsea School For Wizards)


Even though this is referring to A Wizard of Earthsea, the idea of "true" name for objects or people is all over Eragon. Like: "'Brisingr is from an ancient language that all living things used to speak... The language has a name for everything, if you can find it.'

'But what does that have to do with magic?' interrupted Eragon.

'Everything! It is the basis for all power. The language describes the true nature of things, not the superficial aspects that everyone sees. For example, fire is called brisingr. Not only is that a name for fire, it is the name for fire. If you are strong enough, you can use brisingr to direct fire to do whatever you will'" (140)


This is pretty similar to Ged's experience in A Wizard of Earthsea, when he is impatient to learn more about magic, yet Ogion won't impart knowledge before he is ready. The whole idea of true names is one that shows a progression, and yet it also depicts the limits of education and magic. It seems important for education to explain the limits of any kind of knowledge. 

In Eragon, Brom partakes in limiting Eragon's knowledge, just like Ogion, though not out of malice. 

This type of education is very different, and yet Eragon also acknowledges a "school" that had thrived for countless years, only to be brought down by one of their own. Brom tells us: 


"And it came to pass that at the height of their power that a boy, Galbatorix by name, was born in the province of Inzilbeth, which is no more. At ten he was tested, as was the custom, and it was found that great power resided in him. The Riders accepted him as one of their own.

Through Their training he passed, exceeding all others in skill. Gifted with a sharp mind and strong body, he quickly took his place among the Riders' ranks. Some saw his abrupt rise as dangerous and warned the others, but the Riders had grown arrogant in their power and ignored caution" (32)
 The education structure in place for the Riders failed, we find. And that failure led to the decimation of the Riders, and the Riders' education system. 

Which means... we're back to the idea of apprenticeship as the method to training the next generation of magic users. 

I'm not sure if that is commenting on the success of regular schooling (Paolini was home schooled, after all), but it does raise an interesting question: What is it that makes the apprenticeship so appealing in the current time? 

Because, at this point, I'm starting to think that my ideas concerning magic school are backwards-- or upside down, whichever you prefer. 

* At some point in the next month I hope to also do posts concerning the other three books of this series (Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance). But! Because my professor has not had the pleasure of reading this beloved series yet, I did not want to give too much away (because that would be a shame)
** Alright, so I figured I should at least acknowledge that there was a terrible movie made from Eragon. If you want to read the book but think the movie might be good-- it's not. Seriously. It isn't so much of a book adaptation as a book catastrophe. Or death. So, hopefully they remake it at some point.

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