After scrambling my way through my feelings on the topics of perspective and hardship in Eragon over the past couple weeks, I’d finally like to explore the theme of rarity and its consequence in the story.
When the book kicks off, we’re immediately aware that the item being transported by the elves (one of whom, we later discover, is Arya) must be incredibly valuable. For them to be travelling under the cover of nightfall implies as such, as does the Shade’s determination to get his hands on it, and all of this is confirmed by the fact that Arya uses magic to send her cargo far far away to prevent it from falling into Durza’s slimy clutches.
Yet when Eragon finds it moments later, he has no clue what he’s stumbled upon! He shows it to so many people in his village, thinking it might have a small amount of value which he can use to buy his family a little more food, and no one else appears to have any idea what it is, either. Dragons are so scarce – so unheard of and larger than life in the minds of the villagers – that they are almost mythical. In Eldest (which I’ve just finished! YES!), rumours of a new Dragon Rider are taken as folklore to be chuckled at. When the Carvahallians eventually find out that Eragon is, in fact, a Rider and that a dragon other than Galbatorix’s exists, they are absolutely gobsmacked!
The rarity of dragons has painful consequences for Saphira, however. Forget about not having an immediate family; imagine being one of the very last of your entire species. (Sorry, Eragon: I think Saphira one-ups you and every other orphan protagonist in this case, mate.) Not only is she orphaned, but she’s entirely isolated from her kind. While she shares an unbreakable bond with Eragon, it’s heartbreaking to hear her lament that there are elements of her history and lineage that she will never know. The truth of the matter is, in this universe, the fact that so few dragons exist is entirely due to horrific, blood-curdling acts on the part of Galbatorix and his henchmen. The dragons that are still alive (at the end of Eldest *SPOILERS* we’ve so far met four dragons, with a fifth egg still to hatch) are scattered and disjointed from one another. Dragons are revered, but this isn’t only because they are so rare – it has more to do with their incredible capabilities, intelligence and strength. And, I mean, they’re magical. Speaking of magic, that’s a whole different example of rarity in these books. Magicians are quite rare, and wielding magical powers earns you a reputation. You’re respected, feared and quite often distrusted. Hey – no one said it would be easy. With great power comes great responsibility, amiright? Needless to say, rarity isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.
On the other hand, commonplace things you get used to and tend to take for granted in your day-to-day life – a community, a home, food and water, WiFi – take on an immense amount of value when you realise how much you need them… which more often than not happens when they’re suddenly hard to come by. This is Eragon’s experience in his trek across Alagaësia and an important lesson to us all that we’ve honestly probably heard a thousand times: don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone? and all that jazz. But while it’s a tale as old as time (don’t mind me while I hum Beauty and the Beast for the rest of this blog post), it’s still a valuable reminder in my opinion, and one worth hearing over and over: we need to remember to appreciate what we have while we have it, and express that appreciation! The things we find commonplace and ordinary – things as simple as shelter, food, and companionship – are for so many people in this world rare, difficult for them to come by and absolutely precious.
All in all, I found Eragon a rollicking good read and was enthusiastic to dive into its sequel. Let me know if there were elements of the story you picked up on and really enjoyed that I haven’t spoken about! And now I’ll carry on with my song…
*wanders off into the distance, yowling, “EVER JUST THE SAAAAAAME; EVER A SURPRIIIIIIIISE…”*