A Love Letter to the Inheritance Cycle
Eragon finally allowed the tears to spill from his eyes, and he clutched the railing of the ship and wept as he left behind all that he had ever known. Above, Saphira keened, and her grief mingled with his as they mourned what could never be.Inheritance; Christopher Paolini
In time, however, Eragon’s heart slowed, and his tears dried, and a measure of peace stole over him as he gazed out at the empty plain. He wondered what strange things they might encounter within its wild reaches, and he pondered the life he and Saphira were to have—a life with the dragons and the Riders.
We are not alone, little one, said Saphira.
A smile crept across his face.
And the ship sailed onward, gliding serenely down the moonlit river toward the dark lands beyond.
I started reading Harry Potter the year Eragon was released. I didn’t know this at the time; I was nine years old, and so far away from being interested in reading about a teenage boy and his dragon that had I been aware that Eragon even existed at the time, I probably would have passed on the story altogether.
Now, at twenty-five, I find it ironic.
The Inheritance Cycle was to me as a teen and young adult what Harry Potter had been to me as a child. It was a gateway. An escape. It was the genesis of a vibrant world unlike my own that had much of the same problems yet served as a sanctuary from the realities of growing up. Where Harry Potter had set my imagination ablaze, Eragon and his adventures in Alagaësia kept the flame burning, adding tinder, feeding oxygen to a mind that would eventually come to realize it wouldn’t be satisfied doing anything that didn’t involve books.
Inheritance came out my senior year of high school, the year that I remember most vividly. I was utterly unprepared for life outside of the careful parent-and-teacher controlled environment that had guided me for twelve solid years. On the outside, I was confident in the change coming; my reality was far less cock-sure. Anxiety became less and less and occasional blip of my heart and more a constant companion echoing its fears in the back of my mind. We weren’t ready for this, the voice was convinced. And so was I.
Through this, I read Inheritance. Between classes, during them, in the evenings when I was supposed to be doing homework. It was the first of the series that I hadn’t devoured in a single day, but in the long run, I think having it there to pad between the looming bird-out-of-the-nest free-fall waiting for me was a good thing. I struggled as Eragon did with the growing list of responsibilities taking hold of my life, knowing that there was still more to come out there.
It wasn’t just this kindred connection, the sameness—no matter how interpretational—I found Eragon’s life and mine to be. Through it all, there was the world, the magic that had drawn me to Eragon, to Murtagh, to Saphira and Arya, to Nasuada, to the great Urgals and the elves in their forests and the dwarves in their mountains. It was how much I felt like I knew these characters and their lives as closely as I knew my own.
It was there, on those last pages seeing Eragon leave the life he had known for nearly twenty years and embark with a bitter-sweet optimism for the new adventures he and Saphira were about to have, that I felt for the first time there was something okay with plunging into the unknown, and though I don’t think I thought of it in that way back then, that the magic of those worlds wouldn’t cease to exist and influence me even when I stopped being a child and started being an adult.
My experiences with the Inheritance Cycle would stay with me into adulthood in ways other books I had read as a teen had not. The Inheritance Cycle was the first series that made me want to write—not just little half-baked scribbles, but fully-realized worlds and characters with stories that felt as real as Eragons’. My first ‘book’ started as a story about a farm girl, and a dragon egg. I never finished that book (and it no longer exists, lost regrettably as a deleted recycle bin file,) because the (potentially copyright infringing) Inheritance Cycle influence wasn’t lost on me, but I never stopped writing. I had ups and downs, but I kept going back to worlds bigger than my own, with characters I hoped to be as rich and vivid as those that I had read in Paolini’s work. I had grown up on big worlds—Lewis’ Narnia, Rowling’s wizarding world, Tolkien’s Middle Earth—but it was Alagaësia and Eragon that kept me believing in the magic of fiction.
“One of the eggs has hatched.” Eragon blinked. “One of—”The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm; Christopher Paolini
“A dragon has hatched, Ebrithil!” said Blödhgarm. “Another dragon is born!”
Saphira craned her neck and crowed toward the shadowed ceiling, and the Urgals stomped and shouted until the entire hall rang with the sounds of celebration.
Eragon grinned, and he threw his cup over his head and let loose with an entirely undignified whoop. All of their hard work—all of the late nights and early mornings, the spells that left him exhausted and the endless worrying about provisions and politics and people—all of it had been worth it.
A new beginning had dawned for the dragons.
I hadn’t expected another book in the Inheritance Cycle, let alone the promise of more after the release of The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm. It had been years since I’d read Inheritance. I was excited—and nervous.
I finished Inheritance in 2012. The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm released in 2018. Six years separated me from the nostalgia that had seeded my desire to be a writer, and six years was a long time to hop back into a series. I worried that the memories that I had as a young adult would taint this fresh, new set of stories by Christopher Paolini (and an entry by his sister, Angela, writing as Angela the herbalist, which, spoiler alert, I loved.) I worried that the thing that had laid the foundation for where I am now would read differently. I am, after all, very different from the person I was when I first read Inheritance. I think, when we revisit things from childhood or young adulthood, with adult eyes and adult minds, we don’t see things the same way we used to. The magic that was there as a kid is sometimes lost over time, and my fears were rooted in that. What if the magic of it wasn’t there anymore for me? I spent the last three months after having bought The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm with it sitting on my shelf, not sure if I wanted to test the theory out.
If there was ever a case of unfounded fears, my worries over The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm take the win on that one.
Eragon has changed. In many ways he’s matured—even in his boughs of irritation, small moments of childishness, he’s certainly a different person. He’s an adult. He’s got endless work and tiresome days, and even though the war is in his past there’s still no shortage of people looking to him to lead them. Yet through it all, the whimsy of the world hasn’t depleted. And the ways that I identified with Eragon as a teenager have evolved into the ways that I can see myself in him as an adult. There’s something encouraging about the Eragon of The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm, and the way his life has moved forward since we saw him leave Alagaësia for good.
And the magic hasn’t gone.
I don’t mean just the actual, literal magic present in the world of the Inheritance Cycle. I mean the magic that happens when someone reads a book that moves and changes them—and in the case of The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm reminded me of that special thing that was in the original series that made me hold onto my love for fictional worlds and the beauty in writing. It was the continuing potential that had always been woven through the Inheritance Cycle: Eragon’s potential for rebuilding the Riders, Nasuada’s potential for becoming the leader that surpassed her father, Murtagh’s potential to be a good person in spite of the path laid before him, and the potential for good to overcome evil, and for new beginnings to come out of bittersweet ends.
Sometimes I think as adults, we forget that that’s a thing, potential. We forget that it’s not a finite resource, that it doesn’t just go away after a set amount of time.
The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm reminded me of the things that teen-me may have initially taken for granted, but adult-me holds to as she works towards writing her own books: that we all have the potential to bring immeasurable magic into the world, you just have to take the first step out into the great unknown.