First of all, I would like to express disbelief that I am actually doing this. Eragon. A fantasy book from the early 2000s that blazed its own trail, raised an entire generation of fantasy readers, and just so happened to be the very first fantasy novel I ever read. It also, unfortunately, spawned one of the worst book-to-movie adaptations of all time. But this article will not solely consist of me bashing the Eragon film. Because after all these years, and re-reading the book for fresh perspective, I’m going to say something I never thought I’d say: movie studio, whoever who are, I understand. I don’t condone, but I understand.
Eragon’s story follows the titular character: an ordinary youth of 16. One day, he finds a dragon egg when he is out hunting. It is when the egg hatches to reveal an infant dragon that his destiny is forever changed, and he is thrust into an adventure that will transform him into one of the fabled Dragon Riders: nigh-immortal beings with the strength to turn the tides of war.
Both the book and the movie follow this same premise, yet obviously end up in completely different places by the end. But what if I told you they were never on the same track to begin with, due wholly to the differences in the two types of media?
Eragon, the book, introduces us to our protagonist by placing him in a place called “The Spine”. A dangerous, supposedly cursed wilderness full of all manner of wild beasts and potential catastrophes. Because this is a book, we have the privilege of Eragon’s thoughts as he hunts in this landscape.
We learn that our protagonist is not afraid of The Spine, unlike everyone else in his village. We learn he is somewhat proficient with a bow. We learn he is adept at tracking, and surviving out in the wilderness. Finally, we learn Eragon is so unbothered by so-called cursed Spine that very little truly phases him. In fact, when a dragon egg literally explodes into existence right in front of him, and he is annoyed that the explosion scares away the deer he is hunting. All of this, in the first ten pages.
By contrast, the film shows Eragon hunting in an ordinary forest. Because it is a movie we do not have his internal monologue, so we know nothing about him. We don’t know he doesn’t fear magic, nor whether he is a good survivalist—we don’t know anything at all. It is only when the dragon egg appears when we get anything, and it is a far cry from what the book gives us.
This is merely the opening to both adaptations, and it is already clear that they are going to differ considerably. However, I say again that I understand. It is due to the differences in media types that these differences exist. The movie can never do what the book does in terms of providing Eragon an appropriate introduction. Many of the things the film adaptation does can be attributed to this problem, such as skipping the month in which Eragon lives his usual life until the egg hatches. And the 2-3 months where he then raises the dragon.
The book has over 500 pages; the movie has a little over 2 hours. One can afford to establish a status quo for the impending adventure to disrupt, while the other has to rush. But here, we have finally reached a point where my understanding reaches its limit.
I believe I have been more than fair up to this point. We can’t expect a book-to-movie adaptation to get everything right, due to the reasons I’ve outlined above. However, sometimes movie studios make bafflingly stupid changes that leave us all scratching our heads. One of the most infuriating changes in the Eragon film has to be the birth and early life of Saphira, Eragon’s dragon partner.
Once the dragon egg hatches, the audience is admittedly treated to quite a few cute baby dragon antics. That much, I give the film credit for. However, it is all forfeit when the dragonling learns to fly. When everyone thinks it is merely testing its wings, it launches into the air as if it already knew how. And if that wasn’t confusing enough, it explodes in a cloud of magic and comes out the other end as a fully-grown, sapient dragon that genders itself as a she, then names herself Saphira.
This is wrong on so many levels. The book treats Saphira as a person. Meaning she acted her age (an infant). She had to actually be taught how to speak, and she most certainly did not name herself. I understand the movie needed to move fast. But would not putting a “3 months later” on the screen have sufficed?
I believe I have ranted long enough. If you could not tell, Eragon and its extended series mean a great deal to me. Suffice it to say, this film left a terrible taste in my mouth as a child. And believe it or not, I’ve only scratched the surface! There is much, much more to complain and gush about. However, I think this is where I will leave it.
It is with much pleasure I celebrate the anniversary of Christopher Paolini’s debut novel, and I hope my little trip down memory lane sparks interest for them in you, dear reader. If not, I hope it was at least a little entertaining!