We had the chance to sit down with Christopher Paolini for a lengthy interview discussing the end of Inheritance, the future for many of our favorite characters, and what’s next for Christopher as an author. The interview was so long that we broke it down into multiple parts, the first of which we are bringing to you today!
This interview focuses heavily on decisions made by Christopher, where the Riders will settle in the future, how grand their “new Vroengard” will be, and the logic behind abandoning his decision to choose Elva as a Rider. Plus, how long will it take before Alagaesia sees dwarf and Urgal Riders?
Be sure to keep checking back in the near future for the remaining parts of this interview!
(This interview is the transcript of an audio conversation.)
Mike Macauley: Welcome to another interview with Christopher Paolini on Lytherus.com and Shurtugal.com. It’s been a quite while I think! So this should be refreshing.
Christopher Paolini: Yeah it was before the book tour, wasn’t it?
MM: It was actually, or no, no, no, no, it was a few stops in. You were in Texas I think. You had a day off in Texas.
CP: Ah that’s right, that’s right, I forgot about that one.
MM: So let’s jump right in! You’ve been teasing a sci-fi novel on Twitter. Do you want to elaborate on either?
CP: As far as projects passed the Inheritance Cycle…. at the moment things are really right up in the air, because the time after I got back from my U.S. tour I was just kind of relaxing and taking care of a lot of things that backed up while I was finishing Inheritance. I’m going to, you know, take a very close look at where I’m moving from here and, you know, hopefully I’ll have something I can talk about publicly before too long after that. But I do not really want to make any public commitments especially since I just spent about ten years now writing with deadlines and that’s not something I want to do … [LAUGHS] … if I can avoid it.
MM: You want to avoid backing yourself into a corner.
CP: Exactly. What I’m hoping to do in the future is to write my projects, whatever those happen to be, and then announce them. Instead of announcing them and then, you know, having to scramble to meet the deadline. Just write it first and then it’s done. And then we all know when it’s coming out and what’s going to happen with that.
MM: And that frees up that tremendous weight that’s on your shoulders as well, that pressure.
CP: Exactly. And just to assure people who are now worried that, you know, it’s going to be three years before they hear anything from me, it certainly won’t be that long. I’m also determined to write some much, much shorter books than Inheritance. Ha! So we’ll see how that works out.
MM: Well you did say Inheritance was going to be shorter than Brisingr. So…
CP: Well. Yeah. You should just ignore me on that count.
MM: So we talked about the sci-fi novel. The only other thing-
CP: I will say though, that I definitely have thoughts, some thoughts that I will, you know, try my hand at science fiction at some point. But I’m not going to confirm whether or not that’s my next project. Not a hundred percent yet.
MM: Well that brings us into something I wanted to bring up before we jump into the interview which is, after our podcast last night and even our first interview with you, I know for a fact that we can expect from this interview is a few no comment answers.
CP: [LAUGHS] Oh yes. Probably more than a few.
MM: Now I have a question on your no comments to maybe just to clarify for myself and for listeners here. When you are saying no comment now, I mean the Cycle as a contained series, is through. But you have plans to someday hopefully, maybe, revisit the books in some form or revisit the world in some form.
MM: And so…
CP: And every time I say no comment, it’s usually because the question would require me to divulge something that I think I’m probably going to use in a future story. The question itself may not be correct – it may just be that in order to answer it properly, I’d have to divulge something I don’t want to divulge.
MM: That’s important to clarify, I think, because you’re going to have people a bit confused and saying, “Well the series is over. Why are you still withholding?” So that explains why. I already see some questions in here that are probably either going to get a full no comment or a partial no comment.
CP: Yeah. The trick… the thing to keep in mind is that even though the story of the Inheritance Cycle is at an end, the world itself, you know, continues on. As do the lives of the many characters who are still alive at the end of the series. So that’s going be true even if I write five, six, seven, eight more books in the series. Even then you’re always going to have the sense that life continues on in the world of Alagaësia.
MM: Well that’s encouraging news for fans who don’t want to let go… and there are a lot of them! Nearly every question we received for this interview contained some variation of: “Will you write this book? I think it’s a great story.” Readers will always want more.
CP: Well, I can guarantee listeners that whatever idea they have for future books in Alagaësia, odds are I’ve already thought of that. Whether it’s a prequel series… a prequel book telling the story of Brom, or future books talking about Urgal or Dwarf Riders, or stories about Angela the herbalist. Trust me, I’ve considered the whole gamut of possibilities.
MM: Well that’s also encouraging, I think. Let’s see. Here’s a good one. These are in no particular order. They’re not arranged by topic. I just grabbed them as I saw them and that’s how we’re going to tackle them. The first question is, “Was Galbatorix born into a noble family?”
CP: That’s a really good question. He was… You know, I’ve never actually worked it out. It wasn’t really necessary for the story. But now that I think about it, I imagine him being, maybe not a high noble family, but maybe minor nobility. That seems kind of fitting for him because the way I imagined his character. Way back in the beginning he definitely seemed to have a bit of a feeling of entitlement about him. So yeah, I mean I could definitely see him as being a part of the nobility, but minor nobility. You know, I don’t think his family would have been one of the high muckity-mucks of the old human kingdom.
MM: Right. Yeah, I always read him as maybe coming from someone of, I don’t know, privilege or wealth. I guess you could say because he had that ego, that sense of entitlement.
CP: Yeah, he was a trust fund kid.
MM: Exactly. There you go.
MM: Next one. Ok, let’s see. In the battle of Urû’baen, why was Islanzadí able to use magic while other elves weren’t?
CP: Well if you remember, the use of magic was kind of inconsistent inside the city. It’s like, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. That was even mentioned where the elves didn’t know if their spells would work or not. So, you know, because it might kill their allies or it might kill the enemies. Something was messing with it. So, basically, Islanzadí rolled the dice and she gambled, and she won that her spells would work. And besides, she’s the queen. She gets a slight exemption for that.
MM: [LAUGHS] Well she’s a powerful person.
CP: Yeah. Part of it also, I think, was the desperation she was feeling at the time. You know, there’s definitely an element in Alagaësia where, in great need, you can sometimes work pieces of magic you couldn’t otherwise, whether you’re a dragon or a person, or even an animal. So that I think partly played into why she was able to work the magic she did.
MM: That reminds me a bit of something attributed to humans. I forget, there’s a term for it, but you know if someone you love is pinned under a car suddenly you’re able to move that car.
CP: Right. So this is kind of the magical equivalent of that.
MM: Ok. Incoming no comment, I’m sure. But is Angela the oracle that Galbatorix was talking about while torturing Nasuada?
CP: That is an excellent, excellent question and there is not even the slightest chance I’m going to answer it.
MM: [LAUGHS] I threw it in because it was asked by an unbelievable amount of fans. It was probably in the top five.
CP: I mean I will say, that the way Inheritance is written, it would certainly lead you to think that. Wouldn’t it?
MM: That was my first question to you after I finished the book.
CP: That’s right. That’s right. No comment.
CP: And I will say, and I’ve said this before, that the next book set in Alagaësia that I’ve thought out, well actually I have a number of them, but the main one that I’ve thought about would definitely revolve around Angela’s back story to a much greater degree than any of the previous books. Of course that would probably just end up leaving everyone even more confused than they were to begin with because this is Angela after all. But we would learn quite a bit more about her.
MM: Right. For every answer, there’s five new questions.
CP: That’s the idea.
MM: This came up a few times. I’m hoping you can answer this. The hooded people that Eragon sees on Vroengard, could you elaborate on them at all? Who are they? Will we ever see them in the future in these books you’re thinking about maybe writing someday?
CP: Well I… I have a couple ideas for who they are. Some rather interesting ideas actually, but I don’t think I want to get into that quite yet. You know, one of the reasons Eragon didn’t take the Eldunarί and the eggs back to, I guess we should say this is all spoilers here, but one of the reasons Eragon didn’t take the dragons back to Vroengard or settle them there of course is because Vroengard was already inhabited by these people. And let’s just say that, you know, any sort of people who would be willing to live on Vroengard, in the unhealthy environment that it currently possesses plus with the shadow birds, and the burrow grubs and all that, not to mention the snalglί, probably aren’t people you want to mess with.
MM: Now are these, if you can say or if you’ve figured it out, are these people who once lived on Alagaësia or are they from somewhere entirely new?
CP: No, these are previous inhabitants. These are inhabitants of Alagaësia. They’re not from somewhere else.
MM: Ok. Let’s see. I like this one. It’s not really book four specific. I’ve never seen this question before, I don’t think. Does the Ancient Language work outside of Alagaësia?
CP: Oh, that’s a good question. The Ancient Language works anywhere within Eragon’s universe. Anywhere that the laws of physics, as Eragon knows them, still applies. So, yes, if you leave Alagaësia and you go to another continent in Eragon’s world the Ancient Language would still work.
MM: It would be interesting if it didn’t though, wouldn’t it? When you consider that Eragon could leave and be stripped of what now he lives by, this power, and he sails off to another island. And boom! He can’t do it anymore. It’s scary to think about, actually.
CP: I mean, there might be a few places. A few very rare places, where, for whatever reason the Ancient Language had no hold on the flow of energy around Eragon. But I think those would be very unusual places.
MM: They would make great hideouts for bad guys.
CP: Of course.
MM: [LAUGHS] So, I’m going to paraphrase. This person’s question is a bit long but the gist of their question is that they would like for you, if possible, to elaborate on why Eragon says he cannot come back once he leaves.
CP: It’s for a number of reasons. I mean obviously, and I’m verging very close to no comment territory here so I have to choose my words with great care. But the essence for me of it is that, one, he has the Eldunarί and the dragons to protect. So I mean that’s a large part of it that, you know, he needs to take them, rebuild the race of the dragons, rebuild the Riders, and protect them and train them and all of that. And for the reasons given in the book, you know, he doesn’t feel comfortable. Neither he nor Saphira nor the Eldunarί feel comfortable doing that in Alagaësia.
As for the reason he doesn’t think he’s going to come back. I think for me it’s really along the lines of, you know, when you tell someone that, you know, an old friend of yours who moves to the other side of the country and you say, “Oh sure, we’ll still keep getting together. We’ll have lunch and all that.” But you never do get together again. To me, I think that’s how Eragon’s viewing all of this. You know, he knows that even though he could return to Alagaësia, there’s nothing physically stopping him. Given Angela’s prediction, and given the sheer distance, and how busy he’s going to be and how busy Arya and Nasuada and everyone else in Alagaësia is going to be as well. He knows it’s pretty unlikely that he will return. On the other hand, I will just say this. At the end of Inheritance both Eragon and Arya are still only at the beginning of what are going to be very, very long lives. Both of them could live for hundreds, if not thousands, of years longer. They could live for thousands of years more. So, you know, again we are just at the beginning of their own personal stories.
MM: Now… I’m not… this could be very easily be construed as me trying to wiggle more information out of you, but I’m not referring to any specific characters here. Could someone choose to visit Eragon and Saphira?
CP: Oh yeah. There’s nothing stopping anyone from going to visit Eragon aside from the length of the journey.
CP: And of course just, you know, actually finding him out in the wilderness.
MM: Do you envision this as being some grand place, essentially rebuilding Vroengard?
CP: Well, I kind of hinted at this in Eragon’s Guide to Alagaësia, which is canon by the way aside from one small mistake in there where I mention that Queen Islanzadí was still alive. [LAUGHS] That was because I changed my mind on her fate during the writing of Inheritance.
But in any case, no. What exactly I imagined happening is that, with the help of the magic and the strength of the dragons, Eragon and the elves with him, they build a stronghold, an aerie, a place for the dragons to grow up and for them to train the Riders, a place that would be very equivalent to Vroengard.
You know, it might not be quite as large. There might not be quite as many buildings to start with. That would be a bit excessive right off the bat, but I certainly imagine that they would build a giant, giant stone hall, probably high up on a mountain and big enough for dragons to come into. And probably a number of outbuildings, you know, nesting houses and hatcheries, and places for the elves and other Riders to live in in the future.
I see it as being quite an impressive place and long term, in Alagaësia, this place off in the east where the dragons and the Riders have their base . I think will probably acquire a pretty mythical stature. If you think about how, you know, Eragon viewed even the mountain, Utgard Mountain, at the southern point of Palancar Valley. You know how he viewed this with this sort of awe and even mysticism… and even this lack of knowledge about the Riders. Then you imagine that there’s some place even further away than that. You know, all the way, thousands of miles off to the east. Yeah it’s going to be a sort of semi-mythical place, I think. At least until the dragons start… the Riders start going back and forth on a more regular basis.
MM: Do you… I mean this is so off in the future, but these questions interest me tremendously. This is me being selfish, asking my own questions here: Will individuals who choose to make the thousand mile journey be allowed to visit or settle there? Or would they be shooed away after visiting?
CP: I think it would depend on the person. I think the elves and Eragon would certainly give sanctuary to anyone who truly deserved it. I’m thinking, for example and this may be an odd example, but you know if Sloan…
MM: I was hoping you would say him when you said odd.
CP: …Du Weldenvarden and, you know, trekked out to join them, Eragon would certainly make space for him. Make room for him. And, you know, Angela the herbalist. [LAUGHS] I think they would always welcome her. At least for a time, I believe.
MM: Can you tell her no? Can you tell her to go away? [LAUGHS]
CP: You can, but you might regret it.
CP: I think in time, too, as the people living in the sanctuary take up partners, you know, cause eventually there will be Urgals there and dwarves and humans and elves and dragons. As all of these creatures take up partners and marry or don’t marry but, you know, have children. It’ll definitely form its own community.
MM: There’s something about actually this discussion that is really exciting me… the idea that hopefully, maybe you’ll visit that in one of your future books. Because it would be cool to see.
CP: No comment.
MM: My only other question is… do you envision this place being grand and beautiful, or more practical?
CP: I think it’s a mixture. I think Eragon and the Eldunarί would use their strength to raise the basic shapes of the structures they would need. And it would have to be, you know, I think they’d go fairly high up on a mountain and, as I said, build very large structures that the dragons could come in and out of as they pleased. And I think over time then that the elves and probably dwarves and other people living there would then go ahead and decorate these basic forms. You know, if you just brace up stone slabs with magic it’s still pretty easy to decorate those and shape them after the fact.
MM: Now do you picture… because you have to consider they’re basically heading off until they see somewhere and say, “We want to settle there. That looks like a good place to settle.” They’re going to be tremendously unfamiliar with where they’ve settled. Granted, this is Eragon and the elves we’re talking about. They’re able to hold their own. There’s not going to be too many risks out there for them. But they’re settling in an unfamiliar land, raising dragons who, when they first hatch, maybe aren’t able to protect themselves and could venture off. And because the land is so unfamiliar to everyone, bad things could happen. Do you think that’s something they’ve taken into consideration?
CP: Well, keep in mind as Eragon said to Jeod when he last saw him, when he said farewell to him, or their last scene together is that the dragons did fly over this territory and explore this territory back in the day. So from the Eldunarί, Eragon at least has a rough idea of where they’re heading. And so my thought is that the lands that they’re going to, in many ways, are similar to the landscape around the western side of the Beor Mountains. It will be a lot of plains. There will be some mountains still in the southern part of the land. There won’t be a lot of risks to the young dragons. Although there will be some dangers. There might be some of the Feldûnost, not the Feldûnost, the Fanghur… the dragonets, that Eragon ran into in the Beor Mountains. There might be some of those out there. Probably, if there are still some giant mountains out there, you know, there might be some of the cave bears or the Shrrg, the giant wolves. So there definitely could be some risks to the young dragons, but I think on the whole it will probably be safer for them than, again, having young dragons closer to populated areas.
MM: It’s funny you brought up Jeod, because I would love to see him head on out there and live with them and document that for the world.
CP: No comment.
MM: No comment. Ok. Let’s jump into more of these questions. This is the part of the interview that I love because we’ll ask one question and then twenty new things will come out of a question. And look at all that stuff that we just learned from one question. So, ok… the next question. I like this one as well. I’m sure it can be figured out but how old is Eragon at the end of Inheritance, in human years?
CP: Time it by the pregnancies. That’s all I’ll say.
MM: Ok. Someone will do that now I’m sure.
MM: It will be in the comments ten minutes later. About dragon eggs, this was interesting. Can two dragons come from one egg?
CP: Yes. That is a very good question. Yes, it is entirely possible. Just like with chicken eggs. You can have double yokes or sometimes even more. It’s not as common with dragons as it is with, say, with chickens. Mainly because they lay a lot fewer eggs than chickens do, but it can happen and it has happened.
MM: Are the dragons unique? Maybe an odd bond between the two? Any color differences?
CP: No. They tend to be the same color but they do, you’re right, they do have a very close bond. It’s pretty much like human twins except even closer because the dragons would actually be linked mentally to a certain degree.
MM: Right. Interesting. Well that was a good question. I saw that and said, “When are we going to ask that? That’s a good one.”
CP: Yeah that was a good one. I’ve never been asked that before.
MM: This, I might say, will be a no comment because you sort of mentioned it earlier. But how long do you think it will be of a wait before the dwarves have their first Rider?
CP: [EVIL LAUGH] I know exactly how long it is and I can’t tell you.
MM: Can you say if it’s going to be a ridiculously long amount of time?
CP: Well, define ridiculous. Do you mean a hundred years would be ridiculous?
MM: In a normal, human lifetime between the end of Inheritance. Would Roran, for example, ever live to see a dwarven Rider?
MM: And is it the same for Urgals?
CP: Yes. Yes. No, it will not be a massive wait before Alagaësia first starts seeing its first dwarven and Urgal Riders. I mean both of them are now a part of the pact with the dragons and the dragons themselves have no reason not to hatch. The way, like, Saphira and Thorn were trying to avoid hatching because they were prisoners of Galbatorix. So there will definitely be. It won’t happen overnight that the dragons will choose to hatch for someone. But it also won’t be a hundred year wait, either.
MM: Interesting. Interesting. I can’t wait to see the theories and the discussions after this interview. Lots of good stuff in here. So in the December 2011 Random Buzzers interview, you said that you had considered at one point in time having the final Rider of the Cycle be Elva. As we all know, the green egg did hatch for Arya and not Elva. But is there any hope for Elva becoming a Rider in the future or is that off the table completely?
CP: Well I would never say never, but it does feel like making her a Rider would be giving her a little bit too much. You know, she already has this rather extraordinary ability and she’s marked by the dragons. And then to make her a dragon Rider on top of that? I’m not saying it won’t happen, but I’m not sure it will happen.
MM: I’m also not sure it would end well. I see that as being the start to a whole new dark, dark Rider.
CP: [LAUGHS] Dark Rider. I like that. You mean the Sith version?
MM: Yes, the Sith version. There you go. I don’t know. I like the idea but something about it terrifies me. As you said, she’s already special. Just imagine her with a dragon who can bite your head off too. No. Don’t think that’s a good idea.
CP: In a way, she’s already bonded to every single person around her. So bonding her with a dragon on top of that would, as you said, it might not really be a good idea.
MM: Right. It would make for an interesting story though.
CP: Well pretty much everything with her does make for an interesting story.
MM: Yes, absolutely. She is a great character. Well fans will have to listen to the podcast because you really elaborate on how all that came about and that was a really great conversation. So listen to the podcast. [Editor’s note: This podcast will be a part of Shur’tugal’s upcoming Inheritance Cycle Book Club Podcast.)
MM: That’s right.
Part two to this interview will be coming soon!