Like a corpse given life, my dusty coffin lid is thrown off and after
4 YEARS OF COLD REST I'VE ARISEN TO POST AGAIN!!!
(pronounce 'again' like 'ah-gayn' for extra emphasis)
Hallo. I am compelled to seek the input of fellow vegans concerning the topic of the Eragon book series and it's approach to veganism. For those unfamiliar with the books I shall explain the context of the predicament:
Book 1 | Eragon
Farmboy out hunting in the woods discovers a dragon egg which hatches for him and he becomes the apparent last of an ancient order of Dragon Riders and is destined join up with a princess and her rebellion to overthrow the emperor Darth Galbatorix who killed his uncle and is also a Dragon Jedi, but turned evil and betrayed and killed all the other Jedi except Obi-Brom Kenobi who gives Eragon Skywalker his father's lightsaber and doesn't tell Luke who his father is until it's revealed in the climax of the second movie that-waitwaitwait... that's Star Wars. >_>
...ANYWAY, in this book Eragon encounters the first elf he's ever met and learns from her that she queerly doesn't eat any meat. He thinks it's weird and that's about it.
Book 2 | Eldest
After a great battle, Eragon is sent to learn the ways of the elves as preparation for his battle with Galbatorix. While he's there he learns to his surprise that none of the elves eat meat or worship any gods. When he asks about these things, the elves offer objectively sound naturalistic arguments against the concept of god, but as far as abstaining from meat, they claim that it's difficult to explain and that Eragon will understand through his training.
Presumably the moment of realization comes when Eragon is taught the magical art of reaching out with his mind to the forest around him, becoming one with the life of squirrels, rabbits, and ants, to which he becomes attuned to their everyday struggles to survive. He feels their excitement, their pain, and their terror when a larger animal is attacking them. The book explicitly states that the meditations teach him empathy and the result is that despite his massive cravings for meat (which he complains about a lot during his stay with the elves), he ultimately abstains claiming that the death makes him sick. He even later has a monologue in which he expresses repulsion at the idea that he's learned such easy ways to control and snuff out life that in the wrong hands, that power could be abused.
Eragon maintains this outlook throughout the rest of the book with the only detraction being his dragon ally and natural carnivore, Saphira, who spitefully argues that every living thing must eat other living things and that she doesn't feel shame in what she must do to survive.
Finally, in one of the last training scenes, Eragon is taught BY EXAMPLE what his elf mentor claims to be a forbidden magical technique to be used in only the most extreme of emergencies: the ability to absorb energy from his environment. Whereas magic is normally fueled by the energy of the caster, Eragon can use his mind to reach out and sap energy from those around him who lack the mental fortitude to resist it. The example result is the immediate patch of grass surrounding Eragon withers to brown and he feels a wave of death sweep across him as every nearby insect, rodent, and bird curls up and dies. Eragon flies into a rage and accuses the elf of not informing him of the result of this training to which the elf claims that it is a necessary sacrifice to accurately inform Eragon of the spell so that it can be appropriately used to prevent the deaths of many more in the future.
The only other vegan-related event that occurs is the euthanasia of an injured bird that's dying by an elf. Provided the context of the world, it's possible that the elf, who appeared informed of the precise extent of the animal's injury, mentally contacted the bird to extract literally silent consent to the euthanasia. This is never confirmed however.
Book 3 | Brsingr
After another major battle, Eragon sets off to rescue his cousin's love interest and finds both her and her father. Her father, known as Sloan is known as Eragon's hometown butcher who's only concern in life is the overprotection of his daughter to the detriment of all else. To this end, by this point in the series he is guilty of:
1.) Being a butcher.
2.) Being an ******* to Eragon, his cousin, and his uncle without provocation.
3.) Directing the Nazgul to Eragon's home which results in Eragon's uncle getting killed and the entire town besieged by the empire, some of which start EATING townsfolk.
4.) Outright destroying any chance that any of that was unintentional by personally murdering one of the town's watchman and betraying the entire town to the very people that were eating them in exchange for the safety of his daughter who they then turn around and kidnap because of course they're not going to follow through on any deal.
After rescuing his daughter, Eragon finds Sloan in one of the empire's lairs apparently having had his eyes removed. Eyes not withstanding, Sloan still manages to be an extraordinary ******* to his rescuer (who's uncle, I might remind you, he helped get killed) and claims to only care about the safety of his daughter.
Save the awkward affection from his daughter, everyone says to kill him. Eragon's cousin, Eragon's dragon, Eragon even contacts the QUEEN OF THE ELVES who even outright admits she'd just kill him and be done with it.
Take note at this point that if Eragon were to simply leave him, he would surely die regardless.
Eragon decides at this point that KILLING IS WRONG.
This after not one, but TWO GIANT BATTLES during which he personally slew HUNDREDS of soldiers, most of which were either magically possessed or forcibly conscripted to fight against their will.
Eragon, apparently conflicted about killing Sloan accidentally stumbles upon Sloan's true name which in essence translates to truly understanding what makes Sloan who he is and asserts Eragon's ability to magically command Sloan in any way he wishes. This situation offers Eragon the option to not simply kill Sloan, but punish Sloan in a manner appropriate for his crimes. Eragon decides that he will compel Sloan to survive and travel to the safe land of the elves where he will never see his daughter again. Eragon informs Sloan of this before enchanting him with the spell and silently installs the addendum that should Sloan ever come to regret his past ways, his nature will change and by extension his true name which will free him from the spell and allow his eyesight to be restored.
Generally speaking, other than the sudden refusal to kill Sloan, I think this is a really interesting twist of fate for the character. A butcher forced to live a vegan life, forever deprived of his daughter who he would commit any atrocity to protect, while knowing that she is safe and happy without him, along with the unspoken possibility that repentance might restore some of the things he's lost. Additionally, the magical nature of elven society largely eliminates concepts like jobs or labour leaving almost nothing but leisure and hobbies. This could result in a kind of purgatory for Sloan who might find himself with nothing to do, but pursue new interests. Perhaps he takes to painting and discovers that he can make beautiful things, not just tear them apart? Perhaps he takes to music and discovers a source of peace he's never had? Perhaps he finally becomes social with others and experiences empathy the way Eragon did-OH WAIT.
ERAGON. WHAT THE HELL IS ERAGON DOING?
Apparently while we were busy developing Sloan, Eragon was thrown under the bus.
What happens is when Eragon rescues the love interest, the event draws the attention of the nearby imperial city which obviously sends all the stormtroopers barreling his way. Eragon is uniquely the only hope for defeating the evil empire and as it's been established for over 2 books now, his survival is paramount. So when it's time to flee the scene of the crime with dragon, cousin, and love interest in tow, Eragon pulls a "GO ON WITHOUT ME!" and decides that instead of flying away from the army descending on his position, he's going to RUN AWAY CARRYING SLOAN since he can't be bothered to even leave the *******.
As part of the trek, Eragon finds himself *surprise!* overtired and hungry and decides that "moderation is more important than zealotry" and completely 180s on the vegan angle rationalizing that Saphira was right, all living things must eat other living things (LIKE PLANTS!?) and hunts down several animals to feed both him and Sloan. Because treacherous, murderous, duplicitous Sloan has more of a right to live than any given bunny rabbit.
When Eragon finally decides on enchanting Sloan he deems it necessary to use that EMERGENCY ONLY SPELL to absorb energy from the environment during which we're informed that he kills multiple animals. OH THE ANGUISH HE MUST FEEL.
The real kicker here is that Eragon also left the elves with gems in his sword and belt which we're told he also uses to store energy for his spells and at the first opportunity when confronted with healing one of Saphira's wounds, INSTEAD of using the gems with absolutely no drawback, he uses the energy absorption spell! Murdering more creatures! WAT!?
Eragon leaves this scene with the mindset that "it's okay to eat meat sometimes" and maintains that outlook for the rest of the book.
Book 4 | Inheritance
I haven't read it yet. Does it fix anything?
Overall I have to admit I really enjoy the Eragon series. It's obviously very derivative of Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, but it's not a ripoff, just a compilation of the themes explored in those stories and for what it is and how vividly it's presented, I find the stories very gripping! Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised when Book 2 started exploring themes like religion, veganism, and introspection. One of my favorite quotes ever is in reference to the magical nature of true names:
Be careful, it can be a terrible knowledge. To know who you are without any delusions or sympathy is a moment of revelation that no one experiences unscathed. Some have been driven to madness by that stark reality.
This is hot off the heels of discussing the elves' lack of belief in an afterlife and echoes the idea that in all of the universe, each and every one of us are comparably tiny insignificant specks.
This is why I am truly baffled that Eragon backpedals on the vegan angle immediately after this exact conversation takes place:
If you draw upon the resources around us, you can avoid tiring yourself out further.
You know I hate doing that. Even talking about it sickens me.
Our lives are more important than an ant's.
Not to an ant.
And are you an ant?
These are easily the worst parts of the books. It's one thing to have a flawed protagonist, but it's another entirely to send this kind of message.
Do the elves' views on the value of life reflect your own ideas? In other words, are you vegetarian as well?
No, I am not vegetarian. One of my goals as an author is to explore various aspects of human nature. It’s my job, then, to attempt to understand why people act, even if it differs from my own point of view or practice, and to present those reasons to the best of my ability. The actions and beliefs of my characters are not necessarily my own.
Wouldn't you rather have some venison? I didn't finish all of mine. It's still warm. *waves meat*
Just give me the bread.
Are you sure? It's perfect: not too tough, not too tender and cooked with the perfect amount of seasoning. It's so juicy when you take a bite, it's as if you swallowed a mouthful of Elain's best stew.
No, I can't.
You know you'll like it.
Roran, stop teasing me and hand over that bread!
Ah, now see, you look better all ready. Maybe what you need isn't bread, but someone to get your hackles up, eh? I don't know how you can survive on nothing but fruit, bread, and vegetables. A man has to eat meat if he wants to keep his strength up. Don't you miss it?
More than you can imagine.
Then why do you insist on torturing yourself like this? Every creature in the world has to eat other living beings-even if they are only plants-in order to survive. That is how we are made. Why attempt to defy the natural order of things?