SPOILER WARNING: If you haven’t read Eragon or seen the movie, beware that in this blog post I’m including details that reveal plot elements of both.

It’s almost Christmas, but I’ve already received what may be the most precious gift I’ll receive from any of my family members this year. This morning when I woke up, my 9 year old was reading the book Eragon voluntarily and was into Chapter 4. He picked it up and started reading it a few days ago. Boy does that ever warm a father’s heart! 🙂

picture of the spine of the Eragon book

Last month before seeing the movie “Happy Feet” at the theater (which was largely a disappointment) I saw a trailer for the movie Eragon. As a huge fan of both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, the storyline of Eragon sounded intriguing. I really enjoy movies that are based on books much more when I have read the books in advance (J.K. Rowling’s work is another example of this)– so I naturally decided to read the book Eragon before its theatrical release on December 15th. My 40 day evening technology fast (which incidentally draws to a close today) definitely facilitated my ability to read the book over a 2 – 3 week period of time.

Christopher Paolini, the author of Eragon, evidently started writing the book when he was just 15 years old and published it at age 19. Given his young age, the complexity and vocabulary of Eragon and the world of Alagaesia is really remarkable.

I recently found this podcast channel from Random House that includes interviews on different topics with fantasy writers including Christopher Paolini as well as Phillip Pullman and Tamora Pierce. Several years ago, at the recommendation of one of my sixth grade students at the time, I read all of Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy. I have not heard of or read any books by Tamora Pierce to date. It is very interesting to hear each of these authors reflect on their own strategies for writing and imagining characters, their interactions, and the imaginary worlds which they inhabit.

I certainly did enjoy reading Eragon as well as seeing the movie. I’m about a fifth of the way through the second book, “Eldest,” and have been regularly quizzed by my son about what has happened so far in the book. I shared a plot summary of Eragon with him before we saw the movie together last weekend, and all our talks about the movie and its characters have fueled his current interest in the book.

Several days ago, my son really surprised me by embarking on his own WikiPedia research effort (all initiated by himself without any prodding) on the topic of Eragon. (WikiPedia is one of the authorized websites he can access from his computer login, which is configured using Mac OS X’s parental controls.) He found the main WikiPedia article for Eragon, and from there learned much more about Galbatorix, his dragon, Saphira, the other dragons and dragon eggs which remain in Alagaesia, and more.

My mother saw the Eragon film last weekend also, and commented on the many similarities between the plot of Star Wars and Eragon. My son’s research last week turned up another remarkable similarity between the two stories that I didn’t previously know or guess: Morzan (the last of the foresworn and the right hand man to Galbatorix, similar to Darth Vader) is likely the father of both Murtagh and Eragon. Their ancestry was hidden to protect them and others for various reasons, apparently, similar to the way Leia and Luke’s existence was hidden from Anakin (Darth Vader) in Star Wars.

It really is fun to enjoy a new fantasy trilogy together with members of my family– At Christmas time I still miss the opportunity to see a new episode of Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings,” which is without a doubt my favorite (and my wife’s favorite) movie trilogy as well as fantasy book series of all time. It’s fun to read and watch books and movies like this over the holidays together.

The main thing I miss, however, from the Eragon series is the same thing I miss in all of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series books and movies, and missed in Phillip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy. The missing element is a backdrop of Christian theology. That backdrop is most overt in “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis, but equally strong (though not as explicit, for Tolkien did not set out to write a direct allegory as Lewis did) in “The Lord of the Rings.” Pullman does certainly have a metaphysical universe and theology which underpins his books, but it is quite strange and dualistic at best. (By dualistic, in this context I mean that good and evil are viewed as equally powerful, similar to yin and yang.) In Eragon, I don’t have a sense at all of any transcendent theology. I don’t really sense one in Rowling’s books either. This doesn’t make the reading a disappointment or not worthwhile, but the Christian theological backdrop of Lewis and Tolkien’s writings is certainly something that helped make their books top favorites when I was growing up and now as an adult/parent.

I look forward with eager expectation to the release of the theatrical version of Lewis’ “Prince Caspian” and also to (hopefully) a Peter Jackson rendition of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.” Of course, I’m also looking forward this summer to the release of the fifth movie in the Harry Potter series!

As my son read through WikiPedia entries about Eragon, the movie and the book series this past week, I reflected on how remarkable it is to live in the 21st century. I don’t think either my son or I fully appreciate the amazing access we have to ideas and to collaborative opportunities. When we were reading one of the Eragon-related WikiPedia articles, I noticed the word “yellow” was mispelled in the first paragraph of Saphira’s page. You’ll see that entry on the history listing of Saphira page, under December 21st. Since then about five more edits have been made to the page. I know correcting a spelling error is a minor edit, but it is REMARKABLE we have this potential to collaboratively author WikiPedia content together! By the time the book “Eldest” is made into a movie, I’m sure all the Eragon-series WikiPedia articles are going to be much more developed and robust!

These are exciting developments from a literacy perspective, as well as fun things to watch and be involved in. I don’t think C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien would have ever imagined we’d have an informational environment in the world like the one we have today. What a great opportunity to learn, share, read and grow! 🙂

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  • Wes, you might want to check out the Secrets of Harry Potter podcast (http://www.sqpn.com/scripts/harrypotter.php). I haven’t listened to all episodes of this podcast, but what I’ve heard I’ve found interesting. It’s produced by a Roman Catholic priest who explores the symbolism in Harry Potter. He explains the meanings of names and the reasonings behind things like the type of wood of Harry’s wand. Since this is done by a priest, there are lots of Christian connections and Fr. Roderick makes a lot of comparisons to the Bible. Whether or not JK Rowling meant for those similarities or not, it’s interesting to get a Christian perspective on the series – especially from a Christian who is NOT bashing the series.

    By the way, this is a priest who is a huge fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Battlestar Galactica, Pirates of the Caribbean, just bought a Nintendo Wii, is a Mac fan and has many other traits that make me love to listen to him. Just saying his podcasts (I listen to his Daily Breakfast) aren’t really Catholic-centric but well rounded and interesting.

    Just read about your fast. I think I’m going to try something like that… thanks for sharing!

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