In Sloan’s Defense: An Eragon Essay

 

Before I begin, I should note that there is a tendency for some readers to trust Word of God above anything else. For example, if an author says that a character is Good then that character is Good, and as readers we should accept that they are good and justify whatever actions that characters takes by assuming that they have to be Right, therefore anyone who opposes them is Wrong.

I flatly reject this.

The page is sovereign. Everything I need to know about the characters and story is contained on the pages, and any conclusions that I draw about these characters will be based on facts contained in said pages. If a book presents a character as being good, but that character’s actions reveal him to be far more sinister, I will not assume that he is a good character.

I do this for two reasons:

First, good writers do not need anything besides the words written on the page to convey everything the reader needs to know about the story. If a story requires outside explanation from an author (NOT simply an explanation from someone who has extensively studied the work and is aware of deeper meanings hidden within the text that may not be recognized by a reader the first time through) then, in my mind, it fails as a story.

Second, there is a literary technique known as unreliable narration. Good writers will use this technique in order to expose a character’s hypocrisy, or demonstrate that although a character may tell the reader one thing, the reader understands that that character is wrong, or different from how they present themselves. As a reader, I am not going to change the way I read a book based on whether an author knows what they are doing or not – I will only read the book based on information that is on the pages.

In my opinion, Christopher Paolini does not know what he’s doing. It’s rare that an author can write an entire series and misunderstand it so thoroughly, but Paolini has managed to do so. I know that Paolini intended Eragon to be the hero, and I know he intended Sloan to be a minor villain. Ultimately, though, what Paolini intended has absolutely no affect on my analysis; only what Paolini actually wrote.

I should also advise you that while this article covers Sloan’s complete storyline throughout the first three Inheritance books, it is by necessity almost as much about Eragon and Roran as it is about Sloan himself, if not more so.

Eragon

We first meet Sloan on page 11 of Eragon. Eragon has found the dragon-egg, and, believing it to be a rock, takes it to the butcher’s to trade it for meat. Here we get the first description of Sloan, and it is through Eragon’s eyes.

He had never liked Sloan. The butcher always treated him with disdain, as if he were something unclean. A widower, Sloan seemed to care for only one person – his daughter, Katrina, on whom he doted (page 11).

Keep in mind we are viewing this through Eragon’s eyes, and Eragon is far from a reliable narrator. But still, what does this tell us? Sloan and Eragon do not like each other, but there are plenty of perfectly decent people who dislike each other for any number of reasons. But let’s examine the second part of this. Sloan is a widower, and he dotes on his daughter, Katrina. Later, we learn that Sloan’s wife died in the mountains known as the Spine, and he has a deep-rooted, possibly irrational fear of the mountains – which is understandable. It’s doubly understandable in pseudo-medieval settings when you’re dealing with a deeply superstitious, uneducated peasant like Sloan. And it’s worth noting that NO ONE in the series has any illusions that the mountains aren’t dangerous. They are, it’s an established fact. It’s just that Sloan fears them more than most.

Sloan has never remarried and there are indications that he’s never gotten over his wife’s death. It’s very common for someone who loses a family member to become doubly protective of any remaining family. Sloan is overprotective of Katrina. And with that over-protectiveness (we know that Katrina is quite good-looking), it seems obvious that Sloan would be instantly suspicious and dislike any young men who may or may not have an interest in his daughter, which explains why he dislikes Eragon and Roran.

Eragon shows Sloan the stone, who eyes it and eventually offers Eragon three crowns, which is enough to buy meat that will feed three people for a little less than week. Honestly, that sounds like a pretty good deal. Yes, the egg may be worth more than that, but it also might be completely worthless. Eragon protests but eventually agrees to the trade. However, when Eragon reveals he found the egg in the Spine Sloan changes his mind and orders Eragon out of the shop. Again, this is perfectly within Sloan’s rights – if he believes the egg is cursed, then he has every right to refuse it as payment. Of course, as a shopkeeper he can discriminate against pretty much anyone he wants to for any reason, but he has a legitimate excuse for this.

Horst, the smith, comes in and buys the meat for Eragon. Sloan isn’t pleased with the arrangement but gives in, and Eragon and Horst leave. As they walk outside, we learn another bit of information about Sloan, this time through Horst’s eyes:

“Sloan’s a vicious troublemaker; it does him good to be humbled.” (page 15)

Horst is a slightly more reliable narrator than Eragon but I still don’t trust his opinion completely. However, based on what we do know, Sloan seems like a little bit of a jerk, but there are several interesting reasons why he is a jerk. He’s the kind of character you want to know more about.

Later, Eragon is at home with his uncle, Garrow, who reveals more about Sloan:

“Sloan’s wife, Ismira, went over the Igualda Falls a year before you were brought here. He hasn’t been near the Spine since, nor had anything to do with it. But that’s no reason to refuse payment. I think he wanted to give you trouble.” (page 18).

If someone is offering you a mysterious stone that was found in a mountain range you think is cursed, that is an excellent reason to refuse it as payment, especially when there’s a good chance it might be worthless. Not that I blame Garrow for taking Eragon’s side, as Eragon is family.

We move forward to page 67. Horst warns Eragon that there are strangers in the village asking questions about the stone/dragon-egg. Eragon creeps through town until he stumbles across the strangers talking to Sloan – or at least, that’s who it sounds like. From the conversation, Eragon guesses Sloan is talking about him.

The voice was deep and moist. It conjured up images of creeping decay, mold, and other things best left untouched. “Are you sure? We would hate to think you had made a mistake. If that were so, it would be most…unpleasant.” Eragon could imagine only too well what they might do. Would anyone but the Empire dare threaten people like that? Probably not, but whoever sent the egg might be powerful enough to use force with impunity.

“Yeah, I’m sure. He had it then. I’m not lying. Plenty of people know about it. Go ask them.” Sloan sounded shaken (page 67).

The scene makes Eragon resolve to punch Sloan in the face, but let’s take Sloan’s point of view: First, it seems likely that these strangers have identified themselves as agents of the Empire, which gives them the legal right to demand any information they like. Second, it’s likely that they have threatened Sloan or Katrina. In the next scene the mere presence of these strangers is enough to give Eragon a panic attack and knock him to the ground. They’re Nazgul rip-offs, they scare everyone shitless. Finally, there is no reason for Sloan to not give them this information. Yes, they may be terrifying, but they’re asking about a rock. Why would Sloan lie? More importantly, why would he lie to government agents who may be trying to recover valuable government property (which, as it so happens, they are)?

And that, believe it or not, is the last time we see Sloan in Brick One.

Eldest

Sloan is first mentioned on page 31 when Roran thinks about Katrina, who he wants to marry. He and Sloan have never been friendly and he doubts Sloan will let them get engaged.

The Empire’s soldiers arrive in Carvahall in search of Roran, who hides in the forest. As time passes, the soldiers begin stealing and fighting amongst each other, eventually killing one of the villagers. A group of villagers, including Roran, attack the soldiers and the Ra’zac (the Nazgul clones), running them off. Afterward, the villagers meet to discuss their options:

“Even if you frightened off the Ra’zac and their soldiers, Galbatorix will just send more men. The Empire will never give up until they get Roran.”

“We should hand him over,” snarled Sloan.

Horst raised his hands. “I agree; no one is worth more than all of Carvahall. But if we surrender Roran, do you really think Galbatorix will let us escape punishment for our resistance?” (pages 93-94).

It’s interesting to note that Horst actually agrees with Sloan, but it’s also interesting that they agree on this after they attack the soldiers and run them off. After all, they have a very simple and easy way of resolving this conflict. Just in case they don’t feel like handing Roran over, they could have ordered Roran to leave the village and told the soldiers that they saw him fleeing the town. Hell, they could have just told the soldiers this. Instead, the villagers – NOT Sloan – decided to take the single worst course of action they could have possibly taken. This is important.

Eventually the villagers decide to fortify Carvahall against future attacks, because that is a totally sustainable plan when you’ve started a war against an entire Empire, but after they fortify the place, the Ra’zac and their soldiers attack again. This time Roran ends up fighting side by side with Sloan, who kills two of the soldiers and terrifies another into fleeing, effectively ending the battle.

Roran shuddered and looked at Sloan, who was cleaning his blades. “You fought well.” He had never suspected that the butcher contained such ferocity.

Sloan said in a low voice, “They’ll never get Katrina. Never, even if I must skin the lot of them, or fight a thousand Urgals and the king to boot. I’d tear the sky itself down and let the Empire drown in its own blood before she suffers so much as a scratch.” (page 138)

Sloan is clearly a man who will do anything – literally anything – to protect those he loves. Is this so different from many of the heroes we regularly celebrate? Most movie heroes are willing to flaunt the law, murder villains without a trial, and even knock the ‘good guys’ unconscious to accomplish their own ends and save their girl. Is Sloan any different?

We cut forward to a village meeting. Roran suggest that they send the woman and children into the Spine to protect them. Sloan, understandably, objects, and asks how they will stay warm and what will they eat? Roran provides several answers for this, but it’s clear that Sloan has rejected the Spine because of his fear of it. It is, after all, the place that killed his wife. It also killed half of Galbatorix’s army that one time he tried to go through it. Sloan’s fear of the Spine might be excessive, but it is still justified. At any rate, Sloan states that neither he nor his family will ever enter the Spine while he is alive, and then storms out of the meeting.

At this point, I would probably chase after Sloan, sit him down, maybe make him a nice cup of tea, and launch into an explanation that would go something like this:

“Listen…Sloan. Buddy. I understand that your wife died in the Spine. I cannot even imagine what that must have felt like – the only thing I’ve experienced that’s even comparable is the death of my father Garrow, and even that cannot compare. I understand why you hate the Spine, I really do, and if I was in your shoes, I’d feel the exact same way. The Spine is dangerous, but for someone who understands the dangers, who truly respects and understands the mountains, I think that the danger is lessened. If there were any other way – any possible way that could keep our families safe – believe me, I’d embrace it. So please, if you have some ideas, share them. I’m willing to consider any options, but I really believe that the Spine is the best choice. There are some dangers, certainly, but we know what those dangers are. If we prepare ourselves, it gives us the best chance at survival – a better chance than anything else. And so I ask you, no, I beg you, please reconsider. You want to do what is best for Katrina, I understand that, and this is the best option for keeping her out of harm’s way. They will be all right.”

That’s what I would do. Maybe I’ve always put too much weight in trying to convince someone through words, but I usually find it’s the best option and tends to yield the best results.

Roran, unsurprisingly, does not use his words

As Roran saw it, Sloan was endangering Katrina through his own pigheaded stubbornness. If he can’t bring himself to accept the Spine as a place of refuge, decided Roran, then he’s become my enemy and I have to take matters into my own hands (page 179)

The Spine being a place of refuge is Roran’s opinion, and it’s still not a particularly good plan. It’s also extremely dangerous, and yet Roran decides that this makes Sloan his enemy, without even bothering to try and convince Sloan again.

We next see Sloan as the villagers are preparing to leave Carvahall. Katrina is carrying a pack and Sloan realizes that she plans to leave with the villagers. Sloan pulls the pack off Katrina, throws it to the ground, and starts to drag her away. Roran jumps in and separates them and shoves Sloan backward. Sloan tells Roran that he has no right to interfere.

“I have every right.” Roran looked at the ring of spectators who had gathered around and then declared so that all could hear: “Katrina and I are engaged to be married, and I would not have my future wife treated so!” For the first time that day, the villagers fell completely silent; even the donkeys were quiet.

Surprise and a deep, inconsolable pain sprang onto Sloan’s vulnerable face, along with the glimmer of tears. For a moment, Roran felt sympathy for him, then a series of contortions distorted Sloan’s visage, each more extreme than the last, until his skin turned beet red. He cursed and said, “You two-faced coward! How could you look me in the eye and speak to me like an honest man while, at the same time, courting my daughter without permission? I dealt with you in good faith, and here I find you plundering my house while my back is turned.” (page 184)

Keep in mind that Roran himself has admitted that asking Katrina to marry him was wrong:

It was wrong for him to ask, or for her to accept, without Sloan’s permission (page 132).

And yet he did. Five days ago. That’s right. He asks Katrina to marry him, and then lets five days pass before this confrontation, and during these five days Roran knows that he should approach Sloan to explain the situation and ask for his permission, and yet he doesn’t. Roran attempts to explain this as ‘events have conspired against me’, which is total bullshit. He didn’t because he is a coward. Roran should have manned up, went to Sloan, explained the situation, and done the right thing. Sure, Sloan might have said no, and Roran and Katrina might have ignored what he said and gone ahead with their engagement, but at least that would have been the honest thing to do. Instead, Roran has spit in Sloan’s face and disrespected him in every possible way.

Now you may be thinking, what’s the big deal? Sloan doesn’t own Katrina. Well, if we look at this from an Alagaesian point of view, Roran really doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Sloan is her father, and what he says pretty much goes. He has the right to tell his daughter what to do and Roran needs to ask his permission before asking Katrina to marry him.

Even if we look at this from a 21st-century point of view, Roran doesn’t come across much better. Katrina is under the age of 18. In many countries, she would still be under the authority of her father/parents/legal guardian, who would decide whether to let her get married or if she was allowed to go to dangerous places that might kill her.

Sloan tells Roran that he would rather have a “maggot-riddled pig” for a son than him. He points out that Roran has no farm and family, which are valid points. Katrina needs someone to provide for her. Roran is, at best, desperately poor. He has no land, no house, and no real way to provide for Katrina or any children they might have.

Sloan orders Katrina to come to him. Katrina refuses and tells him that she is going to marry Roran. Sloan tries to grab her but Roran punches him, knocking him down. Sloan is crushed:

In a low whisper, he said, “It is always so; those closest to the heart cause the most pain. Thou will have no dowry from me, snake, nor your mother’s inheritance.” Weeping bitterly, Sloan turned and fled towards his shop (page 185).

This seems harsh, but let’s keep several things in mind: first, Sloan has just been humiliated in front of the entire village by someone he despises. After this, his beloved daughter has just told him that she chooses this person over him. Finally, by telling him this, she’s also told him she’s planning on traveling into the Spine, which in Sloan’s mind means that she is going to a certain death. These words are also spoken in anger and embarrassment. It’s quite possible that Sloan would have later relented.

Later, Elain, one of the villagers, calls Roran on this:

“[…] why on earth didn’t you speak to Sloan about your engagement before this morning?”
[…]

A painful laugh escaped Roran. “I could have, but it never seemed the right time with all the attacks.”

“The Ra’zac haven’t attacked for almost six days now.”

He scowled. “No, but…it was… Oh, I don’t know!” He banged his fist on the table with frustration (page 192).

I’m not saying that this situation would be easy for Roran. It wouldn’t. It would be one of the hardest things in his life. But Roran is, for better or worse, a Hero. Eldest is the tale of Roran becoming a Hero and saving his entire village from certain death. And yet this hero is unable to do the right thing by the woman he loves? And he doesn’t even have an excuse? Not even a weak one?

Elain tells Roran that he needs to go to Sloan the next day and beg his forgiveness. Roran protests but Elain argues him down and the scene ends with Roran going to sleep, and we can assume, at least, that Roran might have gone to Sloan the next day to beg his forgiveness. To be honest, I think Roran should have gone to Sloan that night, but your mileage may vary. That night, however, the Ra’zac attack and capture Katrina, wounding Roran in the process. Roran and some villagers chase after them and eventually find them with a large group of soldiers which is apparently too large to attack. On the way they find Byrd, the watchman, who has been stabbed in the back and is dead. After a bit, the Ra’zac carry Katrina out of a tent, and they are followed by Sloan, who is not tied up at all.

Roran stared, unable to comprehend how Sloan had been captured. His house isn’t anywhere near Horst’s. Then it struck him. “He betrayed us,” said Roran with wonder. His fist slowly tightened on his hammer as the true horror of the situation exploded within him. “He killed Byrd and he betrayed us!” Tears of rage streamed down his face (page 199).

There is no evidence – absolutely none – that Sloan killed Byrd. One could argue that Byrd was stabbed in the back so it must have been Sloan. I would point out that Byrd is a peasant with no military training. It would not really be that hard to sneak up behind him and stab him.

However, I would like to go over the more important word – betrayed. Roran thinks that Sloan has betrayed them. And in a way, he has. But betrayal is and always will be in the eyes of the wronged party. It is a very subjective word. Let us keep in mind that King Galbatorix is the legal and rightful ruler of (most of) Alagaesia. It is not be hard to argue that Sloan’s true loyalty belongs to Galbatorix, and by extension, the Ra’zac, as they are agents of the Empire. It’s worth pointing out that everyone in the entire village is already a traitor.

What we do know is that Sloan does not (at first) appear to be under duress, which indicates that Sloan has struck a deal with the Ra’zac. Which is well within his rights. Sloan can decide where his loyalties lie. I would be remiss to not point out here that Sloan is motivated by love. In his mind, by entering the Spine, Katrina is going to her death. He is doing what he has to do to protect her, which is something that both Eragon and Roran have done throughout the ‘Cycle’.

As they watch, Sloan gets into an argument with the Ra’zac, who knock him unconscious and then leave, taking him and Katrina with them. And that’s the end Sloan’s involvement in Brick Two.

Brisingr

We next see Sloan inside the prison at Helgrind while Roran and Eragon are rescuing Katrina.

His ragged clothes barely covered his pale, emaciated body; the corners of his bones stood out in sharp relief underneath his translucent skin. His blue veins were also prominent. Sores had formed on his wrists where the manacles chafed. The ulcers oozed a mixture of clear fluid and blood. What remained of his hair had turned gray or white and hung in lank, greasy ropes over his pock-marked face. […] Where his eyelids should have been, there were now only a few scraps of tattered skin draped over the raw cavities underneath. […] With a shock, Eragon realized that the Ra’zac had pecked out Sloan’s eyes.

What he then should do, Eragon could not decide. The butcher had told the Ra’zac that Eragon had found Saphira’s egg. Furthermore, Sloan had murdered the watchman, Byrd, and betrayed Carvahall to the Empire. If he were brought before his fellow villagers, they would undoubtedly find Sloan guilty and condemn him to death by hanging.

It seemed only right, to Eragon, that the butcher should die for his crimes (page 54).

As we have been over, telling the Ra’zac that Eragon had found Saphira’s egg could not possibly be considered a crime. Any one of the villagers would have done the same thing, probably without even the threat of force. It’s not something that someone would realize they need to keep secret. And even if you think that telling the Ra’zac that was morally wrong, it’s not a crime. We also do not know that Sloan murdered Byrd – Roran assumed that he did. While it’s possible that Sloan did this, it’s far from concrete and there is no evidence for it.

Finally, let’s examine Sloan’s ‘betrayal’. What, exactly, has Sloan done? We don’t know. Neither does Eragon. We do know that the Ra’zac knew where Roran was sleeping, so someone probably told them. Based on the circumstances, I think Sloan went to the Ra’zac and offered to give them Roran, since Roran is all they want and that is why they and the soldiers were hanging around Carvahall in the first place. The villagers amount to jack shit. The only reason why the Ra’zac even cared about them was because the villagers attacked them in defense of Roran.

So: what has Sloan done? He has gone to the legal authorities – remember, the Ra’zac are agents of King Galbatorix – and turned in a criminal. Roran is a wanted fugitive and he has killed soldiers. Sloan has turned Roran in to save Katrina’s life. And although we don’t know this, it is certainly possible that Sloan has engineered a deal to spare the village as well. It is likely that once Roran was apprehended the Ra’zac would have simply left. The villagers might have faced repercussions, but they were certainly no worse off than they were before. I think it’s also important to remember that this entire situation that the village found itself in is not Sloan’s fault. He did not attack a group of soldiers and put the entire village into danger. He is simply reacting to a shitty situation in the best way that he knew how.

[On a side note, I have a plausible explanation for how Sloan is completely innocent – completely innocent – of absolutely everything. I’m not going to go into it here because I don’t think it’s actually what happened, but if Sloan were ever taken to trial, he could certainly pull this out. Also, that’s a separate project for a future date].

But let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that Sloan is guilty. He betrayed the village’s trust. Let’s even say he murdered Byrd. There are, in Alagaesia, people who pronounce judgment, Eragon knows this and even thinks about them over the next few pages, so even if Sloan is guilty, he has the right to speak for himself. Witnesses should be called, and an appointed judge or jury has the right to determine his guilt and any punishment. Not Eragon.

Eragon has already decided that Sloan is guilty, without even asking him to account for his actions, and his reasoning for not bringing Sloan back to face a trial is because it might bother Katrina:

Watching an arbitrator publicly denounce Sloan’s offenses and then hang him would be no easy thing for her or, by extension, Roran. Such hardship might even create enough ill will between them to end their engagement. Either way, Eragon was convinced that taking Sloan back with them would sow discord between him, Roran, Katrina, and the other villagers, and might engender enough anger to distract them from their struggle against the Empire (page 55).

Distract them from the struggle against the Empire? Bullshit. Not a chance in hell. No, Eragon is considering suspending a man’s right to a fair trial and murdering him because it might make life difficult otherwise.

That is literally, without exaggeration, what is happening in this scene.

Naturally, Eragon tries to justify it:

Sloan’s guilt was not in dispute; he was a murderer and a traitor. Any lawgiver would sentence him to execution (page 55).

And even if his guilt was not in dispute, Eragon is not a lawgiver.

Eragon’s conscience doesn’t let him kill Sloan, so he knocks Sloan out and tells Roran and Katrina that Sloan is dead. After Roran and Katrina leave, he carries Sloan out of Helgrind and starts trying to decide what to do with him.

“I can’t just let him go,” he murmured. If he did, Sloan might track down Roran and Katrina, a prospect that Eragon considered unacceptable. Besides, even though he was not going to kill Sloan, he believed the butcher should be punished for his crimes (page 75).

Unacceptable…why? Because they would know that Eragon just lied to them? More important, Sloan is blind, homeless, and helpless. Even if he managed to find them, what exactly would he be able to do?

After a brief conversation, Eragon introduces himself. Initially Sloan does not believe him.

Thrusting out with his mind he engulfed Sloan’s consciousness in his own and forced the butcher to accept memories that confirmed the truth of his statements. He also wanted Sloan to feel the power that was now his and to realize that he was no longer entirely human. And while Eragon was reluctant to admit it, he enjoyed having control over a man who had often made trouble for him and his family. He withdrew half a minute later (page 78).

Eragon is supposed to be the hero of this story.

The butcher’s demeanor became cold and flinty. “Blast you,” he said. “I don’t have to explain myself to you, Eragon Son of None. Understand this, though. I did what I did for Katrina’s sake and nothing else.” (page 78).

At no point does Eragon ever ask Sloan what happened, nor does Sloan ever admit to anything.

After some thought, Eragon figures out Sloan’s true name. He has a brief telepathic conversation with the queen of the Elves, and finally decides on Sloan’s punishment. Again, he does not ask Sloan if he has any defense for his actions. Eragon just pronounces judgment:

“Since my conscience prevents me from killing you, your punishment is to be the most terrible I could invent short of death. I’m convinced that what you said before is true, that Katrina is more important to you than anything else. Therefore, your punishment is this: you shall not see, touch, or talk with your daughter again, even unto your dying day, and you shall live with the knowledge that she is with Roran and they are happy together, without you.” (page 90)

Some fates are worse than death. Eragon has just sentenced Sloan to one. In an act that Eragon pretends is merciful, he deliberately chooses the most cruel punishment that he can possibly think of for someone who has done everything in the name of love – and more importantly, has not committed any crime. Even if you think that Sloan did kill Byrd, he has already lost everything. The Ra’zac ate his eyes out of his head. He has spent months rotting in prison. At this point, it’s not unreasonable to think that Sloan has suffered enough, yet Eragon sentences him to the most cruel punishment that he can think of that will give him inconsolable grief and heartache for the rest of his natural life.

Sloan spends a paragraph calling Eragon every name in the book, which warms my heart, and finally tells Eragon that he doesn’t have the right to do any of this.

“I am a Dragon Rider. I have as much right as any king or queen.” (page 91)

Bullshit.

While kings and queens do not necessarily have ‘rights’ as we would argue in the 21st century, at the very least they were recognized in medieval days as being arbitrators by the general public, and if the general public gives you the power to do something, then you have that power. More importantly, a king or arbitrator will probably be a neutral party in a disagreement or trial and be able to make a fair and correct decision based on the evidence presented. We already know that Eragon is not even remotely impartial. He has admitted to himself that he enjoys tormenting Sloan as revenge for how the butcher treated him. There is not a single person in all of Alagaesia who is less qualified to pass judgment, and of course Eragon does.

He forces Sloan to swear oaths in the ancient language that will prevent him from ever contacting Katrina again, and also compels him to travel to the land of the Elves. Surprisingly, Eragon does leave him with a nugget of hope: as time passes, a man’s true name might change. If it does, Sloan would no longer be bound by the oaths he just swore. He also has made a deal with the Elves: if Sloan changes and becomes a better person, the Elves will give him his eyesight back. And I think this would almost redeem Eragon, except he’s handed down this horrible punishment on someone who is completely innocent. Nice job, buddy.

There is a brief and uninteresting scene where Eragon meets Sloan near the end of Brisingr. Sloan does not seem happy about his current predicament. Which I think is pretty understandable.

Inheritance

Sloan does not have much screen time in the final book of the cycle. He finally appears on page 837, when Eragon visits him in Ellesmera. And he’s crying. Roran and Katrina have come to see Ellesmera, and Sloan can hear her laughing, but he can’t see her or meet her – or his granddaughter.

“It wasn’t enough just to exile me, was it? No, you had to torture me with the knowledge that my only child and grandchild are here, and that I’ll never be able to see them, much less meet them.” Sloan bared his teeth, and he looked as if he might spring forward at Eragon. “You’re a right heartless bastard, you are.” (page 838).

Eragon immediately feels guilty about this, because the reason he brought Roran and Katrina to Ellesmera was because he had entirely forgotten Sloan was there. The guilt gnaws at him. I find it very interesting that Eragon doesn’t feel any qualms about the horrible fate he has sentenced Sloan to, but just that he’s rubbed it in a bit more. So, he sings a song of healing and Sloan’s eyes grow back and he can finally see Katrina and his granddaughter for the first time.

“From now on, you can look at them if you want,” said Eragon. “But the spells upon you still won’t let you talk with them or show yourself to them or contact them in any way.” (page 840)

I don’t feel this is much of a concession. It may even be worse for Sloan to be able to see his daughter and granddaughter and not be able to ever speak to them. But for the sake of fairness, let’s assume that Sloan is happier this way. What has Eragon given him, besides his eyesight back? Sure, he can see Katrina and his granddaughter, but in another few days, Roran and Katrina are leaving and going back to Carvahall, and never returning. And Sloan is back to being stuck in Ellesmera, living out the rest of his life without ever being able to hear from or see the only person in the entire world that he loves.

And how does Sloan respond?

His jaw worked up and down for a few seconds, as if he were chewing on something, and then he said, “Thank you.” (page 840)

Of course. Now Eragon can live the rest of his life guilt-free.

What can we take away from all this? Sloan got shafted, Roran is a douchebag, and Eragon is a sociopathic prick. Also, Christopher Paolini really, really cannot write.

Further Reading:

For another very interesting article on Eragon and (to a lesser extent) Sloan, I highly recommend Eragon Shadeslayer, Sociopath.

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  6 Responses to “In Sloan’s Defense: An Eragon Essay”

  1. Good article! I read half of the first book and maybe it’s better that it’s all I read.

  2. Good article, indeed good article!
    you made me understand Sloan better..

    yes, what Eragon did to Sloan was wrong. I agree that his punishment for Sloan was just his self revenge for he didn’t like Sloan at all, and also his selfishness because he didn’t want Sloan to bother his cousin’s happiness (also indirectly, his happiness). He thought that sloan was a bug to his life, but his conscience wouldn’t let him kill him, if not, he wanted to torture Sloan’s life.

    However, I have defense for Paolini, because he wasn’t that bad writer. yes Eragon was wrong, but that’s the point. Nobody is perfect. that would be weird if CP made eragon as a perfectly good guy, who could make a perfect justice in every situation. Eragon was still young. he wasn’t wise at all. he was dragged by his selfishness when deciding sloan’s ‘punishment’. That was one of Eragon mistake and no-so-honorable-action. you could find more, for example when he blame Elva for Wyrden’s death. For that, I like Paolini. and Eragon was just like everyone who could make bad decision.

    about Sloan thanking Eragon, my opinion is that he didn’t thank eragon for healing his eyes.. for letting him to see that Katrina was happy. even without him. Because sloan said “Ah.. she looks happy. And Roran too.” After he saw their happiness (and I think he was happy for them) he said his thanks.

    anyway, you’ve done a great job. yeah, I agree Sloan wasn’t a totally bad person, all he did was for Katrina.

  3. An excellent example of Alternate Character Interpretation. However, I just plain didn’t like Sloan. So it’s hard for me to give him any sympathy.

  4. In the first book, Brom also blames Sloan for telling the Ra’zac about Saphira’s egg.

  5. Galbatorix? That sounds like a name for a video game console.

  6. Nice article! I don’t think I’ve ever encountered more unlikeable “hero” in my life.

    If you’re a fan of Sloan, then you’ll probably enjoy this short fic about him: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10482054/1/The-Weeping-Man