91 pages 3 hours read

Christopher Paolini


Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2002

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Summary and Study Guide


Eragon (2003), an epic fantasy novel in the style of Lord of the Rings, is the first book in the four-part Inheritance Cycle by author Christopher Paolini. Paolini wrote the first draft of Eragon at age 15. After spending an additional year revising and polishing the work, he showed it to his parents, who agreed to self-publish the novel in 2001. Afterward, Paolini actively promoted the book by traveling to 135 schools and libraries around the country, where he appeared dressed in a medieval costume to talk about books and reading.

By 2003, Eragon came to the attention of author Carl Hiaasen through his stepson, who loved the work. Hiaasen arranged a deal with his publisher, Alfred Knopf, and Eragon gained a much wider readership. The book made the New York Times Children’s Bestseller list in 2003 and was named that year's third bestselling children’s hardcover book. Since that time, the novel has sold millions of copies worldwide.

Paolini went on to complete the rest of the Inheritance Cycle, consisting of Eldest (2005), Brisingr (2008), and Inheritance (2011). He also completed a short story collection based on the same characters called The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm (2018). More recently, Paolini wrote a science fiction novel entitled To Sleep in a Sea of Stars (2020). In 2006, a film adaptation and a video game based on the movie were made. In 2022, Disney+ announced that a series based on the novels is currently in development. Eragon falls into the categories of Teen & Young Adult Epic Fantasy and Children’s Fantasy & Magic Adventure. It is intended for readers 11 years and up. This study guide and all its page citations are based on the book's Kindle edition.

Eragon is set in the mythical country of Alagaësia during an unspecified medieval period. This fantasy universe is populated by humans, elves, dwarves, and sentient dragons, among other creatures. Events in the novel cover six months, from autumn through the following spring. The story is told using a limited third-person narrative technique through the eyes of the title character. Because Eragon maintains telepathic links with his dragon and other animals and humans, their thoughts also appear in Eragon’s mind.

As the story begins, a simple farm boy named Eragon finds a dragon’s egg. He later learns he is fated to become the hatchling dragon’s rider. Eragon develops a telepathic link with the creature, who is named Saphira. Eragon and Saphira become the focus of attention for the realm’s tyrannical king, who wants to kill them both unless they agree to join his faction. Eragon undergoes a transformation from an ordinary boy to a hero as he battles the evil minions of the king to protect himself, his dragon, and those he loves. The boy experiences several losses throughout the story but continues to grow into the role of hero by the end of the novel. In detailing Eragon’s transformation, the book examines the themes of The Hero’s Journey, The Pursuit of Power, and Self-Determination.

Plot Summary

Fifteen-year-old Eragon lives with his uncle and cousin on a farm in the rural community of Carvahall. While hunting in the Spine mountains, the boy finds what he thinks is an unusual blue stone. After carrying it home, he discovers it is a dragon’s egg, which hatches shortly afterward. The tiny dragon bonds with Eragon, who becomes her guardian. As she grows ever larger, Eragon conceals her in the woods and finds he can communicate telepathically with the creature, whom he calls Saphira.

Very soon afterward, Eragon learns that henchmen of the tyrannical ruler, Galbatorix, have come searching for the dragon and its Rider. Galbatorix previously killed all the Dragon Riders in the realm and kept three dragon’s eggs, hoping to hatch them and control a new generation of dragons and Riders. As Eragon and Saphira flee from Galbatorix, they are joined by an old storyteller named Brom. He teaches Eragon fighting skills and the basics of magic.

Brom is later killed, but Eragon finds a new ally in a young warrior named Murtagh. Together, the two go on a mission to rescue a female elf named Arya, who appeared to Eragon in a dream. Eventually, the trio flees to the human-dwarf mountain stronghold of Tronjheim. While there, they are enlisted to fight an army of Urgals intent on defeating the resistance. Eragon, Saphira, Murtagh, and Arya all survive the battle and repel the Urgal invasion. By the novel's end, Eragon learns that he must accompany Arya back to the elvish realm to complete his training to become a Dragon Rider.