I am nearly done reading ERAGON, the eight-year-old first novel of wunderkind, Christopher Paolini. In addition to the novel, I’ve been reading reviews of the book and several biographical websites. Gathering all of this is reading together, I’ve come to a number of disparate conclusions.
First is that Christopher was not home-schooled for religious reasons. The interview noted below points out that his mother thought her son (and daughter) would be bored by the local education and so she kept them home and did the job herself.
Second, Christopher (and by extension, probably his family as well) has a low opinion of the Christian Church. This is reflected by Eragon’s visit to a building clearly patterned after large Catholic, Anglican (Episcopalian), Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Lutheran cathedrals: “The silence of a forgotten tomb…vaulted ceiling…granite pews…statues with pale eyes…afraid to break the silence…altar…pipes of the wind organ…He did not pray but paid homage to the cathedral itself.” (pp 375-376). Who do these cathedral builders worship? Christopher describes that as well: “Their prayers go to Helgrind. It’s a cruel religion they practice. They drink human blood and make flesh offerings…the more you give up the less you’re attached to the mortal world. They spent much of their time arguing about which of Helgrind’s three peaks is the highest and most important and whether the fourth – and lowest – should be included to their worship.” (pp 361-362) Does this religion sound like Hinduism? Buddhism? Jainism? Confucianism? Taoism? I’ll leave it to you to exercise your intellect and Google to find out which one it closely resembles.
Thirdly, cries of “derivative!”, “rip off!”, “blatant copy of STAR WARS/LORD OF THE RINGS!” are patently ridiculous. Of COURSE Paolini mined a nearly depleted mine! Dragons, dwarves, elves, space opera and quests are old stuff. They were old when Tolkien, Lewis, Lucas and McCaffery tapped them. (Oops! Did I say George Lucas? Isn’t STAR WARS an original science fiction series?)
No. It’s not. Neither are Tolkien, Lewis and McCaffery.
Elves were first mentioned in BEOWULF (around 700 to 1200 AD). Dwarves were mentioned sometime around 985 in a Scandinavian document called the POETIC EDDA (though dates on this are “a lively source of scholarly argument”). Dragons are nearly universal in human literature and mythology dating from Egyptian, Babylonian and Nazca cultures. Space opera was born in the middle of the 19th Century and officially reached its apex in the 1930s and 1940s. Quest literature brought Gilgamesh to the world in 2700 BC.
Paolini wrote an honest story and didn’t “copy” anyone.
Last of course, is how all this ties together. While con-Christian worldviews predominate in fantasy and science fiction literature, the Christian worldview is well-represented by writers and Christian themes and characters are more common that I once believed. Those writing from this viewpoint are typically not blatant, but follow in the footsteps of CS Lewis rather than Ted Dekker and Jerry Jenkins. Lewis said, ‘What we want is NOT more books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects with their Christianity latent.’” (GOD IN THE DOCK, p 93) The message of Jesus Christ is proclaimed in this field – though I’m hoping there’s room for at least one more (me)!
Dragons, dwarves, elves, quests and space opera will continue to appear in “new” stories and novels from all over the world and will have something to say in the language of fantasy and science fiction about the faith walk of Christians everywhere.