Saturday, July 7, 2007

Prose, Plagiarism and Eragon

Somehow, in case you missed it, back in 2002 a guy named Christopher Paolini published (and by published I mean: Eragon was published privately by his parents Paolini International, LLC. To promote the book, Paolini toured over 135 schools and libraries, discussing reading and writing, all the while dressed in "a medieval costume of red shirt, billowy black pants, lace-up boots, and a jaunty black cap.") a novel called Eragon.

It was pretty popular spawning subsequent novels, at least one film and a companion videogame. Christopher Paolini was 15 at the time he wrote the thing. He may be old enough to drink now which can only improve his writing skills and output I'm sure.

Problem is much of the novel, in concept at least was plagiarized from things like I dunno...Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and whatnot. No big.

It's not like he used words from Lord of the Rings and just rearranged some of the letters. Oh wait...(from

TURIN>Turin (note: the "u," in the right "Turin," has an accent)
ERAGON>ARAGORN (comparison in pronunciation)

Eragon words on the left, LotR's words on the right. Oops.

Anyway, theft notwithstanding the site that points out many of the similarities between Eragon and Star Wars and LotR also has a pretty nifty section on some basic rules of writing fiction. It's worth checking out.


Here is an interesting passage from Eragon that someone noticed sounded VERY familiar to another book:

Below I elaborate my point with an amusing passage I’ve picked out from the 16th chapter. The characters are Brom (the story teller) and Eragon, who are trying to cross a bridge.

The Anora River flowed between them and the town, spanned by a stout bridge. As they approached it, a greasy man stepped (out) from behind a bush and barred their way. His shirt was too short and his dirty stomach spilled over a rope belt. Behind his cracked lips, his teeth looked like crumbling tombstones.

“You c’n stop right there. This’s my bridge. Gotta pay t’ get over.”
“How much?” asked Brom in a resigned voice. He pulled out a pouch and the bridge keeper brightened.
“Five crowns” he said, pulling his lips into a broad smile.
Eragon’s temper flared at the exorbitant price, and he started to complain hotly, but Brom silenced him with a quick look. The coins were wordlessly handed over. The man put them into a sack hanging from his belt.
“Thank’ee much” he said in a mocking tone and stood out of the way.
As Brom stepped forward, he stumbled and caught the bridge keeper’s arm to support himself.
“Watch y’re step” snarled the grimy man sidling away.
“Sorry” apologised Brom, and continued over the bridge with Eragon.
“Why didn’t you haggle? He skinned you alive!” exclaimed Eragon. He probably doesn’t even own the bridge.”
“Probably” agreed Brom.
“Then why pay him?” Because you can’t argue with all the fools in the world. It’s easier to let them have their way, then trick them when they’re not paying attention.” Brom opened his hand, and a pile of coins glinted in the sun.
“You cut his purse!” said Eragon incredulously. Brom pocketed the money with a wink. There was a sudden howl of anguish from the other side of the river. “I’d say our friend has just discovered his loss.”

Now compare it with the original (and much better written) passage from the 3rd chapter of The Ruby Knight. Our hero Sparhawk tries to cross the bridge with his traveling companions, the young boy Talen among them.

Beside the ford stood a small hut. The man who owned it was a sharped eyed fellow in a green tunic who demanded a toll to cross. Rather than argue with him, Sparhawk paid what he asked. “Tell me neighbour,” he asked when the transaction was completed “how far is the Pelosian border?”
“About five leagues” the sharp eyed man replied. “If you move along, you should reach it by afternoon.”
They splashed on across the ford. When they reached the other side, Talen rode up to Sparhawk. Here’s your money back,” the young boy said, handing over several coins.
Sparhawk gave him a startled look.
“I don’t object to paying a toll to cross a bridge” Talen sniffed. “After all, someone had to go to the expense of building it. That fellow was just taking advantage of a natural shallow place in the river. It didn’t cost him anything, so why should he make a profit from it?
“You cut his purse, then?”
“And there was more in it than just my coins?”
“A bit. Let’s call it my fee for recovering your money. After all, I deserve a profit too, don’t I?”
“You’re incorrigible.”
“I needed the practice.”
From the other side of the river came a howl of anguish.
“I’d say he just discovered his loss” observed Sparhawk.
“It does sort of sound that way, doesn’t it?

There are a number of smaller idea’s borrowed from other books, The Belgariad and Malloreon being the first ones to come to my mind.

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