Friday, December 5, 2014

WBI: King Galbatorix, Part 1

GUESS WHAT. King Galbatorix, my friends, gave me a book hangover. Such a book hangover! I was caught in a state of mournful woe most of Sunday evening reading Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, and I wasn’t even done with the book yet. Obviously, we’re going to talk about him, but Galbatorix is such a big character, I’m making this a TWO-PART POST.

So buckle up. We begin now. 

via Goodreads
Over a century ago, a rogue, grief-stricken Rider went mad and slaughtered the rest of his kind, taking hold of all the land with his black dragon Shruikan. In his many studies he learned the name of names—the name of the ancient language, which had power over all other names. Ever after, he worked to maintain the equality of magicians and prevent magicians from ever destroying the people again, harboring hopes that the three remaining dragon eggs might someday help him maintain peace in all Alagaesia. Though one egg betrayed him and allied with his pesky, but not particularly threatening, enemies (the Varden), he gained a champion in his servants Murtagh and Thorn, who killed the dwarf king Hrothgar and captured the enemy queen Nasuada. However, his control eventually drove them to betrayal, assisting the Shadeslayers Eragon and Arya, Saphira Brightscales, and the witch-child Elva in his death: Eragon forced a spell of understanding on Galbatorix, the pain of which was so great he ended himself for his own sanity.

[Note: Don’t think this summary scratches the surface; I tried to be brief. But if you’ve ever read this series, you know that nothing is brief.]

WBI Profile

Classification :: A0278!#*
Role :: Alpha (ignorant and idealistic king)
Motivation :: chaos (end the old order of magic), idealism (make a better Alagaesia), personal gain (recruit the remaining dragons to his cause), power (monopolize magic)
Bonus :: magic (gives and takes power to/from the Ancient Language), minions (armies that cannot feel pain, etc.), lair (UrĂ»’baen represents his domination over the elves and is strategically safe)

Click Me!

A Study: His Actions

previous encounters—in books one through three, our only knowledge comes through what we see and information from Brom, the elves, and dragons. This way, Eragon never knows the king’s true power.

long-distance threat—Galbatorix devastates Alagaesia; though he’s directing affairs from his own city, his armies and servants and laws swipe others down without missing a beat.

leaves hope—Galbatorix could have obliterated the Varden at any of his whims. By leaving the hopes of victory, the Varden’s defeats crushed his opponents even harder.

gained servants—Murtagh, a former ally, becomes one of the Varden’s greatest enemies. Yes, this adds to the king’s own reputation, but it disheartens the Varden as well; traitors always add doubt.

keeps creative armies—Galbatorix doesn’t value life, he values fear. Creating an army that cannot feel pain is creepy: something so unnatural that makes would-be dead men stand is terrifying.

grips tightly—all the king’s servants sit in his hand, via magic and loyalty; by binding them with oaths and balancing their behavior with fear and petty kindness, he leaves little room to escape.

claims authority—whether it’s right or not, Galbatorix deigns himself the rightful judge of all things; whether that’s justice in wrongdoings or disrupting natural courses, like natural growth.

presents himself—he’s not the most handsome man, but he distinguishes himself with all his guests. His shadowed face, his smile, his golden voice. Paolini emphasizes imperfection yet I gravitate towards him.

feeds his reputation—Galbatorix seems evil with armies and servants and slaughter and Ra’zac to represent himself; words people believe and the role of an enemy he brilliantly satisfies.

values symbolism—fantasy swords tend to mean something; that he surrounds himself with darkness but cleaves the way with a pure white sword amuses him, and tells us about his self-image.

wields invincible weapon—in essence, Galbatorix has the power to change power; he decides when and how magic works at his own whim, and for this, no one can beat him.

makes valid points—Galbatorix isn’t wrong, exactly; he stepped up to the challenge to level the playing field for non/magic users, and by ruining his communist ideal the Varden promoted a world marred by inequality.

commits suicide—Eragon doesn’t kill Galbatorix. He probably couldn’t if he tried. But by creating a spell so that, perhaps for the first time, Galbatorix feels every ounce of pain he’s caused, he can only destroy what his people have come to hate: himself. It’s very intense.

Big Idea

  • actions speak louder than words—we don’t see his face, we see the desolation of the people, the battle, the restraint, the cruel servants Galbatorix employs to communicate his displeasure. Knowing his actions make us impossible to fool when he finally greets us, even with all his charms.
  • the hero doesn’t have to raise the sword—it’s Eragon’s spell that prompts the deed, but it’s Galbatorix’s own voice that undoes him. Had Eragon managed to kill Galbatorix himself, the king’s reputation as a formidable enemy would be lessened, and might draw away some of Eragon’s honor as well, or give him too much.
  • contemplate manner of death—Galbatorix’s manner of death tells us a lot about his character and his weaknesses: his greatest threat is his own ignorance, pride, and ability to destroy himself. He couldn’t understand emotion, and underestimated his value. Had he died in any other way, I doubt we’d know him half as much.
  • death is not the solution—Galbatorix himself enters the void, but his impact is still there. He has malicious spells and assassins and poisons and wrongs that have destroyed the world, which means that even after the climax it takes another 100 pages of back story to fully end his reign. Hanging the balance on one man is a bold move indeed, and thankfully, not one Christopher Paolini made.

This post is longer, so I’ll give a favored quote next week. Stay tuned for more!

Have you read the Inheritance Cycle? What do you think?


  1. HELLO AMAZING BOOKS. I love the Inheritance Cycle so much. I'm really enjoying these posts! I love the way you divide it up to understand the characters minds :)

    1. I love it too! It had been a few years since I read it (finished my reread spree on Sunday) and I had started to doubt the quality since my best friend and sister have said some negative things about it—but I was happy to find I was still intensely in love with it. :)

      And I'm glad you're enjoying them! It's a good exercise for me, and I hope other people get something out of them too.


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