Friday, December 12, 2014

WBI: King Galbatorix, Part 2

If you recall last week’s post, you remember that we’re talking about King Galbatorix of Alagaesia, again. Everything Christopher Paolini writes is long. And I prefer to be short. It seems we are at an impasse.

Photo Credit:
Too caught up in his dreams of an idealistic future wherein magic is inconsequential and the playing field is leveled for everyone, the king fails to realize how much everyone hates him and dies.

[Note: This is the extremely condensed version. Look at last week’s post to get the entire shebang.]

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 (Urû’baen represents his domination over the elves and is strategically safe)

Click Me to Big Me!

A Study: His Characteristics

looming—though we begin this series from the perspective of poor farmers, we feel the brunt of the king’s injustice. We always know of his presence, even if it is not strictly “malevolent” as of yet.

mysterious—especially to the common people, Galbatorix has no face. Most of his characterization comes from his actions and the characters’ own musings.

dark—Galbatorix carries with him a dark motif; black dragon, fan of Helgrind, uses Urgals as slaves, Urû’baen means ‘downfall of the wise.’ He radiates darkness: he leaves an impression.

absent—we don’t see the king face to face until book four; this serves to dehumanize him and show off his power, but it also adds to lessen the threat: the more battles the Varden wins, the more conquering Galbatorix seems possible, when really it is his forces, and not him, they have weakened.

strongest—the dwarves and the elves have hidden themselves, in part because the threat the king poses is very real. There has never been confidence that the Varden will win.

bad priorities—honestly, if Galbatorix had taken the Varden out personally, he would have zero threats to his throne. He could have won.

merciless—the king knows his audience, and when they are unwilling servants he becomes the tyrannical master.

discord—Galbatorix bound his dragon to him in some perverse magical way, so although he rules with the strongest dragon in the land, he does not share the same partner-of-heart-and-mind relationship the other Riders have.

fearsome—Galbatorix is not in the habit of making idle threats; his intentions are ever clear.

courteous—he never lacks for manners, Galbatorix. He’s elevated. He doesn’t need to curse or downplay his kingly appearance to make others fear him.

smooth—surprise isn’t really his thing. He acts and fights and makes decisions fluidly.

dignified—Galbatorix maintains a certain pride in himself, and yes, to some degree it is more than he deserves, but by keeping his self-pride he suggests he is justified in his actions.

absent humanity—despite all he has done, Galbatorix never empathizes with others; his battle is that of control, not of compromise.

lack of understanding—without his humanity Galbatorix never truly understands the impact of his actions; he understands that he’s caused pain, but he doesn’t understand why that’s bad, which only makes the burns run even deeper.

Big Idea

empathy matters—Galbatorix is a handsome villain, but there’s not much to him to make us sympathize with him. He wants to equalize magic, but because he lacks the understanding to care about others, it’s hard for the reader to care about him.

empathy matters—Galbatorix isn’t wrong that magic needs to be equalized, but his failure to recognize the trials of others leads to his downfall. His actions for the people are made apart from the people; it doesn’t work well.

select absence carefully—one of Paolini’s most successful choices was a little different, too: Galbatorix himself doesn’t appear until the last book (yes, I said that already). His absence dehumanizes him. His absence hides the truth about him. His absence concerns us. Hiding the villain a way can do a lot of things to a reader, believe me.

there’s always a weakness—again and again we see Galbatorix slaughter men and women and children and species and people who matter. He don’t care. It’s not part of his grand master plan. And so while the audience sees that this is his strength, and he’s stronger in another ten ways besides, this thing ends up being the key to his downfall; even when it looks like all is lost, not all is lost.

And, as promised, a quote: “Pain…so much pain. So much grief….Make it stop! Make it stop!” (718)

What do you think of Galbatorix? Annoyingly devilish? Devilishly admirable? I promise next week we won’t do an Alpha. Is there a villain you want to WBI?


  1. I kind of in a tiny little corner of my heart admire Galbatorix. It's possibly the INTJ in me ;) I've enjoyed these two posts about him!

    1. As your neighborhood ISTJ, I can only agree. ;) I'm glad you've enjoyed them!


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