The banner is a low-tech simulation of my place through time: the first photograph is intended to invoke the tundra of the PaleoIndian period, 12,500-10,000 BCE; the second, the swamps and woodlands of c. 1630, of the contact period between the Massachusett and the first European settlers. The third photograph is of my front yard when I moved in (the yard was used as a doggie playground), c. 2007; the fourth, a photograph of my garden, c. 2010.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

guest bloggers Nicholas Gentile and Aylin Orhan, on Eragon

Magic and the Environment

For those unfamiliar with it, the plot of the Eragon series is comparable with a medieval Star Wars. For those who have read it, this description does not do the story justice but it is fairly accurate. The story takes place in the land of Alagaësia, a land permeated with magic. While magic is present throughout the land, there is one location where it is greatest in concentration and effect: Du Weldenvarden – “The Guarding Forest,” home to a highly magical race of beings called elves.

 Du Weldenvarden

According to the legend, Du Weldenvarden was once a completely normal and unimpressive forest – not unlike many temperate forests in the real world. However, this changed drastically with the arrival of the elves. The elves are a humanoid race that inherently posses magical powers, and who can use this ability to shape and effect nature. When they moved into the region now known as Du Weldenvarden, they used magic to enhance the growth of the forest, causing it to spread and develop in every direction. Once the forest had grown, they placed enchantments all along its borders. The elves’ magic is conveyed through spoken word, and for that reason they sing to the forest in order to affect it. As Eragon’s elf companion Arya explains as they make their way through Du Weldenvarden en route to the capital city of Ellesméra:
“It is to keep the forest healthy and fertile. Every spring we sing for the trees, we sing for the plants, and we sing for the animals. Without us, Du Weldenvarden would be half its size.” As if to emphasize her point, birds, deer, squirrels – red and gray – striped badgers, foxes, rabbits, wolves, frogs, toads, tortoises and every other nearby animal forsook their hiding place and began to rush madly about with a cacophony of yelps and cries. “They are searching for mates,” explained Arya. “All across Du Weldenvarden, in each of our cities, elves are singing [this song]. The more who participate, the stronger the spell, and the greater Du Weldenvarden will be this year.” (Eldest, 214)


The elves are a race that will never have to contend with a major environmental disaster. They coexist perfectly with the natural world, forming a perfect symbiotic relationship. Unlike societies that evolve apart from the natural world (such as our own), utilizing technology and taking advantage of the natural world strictly with our own gains in mind, they progress in direct relation to their environment.
In large part, environmental crises are a result of humanity's disconnection from the natural world, brought about not only by increasing technology but also by particularization; that is, a mentality of specialization that fails to recognize the interconnectedness of all things. – Thomas K. Dean
There are no poor elves, none starve, and there is little conflict in general. It is the closest thing to a utopian society, yet it is entirely natural. The only problem with this approach is the possibility of stagnation. Because they have reached a type of symbiosis with the environment, neither the elves nor the environment have any reason to change at all. This could be construed as either positive or negative, as it is essentially perfect but will never change without outside intervention. Coincidentally, the only real conflict faced by the elves is intrusion by “less natural” races from outside of their forest, specifically humans.

The interconnectedness of things is the key point of elvish philosophy. This mentality is most readily comparable to the original Native Americans. The feeling of connection with nature if what drives this nature focused ecological mindset.
Oromis whispered, “Open your mind Eragon. Open your mind and listen to the world around you, to the thoughts of every being in this glade, from the ants in the trees to the worms in the ground. Listen until you can hear them all and you understand their purpose and nature. Listen, and when you hear no more, come tell me what you have learned.’” (Eldest, 290)
While not actually human, the Elves represent an ideal relationship with the earth and environment. Modern society relies on second-hand knowledge, not knowledge gained from experience or interaction with the environment. There is an inherent knowledge gained from a connectedness with the earth. Elves are a representation of ancient people in the way that their knowledge was gained from nature. They learned from the animals and the trees and the patterns of nature and through that became an essential element within the natural system of the forest. Even though they aren’t real, there are still important lessons the elves can teach us.

 "Christopher Paloilini Biography." World Biography. Advameg, Inc., n.d. Web. <>.
Dean, Thomas K. "What Is Eco-Criticism?" What Is Eco-Criticism? The Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment, n.d. Web.

Paolini, Christopher. Eldest. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. Print.

Parkinson, Matthew. "" 2012 :. N.p., 20 Apr. 2012. Web. <>.

No comments:

Post a Comment