Thoughts

Star Wars Ruined Eragon for Me

Star Wars Ruined Eragon for Me
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Last month, everyone was celebrating May the 4th, and TBS celebrated it by putting the first six Star Wars movies On Demand. I had never watched any of the Star Wars movies until then. I decided to try them over one week, so I watched the first three movies, following release order (Episodes IV-VI). Long story short: I didn’t care for them.

Throughout my watching of those movies, I grew increasingly upset at seeing connections between them and Christopher Paolini’s The Inheritance Cycle. There were similar characters and arcs, similar plot devices, and to some degree the universes are similar. I’m not alone in this assessment. Wikipedia describes this connection to Star Wars and the similarity to The Lord of the Rings as the two most common criticisms of the series. Even Wikipedia, which I don’t like citing, noticed critics talking about it. The books borrow a lot from other works.

Let me state a bias before I continue: I tend to favor original texts and original ideas over their reiterations in later works.

Normally, my upset would be about the second work that I watched or read copying the first. When that happens for me, I usually catch it in the work that was written later, which I happened to read later. This time I was upset that a book series I love borrowed a lot from Star Wars, which was filmed and released well before The Inheritance Cycle. (That is 1977 for Star Wars: A New Hope and 2002 for Eragon.) Worse, I didn’t like the original material, but I loved how it was worked into this book series.

EragonEldestBrisingr, and Inheritance all have similarities to two well-loved series, but is this a problem? The only argument I can think of is that they are intertextual with those source works. Tracy Lemaster of the University of Wisconsin—Madison has a one-page PDF that briefly describes the uses and purposes of intertextuality. Focusing on the last primary effect in her list, it may be intended to create a new interpretation of all three series. Maybe The Inheritance Cycle draws new comparisons or emphasizes similar themes and plots in both series. (I haven’t read or watched The Lord of the Rings, so I don’t know what was borrowed from it.) Maybe it’s a good thing.

Can intertextuality be a bad thing? From what I see in literary analysis, it provides interesting discussions and interpretations of texts. But it has been seen as plagiarism in certain cases. I don’t think there is plagiarism in The Inheritance Cycle, but I am disturbed about how similar the series is to Star Wars.

I didn’t like Star Wars. Since Star Wars has the original themes and plot devices, it makes me dislike Paolini’s books. I loved them in middle school, so I might be overreacting to the similarities between the movie series and the book series. The Inheritance Cycle was written in such an exciting way. Because of that, I loved it years ago. Should I let myself dislike it because I disliked the source material? Or should I do the wiser thing and reread Eragon before making that decision? I don’t know, but I’m going to be disturbed for a while.

Now I turn the question to you. Have you had a similar experience? Has a movie ruined your love of a book? How did you resolve your feelings about those similarities?

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4 thoughts on “Star Wars Ruined Eragon for Me

  1. Great post; this is an interesting topic especially because I’ve had a similar experience with these books (which I also loved in middle school) and The Lord of the Rings (which I came to love after reading Paolini’s books). In my case, I love LotR a lot more than Eragon, and haven’t returned to those books since reading LotR. When I was reading the Inheritance books, and learned of the similarities with Star Wars and LotR, I had the same impression – was that really a bad thing? Was Paolini inspired by those stories or plagiarising them? I’m still not sure about that, but I know for sure that watching/reading LotR ended up influencing my feelings for the Eragon books.

  2. I remember than when Eragon came out it was panned for the similarities to LotR and Star Wars. I noticed them, too, and found it cringe-worthy since the work is so clearly derivative. In this case, I would use the term “derivative” instead of “intertextual” because I don’t think the book is intentionally weaving in other texts to make a commentary on them. Intertextuality assumes your readers are going to notice your allusions and make connections. Honestly, what Paolini did is not to direct his readers to other works to make connections. I think what happened is just that he was a teen writer and he was copying his favorite works. It’s what amateur writers do. The difference is, most people don’t get published when they’re teens so their less polished or less original writing isn’t going to haunt them.

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