Friday, December 30, 2005

The Philosophy of Elves and Dragons

I've been reading Christopher Paolini's Eldest, the second massive volume in his fantasy dragons-and-wizards trilogy begun with Eragon.

Reading their thoughts, I've come to the conclusion that despite their reputation for wisdom, you shouldn't put much stock in the philosophy of elves and dragons.

For example, on page 542 (hardback), Eragon is talking with the elf Oromis about elvish beliefs and the elf says, "I can tell you that in the millennia we elves have studied nature, we have never witnessed an instance where the rules that govern the world have been broken. That is, we have never seen a miracle. Many events have defied our ability to explain, but we are convinced that we failed because we are still woefully ignorant about the universe and not because a diety altered the workings of nature."

So, Oromis says the elves have witnessed events that "have defied our ability to explain," but nevertheless he is quite certain that those events are not miracles. And why couldn't those unexplained events be miracles?

Well, Oromis explains, the elves believe these events can't be miracles because the elves are still very ignorant of how the universe works. Hmmm... So elves don't believe a diety might work miracles because they're ignorant. Sorry, Oromis, the logic escapes me.

Then, to make it sillier, on the next page Oromis critisizes dwarfs for sometimes relying upon faith rather than reason. Methinks, Oromis, that if you want an example of faith, you should look in a mirror.

Oromis follows up by saying that if the gods exist, "have they been good custodians?" He then cites death, sickness, poverty, tyranny and other miseries.

But perhaps Oromis should consider the possibility that the inhabitants of the land may be at fault, and if the diety were to shackle the hands and feet and minds of people (and elves and dwarfs) to prevent them from committing evil, wouldn't Oromis complain that the diety is a tyrant, and that he enslaves his subjects? I think you might, Oromis.

Finally, Oromis says this athiestic view makes for "a better world" because "we are responsible for our own actions."

Oh, Oromis! The existance of God does not in the slightest take away our responsibility for our actions. If I steal from my employer does that mean I'm not responsible because my employer exists? Please don't talk nonsense, Oromis.

And then there's Eragon's dragon Saphira.

Eragon asks about her beliefs and Saphira replies, "Dragons have never believed in higher powers. Why should we when deer and other prey consider us to be a higher power?"

Uhh... I don't think Saphira had her coffee before replying. Let's just flip it around:

"Dragons have always believed in higher powers. Why shouldn't we when deer and other prey consider us to be a higher power?"

In other words, if Saphira is a higher power to the deer, why can't there be a higher power to Saphira?

Well, actually there is, and because writing the next 600-page book will no doubt take a while, author Christopher Paolini has plenty of time to get his subjects thinking straight. After all, he is a higher power to both Oromis and Saphira.