Friday, January 20, 2012

An(other) Ending Era

Eragon was published in 2002 by nineteen-year-old Christopher Paolini.  And thus a saga was born.

Oh, granted, it's no Harry Potter or Narnia or Lord of the Rings or Star Wars or any of the parallels people draw.  It's stuffed with flaws, enough to make some people detest the very phrase 'Inheritance Cycle.'  It's a bit similar to the Twilight Saga, actually.

Don't worry, Chris.  Inheritance is much better.

I just finished the fourth and final (?) Inheritance book, aptly titled Inheritance.  I've read the three preceding books over the past three weeks, and today spent a good five hours, almost straight, finishing up Inheritance.

How do I feel?  First and foremost - exhausted.  Inheritance is a very involved cycle, and, even skimming lots of Eldest and Brisingr, it's a lot to take in in four weeks.

But, despite many people's claims of dissatisfaction, and while not forgetting the continuing flaws inherent in Inheritance (like that bit of wordplay-ish?  I did), I also feel very justified.

(Oh, no spoilers from here on.  Just to assure any fans.)

I'm going to compare the Inheritance Cycle to the Twilight Saga again, though I mean no offense to Mr. Paolini - I think one reason a lot of people resonate with both series is that they're both a sort of wish-fulfillment project.  With Twilight, you have - it makes my head hurt to say it, but the wish for true love. (It fails miserably, but that's a rant for another day.)  Inheritance handles the wish for something more.  At least for me.

Sure, every little girl's dreamed of Prince Charming.  But everyone knows how it feels to want more - to want to be better.  At some point, however brief or faint or vague.  Eragon the Rider, the Shadeslayer, the Kingkiller is, like Bella, a person into whom we can place ourselves.  Maybe not too much - I certainly don't want to go around spouting metaphysical claptrap and confessing love to elves, no matter how entertaining that sounds - but... Eragon grows.  He gets better.  He changes from a lowly farm boy to the hope and dream of an entire continent!

Who can't admit to not wanting that sort of importance, that kind of significance?  Not just the idea of power, but the very idea of changing into something so much better?

Another reason I think people might stick with Inheritance is because, even if you don't enjoy it, you're still connected to it.  Because, like it or not, after those pages and pages and pages of details... you're in Alagaesia.  You have been under Galbatorix and you have been in Du Weldenvarden and you have sat through the interminable dwarvish customs.

You're vested in victory.  At least I was.  And when the end of Inheritance rolled around... I was so tired.  I had been to Hades and back with Eragon and Saphira, and the fact that they had won... it was relief.  Palpable relief.  Alagaesia and I were safe.

Only Narnia has the same sort of claim on my literary home.  Narnia's is much stronger, of course.  But it's the same thing.

But aside from all that, the most significant reason that I, personally, enjoy the Inheritance Cycle is the way it mimics the old.  Unlike the Twilight Saga, a thoroughly modern invention, Eragon takes us back to epics like Beowulf and The Odyssey and Iliad, to ancient yarns of elves and magic and dwarves and violence and good against evil.  Inheritance's very style, however clumsily, calls your mind back to those epics.

It's... comforting, in a way.  The story has happened so many times that nothing can go wrong.  I know how the story ends, no matter what happens or who dies or what's destroyed along the way.  Good wins and evil doesn't.  Bittersweet endings are inevitable, and, yes, much of it was overdramatic and not very logical at all.  But good wins.  It's the full feeling that a tall tale's come full circle, and that I can leave the campfire storytelling and go to bed with the simple relief that good wins.

Excuses for over-the-top writing, too many filler subplots, and stolen situations?  No.  As I said, I skimmed most of Eldest and lots of Brisingr because lots of it is just so much fluff.  I actually can't stand Eldest - it's a rather self-indulgent book - and Brisingr... too long.  Inheritance had its problems as well.  Even Eragon, one of my favorite books, is rife with cliché.

But it's the cliché of the whole cycle, to me, that makes it endearing.  It's the harkening-back to those old stories, the respect it pays to how stories used to be told.  Clumsy respect?  Most definitely.  But better that than most of what there is now.

I'm glad the Inheritance Cycle is over.  It's taken a decade and it's about time for things to come full circle.

However, I admit to anticipating the news of Chris's return to Alagaesia, as he says he intends to return, and I'm ready and willing to slog through as many pseudo-archaic terms and not-surprises as it takes to enjoy the fireside tales he'll tell.

That said - Imma go watch some Sgt. Frog now.  I need to unwind.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Belle/Mulan/Pocahontas = Ariel? [A Raving Senseless Rant]

I mentioned in the last post that I can't stand the movie The Little Mermaid.  Seriously.  I can't stand it.  I love "Kiss The Girl," and Ursula is a wicked villain, and Sebastian is funny.  But I'd rather watch the entire Vampire Knight series than watch The Little Mermaid again anytime soon.

Most of this rather unhealthy hatred stems from Ariel herself.  How girls love her and want all her merch and sing "Part Of Your World" nonstop is way beyond me.  I guess it's just easier to be her than to be someone better.

It boggles my mind how people compare Ariel to the likes of Belle, Mulan, or Pocahontas.  And they use the flimsiest arguments.  "Ariel is just like them.  She's spirited and lively and fiery just like Belle and Mulan and Pocahontas."

Sure she is.  I don't deny that.  But it's how Belle, Mulan, and Pocahontas use their spirit that sets them waaaay apart from Ariel.  Belle (she's a bit weak in the beginning, but she gets her sea legs, so to speak) uses her 'spirit' to save her father in a very selfless act.  Mulan dresses like a man and goes to war - not for grrrl powah or anything, but to save her father.  Pocahontas, while still not my favorite Disney heroine, is intelligent and brave, and through her courage saves both John Smith, her people, and his.

What does Ariel do?  She complains about her life (she's a PRINCESS, she could do anything she wanted), stalks a sailor she's never met, and then gives up her whole life in order to attempt to communicate with the same guy who's never met her before.

That's spirit, all right.  Really misdirected spirit, but hey, she's spirited!  Little girls can look up to spirit!


Really, what smart decision does Ariel ever make?  She's a total jerk to her dad (who is actually pretty awesome, if you ask me), she disobeys just about everything anyone tells her, and she makes a deal with a sea witch.  Now, real love wouldn't make a deal with a witch.  Obsession would.  Ariel is obsessed.  Not in love.  Obsessed.

Besides all that, she gives up her voice - which is the main technique people use to really get to know each other - for... a pair of legs.  Which she doesn't know how to use.

Nice try, Ariel.

I shudder to imagine Ariel's thought processes.  "Let's see.  I hate my life for some reason, and I'm like so in wuv with the hot human dude on the ship.  Like, humans are so much better!  So I'm gonna go trade my voice, my fins, and my family to an evil sea-witch.  And if I can't get the dude to fall in love with me in three days, then I get my soul sucked out.  But, like, no prob.  This is cool."


And I'm not even going to start in with the whole 'if he doesn't love you in three days, then you fail - and falling in love with you means giving you a big sloppy wet one.'  You cannot get a guy to fall in love with you in three days, and a kiss does not mean love, and it's a horrible message.  I mean, Prince Philip killed a witch in dragon form to get to Aurora - not that just grandstanding is love, either, but come on.  Eric is such a sap.

Sigh.  And this is the most beloved Disney Princess of them all.  And before you say, 'It's just a fairytale!' I'm going to say that, no, it's not a fairytale.  Fairytales are not tales of happiness and spunky heroines whining and getting their way through the power of insta-love.

I'm sure everyone knows, but the real Little Mermaid went through excruciating pain to be with and to please her prince, and in the end he still went off and married another lady.

Fairytales are painful.  Disney is not.  And The Little Mermaid is Disney.  Not a fairytale.

Okay, I'm done ranting.  If you agree or if, hey, I made you mad, I'd love to hear about it!