The Doppleganger of 'Eragon'

May 29, 2015
by: landayc18
Cover page of 'Eragon'

Every person who has ever read a book holds in their heart, a favorite. Mine of course, is Eragon by Christopher Paolini. I have posted before about Eragon, but I come back now for a different purpose. Recently, discussion featurning archetypes has popped up and I have been given the chance to share one of my favorite characters of all time: Murtagh.

(SPOILERS) Murtagh is, based on the title of this page, a doppleganger. He is a doppleganger to Eragon in his namesake book. Throughout the entire series of the Inheritence Cycle, Murtagh has been the other side of Eragon. Separated from birth as half-brothers to wildly contrasting fathers, Eragon and Murtagh go through their own separate journies. Of course, we as readers follow the journey of Eragon himself. We follow him from a farmer and small-time hunter to that of a hero who slays effective gods. We watch him grow over the course of the series as he learns combat, magic, and matures into the sort of well-rounded individual mothers crave in their children. 

Murtagh however, followed a different upbringing. It was Murtagh who grew up under the watchful gaze of Galbatorix the Mad King. It was he who bore scars from his father, the first and last of the Forsworn: Morzan. Murtagh grew up in a palace of deceitful murderers. He learned to survive in a land of dark intrigue. While Eragon lived a quiet childhood on the homestead, Murtagh faught to survive in what should have been paradise. We learn that Murtagh eventually flees with his personal servant and closest friend. He finds and saves Eragon and travels with him. He suffers for him too, when Eragon finds the Varden. And in the end, he is dragged back to Galbatorix.

When Eragon becomes a dragon rider and warrior in tandem, Murtagh gets a dragon of his own. He and his dragon are warped by dark magic to grow their power quickly by Galbatorix. Eventually, Murtagh is the rival of Eragon. They fight on different sides of a literal war. While Eragon is seen as a man of the people, Murtagh is the one who brings tyrannical order on the populace. The war they fight in concludes with a duel between the two, followed by the slaying of Galbatorix in a fitting end.

A doppleganger is seen as the character's evil self, a dark shadow. A doppleganger brings conflict- the protagonist must find themself as well as their doppleganger in order to succeed. Sometimes a doppleganger is a literal evil double of the protagonist. In this sense however, the doppleganger is a symbolic one. Murtagh and Eragon might as well reflect each other on warped mirrors. A strong case can be made that Murtagh is simply a darker side of Eragon, a ghost of what could have been. They were friends, enemies, allies and foes- in a different world they would never have suffered the way they both did. This is why I see Murtagh as a doppleganger: he is of the same blood, he is of an opposite upbringing, and he is so important to the plot.

Thank you and good bye.


Very End (Warning: Spoilers)

BryceK18's picture
Submitted by BryceK18 on Sat, 2015-05-30 11:48.

The Inheritance Cycle my favorite book series as well, and I think that you really explored some deep connections between Eragon and Murtagh. I am curious what you think of the very end of the series, when Eragon goes off to find somewhere to protect the Eldunari and dragon eggs and Murtagh stays in Alagaësia to figure out his life. It seems to follow exactly what you were saying about them being opposites, though it seems their roles have almost switched. Murtagh has become "good" and he has decided to stay, where Eragon has supposedly abandoned his friends, family, and all he has fought for in the series, and he has no plans of coming back. To me, it seemed like Murtagh should be represented as the hero, yet Eragon is still portrayed as the classically "good" hero.


landayc18's picture
Submitted by landayc18 on Tue, 2015-06-02 11:22.

You can definitely make a case for a role reversal, but I just interpret the ending as Eragon stepping into the shoes of the ancient riders, espeically seeing as how he is searching for some sort of replacement to Vroengard. Murtagh never really aligned with the riders as he developed in the company of the Forsworn, so it makes sense that he wouldn't leave everything behind to start anew and train riders.
Regardless, destiny is a real thing in this book. In the pilot book, we see it is Eragon's destiny to leave and never return. Short of killing himself, he was pretty much bound to never come back. Murtagh is a special case because he hasn't found himself like Eragon has. Eragon can leave because his plot is resolved. It's less of a role reversal and more of simply being done with the quest. Murtagh hasn't finished his quest.