Christopher Paolini began reading fantasy novels at 10 and started to work on Eragon when he was only 14years old. He quickly stopped, realizing that he had no idea how to write a full-length novel, let alone a series. Paolini read all the books he could find about the art of writing and then began to plot out the Inheritance Cycle, the series to which Eragon is the first. After about a month, when he was only 15, he began to write the first true draft, which took about a year. He then began to write the next version of the book, which took another year.
In the writing of Eragon Paolini wanted to learn the most that he could about the skills that the protagonist Eragon would need to use, at least those skills that are earthly in their manner. Paolini met with experts in their fields and learned to forge knives and swords, he learned to spin his own wool, a skill that would have been fairly common in the village Eragon lives in. He also camped in the mountains around his home in Montana and learned to hunt with his own hand-made gear. He also did extensive research on how people in the medieval ages lived so that his story could reflect the time period accurately.
His parents then decided to publish it through their home publishing company, Paolini International. Christopher Paolini also drew the maps inside the book, as well as the cover art. The Paolini family began a tour of America, all the while trying to sell their the book. Their big break came when Carl Hiaasen’s stepson bought and loved a copy of Eragon. Hiaasen brought the book to the publishing house Alfred A Knopf, which extended a publishing offer to the Paolinis.
Eragon is the beginning in a fantasy epic. It is full of archetypes found in this genre, such as the damsel in distress, the quest, and the evil king. Paolini’s main influences when writing were by Tolkien, Beowulf, and old myths. Additionally, he was influenced by Le Guin, Frank Herbert, Andre Norton, and Brian Jacques. The ancient language used by the elves in Eragon is derived from Old Norse, German and Old English, although all languages created in the book take root in his own imagination.
Paolini did an incredible amount of in-depth research into the world of his story, learning about dragons, dwarves, elves, and magic. The rocky landscape of the world of Eragon is inspired by Paolini’s home in Montana. Paolini didn’t draw a map of Alagaesia until he felt it was necessary that he knew where Eragon was going.
Paolini tried to have Eragon’s maturity throughout his journey match his own, making it a metaphor for Paolini’s journey to become an excellent writer. Eragon’s dragon Saphira was given blue-tinted vision as a metaphor for Christopher Paolini’s color-blindness.
Eragon is a typical bildungsroman or a coming of age story. It follows a young farm boy as he becomes someone of power, who will fight for justice. It received mixed reviews upon release, with most critics accusing it of having too many cliches. The dialogue was also heavily criticized. The plot and the characters received the most praise. Eragon was on the NYT Children’s Book Bestseller List for 121 weeks. In 2011 Paolini was recognized as the youngest author of a bestselling series by the Guinness World Records.