Murtagh, Redemption, and Psychomachy (SPOILERS)


1/29/20242 min read

Having grown up reading the Eragon books with my brother, I was stoked to learn about Murtagh.

Surprised again by how Paolini has developed as a writer, I gained a newfound appreciation for my stint reading Lovecraft some years back. For those familiar with the Cthulu mythos, you'll recognize a lot about a certain "old dreamer" cult spanning the ages and seeking to awaken a great beast from the ancient past. Of course, it's only tradition for a fantasy author to do some borrowing from different mythologies, but in this case the monstrous dreamer and cult provided the perfect foundation for what amounted to an intense psychomachy over Murtagh's past and his desire for freedom and redemption.

A psychomachy is simply an internal conflict being played out externally. While there weren't literal angels and demons duking it out, readers can see some strong parallels between Murtagh inner and outer journey.


A tale of redemption for our woebegone dragon rider, each event in the story serves to symbolize and develop one of Murtagh's struggles or hurts from the past.

We see a softer side of him as he sees his own childhood in Essie and seeks to aid her, offering her a fork and the choice between courage and fear.

As he infiltrates the town guard and later the Draumar cult, the memory of his time leading Galbatorix's men serves to reawaken his desire for a place of belonging and fellowship.

While Murtagh is allowed to "taste and see" what is good, the taste is a double-edged sword, as it only strengthens the temptation to reenter his familiar role as militant royalty once more, which represents the second "fork" in the battle for his soul.

Readers may see Murtagh rediscover and work through a great deal of his past trauma and dreams, but no redemption story is complete without a Final Temptation.

Final Temptations as Proof of Growth

In addition to rejecting the cult's adoration and false fellowship, Murtagh is only able to succeed against them by opening up to true brotherhood. When ambushed by Lyreth in the temple, he is rewarded for opening up to Uvek by being rescued—as opposed to having to suffer through it like he did back in the days of Galbatorix's court.

Murtagh repeats this victory over temptation under the sacred well and is rewarded again by rescue from true friends. Interesting to note, the physical approach to Cthulu's counterpart, Azlagur, is appropriately accompanied by a decline into madness and perversity. Twisted creatures and visions of what might be mirror the twisted "blessing" offered by Bachel; those who choose the wide path of destruction are often deceived and blinded into thinking death and corruption are goodness and life.

Finally, the redeemed hero is given a new identity. While I predicted the change to Zar'roc's true name (thanks to Paolini's masterful work), I still shouted in triumph on Murtagh's behalf as he traded being misery's thrall for becoming an agent of freedom.

If I ever write a redemption story or subplot, I'll certainly have some notes to review! Corruption, consequence, regret, taste, hope, temptation, lies, freedom.

Beginning and ending with a fork, this book made me love Murtagh and Thorn even more than ever, and I can't wait for more Alagaësia!