Vegetarianism in literature: Christopher Paolini’s Eldest book

After slowly reading Christopher Paolini’s Eragon over the course of a year (the second half is gripping but the first half takes a while to get through), and then rereading it a couple years later so that I could remember what was going on in its sequel, Eldest, I have adopted a steady reading pace and am quite happily engrossed in the series.

While reading Eldest over my lunch break, I came across an interesting perception of vegetarianism. Eragon learns that while dwelling with the elves (not much given away there), he will not be eating meat, as the elves do not hunt animals. Eragon, having grown up on a farm, finds this news difficult to digest (Aha! Get it?).

However, as Eragon learns to visit the minds of animals–to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences–he finds that as much as he craves meat (he even kills two rabbits and is about to dig in), he can no longer consume it. He explains to Saphira, his dragon companion, that having felt as the rabbit does, he equates the action to eating himself. He feels one with the rabbit, and he does not wish to cause it unnecessary suffering. He understands its fight for life and as a more intelligent being, can resist his impulse to prey on the weak. Saphira asks would you resist all your desires? And he replies only those he deems harmful.

Eragon and Saphira agree to disagree, as Saphira is a hunter and relies upon meat, unable to live off a strictly plant diet. Eragon and Saphira understand that Eragon makes this decision for himself, and he neither enforces it upon anyone else nor judges them for choosing to eat meat. Saphira points out it is the order of life to eat animals, but Eragon simply cannot go back to the meat he so craves, now that he knows how the rabbit feels and has been inside its mind.

That is how I feel. If presented with a pig or a pork chop, I pick the pig every time. This is a decision I make for myself, not for anyone else, but for me. I remember when I became vegetarian, I was extremely surprised to hear that some choose this diet for the very reason of being healthy. What? Hadn’t the popular reaction to my news been a creased forehead above a pair of lips demanding, “But where will you get your protein?”

Popular reasons for adopting a vegetarian diet: a desire not to kill or eat animals, a healthy lifestyle, to be more environmentally friendly, or perhaps some other reason (some stomachs are uncomfortable digesting meat, I heard recently). What was your reason, or your friend’s reason, for becoming vegetarian?

Whatever the reason, we remember that this decision is made for ourselves, and just as we wish for our diet to be respected, so should we respect the diets of others.

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2 Responses

  1. Well, it’s kind of a disgusting story. I started eating a lot at a vegetarian restaurant in Peterborough. It was run by a best friend. After a while I slowly gave up my meat consumption, realizing I didn’t really need it. It was more a consumerist thing.

    One day I needed a job and found one in a grocery store. I thought I’d be working in the deli and was fine with this. It turns out they wanted me to work in the meat department. This was kind of an upscale grocery store and had an all-out butcher shop. I was so shocked and disgusted at what I saw in my two days there, I swore off meat for good.

  2. Ah, I get that. I was going to make butter chicken for my family (see new recipe: http://bit.ly/avKSkJ) but as soon as I got the chicken out of the fridge, I remembered I don’t like the sight of raw meat. So my dad kindly prepared that part 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

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