On the Inheritance series (Eragon)

How the Inheritance Cycle Differs from Fantasy Epics in the Past

By Ian Irvine

Late in the twentieth century the world definitively entered the third age of storytelling, and this is changing the way some new authors tell stories, and how young audiences view them. Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle reflects this transition. The first age, oral storytelling, began with tales told around the campfires of hunters and gatherers. It was only after printing became cheap enough that books were widely available and compulsory education ensured most people were literate that the world transitioned to the second age, written storytelling. Written storytelling must have existed since the invention of writing around 5,000 years ago, but only took over as the predominant form when mass-produced books became affordable in the Industrial Revolution. And not everyone was happy about it. Even in Greek and Roman times people complained that writing tales down was ruining the craft of storytelling.

I had the opposite problem. When I first read Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey I didn’t enjoy them much, for the oral storytelling style felt awkward and unfamiliar to me–though I had devoured books from an early age, I had seldom heard tales told. However, I loved The Aeneid, which Virgil had written to be read. Now there is as much angst about the recent move toward digital and visual media that’s making the printed book redundant.1

Alas, I’ve never fully entered the third age where, over the past half-century, the written word has been replaced by the visual media (movies, TV, games, and Internet) as the principal form of storytelling. We  …

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