|Chronological and political information|
"Grateful? There's an empty word for me, Lady Nightstalker. Have you anything to eat? I'm famished."
Elva was a baby girl whose guardian, Greta, asked Eragon to bless her. Saphira touched her brow, leaving a silver star upon her forehead in the form of the Gedwëy ignasia. However, in Eldest, Eragon learns that he mistakenly cursed Elva instead of blessing her, by messing up his verb conjugation and using the word for "shield", as opposed to "shielded" by in the Ancient Language replacing the "-rö" suffix with an "-r". The complete spell Eragon used was, "Atra guliä un ilian tauthr ono un atra ono waíse skölir fra rauthr", which translates to, "May luck and happiness follow you and may you be a shield from misfortune".
As a consequence, Elva aged rapidly, having the appearance of a four-year-old in a matter of weeks and she spoke in the voice of a grown woman. She is described as having piercing violet eyes and dark hair, as well as was doomed to "shield" others within a certain physical range of proximity from any pain or suffering. Elva could also foresee when a person was about to be damaged and was compelled to do anything in her power to prevent. If she resisted, there were "consequences." The "consequences" included vomiting and her taking on the other person's suffering.
Elva was assigned to be Nasuada's bodyguard after saving Nasuada from an assassination attempt by the Black Hand. Nasuada also had the herbalist-witch Angela watch over Elva for her. Angela also extracts a promise from Eragon that he will do all in his power to take his blessing-turned-curse off of Elva.
Elva's parents are unknown, it is presumed that they died not long after her birth, assuming her father was even still alive at that time.
At the end of Inheritance, Elva is a young girl, even though she is only around three years old chronologically. According to author Christopher Paolini in a Q&A, "Elva's growth/maturation leveled off once she reached the point where she was able to start interacting with her environment and being able to protect people from their pain. Once that happened, there wasn't a reason for her spell/curse to accelerate her growth any further."
Eragon tried to remove his curse from her: he failed, but still cast a spell that changed her need to help others in pain or danger, thus she could decide of her own free-will if she wanted to ignore it.
Following Eragon's failure, Elva dismissed her caretaker, Greta, as well as stated that she would be "beholden to no one." She displayed an alarming tendency to indulge her darker and more malicious side once freed from the forceful compulsion to shield others from impending misfortune:
Elva’s eyes glowed with unsavory glee. “I will never be like ordinary people. If I must be different, then let me keep that which sets me apart. As long as I can control this power, as it seems I now can, I have no objection to carrying this burden, for it shall be by my choice and not forced upon me by your magic, Eragon. Ha! From now on, I shall answer to no one and no thing. If I help anyone, it will be because I want to. If I serve the Varden, it will be because my conscience tells me I should and not because you ask me to, Nasuada, or because I’ll throw up if I don’t. I will do as I please, and woe unto those who oppose me, for I know all their fears and shall not hesitate to play upon them in order to fulfill my wishes.”
It is important to note that Elva's eagerness to use her curse to play upon others' secret fears most likely stems from the fact that she had been forced to experience the suffering of the entire world from infanthood.
Angela stated that she would have to "spend the next ten years teaching the girl how to behave". She had cast a spell that prevented Elva's ability from having any effect on her the moment she first met her, but she refused to teach it to anyone else. Elva stated that she was now ambivalent toward Eragon, but regarding Saphira, she stated "I am and shall always remain your faithful servant," no small thing, seeing as Eragon and Saphira are directly bonded.
During the battle with the Laughing Dead, Angela stated that Elva was "not very coherent" and that she was going to put her to sleep until the violence was at an end, showing that Elva still had much work to do if she wished to master her ability. In Ellesméra, when Eragon spoke of Elva, Oromis stated that even though Eragon had not succeeded in removing the whole of the spell, he had fulfilled his obligation.
Elva stayed with the Varden in their war against the Broddring Empire. When Eragon went to capture Dras-Leona, he asked her to come with him as protection, but she refused. Afterwards, Eragon scolded her for her decision as she could have prevented Wyrden's death. Regretting her mistake, Elva helped to the fight Imperial soldiers who were attempting to capture Nasuada. At Urû'baen, Elva, along with Eragon, Saphira, Arya and the other elves, confronted Galbatorix, but her gift was rendered useless by a spell preventing her from speaking. Galbatorix offered her a deal to join him that Eragon claimed "tempted" her, but Elva could not respond. After the fall of Galbatorix, Eragon learned the Name of Names and offered to remove the curse he had put upon her but she refused, saying that it was already part of who she was and that if she didn't have it, she would just be an outcast, whereas if she did have the curse, she would be an outcast with a helpful talent.
Author Christopher Paolini confirmed that Elva was originally considered for the role of "Green Rider" in Inheritance, before he chose Arya instead. He also confirmed that it was "possible" that Elva could become a Dragon Rider in the future. However, Paolini voiced his concerns that making Elva a Rider would make her "overpowered", citing her "amazing ability". He said, "being a Rider as well seems like overkill to me", but also revealed, "If she were, though, she'd be pretty scary. Even Galbatorix wouldn't have stood a chance against her".
Elva was completely omitted from the film, even though she plays a very important role in Eldest. She does, however, appear in a deleted scene.
Behind the ScenesEdit
On January 7, 2015, author Christopher Paolini posted an entry titled "Elva: the Unexpected Character" on Paolini.com. In it, he provided "behind the scenes" background on Elva, how he created her character, and her importance in Paolini's perspective and writing.
Paolini wrote, "I never intended to have Elva in the series; she wasn't in the initial outline. The scene where Eragon blesses/curses her was something I wrote on the spur of the moment, inspired by the internal logic of the story and a desire to demonstrate Eragon’s new position within the Varden (better to show they held him high regard than to just say). Even once the scene was written, I never thought that Elva would end up playing such an important role later in the series. In fact, I didn't even realize that Eragon had cursed her until a good ways into Eldest."
"Thus, it wasn’t Eragon who made a mistake when he blessed/cursed Elva. It was me. I was the one who used the wrong word (skölir instead of sköliro) and only discovered my error while compiling a language guide for the deluxe edition of Eragon. At the urging of my sister, Angela, I had made an effort to standardize the ancient language and smooth out some of the wrinkles and missteps. Only then did it become clear what I/Eragon had actually done to poor Elva...My first instinct was to correct the error in reprints and to wave off the whole thing as a slip of the finger. After all, no one likes to admit they made a mistake. However, the more I thought about the difference between the two words (shield and shielded), the more intriguing the dramatic possibilities became..."
"With regard to Elva, I asked myself, 'What if Eragon really had cursed her? What would be the consequences?' And then worked out those consequences, both for the character and for the story as a whole. At each step along the way, those kinds of questions were what allowed me to develop this line of thought—to give each possibility a chance to grow and flower in my mind."
"My experience with Elva taught me that although I could have chosen an easier solution, my search for a deeper, more interesting way to deal with the problem ultimately led me to create one of the most memorable characters in the story. Now I’m always on the lookout for other moments that may propel my fiction in an unexpected direction and breathe new life into the plot."