Mysterious Creatures of Vroengard

Misty Mountains, by Tobias Roetsch
Misty Mountains, by Tobias Roetsch, via DeviantArt. (Prints available.)

Vroengard has always been a special place, even before the arrival of the Dragon Riders.

The island’s volcanic caldera offers fertile grounds for species endemic to the area, with the surrounding mountains providing protection from the brunt of oceanic storms. Waterfalls gush down cliff sides, their waters flowing toward the heart of the Riders’ once great capital, Doru Araeba.

During its prime, the city’s visitors would gaze past gigantic buildings filled with many wonders to see glittering dragons soaring overhead and the nearby ring of mountains standing guard—life was idyllic for a time.

Galbatorix’s rise to power signaled the doom of Doru Araeba, its residents, and a good portion of the island. Nuclear fallout from the battle that raged left buildings in ruins and poison permeating the area. Not only that but, “The Riders, the dragons, and the Forsworn loosed an enormous amount of energy during the conflict. Much of it was bound in spells, but much of it was not. Those who lived to tell of it said that, for a time, the world went mad and nothing they saw or heard could be trusted.” (Glaedr, Inheritance Deluxe, page 515)

The radioactivity altered much of the local flora and fauna, often in insidious ways—even the trees seemed angry. Readers learn of four of these now mutated, mysterious creatures during the events of the Inheritance Cycle:

Angler Frogs

 “. . . each had a hornlike projection above its reddish eyes, and from the center of its forehead sprouted a curving stalk—much like a fisherman’s rod—upon the end of which hung a small, fleshy organ that at night glowed either white or yellow. The light allowed the bullfrogs to lure hundreds of flying insects within the reach of their tongues, and as a result of their easy access to food, the frogs grew enormously large. He had seen some the size of a bear’s head, great fleshy lumps with staring eyes and mouths as wide as both his outstretched hands put together . . . he could hear the deep, resonant croaking of the bullfrogs, an odd booming sound that grew especially loud whenever one of the larger frogs participated.” (Narrative, Inheritance Deluxe, page 532 and page 541)

Though an oddity born of radiation, the frogs don’t seem to threaten anything except the bugs they lure. The shadow birds occasionally predate them.

Angler Frog, Christopher Paolini, mysterious creatures, Vroengard
Angler Frog, by Christopher Paolini

Burrow Grubs

Truly terrifying, burrow grubs only came into existence following the Battle of Doru Araeba. The carnivorous, white, thumb-sized larval creatures make the noises skree-skree, skree-skra, and skree-skro. They move by hopping and each can divide their original form into a dozen small green centipede-like insects, which burrow under the skin of their victims. Nasuada was unfortunate enough to experience the effect of just one grub:

burrow grub, Nasuada, mysterious creatures, Christopher Paolini
Burrow Grub, by Christopher Paolini

” . . . it was heavier than it looked, and its underside gripped her with what felt like hundreds of little hooks . . . Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the burrow grub lift up its eyeless head and point it toward her face, as if testing the air. Its tiny mouth opened, and she saw that it had sharp cutting mandibles behind its upper and lower lips . . . there seemed to be something profoundly wrong about the burrow grub. It did not move as it should, and its obscene little mouth reminded her of a child’s, and the sound it made, the horrible, horrible sound, elicited a primal loathing within her . . . Then its fat, limbless body contracted, and it hopped four, five inches straight up into the air and then dove headfirst toward the inner part of her elbow. As it landed, the burrow grub divided into a dozen small, bright green centipedes, which swarmed over her arm before each chose a spot to sink its mandibles into her flesh and bore its way through her skin . . . There was a special horror in knowing that the cause of her pain was a creature chewing on her, and worse, that it was inside her.” (Narrative, Inheritance Deluxe, page 485-487)

Everyone that has the displeasure of encountering burrow grubs shares Nasuada’s assessment—the bugs don’t not belong to the natural order of the world. Eragon rectified this somewhat by assigning them a name in the ancient language prior to his departure from Alagaësia—íllgrathr or bad hunger. This act would not eliminate the danger they posed however . . . .

Shadow Birds

Shadow Birds are another byproduct of the radiation from the Battle of Doru Araeba. They have the ability to show themselves as either three-dimensional owls with barbed feathers around their faces or as two-dimensional shadows with glowing eyes.

Eragon first encountered the creatures on Vroengard while washing his face in a stream:

“A loud chattering rang forth over the stream as he wiped the last few droplets from his neck . . . Thirty feet up, four shadows sat on a branch. The shadows had large barbed plumes that extended in every direction from the black ovals of their heads. A pair of white eyes, slanted and slit-like, glowed within the middle of each oval, and the blankness of their gaze made it impossible to determine where they were looking. Most disconcerting yet, the shadows, like all shadows, had no depth. When they turned to the side, they disappeared . . . The leftmost shadow ruffled its plumes and then uttered the same shrieking chatter he had mistaken for a squirrel. Two more of the wraiths did likewise, and the forest echoed with the strident clamor of their cries . . . The shadows seemed to fix their glowing eyes upon him, and for a moment, all was silent, save the gentle murmuring of the brook. Then they began to chatter again, and their eyes increased in brightness until they were like pieces of white-hot iron . . . Eragon rose to his feet and carefully reached out with one foot toward the stone behind him. The motion seemed to alarm the wraiths; they shrieked in unison. Then they shrugged and shook themselves, and in their place appeared four large owls, with the same barbed plumes surrounding their mottled faces. They opened their yellow beaks and chattered at him, scolding him even as squirrels might; then they took wing and flew silently off into the trees and soon vanished behind a screen of heavy boughs.” (Narrative, Inheritance Deluxe, pages 509-510)

Disconcerting, to say the least. Eragon later named the menacing owls sundavrblaka or shadow-flappers.

shadow birds, Christopher Paolini, mysterious creatures, Vroengard
Shadow Birds, by Christopher Paolini


These giant snails, some as large as six feet, are native to Vroengard. They were a favorite delicacy of dragons prior to the Battle of Doru Araeba. (Tasty flesh and their shells are good for digestion.) Contrary to their diminutive-sized cousins, snalglí move swiftly and are carnivorous. They make hissing noises and wave their eye stalks threateningly during an attack.

“The snail—whose shell was over five and a half feet tall—hesitated, then slimed toward him as fast as a man could run. A snakelike hiss came from the black slit of its mouth, and its waving eyeballs were each the size of his fist.

Eragon realized that he would not have time to get to his feet, and on his back he did not have the space he needed to draw Brisingr. He prepared to cast a spell, but before he could, Saphira’s head arrowed past him and she caught the snail about the middle with her jaws. The snail’s shell cracked between her fangs with a sound like breaking slate, and the creature uttered a faint, quavering shriek.

With a twist of her neck, Saphira tossed the snail into the air, opened her mouth as wide as it would go, and swallowed the creature whole, bobbing her head twice as she did, like a robin eating an earthworm.

Lowering his gaze, Eragon saw four more giant snails farther down upon the rise. One of the creatures had retreated within its shell; the others were hurrying away upon their undulating, skirtlike bellies.” (Inheritance Deluxe, page 513)

The experience was humorous rather than unnerving for the Rider. . . something to do with snail steaks and eye stalk bouquets. Later Eragon taunted a snalglí that seemed intent on defeating him, entertained by the increasingly irritated creature, and dancing just out of range until the giant snail finally retreated into the night.

Fun and games aside, snalglí have certainly been affected by the radiation and magic left after the Battle of Doru Araeba and are now immune to standard wards—a fact that a cautious traveler would be wise to keep in mind.

There are likely other mutated creatures on Vroengard that Eragon, Saphira, and Glaedr didn’t encounter during their trips. The island is a menacing place full of secrets, and even if its radioactivity were contained, for example, it still wouldn’t be safe. Especially not with the strange hooded figures now residing there. Who are they? Well . . . that’s a story for another time.

Immanuela Meijer

Immanuela is the Paolinis' webmaster, archivist, and all around "make-things-go" Renaissance woman.