13

Throughout the Inheritance Cycle, Angela plays a frequent, mysterious role. There are some vague hints as to an interesting back story, including:

  1. Saphira makes mention of her as a person with a "Young body, old mind"
  2. She indicates that she might be quite old.
  3. The Elves have considerable respect for her, for reasons which are never noted.
  4. She seems to have considerable power, but not as much as King Galbatorix.
  5. She seems to know things she shouldn't, such as how to protect herself against Elva, what was going to happen to Eragon at the end of the 4th book before he had mentioned it to any but a VERY few trusted people, etc.
  6. Solembum, the werecat, seems to trust her a great deal, but doesn't seem to know why.

So, what is her back story?

  • +1 I had actually just made an account here to ask this very question. Mind you she manages to also TIME TRAVEL during the final book as well. (I cant remember the name of the place, but its where the Ra'zac worshippers were) – Ender Apr 23 '12 at 14:52
  • It's speculated she is member of the Grey Folk, but nothing certain – The Fallen Jun 21 '12 at 21:18
  • @Ender I don't think she "Time Travels" Is it not just the case that she moves really really fast! – AidanO Sep 3 '12 at 10:25
  • @Aidan Lookin back I'm not sure why I said that, it's more realistically described as either drastically slowing time down or flat out stopping it entirely(temporarily). – Ender Sep 3 '12 at 17:57
  • Added some more quotes to my answer. – ibid Apr 30 '18 at 7:06
8

As Christopher Paolini mentions in the appendix of the final book, Inheritance, this is left as an open question that may or may not be answered in future books, if any... He jokingly suggests we ask Angela Paolini herself, for now.

All we know is it's a backstory strong enough to send chills down the spine of the head of the underground cult of the spectres...

6

Christopher Paolini has said (and not said) a lot about Angela in Interviews:

Angela the herbalist was inspired by my sister, Angela. She knows the Latin names of all our local plants and actually had a humorous argument with her uncle about whether toads are really frogs. She is a wonderful and fascinating person, full of wit and wisdom, and a good sport about having a character named after her.

And what is Angela’s true name? Now do you really think she would reveal something like that to me, the author? No, that is a secret she’s going to keep for a while longer.

How old is Angela? Well, Eragon might ask her how old she is, but what she would answer nobody knows. Besides, it’s not polite to ask a woman her age . . . especially when she has the ability to turn you into a toad!

Angela’s sword, Tinkledeath, is made from enchanted diamond. It can store energy, as can all jewels.
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For the most part I'd classify Angela as a subset of the trickster characters so often found in folklore and mythology. Unlike the other characters, she's aware that's she's in a story, which is why she enjoys poking fun at Eragon as the gormless hero. That said, she does play a deeper, more fundamental role in my world that I haven't really written about. So yes, in that sense, her story isn't resolved.
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Has Angela ever been in love?
Perhaps, but even if she has, I doubt even Solembum knows of it.
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If I remember correctly, Angela had “the sharpest sword” or something. Could it cut a Rider’s sword?
I don’t know! Let’s find out!
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Is Angela the most singularly powerful humanoid in your books? If not, then who?
Eragon’s the most powerful in terms of pure energy, but I’d rather fight him than Angela.
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Why is Angela so mysterious and feared? Where did she come from and where did she get her skills?
It’s a mystery, isn’t it?
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Angela the herbalist is a woman of mystery… but is she capable of being evil? Could she ever become a ‘big baddie’ in Alagaësia?
She’s as capable of evil as anyone. If she turned bad, though, watch out! Even Eragon with all the Eldunarí at his disposal would be hard pressed to stop her.
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Does Angela have any siblings? A brother perhaps?
No comment.
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Is Angela the daughter of Tenga?
No.
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What is Angela?
WHAT? I think you mean … WHO? Hmm. What does that remind me of? […] She’s not who you think she is.
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What does Angela have against ferrets? Seriously, we need a book on her.
Ferrets have very sharp teeth and propensity to shred your shins (as well as other soft fleshy areas). Beware of ferrets.
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I have easily alone 100 questions about Angela, but I think i wouldn't get a answer to them. So i just want to thank you! I love your books! They enriched my life!
Aww. Thanks! That really means a lot to me.
p.s. Angela owns no pigeons.
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He has also specifically addressed some of the popular theories

Is Angela a Time Lord who enjoys ambiguously messing with the politics and people of Alagaësia, especially Eragon?
It’s a good theory, isn’t it. 😀
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Could Angela have changed her name and appearance and actually been Eragon’s mother Selena?
Implausible but not impossible. After all, is there anything Angela can’t do?
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Any relation between the Soothsayer mentioned during Nasuada’s interrogation and Angela? It says neither Elf nor dwarf…
Good question . . . but no comment. :)
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MM: Ok. Incoming no comment, I’m sure. But is Angela the oracle that Galbatorix was talking about while torturing Nasuada?
CP: That is an excellent, excellent question and there is not even the slightest chance I’m going to answer it.
MM: [LAUGHS] I threw it in because it was asked by an unbelievable amount of fans. It was probably in the top five.
CP: I mean I will say, that the way Inheritance is written, it would certainly lead you to think that. Wouldn’t it?
MM: That was my first question to you after I finished the book.
CP: That’s right. That’s right. No comment.
MM: Ok.
CP: And I will say, and I’ve said this before, that the next book set in Alagaësia that I’ve thought out, well actually I have a number of them, but the main one that I’ve thought about would definitely revolve around Angela’s back story to a much greater degree than any of the previous books. Of course that would probably just end up leaving everyone even more confused than they were to begin with because this is Angela after all. But we would learn quite a bit more about her.
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What is the truth about Angela? Was she the prophet Galbatorix mentioned to Nasuada? What is her past? who is she?
She's something more.
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Is Angela your sister who you trapped inside of a fantasy world, giving her inconceivable powers and knowledge but without too much influence over the actual story, just to mess with her? Or maybe it's revenge because she ate your froot loops one day or something?
Ahaha. I like that theory. I'll mention it to my sister the next time I talk with her.
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My head cannon for Angela is that she is an irl person that is in the book. If I remember correctly, you mention that Angela is inspired by your sister. That influenced the way I viewed Angela as a character. To me she exists both within and apart from the books. The reason she is ancient and knows so much that has been forgotten is because she's been around for every step of Eragon and the subsequent novels.
Your theory about Angela is great. That's exactly how I often think about her. She's aware that she's inside a story, which is why she so often makes fun of Eragon as he goes around acting like the hero. Like so many trickster characters, she can see the 4th wall (and beyond).
Or perhaps . . . she's just a quirky herbalist who has consumed one-too-many of her own concoctions. Who's to say? :D
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Is Angela a dragon? She just seems like she embodies the rather...playful...aspects and sense of humor that a dragon does.
She'd certainly make a good dragon. I'll agree with that.
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Every time I see theories on what Angela is, I always feel like they assume too much. Maybe it’s stupid, but I’ve always wondered if she’s actually another werecat and that’s why Solembum stays with her and she’s just generally a bit odd
Now THAT'S a theory I haven't heard before, and I've heard a lot of them. I like that -- Angela the werecat. Who know's, maybe we'll find out. ;-)
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Okay but actually, all I want to know is: does Angela have a real, intricate backstory in the lore or whatever, or is it something simple(ish), and we've all just been overthinking it waaay too much.
Nope. You haven't been overthinking it. She's a puzzle wrapped in an enigma.
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On your last AMA on reddit, someone asked if any fan had guessed the identity and history of Angela correctly. You said nobody has guessed correctly and there's not enough information in the books to do so.That puts every fan theory out there on her wrong, correct? She's not the soothsayer, a time lord, grey folk, etc, correct?
Some of the fan theories have gotten parts of her history and identity correct. However, there's a HUGE aspect to her nature that no one has guessed (or least, not in a non-joking way). And no, I don't mean her being a Time Lord.
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More about Angela will be revealed in future books

Will we ever know Angela’s backstory or who she is?
You’ll learn a lot more about her. But every answer I provide will only raise three more questions!
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How did Angela and Solembum meet?
THAT is a story for another time and another place.
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When and if I write a fifth book in Alagaesia, Angela's past will play a large role. source

And I know I’m pushing it here, but is there any chance you can explain what some of the plot might be in Book V?
Well, since you asked nicely — Book V will feature Angela’s backstory quite prominently and it won’t be about the two women she rolled the dragon bones for.

I was wondering if you were going to make a side series that focuses on one character in each book?
Angela is really the only character I’ve considered doing that with (aside from the two women whose fortune she told in Brisingr). I don’t think I’ll be writing full books about any of the other side characters.
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Will we ever see the Adventures of Angela the Herbalist?
Heh. As long as I don’t kick the bucket first. Love her character.
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You mentioned the possibility of a book of Angela's life story. Is this still possible?
Yes, I still plan on writing the book about Angela. Also, Book V will contain a lot more information about her as well.
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Will we see any more of the werecats in the future? Are we ever going to know what went on between them and Angela?
Yes. And yes to a degree. Angela always keeps some secrets to herself.
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I would love to know Angela’s story lol by far my fav character in the whole series.
Glad you've enjoyed the books so much! And yes, I have lots more planned with Angela.
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How old is she? Where did she come from? What did she do to earn Solumbum the Werecat's loyalty? Is she even human? And finally, why the hell would you name a cool ass sword Tinkledeath?
Book 5. :D Also I have a book all about Angela planned.
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Will we get more Angela characters in this new novel? Please say yes.
Angela? In a sci-fi novel? How would that possibly work? :D
She is in Book V, though.
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Want more? Ask Christopher Paolini. He's always happy to share. (I did it, so can you.)

Can you tell us anything new about Angela? (I'm not asking for anything earth-shattering, just senseless trivia.)
She is rather fond of the words "fuliginous" and "deliquesce".
Source

Can you give us any new (non plot-important) tidbits about Angela and/or Tenga? Like their favorite food or their opinions on proper map projections?
Angela is of the opinion that distances in Alagaësia vary according to the urgency of your trip. Of course, this would only be true if one were living in a story. . . .
Source

5

I was wondering about the same question and reading through Inheritance I soon came to a conclusion: when Galbatorix captured Nasuada and imprisoned her in the hall of the soothsayer, Galbatorix talks about the Elves and such and mentions a very powerful woman known as the soothsayer and how the soothsayer was as old as Alagaësia itself. Maybe Angela could have been this soothsayer?

  • 5
    Can you provide the quote from the book? I don't remember this – The Fallen Sep 9 '12 at 15:30
  • Yeah this was the best conclusion for me too. It fits, at least – Jon Story Aug 12 '15 at 15:19
1

I'm not entirely certain if this is a valid response, but if you read the afterword/apendix in the third book, paolini says that he is a doctor who fan. So what stops him from putting a timelord in his books? It would explain a bit about Angela. "Young body, old mind." Easy, she has regenerated, so her body would be young, and her mind could be thousands of years old. It also explains how she sees the connection between time, motion, heat and energy so easily. Angela would have learned about it in 'timelord school'. Please tell me if this is a valid answer.

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