In the 2006 film, Eragon, he was portrayed by John Malkovich.
Descent into Madness
Born in the ancient province of Inzilbêth, and one of several siblings (all of whom were dead throughout the books), Galbatorix was accepted into the ranks of the Dragon Riders at the age of ten, after being traditionally tested for great potential. He quickly excelled in all areas of combat and spellcasting, which filled him with pride, arrogance, and vanity. Although some of his fellow Riders were wary of his swift rise to power, the majority of the order neglected caution, ultimately leading to their downfall. He was chosen by a dragon and became a Rider in his early years. His dragon Jarnunvösk was killed by Urgals some years later. Galbatorix, mad with grief and hatred, asked the Dragon Rider council to grant him another dragon, but they refused, sensing his mental instability.
With his request denied, Galbatorix took it upon himself to steal another dragon egg. He convinced a Dragon Rider named Morzan to leave the gates open to the place where the eggs were stored. Galbatorix stole a dragon. Then, he forced this dragon, Shruikan, to serve him by dark magic.
He formed the Forsworn, a group of thirteen dragon riders and their dragons loyal only to him, and killed all the other dragons and riders in existence, or so he thought. He proceeded to create a kingdom of his own that most of all Alagaësia's people called The Empire through which he ruled most of Alagaësia.
The EmpireGalbatorix and his followers defeated both the elves and the dwarves, both of whom afterward went into hiding. Galbatorix then captured Ilirea with the Forsworn, where he deposed and murdered King Angrenost, the rightful ruler of the Broddring Kingdom. With this act, he proclaimed himself the new king of Alagaësia. From then on, his domain became known as simply the Empire. It should be noted that despite this, the Broddring Kingdom still officially existed, though by the time of the Rider War it was little more than a name upon royal decrees and became obsolete. Most of those under Galbatorix's rule never even knew it existed. His rule, though, was ruthless and cruel, and although much of the Empire stayed loyal to Galbatorix, there was a small rebel group called the Varden.
The Varden and the Death of the Forsworn
After naming himself king of Alagaësia, he took an active role among the Empire. Even so, he spent most of his time in his black castle in Urû'baen, formerly Ilirea. He spent forty years there, gaining power, enslaving his horde of Eldunarí, and never venturing beyond the walls of the capital. During this time, his Empire fell into chaos. After finally subjugating the spirits of the dragons confined in the Eldunarí he had captured, Galbatorix then embarked on a vicious and brutal military campaign to restore order in the Empire.
His ruthlessness and cruelty earned him the enmity of many places, such as Palancar Valley and its village of Carvahall, Eragon's place of childhood, although most of the Empire remained loyal to him, if only through fear. In particular, the country of Surda sought to remain independent of his rule, but did not feel it was wise to take up arms against him. Brom, a surviving Dragon Rider whose dragon, Saphira, had been killed in the Battle of Doru Araeba, sought revenge against Morzan and Galbatorix. He gathered together many people that had been exiled, imprisoned, or abused by the Empire, thus forming a rebel organization known as the Varden. With an elaborate network of spies and agents located throughout Alagaësia, it quickly became one of the most well-known organizations that opposed the Empire. During this time, the Varden assassinated many members of the Forsworn, Brom being a major contributor in many of the killings, leaving only one alive: Morzan.
After the fall of the Dragon Riders, Galbatorix had in his possession the last three known dragon eggs in Alagaësia. Try as he might, he could not get any of the eggs to hatch for his servants. A thief, hired by the Varden, named Hefring, later attempted to steal the eggs, but during his escape, he was only able to obtain one out of the three eggs. Morzan pursued this thief to Gil'ead, but Brom, still seeking revenge against Morzan, tracked him to there and slew him before he could , ending the Forsworn. He proceeded to transport the egg to the Varden, before going into hiding for about twenty years.
The Rider War
Prior to the War
After this incident, Galbatorix extended his friendship to Murtagh, son of Morzan, who had been living in Galbatorix's castle since the death of his parents. Murtagh, though knowing it would be unwise not to accept the offer, was seduced by Galbatorix's vision of turning the Empire into a Utopian society to benefit all Alagaësia, guarded and protected by a new order of Riders. Soon after, however, Galbatorix fell into a rage upon learning that rebels had intercepted and destroyed three brigades of Imperial troops, and commanded Murtagh to take a company of soldiers and decimate the village of Cantos, which was known to harbor the rebels. Murtagh refused the order when Galbatorix commanded him to slaughter the town's entire populace, and fled Urû'baen with his faithful teacher, Tornac. However, Galbatorix had anticipated this, and put soldiers to guard the gates to and from Urû'baen. While Murtagh was able to fight his way free, Tornac was killed in the struggle. Hoping to recapture Murtagh, Galbatorix sent the Ra'zac to pursue him.
Using his powers of dark magic, Galbatorix then took control of all the Urgal clans and placed his Shade, Durza, in command. He planned on using the ones who killed Jarnunvösk to eliminate his enemies before he chose to exterminate them at his leisure. One night, Durza and the Urgals ambushed the elven dragon egg courier, Arya while she was transporting the egg back to the Varden. Although Durza and the Urgals managed to capture Arya, their mission ultimately failed when Arya teleported the egg to the Spine, where it would be discovered by a young farm-boy named Eragon.
Galbatorix, now desperate to obtain the egg, told the Ra'zac to cease their pursuit of Murtagh and hunt down the egg instead. Their search led them to the village of Carvahall, deep in the Palancar Valley. Eragon, however, eluded capture, and Galbatorix would later learn that the egg had indeed hatched for Eragon, becoming Saphira.
Around the time that Eragon first became a Dragon Rider, Galbatorix, fearing an uprising in the north by local farmers, began the Northern Massacres, where he ordered mass raids by the Urgals on towns he suspected of supporting the Varden. His intentions were to scare them out of supporting the Varden and supporting him instead. Whole towns were decimated and their civilians slaughtered. At Yazuac, the entire population was murdered by the Urgals and piled together high at the center of the city. Some cities, such as Daret, were more fortunate, being able to fend off the Urgal attacks. Others, such as Carvahall, escaped the notice of the Urgals, being hidden by the mountains of the Spine. In order to cover-up these attacks from the general populace, Galbatorix had his agents spread rumors that the Urgals had allied themselves with the Varden, and that they were the actual instigators behind the attacks.
The Ra'zac would later encounter Eragon and Brom in Dras-Leona. They succeeded in murdering Brom later that night some distance south of the city, but were driven away by Murtagh, who had apparently been tracking them and Eragon. Murtagh, Eragon, and Saphira then made their way to Gil'ead, but were intercepted in their camp the night before they entered the city. Eragon was briefly imprisoned by Durza, but Murtagh and Saphira successfully rescued him, along with Arya.
Sometime in the same week, Galbatorix also planned to leave Urû'baen for the first in over a decade to deal with the ruler of Dras-Leona, Marcus Tábor, who had been disobeying orders and was becoming increasingly independent.
The Urgals pursued Eragon and his companions south towards the Beor Mountains, where the Varden was secretly located. By then, Galbatorix was aware of the location of the Varden.
The Battle under Farthen Dûr
Eventually, Galbatorix hatched a plan to completely destroy the rebellion, the Urgals, and the dwarves altogether. He decided to make an all-out attack on the Varden and the dwarves in their capital of Tronjheim, a city that lay below the mountain of Farthen Dûr, with the Urgals. The Urgals, lead by Durza, would stage a surprise attack on Tronjheim via underground tunnels that connected his hidden fortress in Ithrö Zhâda, a captured ancient dwarven city formerly known as Orthíad. After they crushed the Varden, they would proceed to kill the dwarf king and all his clan chiefs, eventually wreaking enough havoc upon the Beor Mountains to bring the dwarves to their heels. The Urgals would then be weak enough from the attacks that they would easily be wiped out by Galbatorix's armies. At the same time, he planned to capture Eragon and Saphira, so as to reestablish a new order of Dragon Riders under his control and recapture Murtagh.
In the Battle under Farthen Dûr, however, his plans ultimately failed when the Varden and the dwarves successfully fended off the Urgals by re-routing them and Eragon killed Durza. The Urgal clans turned on themselves, as Galbatorix forced them to unite against their rules.
Nevertheless, the battle wasn't entirely fruitless for Galbatorix. The Twins, two sorcerers that had served as Imperial spies the entire time they had been in the Varden, betrayed Murtagh and Ajihad by commanding a group of Urgals to ambush them. In the aftermath, Ajihad was killed while Murtagh was captured and brought before Galbatorix. Although Galbatorix was furious with Murtagh for defying his will, one of the dragon eggs hatched for Murtagh, and was subsequently named Thorn. Galbatorix then figured out Murtagh and Thorn's true names, and forced them to swear allegiance to him in the Ancient Language. With this act, Galbatorix made Murtagh his greatest general and taught him the secrets of magic and the dark arts. Galbatorix supplied Murtagh with multiple Eldunarí, enhancing Murtagh's power so that it was greater than Eragon's and that of the elves. Murtagh was also more powerful than any of the Forsworn had ever been, however Galbatorix kept the bulk of his Eldunarí for himself.
The Twins also provided Galbatorix with a very important detail: the name of Eragon's mother, Selena. They had figured out the connection between Eragon and Murtagh while scanning the former's mind. Therefore, both parties presumed that Morzan was Eragon's father, which would be demoralizing to the Varden if they knew that their enemy's own son is fighting for them. However, the Twins information was later discovered to be incorrect, as Eragon's true father was Brom.
Galbatorix desired to bring Eragon and Saphira into his service. Saphira was named after Brom's deceased dragon and is the last female dragon in existence and when she breeds with one of his dragons, the entire species would be reborn once more. He gave Murtagh and Thorn specific instructions not to kill them.
The Battle of the Burning Plains
In the months that followed, Galbatorix decided that he was no longer willing to tolerate the existence of Surda, a country on the southern coast of Alagaësia independent of the Empire, which had long supported his enemies. After the Battle under Farthen Dûr and Durza's death, the spell binding the Urgals to Galbatorix's will was broken. With this, the Urgals chose to ally with the Varden, despising the treachery Galbatorix had lead them through. Consequently, the king now had no choice but to rely on his standard troops. He ordered Murtagh and Thorn to lead troops from Gil'ead down to Surda to conquer the nation once and for all. Meanwhile, the Varden had also relocated from Tronjheim to Surda. Despite Murtagh's attempts, the Surdans and the Varden discovered the approaching Imperial army, and they subsequently marched north to engage them in combat at the Burning Plains. Eragon and Saphira, having learned of the upcoming battle, rushed to aid the Varden, leaving their training in Du Weldenvarden behind. With orders to capture both Eragon and Saphira, Murtagh and Thorn fought against them in the following battle, and although they may have been victorious, Murtagh's compassion for his younger half-brother allowed him to escape.
Galbatorix was furious with Murtagh for allowing Eragon and Saphira to escape. Upon learning that Eragon and Saphira killed the Ra'zac, a disaster that could easily have been avoided had Murtagh and Thorn followed their orders, Galbatorix slew five nearby servants in a rage and then turned his wrath on Murtagh and Thorn. Then, he deployed Murtagh and a group of his painless soldiers to Surda, with stricter orders to bring Eragon and Saphira to him. However, Galbatorix's plan failed again when Eragon and Saphira drove Murtagh and Thorn away with the help of Arya and twelve other elves.
When Galbatorix heard the elves were attacking the north of his Empire, he responded quickly, rather than waiting for them to come to him. Murtagh was sent to Gil'ead to confront the elves.
While Oromis and Glaedr fought Murtagh and Thorn above Gil'ead, Galbatorix entered Murtagh's mind and asked Oromis to join him. Oromis refused, and the battle continued. Galbatorix swore to kill Oromis and take Glaedr's Eldunarí. Unpredictably, Oromis had one of his spasms and Naegling, his sword which had all of his wards was knocked from his hand. Galbatorix, through his possession of Murtagh, took advantage of the opening and rent Oromis from shoulder to hip with Zar'roc. Although Glaedr attempted to fly Oromis back to Gil'ead so Islanzadí's spellcasters could save him, he was ultimately unsuccessful, and Oromis perished. Glaedr dove back into battle with Thorn, but the red dragon was too quick for him to defeat. His physical body died as Thorn bit the back of his head and neck, killing him instantly. However, before departing for battle, Glaedr entrusted Eragon and Saphira with his Eldunarí, and consequently kept himself free from Galbatorix's bondage.
Capture of Nasuada
After losing both Belatona and Dras-Leona to the Varden's advance, Galbatorix sent Murtagh to capture Nasuada, the leader of the Varden. Imprisoned in Urû'baen, Nasuada was tortured by Galbatorix who wanted her to join his cause and swear an oath to him in the Ancient Language. However, unbeknowst to the king, Murtagh was helping Nasuada withstand the torments and gradually fell in love with her. Determined to get her out of Galbatorix's hands, he believed that only by delivering Eragon and Saphira to him would work.
Battle of Urû'baen
The Varden, along with the elves and the dwarves, arrived at Urû'baen at long last. Galbatorix gave command of the city's defenses to Lord Barst whom he trusted with one of his Eldunarí. He also rendered all his soldiers in Urû'baen immune to pain.
While the battle raged on, Eragon, Saphira, Arya and Elva confronted Galbatorix. However, Galbatorix used the Name of Names, the name of the Ancient Language, which he found on a tablet written by a race not of Alagaësia to immobilize them. He also had a boy and a girl held hostage by his side, making it impossible for his enemies to attack him for fear of their lives. Galbatorix expressed surprise to find Umaroth amongst the Eldunari in Eragon's possession. He then revealed his plan to use the Name of Names to win the battle and subjugate every magician in Alagaësia.
Tired of games, Eragon attempted to goad Galbatorix into an honest battle to decide the fate of Alagaësia. Galbatorix didn't care for "honest battles" and instead decided to pit brother against brother, declaring that Eragon and Murtagh will fight a non-lethal duel without magic or Eldunarí. However, Eragon revealed that Brom was his real father, not Morzan. Taken by surprise, Galbatorix could tell that he was telling the truth just by looking at him.
Eventually, Eragon won the duel. Then suddenly, Murtagh turned against Galbatorix, stripping him of most of his wards. Galbatorix retaliated and tried to force Eragon to swear fealty to him.
Galbatorix was defeated by the use of an Empathy Spell cast by Eragon without the use of the Ancient Language, and aided by the Eldunarí. This spell forced him to understand and feel all the emotions he had invoked in others since he was born, which were mostly painful. As this was not a direct attack and Murtagh had already stripped him of most of his wards, Eragon made Galbatorix vulnerable at long last.
The king was unable to defeat Eragon in swordplay due to the painful effects of the Empathy Spell. He had a brief opportunity to attack Eragon whose leg collapsed from a previous injury, but failed to seize the opportunity due to the Empathy Spell's painful effects. With the king in extreme agony and stripped of most of his wards, Eragon was able to run Galbatorix through. Galbatorix was so overcome by the effects of the Empathy Spell that he pleaded with Eragon to end the spell even as he stood dying. When Eragon refused, the king, out of desperation, commanded himself to "Be not!". The ultimate effect of the suicidal, kamikaze-like spell that he cast literally caused himself to stop existing, converting every atom of his body into pure energy and creating a massive blast which would have killed all others present if Eragon had not shielded them in time. The shockwave of the blast destroyed the castle and caused great damage to the city and troops outside.
In the movie, Galbatorix was portrayed by John Malkovich. He appears as the Bigger Bad main antagonist of the film. Throughout the movie, he is seen giving orders to Durza. In his throne room in the movie, he has a dragon-like throne and a map nearby which, at the end of the movie, he cuts down, revealing Shruikan behind it. He's depicted as calm and very intelligent in the movie and only reveals his frustration at the end of the film after Durza's failure. Most of his backstory was left out, and he aims to kill Eragon as well as Saphira, as opposed to trying to use Saphira to recreate the dragons, as is the case in the book. He did, however, refer to Saphira's egg as a "stone", that he "suffers without his stone', and that Durza was not to "prolong his suffering".
Powers and Abilities
Galbatorix was arguably the most powerful sorcerer in Alagaësia. Having had several hundred of the dragons' Eldunarí under his control, Galbatorix's magical and mental powers were close to unlimited. Although he was not yet strong enough to invade Du Weldenvarden and conquer the elves, it is possible that Galbatorix's power had not yet reached its full potential during the events of Eragon, Eldest, and Brisingr. Many characters have stated that Galbatorix's powers had been increasing each year. It is hinted that when he discoved the "true name" (The true name of the Ancient Language) he became more powerful still.
In addition, Galbatorix is shown to be a skilled military tactician and political maneuverer and is adept at manipulating people and events. His insanity has evidently not had an effect on his intelligence. Galbatorix is also highly charismatic. Murtagh stated that he was "the most convincing and frightening man I've ever met". His warm, calculated and incredibly attractive voice is considered by many to be one of his deadliest weapons.
In "Rider and Ra'zac", the last remaining Ra'zac tells Eragon that Galbatorix has almost discovered "the name," which in Inheritance it is discovered that he has discovered the true name of the Ancient Language, which allows him to do anything, even break an oath sworn in the Ancient Language.
For all of Galbatorix's power, his education in magic seems to have been incomplete. He labored under the impression that, once he discovered the true name of the Ancient Language, he would be able to prevent anyone from using magic without his permission. This suggests, as noted by Eragon, that Galbatorix was not aware that it was possible to perform magic non-verbally. Whether the Riders didn't teach this to their students until a certain level, chose not to inform Galbatorix, or if he had, in his arrogance, simply forgotten, is unclear.
He also appears cocky and overconfident in the books. His decision to not attack the Varden personally when Eragon was weak and vulnerable is now seen to have been a mistake. His decision to wait out and chip away at the Varden while trying to find the Ancient Language's true name gave Eragon time to become more powerful and sure of himself.
Galbatorix's possible greatest weakness was his lack of compassion and understanding of love. His continued abuses of Murtagh and Thorn estranged them, and his inability to see the effect Nasuada had on Murtagh allowed Murtagh's true name to change. His every act of cruelty gave more power to the Empathy Spell when it was cast, eventually giving it enough power that the pain it caused Galbatorix forced him to destroy himself.