Durza (or formerly as the human Carsaib) was a Shade in the service of Galbatorix and the main antagonist of Eragon. He was one of Eragon's primary adversaries. He was one of two Shades in Alagaësia during Eragon's time: the other being Varaug, though they were not alive at the same time. He was the second main antagonist in Eragon, the first being Galbatorix.
The child who would become Durza was born into a nomadic tribe and was given the name "Carsaib". His family was banished and abandoned by the tribe after his father was accused of oath-breaking.
Apprenticeship to Haeg
Tragically, both of Carsaib's parents were murdered by bandits and Carsaib wandered blindly into the desert, wishing that he could be dead as well. He was found by a sorcerer named Haeg, who took him in and began to teach him the art of controlling spirits.
After a few years, Haeg was murdered by a group of bandits and in a rage, Carsaib summoned up avenging spirits that were too powerful for him to control. They turned on him and possessed his mind and body, thus transforming him into the Shade Durza.
Service to Galbatorix
Eventually, Durza formed an alliance with the tyrannical King Galbatorix. He taught the King dark magic that helped him overthrow the Riders. Durza was bound to Galbatorix's service by a large number of spells but this control was always precarious due to the King never finding out Durza's true name. In addition, the Shade was always seeking ways to undermine Galbatorix.
Under the Empire
As the years passed, Durza grew more and more powerful, and was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocents (both on Galbatorix's orders and for his own twisted, cruel pleasure). At one point, he even dueled with Ajihad, leader of the Varden. Ajihad was able to mar the Shade's sword, leaving a wire-thin scratch upon the blade, but failed to kill the Shade.
Durza commanded the Urgal tribes in the Battle Under Farthen Dûr through a combination of force, deception and the use of sorcery to bend the will of the Urgals. Although a magically powerful being, he did serve Galbatorix, which we can assume means that he was not as powerful as Galbatorix.
Durza was sent to ambush the dragon egg courier, Arya. He was successful in capturing the elf, but the primary objective - to recapture the egg - was unsuccessful. Through his magical cunning, he was able to kill Arya's companions. The dragon egg was teleported into the Spine, where it was found by Eragon. Galbatorix then charged the Shade with recovering the information of the egg's location from the elf: Durza promptly set to work and tortured Arya to the brink of madness and death, both for information and his own pleasure.
Skirmish at Gil'ead
It is unknown if he knew about Saphira's hatching, but Durza was known to observe the Urgals' progress when they created weapons, sometimes teleporting into the chamber unexpectedly.
Durza encountered Eragon in Gil'ead, when Urgals captured Eragon and imprisoned him at the same prison as Arya. As Galbatorix desired both the Rider and his dragon, Durza tried to inquire about his true name. However, Eragon didn't know, bluffing that it was "Du Súndavar Freohr" (Death of the Shadows). With the help of Murtagh and Saphira, Eragon escaped, rescuing Arya in the process. In the escape, he ended up duelling the Shade, only to find that he was no match for Durza. In the middle of their fight, Murtagh incapacitated Durza by shooting him first in the shoulder, then between the eyes.
Regeneration and aftermath
There were complications, my King.— Durza, to Galbatorix
Durza survived the otherwise fatal shot because a Shade can only be killed by piercing him through the heart (any other seemingly fatal wound simply causes a Shade to regenerate itself). Having endured a painful process of regeneration that involved holding his hands above a pit of fire, Durza returned to Galbatorix and learned that the King had 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. He chided Durza for failing to apprehend Eragon, he defended it by claiming there were complications. Galbatorix dismissed his excuses and placed him in charge of the assault.
Battle under Farthen Dûr and death
Durza led an army of Urgals at the Battle under Farthen Dûr. Durza and Eragon eventually fought at the end of the battle, as Urgal forces from Ithrö Zhâda penetrated the Varden's refuge. At first, the Shade demonstrated his superior strength and maintained the upper hand, giving Eragon a serious wound. However, Durza eventually became distracted by the breaking of the Isidar Mithrim: as he turned away to deal with the attacking Arya and Saphira, Durza left himself open to Eragon's final, desperate blow, and Zar'roc plunged into his heart. He was finally destroyed but Eragon was almost killed by the explosion that resulted from killing the Shade, being saved by the intervention of Oromis. Eragon was given the honorary title "Shadeslayer".
After Durza's death, the magic controlling the Urgals was broken. The Urgals fell into disarray and confusion, turning on one another as they heedlessly slaughtered their own forces. This fighting and confusion led to victory for the Varden.
The prologue of the book, Prologue: Shade of Fear, is told out of Durza's point of view. However, his name is never mentioned.
Despite his death, Durza still affected events in Eldest. The wound Durza inflicted on Eragon haunted the young Dragon Rider throughout his journey. The wound was described as Eragon being "sawed in half" until he was healed by the dragons at the Blood-Oath Celebration. Eragon composed a poem about The Land Of Durza, which received much acclaim by the elves, for the Blood-Oath Celebration. To Eragon, Durza became a representative of everything that is evil, though he didn't consider Durza himself to be evil but the spirits controlling him.
Durza was tall, with crimson hair and maroon eyes. His face was deathly white, with the appearance of a death mask or a polished skull that had its skin pulled back to give the appearance of life. His body was thin and compact, like that of a runner, though he was quite strong. He often wore a cape. His teeth were filed to points and he had narrow lips. During most of Eragon, he wore a maroon robe, but near the Battle of Farthen Dur, he was described as "tall, garbed entirely in black armor." He wore a snake-skin cape and a richly decorated helmet, like a general's. He wielded a thin but extremely sharp sword that bore a long scratch from a previous battle with Ajihad.
Having been trained by the sorcerer Haeg in magic and controlling spirits, Carsaib managed to ultimately summon several vengeful spirits. After the spirits possessed Carsaib and turned him into the Shade Durza, he became extremely powerful, more so than any human magician (with only an Elf being able to rival his power and magical energy reserves), as Shades were deemed among the most feared creatures in the world. Durza thus became an expert in Dark magic, and was the one to teach it to Galbatorix, which allowed the latter to overthrow the Dragon Riders.
As a Shade, Durza also gained superhuman strength, speed, and stamina on par with those of an Elf, with Eragon (prior to his Elvish enhancement at the Blood-Oath Celebration) quickly getting overwhelmed in each of his fights with Durza, and only successfully slaying the Shade due to Arya and Saphira momentarily distracting Durza. Along with his Elf-level physical enhancements, Durza also possessed several additional powers, notably a superhuman pain tolerance, superhumanly quick healing, and unmatched senses, with Durza being able to see as clearly at night as he could during the day, and with him able to smell Arya from miles away.
Perhaps Durza's most formidable ability, however, was his resistance to death, as a Shade could only be killed by being stabbed through the heart: otherwise, (such as when Murtagh shot him between the eyes) Durza would merely be temporarily disembodied and would reappear elsewhere in spirit form, before returning to a body, healed. This process was unpleasant for Durza, and extremely painful, but otherwise had no lasting consequences. Indeed, according to Ajihad, Durza was actually strengthened from being disembodied.
Durza was cruel, arrogant, sadistic and short-tempered. He was also intelligent, commanding, and overconfident. He liked to gloat. He was known to sneer at Eragon and seemed to underestimate him. An example of this is when Eragon first met Durza in Gil'ead. As Eragon tried escape with Murtagh, he sneered, "Do you really think to defeat me, Du Sundavar Freohr? What a pitiful name. I would have expected something more subtle from you, but I suppose that's all you're capable of." Durza is normally calm and emotionless, but he has a very vicious temper, as shown when he learns that Saphira's egg had been transported out of his grasp and he furiously threw his sword, at a tree.
Durza is a cunning and ruthless strategist, shown by the way he planned to capture Saphira's egg and that his plan succeeded right down to his fight with Arya, which only narrowly failed. He was able to strike fear in many and being a Shade, he was extremely powerful. There were also a few hints that he was not as loyal to Galbatorix as the King might have thought. An example was when Durza said to Eragon, "I must attend to certain matters, but while I am gone you would do well to think on who you would rather serve: a Dragon Rider who betrayed your own order or a fellow man like me, though one skilled in arcane arts. When the time comes to choose, there will be no middle ground." Another example was when he forced the captain of the guard to let him visit Eragon. It is, however, unknown if this was a lie to trick Eragon into joining them, or if Durza actually planned to overthrow Galbatorix and set himself up as ruler of Alagaësia.
Galbatorix himself would later claim that while Durza was "a useful tool", he, as a Shade, "he had certain limitations", such as a lack of concern for his own preservation.
Personality in the film
In the film adaption of Eragon, Durza is depicted as arrogant, cruel, psychopathic and highly intelligent, comparable to J.K. Rowling's "Voldemort". He was extremely sadistic, gleefully torturing Arya to discover the location of Saphira's egg, and contemplating to Eragon that as a dragon-rider died, he could hear his dragon's own dying screams. In the film, he is extremely powerful, capable of conjuring enormous forest fires, inflict physical pain on others, conjure enchanted weapons out of thin air, capable of Teleportation over vast distances and control objects with his mind. Like all Shades, both in the film and in the book, Durza possesses superhuman strength which surpasses even the most impressive of humans. Eragon remarks that duelling with Durza in sword-combat is dramatically harder than fighting with Murtagh (A hardened and seasoned warrior) and even Brom (A master swordsman who had previously defeated and killed members of The Forsworn, including their dragons). His most advantageous power is the ability to create a titanic monster of black magic which he can use as a method of transport. He uses this in the climax of the film to battle Eragon to the death. He is also incredibly athletic, capable of performing great leaps and somersaults over huge distances, whilst in mid-flight, in a sword-fight with Eragon.
Portrayal in the Eragon movie
In the movie, Durza's role was similar to his role in the book, however he was neither tall nor slim, but the cruel portrayal of him in the movie matched the book's description. He also summoned the Ra'zac and rode "the Beast". He killed Brom when he dueled Eragon in Gil'ead (Eragon was weakened by use of magic while Durza flung a spear at him). Brom jumped in front of Eragon to save him and consequently died. Eragon shot Durza with his bow like Murtagh did in the book, but Durza did not seem to feel any pain. During the invasion of Farthen Dûr in the movie, he also became deformed, this is probably because this is the first time he is seen in sun light throughout the movie. Also, in the film, he had long black fingernails that were sharp enough to kill someone and he tortured Arya by making a wound on her sternum and later dripping poison into the fire and supposedly doing voodoo poison on her. The movies didn't show Arya having any physical signs of torture, save for the wound Durza poisoned her with. In the movie, Durza did manage to break into Arya's mind and glean the pieces of information that betrayed Eragon's location.
Durza is portrayed by Scottish actor Robert Carlyle, who also plays Dracula in Castlevania Lords of Shadow (who coincidentally became that in a similar manner to Durza in the book in the DLC Resurrection.). He also plays Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin in ABC's Once Upon a Time, who is also a similar character to Carsaib/Durza.
Comparison with "Star Wars"
Durza quite strongly parallels the villain Darth Vader from the Star Wars saga. Both were second-in-commands to the leader of their respective Empires. They also served as the lead antagonists of the installments of the series' they appear in (Eragon and A New Hope both being the first released installments of their respective sagas). They both end up killing the father figures to the heroes in their franchises, with whom they have shared unspecified personal history. Both for most of those installments have key princesses who oppose the empires (Arya and Leia) as their hostages in large key fortresses used by the forces of evil (Gil'ead and the Death Star). They tried to force information out of both of them (to the extent of using torture) until the heroes managed to rescue them. Both of them have a habit of calmly executing their own soldiers because of some form of failure or infidelity, then promoting another person to take their place immediately afterwards without apparently noting their strengths or experience.
They later appear leading the forces of evil in a battle against the rebels when attacking their bases and in the end are both defeated by Eragon and Luke. Eragon directly killed Durza, while Darth Vader was outpaced by Luke in their respective spacecraft. They are both extremely powerful in their own respective arts and effortlessly defeat the lead protagonists in combat because of their powers. Both of them develop extreme obsessions with pursuing and facing the protagonists in battle. A very prominent factor that they both share is the fact that, despite serving their superiors with distinction, they both appear to have unspecified goals of their own.
He also shows similarities to Hego Damask II (Darth Plagueis). Both were born under one name (Carsaib and Hego Damask II) and both took another name after undergoing a dark transformation (Durza and Darth Plagueis). Both were Apprenticed to a master (Haeg and Rugess Nome/Darth Tenebrous) of a mystical art (Sorcery and the Force). Both trained the forger (Galbatorix and Emperor Palpatine) of their respective associated empire (Broddring Empire and Galactic Empire) in the dark arts (Dark magic and the dark side of the Force) of their respective empire's domain (Alagaesia and The Galaxy).
However they differ in that Carsaib's parents were murdered by bandits and he was found and taken in by Haeg, while Hego Damask II's father Caar Damask and his mother gave him up to Rugess Nome/Darth Tenebrous as part of a deal with Tenebrous' own manipulations leading to his birth. Carsaib's family were banished and abandoned by their tribe after his father was accused of oath-breaking, while Caar Damask had a successful career within the Intergalactic Banking Clan. Also while Durza served Galbatorix, Plagueis never served Sidious (at least knowingly) and Durza died in Galbatorix's service while Sidious murdered his master before the Empire was ever established.
Comparison with "The Lord of the Rings"
Durza could aptly be compared to either the wizard Saruman or The Witch-King of Angmar . As each was corrupted by the dark forces and serves as one of the top ranking servants of the dark lord of their story (Galbatorix and Sauron) Like the former he is a notably powerful sorcerer who has great power/influence in manipulating the weak minded and had many of the legions of darkness under his control. His army being the group that attacks the heroes in one of their key strongholds, serving as one of the most important battles of their respective stories. (Farthen Dûr and Helm's Deep) However like the Witch-King (beyond the fact that he too had command over vast legion) he completely lost his original self/identity in his transformation and was turned into some spectral breed of creature. (A shade and a wraith) And both gave the hero a severe wound in an earlier part of their adventures that would go on to haunt them. (Durza slashed Eragon's back during the Battle of Farthen Dûr which would go on to cause him future pain whilst the Witch-King stabbed Frodo during the confrontation at Amon Sûl aka the Weathertop which threatened to turn him into a wraith himself and never fully healed). However whilst the Witch-King is a complete slave to his master's will, Durza like Saruman seems to be for lack of a better term more independent/in control of himself.