Shardik is a fantasy of tragic character, centered on the long-awaited reincarnation of the gigantic bear Shardik and his appearance among the half-barbaric Ortelgan people. Mighty, ferocious, and unpredictable, Shardik changes the life of every person in the story. His advent commences a momentous chain of events. Kelderek the hunter, who loves and trusts the great bear, is swept on by destiny to become first devotee and then prophet, then victorious soldier, then ruler of an empire and priest-king of Lord Shardik-Messenger of God-only to discover ever-deeper layers of meaning implicit in his passionate belief in the bear's divinity.
Richard Adams's Shardik is set in an imaginary world, though Adams, like Tolkien, hints that in fact it is simply the remote past of our own world. The central action of the story concerns a giant bear worshipped by a tribe living on the southern limits of the great Beklan empire. This tribe, the Ortelgans, believe that Shardik's purpose is to lead them to greatness, and so when he appears they follow him in a glorious campaign to conquer the Empire. But is Shardik really a god, or just a very big bear whose thoroughly animal-like actions are given meaning by his followers? Adams wisely never really answers this question, and this is the great fascination of the book. Adams faces head-on the charge that religion is simply a tool for oppression and exploitation. He avoids a simplistic answer largely through his complex portrayal of the central human character, Shardik's prophet Kelderek. Kelderek is a simple tribesman who sincerely believes himself to have been chosen by Shardik for great purposes. While many of his actions are evil, we are never allowed to lose sympathy with him or to suspect him of hypocrisy, while at the same time we come to sympathize more and more with the characters who oppose his fanatical regime. At the end, Kelderek sees the evil he has done in the name of God, and begins to understand what Shardik's true purpose is--or does he simply misunderstand yet again? The greatness of this novel is in the fact that while it has a strong moral message, it always conveys this message through the actions and words of its characters. Adams lets the world he has created speak for itself. In the end we can choose to believe or not to believe.
For readers like myself who themselves practice a religion, the novel is a powerful portrayal of the way the divine can be distorted and misunderstood by even the sincerest believer, even while God always remains transcendent, able to pierce through our comfortable blindness with the shocking light of his grace.
Raido schreef:Van Robin Hobb gaat mijn hartje ook harder kloppen (leest nu De Boeken van de Nar deel 1) ik baal omdat ik de boeken van de levende schepen niet kan vinden (nah, deel 2 en 3 wel natuurlijk :S). Ook Terry Brooks kan mijn hartje bekoren (Shannara reeksen) en natuurlijk Tolkien..
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