This post by another Bear
put me in mind of Shardik. Although Watership Down
is known as Richard Adams' classic, and although I loved it when I read it (and re-read it; and sought out similar fare, like Duncton Wood
; anyone remember the moles?), I think the images and situations from Shardik
have stayed with me even more clearly and sharply. The archetypal aspect of Shardik carries a powerful charge. And in thinking about, for example, a failure like Apocalypto
(which shares a few superficial commonalities with S, but becomes exceedingly silly after awhile), Shardik
's accomplishment seems ever more impressive. Some have deemed Shardik unreadable. For me, it was unput-downable, and mysterious, and had that rough edge and unknowable quality that distinguishes edgier books from the more domesticated variety.
Am I crazy? Or right? I'd love to hear your opinions.
For anyone who hasn't read the book, here's the basic plot summary, stolen from wiki:
Shardik takes place in an imaginary world. It is the story of a lonely hunter, Kelderek, who pursues Shardik, a giant mythotic reproducing bear believed to have the Power of God within him. Kelderek becomes involved in the politics of his entire empire and in a personal story of sin and atonement. Other key issues in the story are the strength and potential held in children and the task of adults to meet children's needs of responsibility and entertainment in hope of a better future.
Adams, famous for writing stories from the point of view of animals (Watership Down and The Plague Dogs), here creates a story in which the animal, Shardik the Great Bear, is an antagonistic force that generates the entire plot and yet cannot communicate overtly and is merely a template for the characters and readers to impose their views upon. At no point in the story is it explicitly confirmed that Shardik is a divine creature and several points in the story can be interpreted equally each way.