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Literature / Shardik

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A story about a man and a bear that might be God. Written by Richard Adams.

This book provides examples of:

  • An Aesop: In-Universe, Kelderek decides that the true reason that Shardik came once more was to teach the people to value their children, as they are the greatest treasure they have.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Shardik, despite being God and all, is not a tame bear. Whenever he inevitably ends up destroying massive amounts of property and mauling people it's interpreted as God's judgment by the Ortelgans.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Ankray, the hulking bodyguard of Bel-Ka-Trazet and Melathys, and later of the Tuginda and Kelderek. He is perhaps the most consistently upbeat character of the entire book.
  • Broken Bird: Melathys.
  • Celibate Hero: Kelderek is considered a simpleton because he prefers to play with children rather than drink and party like other men his age. He's well known for ignoring women
  • Children Are Innocent: Partly the reason Kelderek hangs out with them.
  • Epilogue Letter
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: Good. Lord.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Kelderek and Elleroth's son, Radu.
  • Foreshadowing: Elleroth does this several times.
    "This man Crendik, he'll end in Zeray - you mark my words."
  • For the Evulz: Speculated upon in universe. Radu believes this to be the motivation of Genshed. He is convinced the latter is not just a cruel and wicked man, but a knowing servant of evil, empowered by it and under its protection.
  • Friend to All Children: Kelderek
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Bel-ka-Trazet is horribly disfigured by a number of scars. He had received them from a bear mauling before the start of the book.
  • God in Human Form: Bear form in this case. In the main religion depicted in Shardik, the giant bear is known as the Hand of God, aka his physical power and avatar, and is only one aspect of what the Ortelgans believe to be God.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Bel-ka-Trazet, Elleroth, and arguably Kelderek.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality
  • Hard Head: Averted. A minor character who is hit on the head and knocked out is clearly mentally impaired afterward.
  • Hero Antagonist: Elleroth.
  • Hero of Another Story: Also Elleroth
  • Heel Realization: Kelderek, during his time with Genshed.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: One of the women is killed drugging Shardik.
  • Hope Spot: When Radu first spots his father's troops. But he is too weak for his cries to be heard. His captor Genshed, knowing this, even lets him make a few attempts while looking on in smug amusement.
  • Karmic Death: Several at the hands of Shardik, but most prominently Genshed.
  • Legacy Character: The chief priestess of Shardik's cult, the Tuginda, is something of this, as no one outside the cult knows who she used to be, how the successor is chosen, or even if the woman visiting this year is the same Tuginda as last year.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's never quite clear if Shardik is just a bear or not. Indirectly, Kelderek admits at the end that it probably doesn't matter and that he'll never be able to convince anyone that was not there. Though at the end a diplomat from the newly discovered kingdom of Zakalon politely speculates that whatever Shardik accomplished was mere coincidence, nearly every time Shardik attacks someone or rampages it is an incredibly significant event that chases the whole shape of the kingdom. First it rouses Ortelga into action, later it results in the destruction of the army set to protect Bekla and at the end it brings peace between the new Beklan empire and Ikat as well as spreading a new, more benevolent cult of Shardik across the land.
  • Meaningful Rename: From Kelderek to Crendik, and back again.
  • Mind Rape: Genshed enacts a mundane form of this on the slaves in his possession.
  • Oh, Crap!: Shardik tends to cause these - perhaps most notably on the plains of Gelt, and later with Genshed.
  • Papa Wolf: Elleroth.
  • Posthumous Character: While he doesn't start out as one, Bel-ka-Trazet becomes significantly more important after he's dead.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Shouter
  • Put on a Bus: Bel-ka-Trazet, Melathys, and the Tuginda all leave the main plot before the second section. The Bus Came Back for the Tuginda and Melathys, but Bel-ka-Trazet becomes a Posthumous Character.
  • Rape as Drama
  • Reincarnation: Shardik is believed to be immortal because of this.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Kelderek is well known for his chastity. Women simply do not interest him, both before becoming the priest king, during that period or after. The only woman to whom he expresses any attraction is Melathys, who deserts her post as priestess quite early in the story.
  • Survival Mantra: Children in the possession of slave-dealer Genshed tell each other they'll be "home soon. Underground, all the way".
  • Torture Technician: Part of Genshed's backstory until he was fired for taking bribes from prisoners.
  • The Bus Came Back: For Melathys and the Tuginda.
  • The Unseen: The brilliant southern general, Santil-kè-Erketlis, never appears throughout the whole book, though his actions have a serious impact on the main plot.
  • Viking Funeral: For Shardik himself.
  • Wretched Hive: Zeray: an Outlaw Town whose inhabitants are stuck there due to a combination of natural barriers and hostile neighbors who don't want criminals entering their lands. While theoretically a safe haven for outlaws with nowhere else left to go, conditions in Zeray are brutal and even the strongest rarely survive there longer than three years. It begins to improve under Bel-Ka-Trazet's leadership, but he dies before he can make a lasting difference. Fortunately his vision is later carried out under the combined leadership of Elleroth and Kelderek.
  • You Are Already Dead: It is possible to survive the Streels of Urtah, but it only means that God has an even more dramatic and significant death in store for you.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Ta-Kominion only needs Kelderek and the Tuginda until he takes Bekla. After that, he figures he'll probably get rid of them quietly and try to reform the cult to surround himself instead. However, a minor wound grossly mishandled causes him to fall deathly ill and he is crushed beneath the wheels of the cart transporting Shardik before anything can come of it.
    • Once he learns Lalloc's plan for escaping their pursuers Genshed kills him and takes his money to carry out the plan on his own.