Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy Shardik Analysis

In 1972, British civil servant Richard Adams published Watership Down, his best-known and most honored work. Subsequently, he published a number of short stories and novels, along with an autobiography in 1990. Watership Down relates the epic journey of a band of rabbits from a warren that is about to be destroyed. Much of its fascination derives from the combination of “lapine” customs and language with recognizably human values and aspirations.

Adams’ second novel, Shardik, set in a fictional human society and time, is an epic similar in its sweep to J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954-1955). In a sense, it is a complementary and opposing work. Tolkien’s trilogy emphasizes the contest between good and evil in the framework of a quest tale, whereas Adams’ long novel examines the failings as well as the strengths of its principal characters. Kelderek, the naïve, intuitive hunter, becomes the vessel of recognition of Shardik’s return, even seeing through the bear’s eyes at times. Conversely, he is persuaded against the advice of the Tuginda to capture the bear and make military and then political use of its symbolic value. Retribution overtakes him when he loses his power and position; he finds his true vocation only after he has experienced some of the privation and brutality his actions have caused. The Tuginda is clear about the need to follow rather than lead Shardik, but her pride has misled...

(The entire section is 408 words.)