Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series Shardik Analysis
Young adults will find much to enjoy in this story, although it is bleaker than Richard Adams’ first novel, Watership Down (1972). It will be of particular interest to teenagers who have felt neglected or secondary in their parents’ eyes, because even though the book deals with adult concerns such as war, commerce, politics, and slavery, the welfare of children is of primary importance.
Kelderek is nicknamed “Play-with-the-Children” by the Ortelgans, and his simple love for children makes him a holy man. When he seeks secular power, he forgets their special vulnerability and allows them to become sacrifices to slavery and the tactics of war. Kelderek even authorizes the hanging of two children every day in sight of the besieged fortress of General Erketlis, who abandons his stronghold in order to stop the murders. While Kelderek is being “shattered” and “refashioned” through his dreadful journeys following Shardik out of Bekla, he suffers terrible guilt over permitting such cruelties.
The truth that Shardik imparts—the moral of the story—is that there should not be a single neglected child anywhere. Children are the future and their happiness is the world’s only security, yet they are the primary victims of adult evils, whether domestic or political. The narrative is a mystery; readers must try to discover the truth that Shardik will reveal. Although the clues are everywhere, the solution comes as a profound revelation.
(The entire section is 613 words.)