The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

On the insignificant island of Ortelga on the outskirts of the Beklan Empire, Kelderek the hunter encounters a huge bear, identified by the high priestess (Tuginda) as the manifestation of Shardik, Power of God. A prophecy states that a man and a woman will reestablish God’s will through their association with the bear, and the Tuginda believes that she and Kelderek are those selected.

An ambitious baron, Ta-kominion, imprisons the Tuginda on her sacred island and persuades Kelderek to use the bear as a figurehead to lead the reconquest of Bekla by its ancient founders, the Ortelgans. With the help of lesser priestesses, Kelderek transports the drugged animal to the battlefront. Its wheeled cage shatters, and Shardik charges ferociously into the Beklan army, killing its three highest officers within minutes.

The Ortelgans storm an unsuspecting Bekla and reclaim their old capital. In the meantime, Kelderek tracks Shardik and arranges to have him brought to Bekla, where he is caged in a large palace overlooking the city. Ta-kominion having been killed in the first engagement of the brief war, Kelderek, by virtue of his mystic connection to Shardik, becomes the priest-king of Bekla. While he daily risks his life and seeks revelation of a great truth by entering Shardik’s cage, a brilliant general of the former ruling class wages a debilitating civil war with the capital, cutting off almost all normal trade routes. The only lucrative trade...

(The entire section is 498 words.)

Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Shardik dramatizes complex problems concerning religion and family values. On a hunting trip, Kelderek of Ortelga encounters an immense bear. He realizes that it is the god Shardik, who has not been seen for many generations. Returning to Ortelga, Kelderek refuses to tell even High Baron Bel-ka-Trazet what he saw, claiming that he can inform only the Tuginda, the high priestess of Shardik’s cult. The furious baron nearly kills him but is interrupted by the startling request for a meeting with the Tuginda. They journey to the mysterious island of Quiso, where the Tuginda forms a party that includes the priestess Melathys in order to find the bear.

The Tuginda tells Kelderek the history of the Ortelgans, who once ruled the Beklan Empire and served Shardik. A corrupt priestess and her slave trader lover finally slew Shardik, and the empire fell. Centuries later, the priestesses wait for Shardik’s return. Another prophecy tells that God will reveal a great truth through Shardik and through two chosen “vessels,” who will be “shattered” and refashioned to fit his purpose. The Tuginda believes that she and Kelderek are these vessels.

Kelderek finds Shardik, but Melathys is so frightened by the bear that she flees down the river. Under a young baron, Ta-Kominion, however, the Ortelgans rise and overthrow Bel-ka-Trazet, then follow the bear as it wanders to Bekla. Ta-Kominion tells Kelderek that they can reconquer Bekla if their...

(The entire section is 572 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Shardik presents, in one way, a microcosm like the lapine universe of Watership Down. Bekla is a completely realized alternate...

(The entire section is 143 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Maia (1985) is an odd sequel to Shardik. It tells of events in Bekla, but the story occurs at a time before Shardik's coming....

(The entire section is 159 words.)