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Dec 7, 2009

Atahuallpa - The God is dead !

Book review

The Royal Hunt of the Sun is a story mainly based on the conquest of Peru by Spain. Along the way it explores many different sub-themes and Ideas. Questions are raised about faith, friendship, leadership, greed and two distinctively different ways of life. The two main characters exhibit conflicting views on all the issues.

The overthrow of the Peruvian Empire is a phenomenal story as it demonstrates the vulnerability of a society that considered itself almost indestructible. It showed how focused a civilisation can be on one leader, and how simply it can collapse when this leadership is removed. Pizarro recognised this and that is how his small army of almost two hundred conquered a nation of millions. He told his men "One man: that^s all. Get him, the rest collapse." (page 28)

The conquest of Peru was a clash between two religions that were immediately very different but similar in principal. Christianity was a religion with a rapidly expanding following. Its leaders virtually
granted permission for Christians to kill in order to spread the faith. This occurred in The Royal Hunt of the Sun when the priests inferred that Pizarro should take the life of Attahuallpa so that th Spanish would survive and the Christian belief would spread throughout South America. The priest Valverde said "^the lives of a hundred and seventy of the faithful. Are you going to sacrifice them for one savage?" (page 70) On the other hand the Inca belief was a lot more settled and humane. The Inca God and ruler Atahuallpa claimed "I have priest power^I confess my people of all crimes against the sun." (page 19) They both believed in a supreme being, who would be killed by its enemies and rise from the dead.

Pizarro and Atahuallpa came from similar backgrounds but their immediate appearance was quite different. When they came together their similarities became evident and their friendship flourished at an early stage. While Atahuallpa was Pizarro^s captive he said "Make me free. I would fill this room." (With gold) (page 43) However, when Atahuallpa produces the gold Pizarro qualifies his promise thus; " ^Atahuallpa, you must swear to me that you will not hurt a man in my army if I let you go." (page 60) "I will not swear this" Atahuallpa replied. "Three thousand of my servants they killed in the square. Three thousand, without arms. I will avenge them." (page 60) This lack of complete agreement between them in due course caused a lingering doubt in both of their minds. This inevitably affected their friendship.

Until Pizarro met Atahuallpa he had lost faith in conventional religion which had made him feel that life, as we know it, was pointless. He exclaimed "^I^m going to die! And the thought of that dark has for years rotted everything for me, all simple joy in life." (page 63) Atahuallpa introduced him to the Inca religion, "^Believe in me. I will give a word and fill you with joy. For you I will do a great thing. I will swallow death and spit it out of me." (page 75) In the first instance Pizarro found this concept very attractive as it showed him direction and justified the killing of his friend. However when Atahuallpa failed to rise from the dead Pizarro^s faith was destroyed.

Atahuallpa was a strong leader but because his disciples viewed him as deity he had an added advantage. Conversely, Pizarro had to deal with greed, uproar, division and many other adversities. In the end the Inca civilisation was disadvantaged by the intense worship of their leader. Once Atahuallpa was removed the Peruvians lost their God, not just their leader. From this they never recovered.

The Royal Hunt of the Sun is about more than the collapse of the Inca empire. It is about the clash of two thriving cultures, involving religious misunderstanding and cultural mistrust. Of even greater significance is the complicated friendship which forms between two extraordinary leaders, undermined by the greed and human frailty of the populace. The contradictions contained in this friendship are summed up in the plays tragic climax when following Atahuallpa^s violent death Pizarro is left alone with the body and he cries out in anguish: Cheat! You^ve cheated me! Cheat^ ^You have no eyes for me now, Atahuallpa; they are dusty balls of amber I can tap on. You have no peace for me, Atahuallpa; the birds still scream in your forest. You have no joy for me, Atahuallpa, my boy; the only joy is in death. I lived between two hates; I die between two darks; blind eyes and a blind sky^ (page 78) Finally Old Martin concluded: So fell Peru. We gave her greed, hunger and the cross: three gifts for the civilized life. The family groups that sang on the terraces are gone. In their place slaves shuffle underground and they don^t sing there. Peru is a silent country, frozen in avarice. So fell Spain, gorged with gold; distended; now dying.

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