College Papers/The Royal Hunt of the Sun college paper 14395

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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 the

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


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.

- Ben Groom


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