The Royal Hunt of the Sun


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.


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