Friday, March 2, 2012

The Bronze Bow (1962)

I first read The Bronze Bow in the fall of 2010, and I credit that reading with the idea to read all of the Newbery winners, which lead to the idea of blogging about them.  I thought then, "Wow! I loved this book.  What other Newberys have I missed?"  I continue finding new treasures...

Set in Galilee during the Roman occupation of Israel, The Bronze Bow tells the story of Daniel, a young Jewish boy who wants desperately to rid his land of the Romans.  Blaming the Romans for the death of his parents and the helpless condition of his sister Leah, he hates them with all of his being.  He went to the mountains to join a band of rebels who he believed would one day fight the Romans, but after several years he returns to his town when his grandmother dies and there is no one to care for his sister.

He has three friends: two young people in Capernaum, the nearest big city; and Simon the Zealot, who gives him his blacksmith shop so that he (Simon) can leave the town and follow Jesus and which will give Daniel some way to make a living, as he has been trained in blacksmithing, and care for Leah.

Daniel has a real dilemma in reconciling the things he learns from Jesus with the hate and vengeance he feels for the Romans.  Over the course of the book we see him learning to see the men on the mountain for what they really were--outlaws.  And to see the Romans for what they were--fellow human beings.  This is really a fabulous look into how this one character allowed the teachings of Jesus to change his life and bring love and happiness to him despite his circumstances. 

Some favorite quotes.  I warn that some are quite lengthy, but I do not apologize because they are so good.:

At his first hearing Jesus preach in a synagogue in his village:  "The man's figure was not in any way arresting.  He was slight, with the knotted arms and shoulders of one who has done hard labor from childhood.  He was not regal or commanding...Yet when he turned and stood before the congregation, Daniel was startled.  All at once nothing in the room was distinct to him but this man's face.  A thin face, strongly cut.  A vital, radiant face, lighted from within by a burning intensity of spirit...A shock ran through Daniel at the first words.  A gentle voice, barely raised, it carried to every corner of the room, warm, vibrant, with a promise of unlimited power.  It was as though only a fraction of that voice were being used, as though if the full force of it were unstopped it would roll like thunder." (p. 46-47)

Comparing the leader on the mountain, Rosh, to Jesus:  "Rosh looked at a man and saw a thing to be used, like a tool or a weapon.  Jesus looked and saw a child of God." (p. 111)

Daniel's conversation with Jesus:
     "Should I love the Romans who killed him?" he asked with bitterness.
     Jesus smiled.  "You think that is impossible, don't you?  Can't you see, Daniel, it is hate that is the enemy?  Not men.  Hate does not die with killing.  It only springs up a hundredfold.  The only thing stronger than hate is love."....
     "Daniel," he said.  "I would have you follow me."
     "Master!"  A great burst of hope almost swept him to his knees.  "I will fight for you to the end!"
     Jesus smiled at him gently.  "My loyal friend," he said, "I would ask something much harder than that.  Would you love for me to the end?" (p. 224-225)

Speare, Elizabeth George.  The Bronze Bow.  Houghton Mifflin, 1961.

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