I’m rereading David Eddings’ Belgariad series and I have to say I’m a bit shocked by how different I’m perceiving it now compared to when I was in Gr. 8-10 reading it the first time. It was one of my favourite series, I had fond memories of Aunt Pol’s kitchen, and Silk’s sly ways….
I don’t remember ever thinking, “that’s racist!” or “you can’t give a whole country a characteristic of being sneaky or stupid”. I never questioned the sweeping generalizations that Eddings pronounces about his characters. Reading it the second time I am horrified by the way he gives entire nations negative traits. Not only are all Murgo’s evil men who bribe people with red gold, the good guys are completely defined by where they are from. Sendaria, the territory whose people are descended from immigrants from all over the West appears to be Eddings’ America.
Eddings has social commentary, with Garion noticing the flaws of each society they pass through. I like the parts where he objects to serfdom and when he thinks the common people and the nobles should interact more because the country can’t work if they don’t understand one another. What I don’ t like is that there are no exceptions to the stereotypes. Garion doesn’t learn that not all Chereks are barbaric, or that not all Drasnians are sneaky, or that not all Murgos are evil. He learns to expect from his friends the same he expects from all their race, and he makes generalizations that are not portrayed as wrong.
I will continue to love Eddings books out of nostalgia, but I have a lot of problems with the oversimplified races and cultures. I don’t know if Eddings was being prejudice or if he just didn’t bother to make complex individuals who broke the mold, but teens should take the Belgariad with a grain of salt.
I also find it interesting that libraries tend to class this series in Fantasy for adults but I consider it YA because it is a coming of age tale. Garion starts off as a boy and he goes on an adventure, I think this would appeal most to teens.