The Bronze Bow

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The Bronze Bow
The Bronze Bow cover.jpg
Cover of 45th anniversary edition (1997)
Author Elizabeth George Speare
Country United States
Language English , latin
Genre Children's historical novel
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
Publication date
1961
Media type Print (hardcover & paperback)
Pages 255 pp.
ISBN 0-395-13719-5
OCLC 438473894

The Bronze Bow is a book by Elizabeth George Speare that won the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature in 1962.

Plot[edit]

This book is set in first-century Judaea. The main character, a young man named Daniel Bar Jamin, lives at the same time as Jesus of Nazareth.

Daniel's father was crucified in front of him, as an example, by the Roman occupiers (as his uncle did not have money to pay the tax) so even at eight, he immediately hates and distrusts the Romans and vows that he will avenge his father's death. His mother dies of grief after her husband's death, and Daniel's younger sister, Leah, is traumatized by these events, possessed by demons, and never leaves the house. The children are both taken in by their grandmother, but as she becomes ill and poor over the years, she sells Daniel to Amalek the blacksmith. Daniel escapes his cruel master, running away to the mountains where he is rescued, close to death by Rosh, the leader of an outlaw band of rebels, who plan to someday overtake the Romans. They adopt Daniel into their crew, and Daniel begins a new life in the mountains, trying to forget about his grandmother and sister he had left behind in the village.

Several years after these events, Daniel meets his old friends Joel bar Hezron and his twin sister Malthace, who climbed the mountain for the holidays. Joel wants to join Rosh's band, so he promises Rosh that he will be a spy in Capernaum, the city to which he is moving.

Rosh sends Daniel out on a mission to capture a slave. The crew names him Samson (a character in the Biblical Book of Judges with immense strength) for his brute strength. Samson doesn't speak their language, but he sees Daniel as his master and follows him. One day, Simon the Zealot, Daniel's friend from the village, comes to tell Daniel his grandmother is dying. He returns to his village of Ketzah and sees his grandmother. She passes away and Daniel is left in charge of Leah. Later, Simon tells Daniel he is going to follow Jesus and leaves Daniel in charge of his shop; Daniel and Leah move.

Now that he is stuck in the blacksmith shop and cannot live in the mountains with Rosh's crew, Daniel begins recruiting young men who are around his own age to rebel against the Romans. They decide on a password, which is from the song of David: 'He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.' They meet in an abandoned watch tower outside of the village and slowly begin rebelling small bits at a time. One day, Rosh gives Joel a mission: he is to find out who is coming to a special banquet thrown for a special legation from Rome. Joel finds out the names by chatting to the servants and slaves of the house, and even after the banquet he continues to do so, passing on any information he can find to Rosh. But soon, Joel is captured. Rosh refuses to help free him, so Daniel and his small band devise a plan to free him themselves. From the top of a cliff, they attack the group of Romans that are escorting the prisoners, but the attack goes horribly wrong. They only succeed because Samson shows up and rolls a boulder down on the attacking Romans and then joins the fight. The boys end up freeing Joel, but one of them dies and many of them are injured. After the fight, Samson is dragged away by the Romans, nearly dead. Daniel realizes that in rebelling, they had been doing the wrong thing. Instead of weakening Rome, they had weakened themselves. Together, Joel and Daniel realize that Jesus is, perhaps, the leader they had been waiting for.

A young Roman soldier named Marcus, who Daniel hated (a conquered German), befriends Daniel's sister. Daniel eventually finds out and goes into a fit of rage. Leah, who had seemed to be in the process of being cured, falls back into fully being possessed by her demons.

The story ends with Jesus healing Leah from her demons, and Daniel, released of his vow, showing Jesus' love to the Roman soldier. Daniel lets the Roman see Leah.

Educational uses[edit]

Junior high school teachers may find The Bronze Bow helpful in supplementing social studies and language arts lessons. The attention to period and geographical detail can increase student understanding of both historical and current conditions in Israel. The variety of story telling conventions, including romance, battles, espionage, and friendship, might interest young adults as a lit set or young and emergent readers as a read aloud story. One additional use in the classroom, particularly in parochial or church school settings, is as an ethics, morals, and religious discussion starter.

Critical views[edit]

The book has been criticized by some Jewish and Christian groups and scholars for a hostile depiction of Judaism, an idealized version of Christianity, and for its historical inaccuracies. Written by a Sunday School teacher, it arguably represents missionary literature and its use in classroom instruction remains controversial. For more details see:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Awards
Preceded by
Island of the Blue Dolphins
Newbery Medal recipient
1962
Succeeded by
A Wrinkle in Time