The Letter for the King
A gripping knightly epic
It is nighttime, long ago. Five young men are keeping vigil by a ‘pale flame’ in a chapel. They are allowed to neither speak, nor react to any noise from outside. They must set their minds to the task ahead of them. Tomorrow they are to be knighted. But then… A knock at the door. A voice from out of the darkness: ‘Open up in Gods name!’
De brief voor de koning is a book you find hard to put down. Unusually gripping, the mystery is narrated in a language rich in metaphors but with not one word wasted. Sixteen-year-old Tiuri opens the door of the chapel and discovers, in the conviction that he will now never become a knight, what real chivalry is. He has to deliver a letter to the neighbouring kingdom, on the other side of the ‘Mighty Mountains’. Many a danger awaits him. De brief voor de koning is an initiation novel, in which Tiuri grows from vulnerable youth to manhood.
On his journey, Tiuri meets a host of people who are not quite what they seem. It appears that Good and Evil cannot always be clearly distinguished from one another. Only a very few figures correspond with the image they present of themselves. On his way through the forest Tiuri meets Marius, the ‘Fool of the Forest’. This character is Dragt’s version of the ‘noble savage’, simple in spirit, but nonetheless wise. Marius lives in perfect harmony with nature. The message is clear, but Dragt is no moralist. She wastes no time in announcing with pomp and ceremony that here, finally, is a good person. Apart from all the things Tiuri discovers about himself and the world in which he lives, he finds out what true friendship means. He meets the shepherd boy, Piak. Dragt has created two large-as-life young men, complete with petty quarrels and the odd twinge of jealousy when Tiuri even falls in love for the first time. Everything in this rich book serves to support the plot. In addition to the expressive language, it is the close-knit construction that makes De brief voor de Koning so breathtaking.
By Judith Eiselin