The Travels of King Wikkepokluk
Packed with puns and humour
This book is considered to be Hofman’s most typical and personal work. The author received a Dutch Gouden Penseel award for the illustrations. The precise pen drawings reflect the essence of the story: a combination of absurdity and desolation.
Followed by three loyal subjects, King Wikkepokluk is seeking a place where he can reign in peace. They end up on an uninhabited island, in a devastated city, a den of thieves and almost in the mouth of a dragon. The royal ambitions are not great. Wikkepokluk would be happy in a tree – but all the trees are already full of kings – in a house without a roof, without walls or a floor or in a dingy prison cell. Finally, he finds his kingdom in a chest. ‘And if no one has opened the chest, then he is still there to this day’.
In addition to this familiar ending and the opening sentence – ‘Once upon a time there was a king who lived in a beast’ – there are other references to fairytales. There is a difficult task to perform before he can marry the queen, and a thousand-year old man who is the source of all wisdom. The surrealistic and sometimes oppressive character, on the other hand, is entirely un-fairytale-like. Hieronymus Bosch figures pop up and in innumerable boxes live an equal number of bizarre creatures, which Wikkepokluk sets free, as if performing a pale imitation of the Creation. Unlike most fairytale writers, Hofman also amuses himself with plays on words and in embellishing his strange tale with surprising gems.
The author claims to have been influenced by James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake and Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi. Some readers will recognise the symbolism of a pointless existence, which – whatever we do – ends up in a wooden box. Others will primarily find pleasure in the incoherent series of events in which a major Hofman adage can clearly be seen: ‘Anything can happen on paper, like in your head’.