How To Become King

The merry old king of Katoren has died and there’s no heir to the throne. Six sour ministers rule the land and claim that they’re looking for a new king, but nothing happens – for seventeen years. Then suddenly there’s a boy standing at the door of the royal palace who was born on the night the king died.

Children's books
Original title
Koning van Katoren
Jan Terlouw

This boy, Stach, has firmly resolved to become the new king of Katoren and he asks the six ministers what he must do in order to be considered for the role. The ministers, afraid of losing their splendid position at court, give the boy seven almost impossible tasks, which can be brought to a successful conclusion only by one who possesses kingly attributes such as wisdom, courage and self-sacrifice. The six ministers are convinced that Stach will fall at the first hurdle, but he turns out to have an amazing amount of persistence and ingenuity.

Koning van Katoren (How To Become King, 1971) reads like a modern fairytale. The six ministers, with names that reflect their personalities, appear to have stepped right out of the enchanting world of the Brothers Grimm, but the seven tasks that they dream up for the young Stach are surprisingly similar to the problems of our modern society. The situation in Smogg, for example, where a dragon is suffocating the inhabitants of the city with its poisonous breath, is not much different from the smogfilled cities of our own time. And circumstances in Ekumeni, where Stach has to bring twelve shambling churches together to form one stable church, seem even more relevant in these days of religious wars than when the book was first published.

In a vivid, often humorous style, Terlouw describes how Stach is able to complete all of the tasks successfully and finally become king of Katoren. The fairytale character of the story, combined with the plain, contemporary language, make Koning van Katoren a timeless classic.

Publishing details
Koning van Katoren (1971)
168 pages


The writer masterfully creates a witty parody of our society, in the form of an exciting fairytale.


Terlouw possesses a vivid style, a delightful storytelling voice and a great imagination. (…) Terlouw, the W.F. Hermans of literature for young readers!

Vrij Nederland
Jan Terlouw
Jan Terlouw (b. 1931) made his debut as an author of children’s books in 1970. He was for many years the leader of D66, the left-wing liberal party.
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