Paul Biegel

Het sleutelkruid

Full of fantasy and charm, this is a classic fairy tale by a beloved author

When the heart of the 1000-year-old King Mansolain slows down and he finds himself at death’s door, the animals hurry to the ancient Copper Castle under the mountains to save his life. They take it in turns to tell him stories, hoping to give the Wonder Doctor time to find the magic herb needed to keep the king’s heart ticking.

A rabbit comes along, and a sheep, a swallow, a duck, ten bees, not to mention a wolf, a lion and a three-headed dragon. Will their stories help to keep King Mansolain alive? How can anyone read or listen to this story without falling in love with its magic?

Master storyteller Biegel places one narrator after another in the spotlight, capturing their little quirks in just a few sentences. Before you know it, you’re hanging on their every word. The attraction of this book is its dazzling variety. The rabbit misses his brother. The bees sing the ballad of the horse with the golden hooves. The town mouse and the field mouse tell funny stories. The wolf, the lion and the dragon all have unpleasant experiences with witches.

Their stories appear to be connected somehow, but it only becomes apparent exactly how at the end, as everyone waits for the last knock on the door. King of the Copper Mountains (1964) was Biegel’s third book and sealed his breakthrough as a writer. It remains a treasured, timeless classic.

The stories are touching, exciting and funny. This is a lovely book, beautifully illustrated, and the ending is all that can be desired.

Times Literary Supplement

One of those rare books which should be a part of every child’s growing up. […] these stories are unusual, the animals enchanting and the books is held brilliantly together. This is one of the best modern storybooks I have read.

Daily Telegraph

Ageless in the right sort of way.

The Guardian

Chapter One

If you travel far to the south you will come to the blue sea. It has not always been so; in earlier times the copper mountains stood there instead, so dazzling in the sunshine that you could not look at them.
At the foot of the mountains there was an avenue, leading to the door of a castle full of copper corridors and rooms, and in the castle lived the old, old king, Mansolain.
King Mansolain had a beard that spread about his feet like a rug, and on it slept a hare, the only creature that still cared for him now that King Mansolain was almost forgotten.
For more than a thousand years already he reigned over all the animals and dwarfs, and over the dragons too while they were still in existence. But as nowadays he never went out, there was scarcely anyone left who know him. His servants had died one after the other until only the hare remained. So these two lived quietly together in the copper castle until the king began to cough so badly that his beard shook and the hare grew very anxious.
The Wonder Doctor was sent for to examine the king. When he had finished he took the hare into another room and said: “I put my ear to His Majesty’s chest and through his beard I heard a peeping and a whistling. His heart ticks unevenly like a crooked clock that is running down, and that is the result of old age.”
The hare looked worried.
“Within a week the king will be dead,” said the Wonder Doctor.
The hare started to sob.
“His heart needs a speeder-up that would work like the key of a clock,” said the Wonder Doctor, “so that it will tick faster and normally again.”
The hare looked up. “Is there such a remedy?” He asked.
“Yes, there is,” said the Wonder Doctor. “A potion made from the Golden Speedwell. But I would have to travel many miles to find this rare plant, so that when I got back it might be too late.”

(Excerpt translated by Gilian Hume)


Paul Biegel

Paul Biegel (1925-2006) dreamed of becoming a pianist, but finally, by way of a failed law degree and a period spent in the USA, ended up as a writer for a television guide and a cartoon studio. In 1962 he debuted as a children’s author with De gouden gitaar (The Golden Guitar). A new book…

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Het sleutelkruid (1964). Kinder- en jeugdboeken, 160 pagina's.

Age: 6+
Full English translation available

Thema's: klassiek


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