The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear

“I must, however, admit to having been influenced by their richly embroidered tales and extravagant flights of fancy. They taught me that a good white lie is often considerably more exciting than the truth. Telling one is like dressing up reality in its Sunday best.” (The 13½ lives of Captain Bluebear, Walter Moers)

Bluebear is an absolutely epic, wild, lava-explosion of a story. Although I must admit that a few parts in the middle dragged on a bit, the ending wound up all of the loose ends into a rather untidy, but completely satisfying, tall tale.  Though each of Bluebear’s lives might seem completely different than the last, there was one common theme (besides near-death experiences): story telling.  At each turn Bluebear collects, listens to, spins out, or battles with stories. Dealing with them is his talent, and the reader benefits from a first person narrator who knows how to charm an audience.

The focus on story telling makes Bluebear curiously self-reflective. It’s not, however, done in an overly intellectual post-modern way, but instead in a wonderful turning-back-on-itself way. Bluebear, in one of his later lives, becomes a professional sophist, or in the words of Zamonia, a congladiator. In his epic tales and battles of wit, he eventually reaches a point where he runs out of material and has to start drawing on his rich and ‘true’ past. He hypnotizes the throng with summaries of the tales that we, the readers, have just been indulging in. Although the readers are in the privileged position of knowing the entirety of the stories, it also calls into question the veracity of the rest of the autobiography. What if it was all a lie, meant to merely entertain? Not knowing whether one is being tricked or pampered is a delicate and interesting place for a reader to be.

Beverage: While writing down his autobiography, Bluebear brews “a pot of hot cocoa (with a wee dash of rum in it)”, and this seems just the thing.

Reminds me of… all of the reviews compare Walter Moers to Douglas Adams, J.K. Rowling, Shel Silverstein or the Grimm Brothers. In my opinion, there is definitely a touch of the outlandish heights that Douglas Adams reaches, but all in all I think that Walter Moers has a voice of his own.


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