AIn the beginning, the mother of seven-year-old Lilli dies of exhaustion, soon after the father of her friend Wim of the same age, killed by a stray bullet. This is followed by the insidious murder of an old advisor to the king, and finally almost the whole country, which still bears the misleading name “Schlaraffien”, suffers from hunger that wears away young and old. The children in the orphanage, whose names are first taken there and all of them only called “Paul” or “Paula”, are also dying like flies: “The winter cold was also clearly felt in Mother Grunz’s orphanage. Children who are dressed in rags and only get thin cabbage soup to eat are much less likely to oppose coughs and colds than well-fed children. So in the small cemetery behind the orphanage, Pauls and Paulas, who had lacked food, warmth and love, were constantly added. “
She read her story “The Ickabog” to her “two younger children when they were very young,” writes JK Rowling, whose “Harry Potter” series has sold more than 500 million copies worldwide, in the foreword to the Basis of this short book version, which has now been published by Carlsen (352 pages, 20 euros). However, it is difficult to imagine the slaughter as a bedtime story, which is described there over almost 350 pages. “The Ickabog” begins with a prosperous kingdom in which everything is fine at first glance and whose charismatic ruler, King Fred, has to do nothing but wave, smile and look good, because the rest will run by itself. That gradually changes with the death of the seamstress Lerchensporn, Lilli’s mother, for whom three days of toil on the king’s new robe was too much, with the harsh accusation that Lilli directs at the king for this reason, and with his decision to give his reputation to polish up the subjects by a campaign to the north. There, it is said, is home to the legendary Ickabog, a huge mythical creature with sharp claws – it is not difficult to think of the 1999 “Gruffalo” by Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson, and that being is somewhere between assertion and proven Existence, which is used for their own purposes by those who tell of it, until they experience their blue miracle.
The monster is to blame for everything!
Except that in Rowling’s story the Ickabog also bears traits of the monster Grendel from the old English “Beowulf”, so, as it is called, suddenly appears at night and threatens to wreak havoc among the knights who have come towards him. In fact, the king thinks he has met an Ickabog in the misty moor. As a result, a shot is fired from a courtier’s rifle and hits an officer, which is then blamed on the invisible monster. This is the first lie that is followed by others, so that the monster becomes more and more threatening and everyone who fights it becomes more and more a hero. Which, of all people, those who have something to hide are now exploiting.