Krabat and the Sorcerer’s Mill
written by Otfried Preussler
translated from German by Anthea Bell
The New York Review Children’s Collection 9/23/2014
Age 9 to 13 258 pages
.“New Year’s has passed. Twelfth Night is almost here. Krabat, a fourteen-year-old beggar boy dressed up as one of the Three Kings, is travelling from village to village singing carols. One night he has a strange dream in which he is summoned by a faraway voice to go to a mysterious mill—and when he wakes he is irresistibly drawn there. At the mill he finds eleven other boys, all of them, like him, the apprentices of its Master, a powerful sorcerer, as Krabat soon discovers.
During the week the boys work ceaselessly grinding grain, but on Friday nights the Master initiates them into the mysteries of the ancient Art of Arts. One day, however, the sound of church bells and of a passing girl singing an Easter hymn penetrates the boys’ prison: At last they hatch a plan that will win them their freedom and put an end to the Master’s dark designs.”
“It was between New Year’s Day and Twelfth Night, and Krabat, who was fourteen at the time, had joined forces with two other Wendish beggar boys.”
Krabat has a strange dream he feels he must follow. The next day he slips away from the other two boys in his vagabond group and goes to the mill of the sorcerer. Krabat and eleven other boys work grinding grain for long days and nights. It is hard work and Krabat has a difficult time keeping up, until Tonda, the lead journeyman and Krabat’s new best friend, lightly touches Krabat while uttering a few words under his breath. Suddenly, Krabat can work as if he gained the strength of many men; the work is still laborious, yet Krabat can work with ease. Krabat has been with the mill almost one year when Tonda dies. Days later, Krabat, now three years older, becomes a full journeyman and a new boy replaces Tonda, sleeping in his bed and wearing his old clothes, just as Krabat had done one year earlier, though he did not know this until the new apprentice arrived that he slept in the bed and wore the clothes of the journeyman he replaced.
Year 2 is not much easier for Krabat. He thinks of Tonda regularly, who, in a dream, tells Krabat to trust Michal. Michal is similar to Tonda and helps Krabat when he needs help. The millwork is still long and hard, but he can easily get through it with the magic the Master teaches his little ravens in his Black School. Once a year, the boys mark each other with the sign of the Secret Brotherhood, pass under the yoke at the door, and take a blow to the check delivered by the Master, reaffirming their roles for another year.
Various Covers, pt. 1
Year 3 sees Krabat ready to leave the mill. He tries to leave three times and three times, he finds himself back in the mill. He runs to the east as far as he can run—but is still on the grounds of the mill. Krabat runs to the north—only to be at the mill. Krabat can escape but one way—death. Year three’s new apprentice is one of the friends Krabat left when called to the mill. The young boy recognizes the name Krabat, tells of having a friend by that name, but does not recognize Krabat who is now many years older than the boy is. Krabat takes his friend under his wing; much like Tonda had done for him.
Krabat cannot let go of the voice of a young singer from the village. Girls and journeymen of the Master’s mill tend to end in tragedy for at least the girl—including Tonda’s girl—and often the boy as well. Krabat knows this, yet still wants to meet this girl. She could become his savior, except no one has ever outwitted the Master. With the help of a couple of other journeymen, Krabat sets about a plan to gain not only his freedom, but also that of the other journeymen as well. This would mean the end of the mill, the end of magic, and the end of the Master. The Master has his own plan involving Krabat; an offer Krabat should find hard to resist yet does. Instead, Krabat places his life in the hands of the village girl. Can this girl pull off what no one before her could?
Various Covers, pt. 2
I have never been disappointed by a New York Review Children’s Book and Krabat & the Sorcerer’s Mill is no exception. When originally written in 1971, winning many children’s book prizes, some of the German words were archaic and difficult, especially for American children. The translator replaced those words, never losing the story or its basic scheme of horror, love, and friendship between those held in bondage. It is easy to understand why Neil Gaiman calls Krabat & the Sorcerer’s Mill “one of his favorite books.”
After his dream, when Krabat is walking to the mill, each person he asks for directions or simply meets, tells him to stay far away from the mill. The villagers tell him dark, strange things occur at the mill; yet Krabat ventures on, compelled to find this it. For a beggar boy the mill must seem like Heaven. Krabat gets a warm bed and filling meals that do not scrimp on meat. No more singing for his supper and traveling on foot from village to village is indeed a blessing. But the work grinding grain from dusk to dawn is laborious and leaves Krabat exhausted. Then an older boy, Tonda, steps up to help Krabat. Krabat must keep Tonda’s help secret, as the Master would not be pleased his new apprentice received assistance.
The Master is unsympathetic, mysterious, and dangerous. He has secrets of his own. With only one eye, the Master seems to be able to see everything, regardless of where it might occur. Many times, he follows Krabat into town, showing up as a one-eyed raven, or a one-eyed horse, and even a one-eyed woman, all with a black patch over the useless eye—that he cannot disguise. Krabat sees these creatures but never makes the complete connection as to it being the Master.
Krabat & the Sorcerer’s Mill will delight kids who like adventures, mysteries, and magic. Though the Master deals in the black arts, there is nothing in the story that will scare anyone. At times, the writing feels long, and at times, it is long, yet never arduous or out of place. Preussler spins a tale so complete one wonders if such goings on really occurred in seventeenth-century Germany. Krabat & the Sorcerer’s Mill will keep kids entranced as they read this gothic tale of orphaned boys finding a home with a dangerous wizard. I enjoyed every word of this captivating story. Krabat & the Sorcerer’s Mill tends to be best for the advanced reader. Adults will also immensely enjoy this alluring tale.
KRABAT & THE SORCERER’S MILL. Text copyright © 1971 by Otfried Preussler. Copyright © 1981 by Thienemann Verlag. Translatation copyright © 1972 by Anthea Bell. Published in 2014 by the New York Review of Books.
Purchase Krabat & the Sorcerer’s Mill at Amazon—B&N—Book Depository—New York Review of Books—at your favorite bookstore.
Learn more about Krabat & the Sorcerer’s Mill HERE.
Meet the author, Otfried Preussler, at his website: http://www.preussler.de/
Meet the translator, Anthea Bell, bio wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthea_Bell
Find other classic children’s books at the New York Review Children’s Collection website: http://www.nybooks.com/books/imprints/childrens/
New York Review Children’s Collection is an imprint of the New York Review of Books. http://www.nybooks.com/
Originally published in 1972, under the title The Satanic Mill.
Also by Otfried Preussler, (soon to be published by NYRB)
The Little Witch
The Robber Hotzenplotz
The Little Water Sprite
Also Translated by Anthea Bell
Pied Piper of Hamelin
Inkheart (Inkheart Trilogy)
The Flying Classroom (Pushkin Children’s Collection) 3/10/2015
copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews
Filed under: 5stars
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Tagged: Anthea Bell
, children's book reviews
, classic tale
, Krabat & the Sorcerer’s Mill
, middle grade book
, New York Review of Books
, Otfried Preussler
, The New York Review Children’s Collection
Most of the entries in this series of things that have impacted on the Johnny Mackintosh books have been either science fiction or science based. I have though saved the biggest influence until last and it comes from another world, but one which many readers will know well: Jo Rowling’s spectacular creation, Harry Potter.
Some people might have heard the story of how I came to begin reading about the boy wizard from Godric’s Hollow, but for those who haven’t here goes. Of course as a publisher I’d heard about Harry and his creator JK Rowling, but I figured he was for kids and I had no interest whatsoever in books about witches and wizards and magic and broomsticks, even though the buzz about this remarkable creation wouldn’t go away.
I was working for a company called Addison-Wesley who were based in Boston, Massachusetts, so had been spending time over there. At the end of the week everyone from the office was out a party in a club (I think the House of Blues) and I would be heading back to the UK the next day. I was approached be someone looking a little sheepish who said she had something to tell me – that everyone in the office thought I was Harry Potter.
In hindsight it’s obvious. At the time, as you can see, I wore ridiculous round battered glasses, had black messed up hair, spoke with an English accent and (though I normally cover it under mounds of foundation) I do actually have a lightning-shaped scar on my forehead. Then there are all the mad things that seem to happen when I get angry, but that’s another story…
The next day I found and bought Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at Logan International Airport and read it on the flight home. Curiously, although I may have read all the Harry Potter books 20-40 times, I’ve still never read the Philosopher’s Stone version of book one where it all began. At that time Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was also published so I bought that at Heathrow Airport on the way home, and Prisoner of Azkaban soon followed. I loved this world that the woman who was to become my writing idol had created. It’s a tribute to her that she could even make things like magic and dragons and Quidditch sound interesting. But most of all it was what we call the voice of the books, and the cleverness of telling everything from Harry’s point of view, even when he got the wrong end of the stick.
It had never occurred to me to write the sort of books that children might want to read (as well as adults). I’d been trying to pen the ultimate cutting edge modern novel, a kind of cross between Iain Banks, Paul Auster, Tibor Fisher and Irvine Welsh (there’s a thought!) when one day, walking back from the
If you live in Southern California and ever wanted to meet Ralph Bakshi, this week you have your chance – twice!
First, on Thursday night, Ralph will be appearing in person at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) to introduce his 1977 fantasy Wizards, a restoration of which will be screened at 7:30pm. For tickets click here.
Second, on Saturday at 6:30pm, Bakshi will do a Q&A session in Room 207 at WonderCon in Anaheim.
For those who cannot get to the west coast, you can enjoy a new interview with Ralph on CraveOnline, in which he talks about why he doesn’t trust the company in charge of the potential DVD release of Coonskin, and gets into the history of Hey Good Lookin‘.
You can also purchase Bakshi’s 35th Anniversary edition of Wizards on blu-ray (which coincidentally goes on sale today). 20th Century Fox Home Video has given Cartoon Brew nine (9) copies of the blu-ray and – surprise! – the first nine of you to correctly answer (in the comments section) the simple trivia question below will win one.
CONTEST NOW OPEN
QUESTION: In Wizards, what is the name of character voiced by Mark Hamill?
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Post tags: Ralph Bakshi, Wizards
. . . . Cheryl is the author of three children’s books. Her latest is King’s Ransom, reviewed here on Friday, January 25, 2013. Cheryl is a retired teacher, with passion for working with kids, especially with their writing skills. Her Medieval Writing Workshops are held for local elementary and middle grade students and girls …
I was scrolling through my blogposts on this here blog because I was SURE that I had blogged Tuesdays at the Castle
back when I read it. No dice. I really enjoyed that one, and you can get Jen Robinson's take on it over here
.Wednesdays in the Tower
starts with an egg. Celie is surprised because Castle Glower doesn't change on Wednesdays, but all of a sudden the school room isn't at the top of the spiral staircase. Celie follows all the way up to a new outdoor room that slopes toward the center where there is a nest with a huge orange egg. Celie cannot believe her eyes, and quickly heads over and lays her hands on the egg. She is surprised to find it hot to the touch. When Celie runs down the stairs to spread the news of the egg, she finds she can't. Nobody is listening to her, and what's more, only she can find that extra staircase!
The nest room isn't the only change that is coming over Castle Glower. There is that mysterious armor gallery that appeared along with its magical tendencies. The fabric room is another new one. Before this, Celie and her family just accepted the castle's changes without really thinking about them, but some of these new changes have them thinking more deeply. Where do the rooms go when they disappear? Why is the castle suddenly becoming more fortress like?
In this installment, readers are treated to the real history of Castle Glower and Sleyne. We learn in real time just as Celie and her family are learning. Maybe some of the tapestries in the castle are more than just decorative. Perhaps they are telling the stories of the castle.Wednesdays in the Tower
really should be read after reading Tuesdays at the Castle
. Jessica Day George doesn't fill in the blanks with backstory, and if you haven't read the first book, you will be slightly off kilter. That said, I really enjoyed the character and world building - Prince Lulath is a favorite of mine. The cliff hanger ending will have readers clamoring for more.
It's a Nonfiction Snowday Monday!
First things first-- I have a change in review policy. My old policy was that I would review everything I read that was over 100 pages. Sometimes, I'd make exceptions for books under 100. Mainly these were fiction books that were at least 75 and absolutely loved (such as Friday's review of Love That Dog) or nonfiction books that I was thinking critically about for other reasons (such as Cybils nominees.)
One thing I've found in my work as a children's librarian is that most nonfiction for middle graders is capped at 96 pages. So, unless it was Cybils reading or something similar, my nonfiction blogging is about books written for adults, or teen biographies, because they're the titles most like to break that 100 page barrier.
I am extremely passionate about good nonfiction for students. As such, I am changing my policy. Nonfiction no longer has to break that 100 page barrier to get reviewed. Due to the craziness of general life and my review backlog, I will not be reviewing *all* the nonfiction I read, but expect to see a lot more. It will probably only be books that I think kids will love, are seriously amazing, or seriously flawed. I'm still trying to see where I can set boundaries, but, that's the direction I'm moving in for now.
Now! For some Cybil nominee reviews!:
The Other Side: A Teen's Guide to Ghost Hunting and the Paranormal
Marley Gibson, Patrick Burns, and Dave Schrader
From the back: "Maybe you're a budding psychic. Maybe you're a skeptic. Maybe you just want to know if it's Grandma playing with the lights of faulty wiring."
The authors take ghost hunting seriously. As such, this book is full of things not to do and to be careful off. For instance, flash photography in the rain will make a picture of glowing orbs. These are NOT paranormal activity. They're flashed raindrops. Know your equipment.
They want you to be safe (and they're writing for a teen audience, so it's full of practical advice such as "get permission to investigate the location that you are going to.") They know that ghost hunters and teens both tend to get a bad rap, so they tell us how to avoid it, which means being responsible. They don't want you to give other ghost hunters, or other teens, a bad name.
At the same time, this book is full of advice on what equipment to use, how to find a haunted spot to ghost-hunt, (and, once you get there, a ghost) and different types of hauntings. It's everything you could want (even as an adult) if you actually want to ghost-hunt (either as a believer or skeptic) or are just interested in it. It's surprisingly practical.
I'll fully admit that I raised an eyebrow when this was nominated for the Cybils, but I was really pleasantly surprised by how the authors present the information, and how much they welcome new ghost hunters, but respect the field while still having a lot of room for skepticism. (In fact, they recommend having a skeptic on every team to play devil's advocate when reviewing your results.)Book Provided by...
the publisher, for Cybils consideration.
Michael Chabon (pictured, via) and Ayelet Waldman will collaborate on an HBO drama called Hobgoblin.
Here’s more from Variety: “[It is] an offbeat drama project at HBO that revolves around a motley group of conmen and magicians who use their skills at deception to battle Hitler and his forces during WWII.”
The married couple will write the script and act as executive producers together. This endeavor marks the first time the two have worked together as professionals.
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.