“A bluebear has twenty-seven lives. I shall recount thirteen-and-a-half of them in this book but keep quiet about the rest. A bear must have his secrets, after all; they make him seem attractive and mysterious.”
― Walter Moers, The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear
The 131⁄2 Lives of Captain Bluebear is a 1999 fantasy novel by German author and illustrator Walter Moers which details the 13½ lives of a human-sized bear with blue fur. Wait you say… human-sized bear with blue fur? I know right. Very exciting isn’t it? Anyways, our Bluebear has many adventures. It’s impossible to even try to summarize all his adventures but among other he is raised by diminutive crew of wooden legged Minipirates, he is befriended by a pair of “Babbling Billows” or talking waves, he spends one of his lives on Gourmet Island (which is as you might guess, is filled with delicious foodstuffs), he learns all the knowledge in the universe with the aid of the seven-brained (!!) Nocturnomath Professor Abdullah Nightingale and his intelligence bacteria, he visits a Tornado City and meets a a bad idea named 1600H.
“The Minipirates were the masters of the Zamonian Sea. Nobody knew this, however, because they were too small to be noticed. No wave was too high, no storm too tempestuous and no whirlpool too powerful for them to defy it.”
― Walter Moers,
I read 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear close to when I first learned how to read. I have to thank my mother for meeting this book because she made me a reader by always borrowing me books she thought I would like (= that seemed funny or interesting and had big illustrations). I vaguely remember her saying to my 8-year-old self “I know this is a very long book but look it’s mostly pictures and big text”.
As you can see. It’s very big text. I found writing is very entertaining. Sometimes I wasn’t sure what exactly was being discussed…
What’s not to like. The characters are extremely unique. Or I guess unique doesn’t even begin to describe all these characters. There are headless giants and giantless heads, minipirates, talking waves, seven-brained professors, hobgoblins and bad ideas … What more could you ask for. I love books with extraordinary, imaginative characters and 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear fulfills my love for them. The world building is very impressive and there are gorgeous illustrations and maps that explain you just what Zamonia and all its creatures look like.
“Wednesdays were the best thing about Atlantis. The middle of the week was a traditional holiday there. Everyone stopped work and celebrated the fact that half the week was over.”
― Walter Moers,
I think you won’t like this novel if you don’t like long(est) ramblings and when there’s no point or logic what so ever. Personally, Moers had me at Minipirates. I just adore these kinds of books.
5/ 5 stars
1. If you’re looking for gorgeous illustrations, look no further.
2. I read this first time in Finnish so even if I have also the English copy of this book which I re-read in or, I’m not sure how well it translates. I still think you should read it.
3. Bluebear’s adventures seem to go on forever…or at least 700 pages so this is quite heavy book. Though only in number of pages, not in content.
4. If you’re a fan of fantasy and you like when authors invent own language and when they have unique and silly (and absolutely wild) imaginations, this is something you must read. Also if you like books of Roald Dahl, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld or Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you’ll very likely enjoy reading this novel.
5. If you liked this book, you should look into other books in Zamonia series. The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear is first book in the series. Unfortunately not all Zamonia books have been translated into English.
Have you read any books by Walter Moers? What do you think of these illustrations?
“Life is short, they say.
A matter of opinion, say I. Some lives are short, others long, and many are middling.
Besides, I still had another thirteen-and-a-half to go.”
― Walter Moers,