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The Magic of Wolpertings in Zamonia

Walter Moers’ indescribably epic epic, Rumo, is out of print in English. Hankering for a return to Zamonia and a refresher of Rumo’s miraculous adventures, I tracked down a second-hand copy. The tale was even better the third time through. More than a few things are special about this book. But no new copies? That’s a crime. Rumo is genius, unlike most things that we read. Why aren’t more captivated by this most unusual of books?

That is probably it, the most simple of explanations. Rumo is so unique, so difficult to characterize, that you might never pick it up should you chance across a copy. Without word of mouth, you might not be able to tell if it was for children or belong to science fiction or fantasy sections. It is chock full of unusual ink drawings. Rumo doesn’t fit into any recognizable box, and as such, may not be readily categorized. Nor easily marketed. But what a story! Please let me introduce you to a history that once read, will never leave you.

The book is massive and is actually two books, bound together with a common story and characters. It takes place in the land of Zamonia, a continent with a rich history of many different kinds creatures, drawn from the fervid imagination of Moers, and no humans. Most of the creatures speak, and all who speak have something interesting to say. Moers has set other novels in Zamonia. It’s an exciting place, steeped in danger: the perfect place to visit through a work of fiction, not a place you might want to live. A quiet and peaceful life in Zamonia is rare.

Our eponymous hero, Rumo, is a wolperting, a dog-like creature with horns and outstanding fighting abilities. Rumo, a quiet fellow who is uncomfortable in the limelight, turns out to be exceptionally good at fighting, even compared to other wolpertings. His frailties – and Moers’ characters, imagined beasts though they may be, consistently are complicated and ring, somehow, as true – make him all the more identifiable. You root for Rumo, who displays tremendous sangfroid in the face of extraordinary risks. It’s a violent tale, much as one would find in a Norse epic. Rumo’s adventures call for interaction with all manner of creatures, and as his and other’s stories unfold, we learn much of the history of Zamonia.

And that doesn’t at all capture the excitement on each page, the humor woven throughout, the wit and the drama. Helping us visualize it all, Moers’ drawings illustrate creatures and their traits. Among his many creative abilities, he’s a very successful cartoonist in Germany. Buy into the book, give it time and focus your imagination, and it becomes all the more memorable.

Book for young adults? Book for adults? Book for adults who think like kids? I have no idea. And it does not matter.

Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures brings to me a return to an extraordinary land where I can marvel at Moers’ genius and truly enjoy the ride.

Good luck finding a copy. It’s completely and totally worth it.

David Potash

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