The 13 and a Half Lives of Captain Bluebear

Bluebear is … well, a Blue Bear. He’s the sort of high-falootin’, sea swarthy, ultra smooth blue bear that has 27 lives. In this book, he outlines the first thirteen and a half to us because the others are secrets, and he fully intends to keep it that way, thanks very much.

Walter Moers is famous in Germany; he’s written comic strips for years and years. His books about Zammonia – of which Bluebear’s story is the second, are what made him more popular, but he’s still chronically under-established and unknown.

Bluebear begins his tale with an introduction unlike anything I have ever seen. If you ever wondered about things like Bolloggless Heads and Headless Bolloggs, or what a real life Deus Ex Machina might be like, or what can be learned of the Gelatine Prince from the I 364th dimension, or the Babbling Billows, then this is a stop off point for you. Beautifully illustrated and splendidly fantastical, the story just flows into a web that, at its finish, is the most amazing thing you could imagine.

In the beginning, some Minipirates find a tiny blue bear floating in a walnut shell towards a huge whirlpool. They save him and his long series of fairytale lives begins. From his life with the Minipirates, where he learned to tie a knot in a knot, to the Hobgoblins and their dancing nights, right through to his time on Gourmet Island (where we see an obese but adorable bear), Bluebear thrives. We also read his time navigating for a saviour bird called Deus X Machina, right down to his education in the Gloomberg Mountains; Bluebear’s courage, personality and true lust for life is a dream to read about.

Building on every adventure, fantasy, fairytale and action story ever written or committed to screen, the book is a story of love, war, torture, dreams, nightmares, monsters and heroes, myths and legends and a mysterious ship called the S S Moloch, where Bluebear’s distinguished thirteenth life takes place.

The main story, because it is so very wide reaching and solidly random, is interspersed with “extracts” from an Encyclopaedia of everything, Written by Bluebear’s great Professor, Abdullah Nightingale. The extracts are a delight to read through, giving you the information you need with a sweep of majesty that even the Encyclopaedia Britannica lacks by comparison. The book is a storm in a teacup. It mocks itself, satirises itself, makes fun of literary types and establishes a world in which I would pay to even dream about. It’s a tome- but by the end, you sorely wish that Bluebear would emerge once more and tell us about the other half of his lives.

He displays a distinct humility and utilises an unassuming air, even in times of acute wisdom; the abundance of innocence and sense of humour even in the worst times is what makes him such a great character. He has a true joie de vivre that is unmatched in any other character I know of. If you like random, funny, sad, strange and beautiful stories, then this is honestly the only book you’ll ever need.