Zamonia - A Series of Tales from a Lost Continent by Walter Moers Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Zamonia - A Series of Tales from a Lost Continent by Walter Moers

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A collection of books about the lost continent of Zamonia.

The continent of Zamonia is described in a collection of books, written by the German author Walter Moers. They are all presented as 'translations' of books which have originally been written in the Zamonian language; where necessary Moers adds footnotes and shortens them to make them accessible to the readers of our time. He seems to specialise in the books written by one of Zamonia's most important authors, the dragon Hildegunst von Mythenmetz. This Entry is based on the original German translations of the books, so names are often different from the official English versions.

The Continent of Zamonia

Long, long ago Zamonia occupied a big part of the Atlantic Ocean. It was a continent of many different landscapes: deserts, icy mountain peaks, swamps, fields and forests. Just like the continents of Nafaklathu, Urien and Yhôll, Zamonia does not exist today. The oceans rose and covered them all with water.

Many different creatures inhabited the huge continent of Zamonia. There were giants, dragons, dwarfs, midgard snakes and many, many more, but only very few humans. In fact many of the creatures of Zamonia had fled from other continents as they were threatened by human presence. At the eastern shores of Zamonia lay its huge capital: Atlantis, a city with very diverse inhabitants and amazing architecture, like Babel towers.

The society of Zamonia was of course very diverse; it was a culture in which even demons were respected - if ugly - business people. They lived a modern life with fast food, cafés, newspapers and tourism. At the top of society were the Natifftoffen, elk-like creatures from Scandinavia, who had an eye for all administrative activities and finances. The scientific elite of Zamonia were Eydeets, feeble humanoids with multiple brains, some of which were outside their skulls. They thought better the darker it was, so they usually lived in dark places. Most of the best writers of Zamonia were dragons, who were all born poets and writers - a scientific study says they were physically made for it because they had cold blood and thick skin and get very old.

It is interesting how much Zamonian literature and history resembles our own. Many names of characters mentioned in the books are anagrams of the names of famous people of the human world. There is for instance Manu Kantimel1, founder of the Gralsund Demonism, Ojann Golgo von Fortheweg2, writer of the famous 'Weisenstein' and Perla La Gadeon3. Many poems that are quoted in the books also are related to well known pieces. The City of Dreaming Books, especially, include many such references. Therefore some aspects of the story are only understandable to people with a certain background knowledge in literature.

The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear

Die 13 1/2 Leben des Käpt'n Blaubär

... der Geruch von Feuern, die in der Ferne brennen, mit einem Hauch Zimt darin - so riecht das Abenteuer!
... the smell of fires that burn in the distance, with a touch of cinnamon - that's the smell of adventure!

The first book 'translated from Zamonian' is half an autobiography (every bluebear has 27 lives) written by Captain Bluebear, who is indeed a blue bear. Every chapter of the book tells the story of one of his separate lives. The story is accompanied by excerpts from the 'Encyclopaedia of unexplained Wonders, Beings and Phenomenona of Zamonia and its Vicinity' by Prof Dr Abdul Nightingale4. Although there's also a Captain Bluebear TV series for young children available on German TV since 1988, the book is definitely written for a much older readership. In the TV series Bluebear tells his grandchildren unbelievable stories about his life, which in the end turn out to be true.

At the beginning of the book baby Bluebear is found swimming in a nutshell in the ocean, by the tiny Dwarfpirates (they are born with wooden legs, metal hooks as hands and an eyepatch). They adopt him and teach him everything there is to know about ships and the sea, but when Bluebear gets too big for their boat he is left on an island. Unfortunately this is the home of many ships' kobold ghosts (Klabautergeister), who live off the fear of seafarers and who they scare at night. Bluebear is very good at crying; he has to make a crying show for the ghosts every evening and becomes quite a star. One day he has had enough of it and flees with a self-made float.

He spends some time at sea where he learns to talk and gets his name from two chattering waves. When Bluebear is almost eaten by a huge carnivorous plant he is saved by Deus Ex Machina (Mac), a flying rescue dinosaur. As Mac has bad eyesight Bluebear becomes his navigator. On their flights Bluebear and Mac for instance rescue some Wolpertinger5 puppies from a giant who 'wants to sit down on their house'.

When Mac retires he brings Bluebear to the Dark Mountains6 where he becomes a student in Dr Nightingale's Night School, which is hidden in a maze of caves. Dr Nightingale is an Eydeet; as the most intelligent of all Nightingales, he has seven brains, five of them on the outside of his skull. Nightingale is a great inventor and expert in many areas and teaches his students everything they should know about the world, or more accurately: he infects them with knowledge bacteria. When Bluebear has learned as much as his brain can take and has to leave the school, Nightingale telepathically transmits the 'Encyclopaedia of Unexplained Wonders, Beings and Phenomenona of Zamonia and its Vicinity' into his brain.

After a long time of searching for an exit from the maze of caves in the mountains, Bluebear reaches the Great Forest, which is said to have been the home of Colour Bears a long time ago. He immediately feels at home and even finds a pretty blue bear girl who lives alone in a small hut. Unfortunately it turns out that this was only a hallucination caused by being caught in the net of a monstrous forest spider witch. He manages to free himself at the last moment and runs away, jumping through a dimension hole. In the other dimension Bluebear causes some things to happen that happened before. Luckily he arrives safely back in his own dimension at roughly the 'right' time. He leaves the forest and walks into the Sweet Desert, which consists mostly of sugar, or occasionally caramel. A strange caravan discovers him in the desert so Bluebear joins them on their never ending walk to reach the legendary town Anagrom Ataf7. Bluebear helps them before making his own way to Atlantis, travelling in a tornado - which turns out to be a bad idea.

Bluebear manages eventually to leave the tornado, and crosses the mountains to Atlantis by walking through the brain of a giant who left his head there. After taking on various jobs in the city, Bluebear becomes a professional liar, a storyteller in the arena. In his last lying duel his opponent is the master liar, but after the end of the competition the strongest earthquake in the history of the city occurs. Under surprising circumstances Atlantis disappears from the world. Bluebear goes back to sea - not voluntarily. At the end of this story he is reunited with his people and they all move back to the Great Forest.

Ensel and Krete

Ensel und Krete

Hexen stehen immer zwischen Birken.
Witches always stand between birches.
The Bloody Book

Ensel and Krete is the first translation of a book by Hildegunst von Mythenmetz, who has already been quoted in Captain Bluebear. It is a new version of a traditional Zamonian fairytale and set in a time after the adventures of Bluebear, when the Colour Bears live in the Great Forest. There they have set up a holiday destination for stressed Zamonian city dwellers.

The two Fehnhachen dwarf children Ensel and Krete have come to the forest with their parents. In their search for a good tree to climb the children leave the path and get lost in the forest. Lying in wait are many dangerous creatures, black mushrooms, hallucinations, a melted comet, the oldest creatures in the world, weird plants and an unusual witch. The ending of the fairy tale is tragic - as usual for Zamonian fairy tales - but an alternative good ending is offered.

Additionally to the story Mythenmetz introduces his new idea: the Mythenmetz divagation8. This literary invention allows the writer to pause the story at any time and write whatever comes to his mind. This leads - amongst others - to a detailed description of Mythenmetz' study, a rant about his greatest critic and side notes about Zamonian politics. A big part of the book is made up of these 'divagations', or digressions. The encyclopaedia on the other hand is only used in a few footnotes.

At the end of the book Moers adds 'half a biography of Hildegunst von Mythenmetz', which talks about the writer's first 500 years. (In Zamonia creatures are regarded as adults when they have reached the age of 70 years.) It is the description of a genius and inspired poet, but also an eccentric, narcissistic and hypochondriac character. Ensel and Krete and most other great works of Mythenmetz were written after this time.

Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures

Rumo und die Wunder im Dunkeln

With a Fehnhachen dwarf family lives a Wolpertinger puppy, which Bluebear had rescued from the giant on one of his adventures. One day the puppy finds out that he can walk on two legs and he scents a silver ribbon in the sky, which he knows he should follow. Unfortunately he and his family are immediately captured by cruel man-eating devil cyclopes. They bring their victims to the swimming rocks on which they live; here the dwarves and the Wolpertinger are kept in a cave along with many others.

The Wolpertinger starts to grow quickly, as is the nature of his breed. In the cyclopes' pantry, where everyone is confined, he meets the Shark-Maggot (a big maggot with many arms and shark teeth) Volzotan Smeik who teaches him to talk and calls him Rumo - the name of a popular Zamonian card game. Smeik tells Rumo stories of the world and especially of important battles and when Rumo is fully grown not a long time later, they plan to escape the cyclopes.

Rumo manages to overcome the cyclopes in a bloody fight and free all those captives who have not yet been eaten. He and Smeik decide to stay together for a while. On their travels they meet the eydeet Kolibril, who is on his way to the city Nebelheim9 to study the fog that constantly covers the city. Smeik and Kolibril become friends, so when Rumo and Smeik's ways part not a long time later, the Shark-Maggot follows the Eydeet.

Rumo meanwhile follows the scent of the silver ribbon which leads him to the city of Wolperting, where all Wolpertingers live. There he finds a home, goes to school for the first time and learns that every male Wolpertinger follows a silver ribbon that eventually leads to a female Wolpertinger. But before Rumo can win the heart of his girl, the whole population of Wolperting is the victim of an assault. Rumo is the only survivor and has to go deep into the dangerous caverns of Downworld10 that spread under the whole continent of Zamonia.

Rumo is a bloody and cruel adventure story and not recommended for soft-hearted people.

The City of Dreaming Books

Die Stadt der Träumenden Bücher

Getürmt aus Buch auf Buch, verlassen und verflucht...
Made from book piled on book, abandoned and cursed...

The story begins on the Lindworm Fortress, city of the dragons. Hildegunst von Mythenmetz is a young dragon of 77 years, when his aged 'poetry patron' (Dichtpate) Danzelot dies. Mythenmetz inherits his patron's house with garden and everything in it, which of course includes lots of books. In one of them Danzelot has hidden a manuscript which was sent by a young writer seeking advice. After reading the manuscript Danzelot gave up trying to write something great, because he knew his words would never better those of the young writer. Mythenmetz agrees, he too is deeply moved by the few pages from the unknown writer who doesn't know what to write. It ends with the words 'here the story begins'. Hildegunst decides to search for the author in Buchhaim, a city filled with bookshops, printers, editors and publishers, where Danzelot had sent the unknown writer.

Mythenmetz is deeply impressed by Buchhaim, the City of Dreaming Books, where everything revolves around writing. Hordes of tourists, as well as important collectors, are searching for treasures in the countless bookshops. Deep under the city there are labyrinthine catacombs filled with ancient books, some being worth a fortune. The dangerous book hunters go down there to find rare books and sell them above ground, fighting deadly wars against each other for the most valuable discoveries. The catacombs themselves are inhabited by mysterious creatures, many created by the bookemists, who are now banned from the city. There are rumours about living books and a mysterious and dangerous Shadow King.

While trying to find out about the manuscript, Mythenmetz gets in contact with the Eydeet Kibitzer and the Schreckse (German schrecken = to scare, Hexe = witch) Inazanza Anazazi, who both tell him to leave Buchhaim as soon as he can - he does not follow their advice. Mythenmetz's way leads to the ancient centre of the city and the letter laboratory of Phistomefel11 Smeik, a Shark-Maggot. He reads the manuscript and promises expertise, but when Mythenmetz comes to pick it up again the next day, Smeik poisons him with a book and tells that he wants to control Buchaim. Then Mythenmetz is brought into the catacombs, together with the manuscript. Trying to find a way out, Mythenmetz gets deeper and deeper into this dangerous maze of tunnels.

On his way, Mythenmetz has to escape monstrous creatures and bookhunters. He makes friends with the literature-loving Booklings, meets living books and even the Shadow King himself. Mythenmetz discovers many of the mysteries of the catacombs and he learns about writing and the power of the Orm, the force of inspiration coming from somewhere in the universe.

The book ends with revenge, death and the Great Fire of Buchhaim. Mythenmetz feels the Orm for the first time and gets in the possession of the Bloody Book, one of the most valuable books, written with demon blood and bound in bat wings. He leaves the burning city without looking back.

The Alchemaster's Apprentice

Der Schrecksenmeister

Jedes Ding hat seinen Schatten.
Everything has a shadow.

Originally this book was written as 'Echo the Crat', a culinary fairytale by Gofid Letterkerl, but Mythenmetz decided to rewrite it in a more modern language to make it accessible to young people. Moers on the other hand had to edit Mythenmetz' version of a great number of pages, because it had been written in one of the writer's hypochondriac phases and therefore included a lot of text about his health.

After the death of his owner, Echo the Crat - a talking cat with two livers - lives alone in the streets of Sledwaya, the most unhealthy town of Zamonia. Shortly before he dies of hunger he is found by the Alchemaster Eißpin, a tyrant who spreads illness and fear over the whole town. He is also in charge of the administration of the local Schrecksen, but he hates them and has driven almost all of them away with his incredible regulations. Eißpin offers Echo a deal: he will save him from hunger and feed him the most delicious food and give him a good home for a month, but then he will kill Echo to get his fat, which he needs for important alchemistic experiments. In his desparation Echo signs Eißpin's contract and from now on lives in his dark castle, that towers over Sledwaya.

Eißpin sticks to the contract and serves Echo the rarest delicacies of Zamonia, he also teaches him much of his alchemistic knowledge. When Echo is not eating or watching Eißpin's experiments he explores the castle and its roof, where he makes friends with a Schuhu - a one-eyed owl - called Fjodor F Fjodor. Another strange and silent friend and his almost constant follower becomes a ghost which Echo calls 'The Shirt'. Echo also gets help from Izanuela, the last Schreckse in Sledwaya, who seems to be the polar opposite of Eißpin. Therefore the hardcover edition of the book starts with a stylised picture of Eißpin's laboratory on the first page and ends with a picture of the magical garden of the Schreckse on the last.

The story 'Echo the Crat' resembles 'Mirror, the Cat' ('Spiegel, das Kätzchen') by the 19th-Century Swiss writer Gottfried Keller. Many of the names in the book are also quite similar. 'Mirror the Cat' belongs to a cycle of tales playing in the town Seldwyla, where Mirror and the sorcerer Pineiß make a similar contract to Echo and Eißpin.

The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books

Das Labyrinth der Träumenden Bücher

Over 200 years later than his adventures in Buchhaim, Mythenmetz is the greatest writer in Zamonia. He is also lazy and fat and keeps copying his own work because the Orm left him long ago. But still he receives stacks of letters from admirers every day, streets bear his name and there are shops that sell only his books. This, of course, has an immense influence on his ego.

One morning Mythenmetz is at home, reading his fan post, he finds a letter written in his own handwriting, mocking his style of writing and signed with his own name, the address is given as a location in the catacombs and a 'P.S. The Shadow King has returned'. Mythenmetz almost chokes on his breakfast. He decides to return to Buchhaim in disguise (because he does not want to be followed by admirers) to discover what is going on.

Buchhaim has been completely rebuilt and is now a modern Zamonian city. Only a few parts of the old Buchhaim are left after 200 years. The effects of a great fire and vast holes in the ground are visible reminders of a catastrophe. The catacombs have collapsed, so now even tourists go underground for a little adventure. The bookhunters are also back, but under the name of 'Librinauts', still wearing heavy armor but claiming to be more civilised and acting for a greater good by bringing books from the catacombs.

Mythenmetz explores the city and again meets the Schreckse Inazanza Anazazi and the Eydeet Kibitzer, who is very ill. He had made friends with them after his last adventures in Buchhaim. It was Inazanza who had found the message for Mythenmetz and sent it to him. Before his death Kibitzer gives Mythenmetz a 'vertical map' of the catacombs, but Mythenmetz never wants to descend into them again. During the next few days Inazanza shows Mythenmetz around the city and introduces him to the new 'big thing' in Buchhaim: puppet theatre. They watch a representation of Mythenmetz's 'City of Dreaming Books' in the famous 'Puppaecircus Maximus' and Mythenmetz meets the legendary director of the theatre: Corodius, who turns out to be a Shark-Maggot and uncle of Phistomefel Smeik. He is blind and seems to be from the pleasanter side of the family. In the end Corodius invites Mythenmetz to the 'Invisible Theatre' which is only open to a selected audience and takes place mainly in the audience's imagination.

To his dismay Mythenmetz finds out that the Invisible Theatre is due to take place in the catacombs. And even worse, the audience is brought to the place where Phistomefel Smeik's house was standing long ago. This place is now another enormous hole in the ground. Mythenmetz overcomes his fears and follows the other people into the tunnels. The guide turns off the light and a short time later Mythenmetz finds himself alone in the dark and lost.

'Here the story begins' Mythenmetz reads on a note he got from Corodius. But the book is over and to be continued in a 2nd volume.


What is special about the Zamonian books are the fantastic illustrations and colourful book covers made by Moers, who is also the author of many German comics. This becomes visible when looking at how the drawing style progressed through the different books: while many of the illustrations in the first book put most emphasis on outlines and are a bit vague, they become more and more detailed and expressive in the later books. Still, although many pictures are part of all the writings around Zamonia they are not at all comics or picture books, the drawings just add a lot of atmosphere. Over the whole book covers (of the German editions) spread ink drawings, each with a different background colour and details in contrasting colours. The motifs are a basic pattern made of objects that appear in the books and a main character in the centre. Ensel and Krete for instance has a cover with a tree bark pattern and the two children looking out of a hole in this tree, while The City of Dreaming Books shows a Bookling looking out of a bookshelf that spreads over the rest of the book cover. Unfortunately these cover designs have not been used for the English versions of the books. The illustrations inside of the books are ink drawings in black on white and sometimes even white on black.

Additionally Moers also plays with various fonts and text sizes that manage to make the text even more expressive and give the reader a quite different experience from reading a book which uses just one font and text size. You will never forget the




of an approaching forest spider witch, or the subtle

you have been poisoned you have been poisoned you have been poisoned you have been poisoned you have been poisoned
you have been poisoned you have been poisoned you have been poisoned you have been poisoned you have been poisoned
you have been poisoned you have been poisoned you have been poisoned you have been poisoned you have been poisoned

written in an ancient book. Every Zamonian book is a carefully crafted work of art consisting of text but also of the artistic design.

Another peculiar aspect of all the Zamonian books is the use of lists to describe things and show variety. This can be a list of all colours a colour bear can have or the smells that Mythenmetz uses to inspire his writing, where other fantasy novels may use long and wordy descriptions. The language as such is modern and not as flowery as in usual books of this genre while still being very elaborate.

1Immanuel Kant.2Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.3Edgar Allan Poe.4'Lexikon der erklärungsbedürftigen Wunder, Daseinsformen und Phänomene Zamoniens und Umgebung' von Prof. Dr. Abdul Nachtigaller.5In German folklore Wolpertingers are creatures which consist of parts of many different real animals. For instance a hare with antlers and wings. In Zamonia Wolpertingers were basically dogs with horns.6Finsterberge.7try reading this backwards...8Mythenmetzsche Abschweifung.9in English: fog home.10Untenwelt.11Now try to get the anagram of this and you know what's going to happen...

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