Rumo: And His Miraculous Adventures, p.1Walter Moers
Also by Walter Moers
The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear
The City of Dreaming Books
A Wild Ride through the Night
The Alchemaster’s Apprentice
My thanks to Wolfgang Ferchl, Oliver Schmitt,
Rainer Wieland and, of course, Elvira,
without whose selfless assistance
none of the Zamonia books could have been written.
This edition first published in the United States in 2006 by
The Overlook Press, Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc.
141 Wooster Street
New York, NY 10012
Copyright © Piper Verlag GmbH, München 2003
Translation copyright © 2004 John Brownjohn
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval
system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the
publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection
with a review written for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper, or broadcast.
Imagine a chest of drawers!
Yes, a big chest with lots of drawers
containing all the marvels and mysteries of Zamonia
arranged in alphabetical order.
A chest of drawers floating in absolute darkness.
Can you imagine that?
Good, now watch: one of those drawers is opening!
The one bearing the letter R.
R for Rumo.
And now look inside – deep inside, before it shuts again.
Also by Walter Moers
I. The Silver Thread
II. The Non-Existent Teenies
IV. Smyke’s Travels
V. Krindle and Dandelion
I. Skullop the Scyther
III. The Metal Maiden
IV. Yukobak and Ribble
V. The Theatre of Death
VI. The Red Prophecy
was good at fighting.
At the beginning of his story, however, he still had no inkling of this, nor did he know that he was a Wolperting and would one day become Zamonia’s most illustrious hero. He had no name, nor did he have the faintest recollection of his parents. He didn’t know where he came from or where he would go. All he knew was that the farmyard where he grew up was his kingdom.
King of the farmyard
For Rumo, each day began when the farmer’s entire family, seven Hackonian dwarfs, formed a doting circle around the sleeping puppy’s basket and woke him with a melodious Hackonian song. Then they showered him with caresses. They tickled him behind the ears, rocked him in their arms, stroked his fur and kissed his tiny horns – marks of affection which he acknowledged with a pleasurable grunt. Wherever Rumo tottered on his four clumsy little legs, he instantly became the centre of attention. All his activities were applauded. He was even fondled and tickled for tripping over his own paws. The Hackonians set aside the freshest milk for him, barbecued him the most succulent sausages, reserved him the coolest place in the shade and the warmest place beside the stove. They went around on tiptoe when he was having his afternoon rest and regaled him with apple pie and whipped cream when he yawningly awoke. There were always volunteers ready to romp with Rumo or allow him to bite them with his toothless gums. And at night, when he had tired himself out with play, they groomed his fur with a soft brush and sang him to sleep. Yes, Rumo was the uncrowned king of the farmyard.
There were many other animals on the farm. The dairy cows, horses and pigs were all much bigger and stronger and more useful than Rumo, but none enjoyed the same popularity. The only creature that failed to acknowledge his supremacy was a black, long-necked goose twice his size, which hissed malevolently whenever he ventured too close, so he gave her as wide a berth as possible.
Pains in the mouth
One morning Rumo was awakened in his basket, not by the Hackonians’ melodious singing but by a sharp pain. There was a strange sensation in his mouth. The interior normally felt like a wet, slimy cave in which his tongue glided over soft, smooth, rounded shapes, but it had now acquired a new and alarming feature. In his upper jaw, just inside the upper lip, the gum had gone taut and something sharp seemed to be growing beneath it. This was the source of the throbbing pain Rumo found so disagreeable. He decided to invite due sympathy and caresses by informing a wider public of his condition.
But there was no one around. He would have to toil across to the barn, where the Hackonians were usually engaged at this hour – for reasons Rumo found unfathomable – in tossing hay around with pitchforks. Experience had taught him that the route to the barn was fraught with difficulty. Through the kitchen, across the veranda with its menacing splinters, down the steps, across the muddy farmyard, past the stupid goose, round the drinking trough, which was always surrounded by pig dung – it was a wearisome trip, and Rumo preferred to undertake it in the arms of one of the farmer’s children. If only he didn’t have to go down on all fours and trip over his own paws in the process! How lovely it would be if he could walk on two legs like the Hackonians!
Rumo climbed out of his basket, planted his hind legs on the floor and straightened up with a groan. He swayed first to the right, then to the left, and finally stood straight as an arrow. Hey, it was easy!
He set off, striding along like a grown-up Hackonian. He was filled with pride, a novel and inspiring sensation. Without stumbling once, he plodded all the way across the kitchen, pushed open the door, which was ajar, and even managed to descend the four veranda steps. Then he marched off across the farmyard. The morning sun warmed his fur, the air felt cool and refreshing. Rumo drew a deep breath, put his forepaws on his hips and walked past the black goose, which he now matched in height. She backed away, staring at him in astonishment, and started to hiss something nasty, but she was too flabbergasted to get it out. Rumo didn’t spare the bird a glance; he simply strode on, feeling bigger and more pleased with himself than ever before.
The Silver Thread
Rumo paused to enjoy the warmth of the sunlight on his fur. He blinked in the dazzling glare and shut his eyes, and there it was again, the world he saw whenever he did this. It was a world of smells that floated and flickered before his inner eye in hundreds of different colours: thin, fluttering wisps of red, yellow, green and blue light. The green light was given off by the luxuriant rosemary bush growing right beside him, the yellow by the delicious lemon cakes being baked in the kitchen, the red by the smoke of the smouldering compost heap, the blue by the cool morning breeze, which was laden with the tangy scent of the nearby ocean. And there were many, many more colours, some of them dirty and ugly like the brown of the dung in which the pig was wallowing. What really astonished Rumo, however, was a colour he had never smelt before. High above all these terrestrial scents floated a silver ribbon. It was thin and delicate – no more than a thread, in fact – but he could clearly see it with his inner eye.
Rumo was overcome by a strangely restless feeling, a vague and unprecedented yearning to leave everything behind and set off into the blue on his own. He involuntarily drew a deep breath and shivered, so strong and splendid was the feeling that arose within him. Deep in his childish little heart Rumo sensed that, if he used this silver thread of scent as a guide and f
But first he must go into the barn and make a fuss. He opened his eyes and strode on. When he was standing in front of the big red curtains that kept the sunlight from parching the straw in the barn and setting it ablaze, he came to a halt. A strange new sensation had prompted him to interrupt his triumphal progress: his knees went weak and he had to fight off an urge to go down on all fours again. The blood shot to his head, his forepaws trembled and sweat broke out on his forehead.
Rumo didn’t realise that the curtains marked a new chapter in his life and that he was about to slough off his animal heritage. He didn’t know, either, that if he walked into the barn on his hind legs he would be regarded quite differently, because a Wolperting walking upright was treated with considerably more respect than a wild Wolperting. All he did sense was that his entry into the barn would be an event of importance. Bewildered and intimidated by his own audacity, he felt his little heart beat wildly: Rumo was suffering from stage fright.
He did what every actor does when afflicted by this form of nervous tension: he peeked through the curtains to check out the audience. Cautiously thrusting his head through the crack, he peered into the barn’s interior.
It was dark inside and his sun-dazzled eyes took a moment to adapt themselves to the new conditions. All he made out at first were the shadowy shapes of wooden beams and bales of straw interspersed with shafts of sunlight slanting down through the barn windows. He blinked a couple of times, then saw that something wholly unexpected was going on in there. The Hackonians were not engaged in filling sacks with straw. On the contrary, they themselves were being stuffed into sacks by some huge, one-eyed creatures with horns and shaggy black fur.
Rumo didn’t worry too much at first. He was used to mysterious things happening daily in the grown-up world. Only a few days ago a Camedary had been led into the farmyard. What a commotion! Everyone had scattered in different directions like hens before a thunderstorm and the Camedary had bleated for hours like a mad thing. Now it was tethered there, placidly munching the fodder in its nosebag, and had become a boring everyday sight. The giants didn’t perturb Rumo either – Hackonian farmers kept animals just as hideous. For instance, the sight of an Ornian Swamp Hog was bearable only if one knew how delicious it tasted when stripped of its warty hide and roasted on a spit. But there was something about the horned giants that differentiated them from Marsh Hogs: the evil glint in their eyes. Rumo couldn’t interpret it because he lacked experience. He didn’t even know what evil was, so he parted the curtains and strode into the barn. His stage fright had evaporated, to be replaced by icy composure. For the first time ever, Rumo became aware of his ability to remain almost preternaturally calm in a tense situation. He took a step forward and announced his presence in the usual Wolpertingian manner: he gave two self-important sniffs.
No one took a scrap of notice, he had to admit. The giants continued to stuff the Hackonians into sacks, the Hackonians continued to wail and whimper. Rumo felt hurt. They were ignoring him – him, who could walk on his hind legs. Him, whose mouth was sore.
Suddenly he knew what to do: he would speak. He had learnt to walk straight off, so why shouldn’t he speak as well? He decided to attract attention by uttering two sentences.
First: ‘I can walk!’
Second: ‘My mouth hurts!’
That would make everyone take notice – that would make them shower him with congratulations and expressions of sympathy. He opened his mouth, drew a deep breath and uttered his two sentences.
‘Aa ha waa!’
‘Ma ma haa!’
The words hadn’t come out quite as he’d intended, but they’d emerged from his lips and sounded impressive. What was more, they worked. The shaggy black giants stopped stuffing Hackonians into sacks and the Hackonians stopped wailing and whimpering. Every eye turned in Rumo’s direction.
All of a sudden his legs went trembly and his backside felt as heavy as lead. He struggled to retain his balance for a moment, then toppled over backwards into the dust. Rumo had chalked up a new experience: he’d made the first big blunder of his life. One of the giants stalked over to him, grabbed him by the ears and thrust him into a sack.
The story of the Demonocles
Demonocles were a vicious type of one-eyed giant found only on Roaming Rock. It was regarded as scientifically inaccurate to classify these monsters as members of the Zamonian pirate fraternity, since pirates only sail the seas in ships, strictly speaking, and do at least obey the rules of navigation. Demonocles, on the other hand, sailed the seas on a natural phenomenon, the legendary Roaming Rock, a buoyant amalgam of oxygen and minerals the size of a city block, and obeyed no rules except the laws of nature. They drifted around at random on their hollow rock, spreading panic and terror wherever the tides happened to wash them ashore.
If asked what fate he hoped to avoid at all costs, the average Zamonian tended to reply: Being captured by the Demonocles. There were captains who scuttled their own ships merely because they had sighted Roaming Rock on the horizon. They preferred to drown themselves and their crews rather than fall prey to these monsters. No coastal region was safe from them and few of Zamonia’s seaside towns had not been raided by them in the course of the centuries.
Roaming Rock was originally a huge mass of lava vomited into the ocean by a subterranean volcano many thousands of years ago. There it cooled and rose to the surface because of the oxygen trapped inside it. From sea level it resembled a group of steeply jutting rocky islands, but it was really a composite structure, like an iceberg whose jagged extremities are visible while most of it is underwater. We do not know how and when the Demonocles settled on their floating island, but accounts in town archives of raids by vandals of Demonoclean origin suggest that it must have been several centuries ago. Presumably, one of their raiding parties sighted the great rock stranded off the coast of Zamonia, climbed aboard it and was unexpectedly swept out to sea when the tide turned.
It seems that the Demonocles abandoned themselves to their fate and made no attempt to influence the direction taken by their floating island. They were too uninventive to equip their bizarre vessel with sails, rudders or anchors, so it was left to the tides and ocean currents to determine which ill-starred stretch of coast they landed on. If washed up somewhere by a favourable current, the Demonocles immediately went ashore, raiding towns and villages, and taking prisoners until the waves bore them and their floating island away again.
Broadly speaking, such was the not particularly heart-warming story of the Demonocles and this time they had been stranded on the coast of Hackonia.
Rumo still had no forebodings, even when he was put into the sack. All grown-ups looked like giants to him, and he was used to them picking him up and carrying him around for unfathomable reasons. The sack seemed merely a new variation of an old game.
But his toothache was really bothering him. Persistent pain was something that conflicted with his cosy picture of the world. He had occasionally had to endure pain, but never for long: a tumble on the nose, a splinter from the veranda in his paw. Far from subsiding, however, this new pain was steadily becoming more intense. Worse still, another place in his mouth had started to hurt in the same way. Even so, he lay there quietly and scarcely moved.
The Demoncles’ diet
For some days, now, the Demonocles left behind on Roaming Rock had noticed how the rising waves were tugging at their floating home. Only another few hours and they would be back on the high seas once more. Nervously, they scanned the cliffs surrounding the muddy tongue of land on which they were stranded. Nearly all the other raiders had returned from their forays, but a dozen were still missing.
A spine-chilling sound, almost like a cry, pierced the mist that floated between the sea and the mainland. It was the note of a seashell horn, which sounded to the Demonocles’ ears like music. The dozen stragglers were returning at last.
What is the worst thing one living creature can do to another? Those brave enough to pursue that question to its logical conclusion might The Demoncles’ diet answer it as follows: Eating a fellow creature alive. It was quite all right to kill an Ornian Marsh Hog as quickly and painlessly as possible, strip off its hideous, warty hide, stuff it with rosemary and roast it on a spit; on that point all Zamonians – except the vegetarians among them – were agreed. But to cut the beating heart out of a live pig and devour it raw was quite beyond the pale – indeed, there were laws against it. Of course, not everyone obeyed those laws – werewolves, for example, and one or two other less sensitive life forms. However, no one could more blatantly have contravened the general agreement not to eat things alive than the Demonocles. Those one-eyed demons enjoyed their food only if what they devoured was still moving.
When on the high seas they ate live fish. If they captured a ship they wolfed its entire contents alive: captain, crew, passengers – even the last rat, cockroach and weevil in its hold. If they became stranded somewhere they ate the local inhabitants. It mattered little what form of prey they ate – Demonocles weren’t choosy. They would even have devoured a Spiderwitch provided it was still twitching nicely. Liveliness was the main criterion by which the one-eyed giants judged the quality of their fare.
They had developed some ingenious ways of keeping their victims alive for as long as possible while gobbling them up. They saved vital organs such as the heart, brain and lungs till last, but eventually devoured those too, together with toenails, bones, scales, claws, eyelashes and tentacles. The Demonocles thought it particularly important to keep any sound-producing organs and innards intact to the end: the tongue, larynx and vocal cords were regarded as special delicacies to be reserved for the culmination of a meal. Screams, groans or whimpers took the place of a pinch of salt, a hint of garlic, or the scent of a bay leaf. The Demonocles were gourmets of the ear as well as the eye.
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