The Letter for the King

Tiuri’s story begins in a small chapel on the hill outside the City of Dagonaut, where four other young men are keeping vigil with him, as they reflect on the eve of their knightcontenting ceremony.  Despite being forbidden any contact with the outside world and despite the twelve hour vow of silence all aspiring knights must take, sixteen year old Tiuri cannot ignore the knock on the chapel door that comes with an urgently whispered plea, “In the name of God, open the door!”  (12)  Ignoring the voice means he will be a knight by morning, but Tiuri breaks the rules and acts as a knight must, helping when his assistance is requested.

Tiuri has an uncanny ability for reading people, for sensing evil or goodness in their eyes.  He reads goodness in the eyes of the stranger who implores him to carry a letter across the Great Mountains to King Unauwen, proclaiming that the fate of the kingdom depends on the message’s delivery.  Trained to be “chivalrous and honest, brave and true” (2), Tiuri accepts the task.  Although he does not know the content of the letter, he is dedicated to his quest.  Acting with determination and courage, Tiuri begins a journey replete with adventure, fraught with treachery, murder, and danger, interspersed with stunning scenery, and inundated with wisdom-building experiences.  Along the way, he encounters people who wish him dead, others who assist him, and some whom he befriends.

One of these friends is fourteen year old Piak, the young man with endless optimism and determination who leads Tirui over the mountains and accompanies him to the City of Unauwen.  Depending on their cunning as well as relying on their resourcefulness, both are transformed as they learn it’s not the destination but the journey that holds significance.

Written in 1962 by Dutch author Tonke Dragt and recently translated into English by Laura Watkinson,The Letter for the King takes readers through cities and villages, across fields and mountains, over rushing rivers and through thick forests with Piak and Tirui.  Along with them, we learn life lessons, such as:  it’s only when something is threatened—whether peace, home, health, or safety—that we realize how much we love it.  We also realize the value of sadness so that we appreciate joy all the more when it transpires.

An epic adventure story with threads of mystery and action, Dragt’s tale follows the archetypal pattern for the hero’s journey, showcasing many of the characters that identify this classic narrative pattern: heroes, mentors, threshold guardians, shadows, tricksters, and allies.

  • Posted by Donna

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