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Literature / The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear

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"Life is too important to be left to chance."

The first novel by Walter Moers about the fictional continent of Zamonia, covering the live and travelings of Bluebear, a blue bear, a character in a series of children's stories written by Moers.

The book covers the first 13½ lives of Bluebear.

After starting his life by being rescued from falling into an enormous whirlpool by 4-inch-tall pirates, Bluebear travels the lands of Zamonia in search of fortune, and a place to call home. In his journeys he learns much from a multibrained genius professor, travels the Demererra Dessert, falls into a dimensional hiatus, matches wits with a superintelligent lump of rock performs on a dream organ in a giant head, meets the multitudinous races of Atlantis, helps deliver many a Deus ex Machina via sentient pterodactyl, and encounters many other weird, marvellous and wonderful (but mostly weird) threats, challenges friends and enemies.

This is a sweet, nicely illustrated and inventive picaresque story, which meanders quite a bit in the telling of the story, and focuses on the oddities of the world.

Tropes used in the book include:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Fredda is this to Bluebear, being a walking hairball with enormous strength who likes to stick pencils in his ear. Still, he considers her a friend.
  • The Ace: Bluebear, which of course is part of the entire point with the books being his memoirs. It might take him a few tries, and he does screw up monumentally at times, but it's a running theme in the book that anything he makes a serious attempt at doing, he'll turn out to be immensely talented at. Without fail, he'll quickly become the Best Ever at this particular thing, gaining the respect and admiration of people who have been in the game for far longer.
  • Affably Evil: Voltozan Smyke.
  • All Deserts Have Cacti: Even one that is made out of sugar dust!
  • Another Dimension: Qwerty's home dimension is mostly made out of carpet. Some other, even weirder ones are mentioned.
  • Atlantis: Capital city of Zamonia. The book also inverted its eventual fate. It's a spaceship.
  • Arc Words: Knowledge is Night in the sixth life.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: A number of Zamonian species: Troglotrolls, Shark Grubs, Spiderwitches and almost all cyclops races. To a lesser degree Bluddums, who are always brutish jerks. NEVER trust a troglotroll
  • Batman Gambit: When Bluebear walks into Smyke's office, Smyke's bodyguard Rumo recognizes the person who saved his life as a cub. For over a year Rumo pretends to loathe Bluebear, so that when Bluebear inevitably gets on Smyke's bad side, Rumo is tasked with disposing of him, which gives him a change to save Bluebear.
  • Battle of Wits: Bluebears favorite type of combat it seems.
    • He becomes an accomplished Congladiator, which involves quick thinking and strategic use of imagination.
    • His mind becomes the battle ground for the showdown between Professor Nightingale and the Zamonium.
  • Big Bad: The Zamonium, a sapient element and captain of the Moloch.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Qwerty is a gelatinous blob whho eats music from instruments made out of milk. Of course, he isn't from Zamonia. He isn't even from this dimension.
  • Bizarre Instrument: In Qwerty's home dimension, there are music instruments made of milk.
  • Breakout Character: Rumo the Wolperting and Optimus Yarnspinner, both mentioned in the book, are protagonist in later Zamonia novels.
  • Blatant Lies: The Congladiators of Atlantis have turned fibbing into a hugely popular sport.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The Troglotroll, who repeatedly points out how he, as a Troglotroll, has to be evil. Sometimes he's apologetic about it, sometimes just matter-of-fact, and sometimes he just seems to be messing with Bluebear for the hell of it.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: The Troglotroll, and how.
  • Consummate Liar: Good and bad in Zamonia. On one hand, you need to be careful with Troglotrolls, on the other hand, if you can make your lies convincing and entertaining enough, you can become a Congladiator (though this is creative storytelling and not intended to fool anyone).
  • Cool Starship: Atlantis
  • Denser and Wackier: Compared to later Zamonia novels, this one plays up the weirdness for the Rule of Funny.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The invisible Invisibles.
  • Deus ex Machina:
    • Deus X. Machina and the other Reptilian Rescuers, who literally save people at the last second out of nowhere.
    • After running from the Spiderwitch for eight hours straight, Bluebear is on the verge of exhaustion. Fortunately, he falls through a Dimensional Hiatus into another dimension when he collapses.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Apart from being Denser and Wackier than the follow-ups, there are some changes in characterization:
    • Wolpertings especially. They are fierce fighters with a fondness for chess, but they are largely described as Dumb Muscle, not like the noble warrior race of Rumo. This could be explained by the city of Wolperting's efforts to improve the species' reputation.
    • Voltozan Smyke acts like a typical amoral Shark Grub. In the chronologically earlier Rumo, he was just completing his transformation to wise mentor, even risking his life to save his friend's romantic interest.
    • Rumo, as portrayed in his own book, would be highly unlikely to work as bodyguard for an evil Smyke.
  • Emo Teen: The unicorn Fogelweide (called Flowergrazer in the English translation, appears in the night school), who writes lots of poems about unicorns who're very lonely and named Fogelweide.
  • Emotion Eater: Hobgoblins
  • Encyclopedia Exposita: The Encyclopedia of Marvels, Life Form and other Phenomena of Zamonia and its Environs is used to this purpose regularly.
  • Extradimensional Emergency Exit: Bluebear does it several times in The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear, thanks to wormholes being scattered all over Zamonia.
    • He attempts to do it when he finds a wormhole in the mountain labyrinth, thinking it's the only possible way out, but gets distracted and then led away by the Troglotroll.
    • While chased by the Spiderwitch, he accidentally falls into a wormhole and gets transported into the 2364th dimension.
    • In the 2364th dimension, after accidentally letting his friend Qwerty (the local prince) fall into a wormhole, he jumps into it after him.
  • "Fantastic Voyage" Plot: Bluebear's journey through the Bollog's head.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Nearly every single legend and mystery known to man is dealt with in the novel in various fashions, plus a lot original ones.
  • For Science!: Just to be Nightingale's Modus Operandi, until he discovered absolute darkness.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Never trust a Troglotroll — don't even trust his untrustworthiness.
  • Hollywood Mirage: Happens to Bluebear in the Sweet Desert several times before he actually catches one.
  • Immune to Mind Control: Three people on the Moloch: Groot (too stupid), Zille (has a kind of instant amnesia) and Bluebear (is protected by Nightingale's mental implant).
  • Instant Expert: Professor Nightingale's way of educating people turns out to revolve largely around "bacteriological transmission of knowledge", which basically means that his knowledge is contagious. Students attending his lectures become Instant Experts on whatever he was lecturing on at the time, even discovering that they know details that he didn't even mention in the lecture itself.
  • Just in Time: Roving Reptilian Rescuers make a point of saving people from danger, but only at the last possible moment. It just encourages people to be careless otherwise.
  • Last of His Kind: Bluebear and his fellow Night School students; it's a prerequisite for joining. In the end, he finds his people, the Chromobears, as slaves aboard the Moloch. He helps set them free and they found a colony.
  • Latin Lover: Chemluth Havana.
  • Karma Houdini: After spending the entire book as a Heel–Face Revolving Door and ending his role on the Heel side of things, the Troglotroll still gets off scot-free.
  • Lawful Stupid: The Muggs follow their 12 rules religiously. Sadly, their laws are written by an insane man.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the other Zamonia novels, that are much darker.
  • Losing Your Head: What every bollog does after he reaches a certain height. After that, he wanders the continent, searching for his head.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: The Gourmetica Insularies.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Many of the Zamonian inhabitants consist of this, such as the Wolpertings (bipedal dogs with deer antlers), Bluddums (shaggy bears from the waist up, skinny humans from the waist down) and Shark Grubs (Exactly What It Says on the Tin). Also, Atlantis' underground is infested with a combination of cockroaches, rats and vampires.
  • The Musical: Yes, there is one (in German), a stage musical which uses a surreal mix of live actors, puppets and CGI images projected onto a screen in the background. While a lot of characters and plot points from the book are dropped or changed, most of the important parts remain.
  • My Brain Is Big: In a variation, nocturnomaths are highly intelligent because they have multiple brains. Three is the norm, but Professor Nightingale — the most illustrious nocturnomath ever — is rumored to have seven.
  • Negative Space Wedgie: Dimensional Hiatuses, which cannot be seen, only smelled, and can appear anywhere, anytime. Fall into them and you may wind up anywhere in the known and unknown Multiverse. Zamonia has unusually many of them, which is also the reason why time moves slightly faster there.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Professor Dr. Abdullah Nightingale. He even created some new scientific fields, in which he is also the leading expert.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: The bollogs can be any height, from 200 meters up to several miles high.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Vampires in Atlantis take several forms, including ones that live off halitosis or noise. Some of them are quite cute.
  • Origin Story: Of a sort. It shows how Captain Bluebear acquired some of his traits that we see in Die Sendung mit der Maus.note 
    • It is also one for the continent of Zamonia in preparation for all the later novels that take place their.
  • Patchwork Map: Zamonia has everything, mile-high mountains, giant deserts, jungles and big forests.
  • Pinned to the Ground: During their time in the Night School, Fredda would repeatedly sit on Bluebear's back during break time shoving pencils into his nose and ears until he agreed to marry her.
  • Portal Network: A rare example of a natural network. Dimension Portals are just an other weird phenomenon in this weird world.
  • Punny Name: Bluebear meets with a pterodactyl-like creature who rescues people from danger at the last moment; his name is Deus X. Machina.
  • Quicksand Sucks: Intelligent Quicksand. The entire thing is also played with in a throwaway line in the first life, where the Minipirates mix quicksand in the soap when swabbing the deck, to avoid the deck becoming slippery.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Wolperting whelps are said to be the cuddliest, most adorable creatures in the world. However, adult Wolpertings are a Proud Warrior Race with hair-trigger tempers.
  • Ridiculously High Relationship Standards: Chemluth Havanna is a Kavorka Man who sweeps girls off their feet left and right, but his interest rarely lasts longer than for one date, since he longs for a girl with really thick hair and even in the multi-species metropolis that is Atlantis he can't find anyone good enough for him. He finally finds love with Bluebear's former classmate Fredda who is entirely covered in long hair.
  • Sdrawkcab Alias: In German, at least, the troglotroll's stage name as a congladiator is "Lord Nelloz". This is a homophone of "Llort Nellots" which is "Stollentroll" (the German word for "troglotroll") backwards.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: The Muggs are traveling the desert in search of a mirage city called Anagrom Ataf. The city's name is "Fata Morgana" spelled backwards; a Fata Morgana is a type of mirage that appears just above the horizon. Bluebear later gets the Muggs looking for a city called "esidaraP s'looF", or "Fool's Paradise". It doesn't actually exist.
  • Serial Escalation: Every single description and event in the novel being more fantastic and exaggerated than the last one.
  • Shout-Out: There's a book in-universe called How Dank Was My Valley.
  • Take Over the World: Ultimate goal of the Zamonium.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Fredda and Avriel are the only two named female characters in over 700 pages, though in some translations 1600H and Insanity are also referred to with female pronouns — if ideas and concepts can be said to have genders. The Musical also sees several Gender Flipped minor characters which are male in the book but female on stage.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Time travel shenanigans with dimensional hiatuses result in Bluebear accidentally creating a second Qwerty Uiop in his relative present.
  • Troperiffic: Seriously. One of the main criticisms about the book is that it almost contains too much weird stuff.
  • Unreliable Narrator:
    • Bluebear claims that he's telling the truth, but the outlandish nature of his tales, combined with the fact that he is a very talented liar, lead to this trope.
    • It's actually played with in hindsight. Bluebear would have been a prime example of an unreliable narrator if this book would have remained the only Zamonia novel to exist. The release of several other works taking place in the same world and not featuring Bluebear makes it clear that a lot of the things Bluebear tells about actually happen to be true to some extent.
    • He has been a canonical Reality Warper at least once in his episodes in Die Sendung mit der Maus, so that might explain some either.
  • Walking the Earth: Bluebear wanders Zamonia in search of a place to call home.
  • Weird World, Weird Food: The inhabitants of the incredibly bizarre 2364th dimension feed on music, which is played on instruments made of milk. To someone from our dimension, it sounds like a horrid cacophony.