A Wild Ride Through the Night

By WALTER MOERS

A Wild Ride Through the Night by popular German author Walter Moers (The 13-1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear) could also be called a fantastic voyage through the author’s imagination as he delivers a fairy tale starring 12-year-old Gustave Doré, who would grow up to become arguably the greatest illustrator of all time. The novel opens with Gustave at sea, steering his ship Aventure through a storm involving the dreaded “Siamese Twin Tornado.” Minutes later, Death shows up on deck and gives the boy six Herculean tasks in order to save his soul. The allegorical odyssey finds the boy pulling a tooth from the Most Monstrous of All Monsters, slaying a dragon, and flying to Death’s house on the moon. Reading this fable is like being immersed in one of Doré’s illustrations full of writhing serpents, beaked gnomes, hunchbacked frogs, and other misshapen creatures. In fact, the book is peppered with 21 of Doré’s woodcuts, which amplify the aura of dread and wonder. Gustave is leaving his childhood behind, and so his journey is dark and fantastic, full of dragons, talking jellyfish, and naked damsels in distress. As a forest witch tells him, “The dream-world is an unpredictable place?. A jungle composed of time, space and providence, of hindsight and foresight, of fears and desires, all jumbled up together.” In other words, adulthood. Like the equally lovely and absurd Alice in Wonderland, A Wild Ride Through the Night captures that rough, scary transition we all go through on the downhill slide toward death by way of puberty.