Review: De Koning van Katoren by Jan Terlouw

De Koning van Katoren
Jan Terlouw
(cover art by Dirk van der Maat)
Lemniscaat 1971

Book review | Koning van Katoren by Jan Terlouw | 4 stars


Synopsis (English translation below)*

De vrolijke oude koning van het goede land Katoren is overleden zonder een opvolger te hebben. Zes zure ministers regeren het land en beweren al 17 jaar dat ze een nieuwe koning zoeken, maar er gebeurt niets. Dan komt de 17-jarige Stach de ministers vragen wat je moet doen om koning te worden. De ministers geven Stach zeven bijna onuitvoerbare opdrachten, waarop al velen voor hem hun kracht beproefd hebben. Maar Stach is niet bang. Hij is slim en weet met gezond verstand alle opdrachten uit te voeren, waardoor hij Katoren weer tot een leefbaar land maakt

The merry old king of the good country Katoren has passed away without having an heir. Six sour ministers reign the country, whilst claiming for the past 17 years that they’ve been looking for a new king, but nothing has happened. Then, 17-year-old Stach goes to them to ask them what one has to do to become king. The ministers come up with seven almost impossible tasks, that many others have failed to accomplish. Stach, however, is not afraid. He is smart and with a dose of common sense he manages to carry out all the tasks, making Katoren a livable country once again.


The first things you should know about this book, is that it’s a children’s book. This mostly means that the plot (for adults) is quite predictable, the romance almost platonic and the adventures fantastic! I love children’s books, so I don’t mind any of this. However, if you read it from an adult perspective, you’ll probably be disappointed. Therefore, when you read this book, go back to your childhood, be a kid again and enjoy the ridiculous adventures of Stach!

Writing-wise, the book is quite easy to follow. The plot is set out in the beginning of the book and the style itself is easy to read and understand, though a bit aged. It is a book from 1971 after all. Terlouw writes this story very straight-forward, without any mysteries or unknowns.

The story itself is very imaginative. The different tasks are those that could’ve been found in any fantasy novel. This, even though the world seems so much like ours, makes it clear that the world Stach lives in, isn’t quite the same.

Stach, the main character in the book, is a great one for children (and adults) to relate to. He is very cheeky, bold, and believes he can take on the word, even when no one else seems to think so. He has a ‘let’s wait and see’-attitude; don’t assume that something is so, when it hasn’t happened yet, let’s wait and see first. This just makes him seem even cheekier.

The book has been translated into several different languages as Goodreads shows. These include: AfrikaansEnglish, FinnishIndonesian, ItalianPortugueseSpanish, and Welsh. According to the Letterenfonds, it’s also available in Basque, Danish, French, Frisian, Gaelic, German, Greek, Icelandic and Slovakian.

*Freely translated from Dutch

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