J.K. Rowling Releases Chapters One and Two of New Children’s Fairytale, ‘The Ickabog’

May 26, 2020

Posted by: Dawn Johnson

BigNews, Books, Contests, Fandom, Fans, J.K. Rowling, News

J.K. Rowling released the first two chapters of her new 34-chapter children’s fairytale, The Ickabog, and they immediately introduced the reader to another sumptuous world of fantasy and intrigue. The chapters, which will quickly become must-reads for young and old alike, will be published online and available for free either one at a time or in groups of two or three, according to a press release covered by Leaky earlier today.

Chapter One, “King Fred the Fearless,” welcomes readers to the imaginary country of Cornucopia and its hapless young ruler, the titular “Fred the Fearless,” who adopted the moniker because he liked it and not because it was worthily bestowed upon him. Rowling describes the king in colorful terms, painting a portrait of a witless man easily persuaded by flattery and lulled by a life of ease. Also introduced are his two most “loyal” friends, who, it turns out, are far less loyal than they are eager to manipulate. She sets up a dynamic that is positively Shakespearean!

Rowling also employs all her powers of expert storytelling in describing Cornucopia and its various lands, from the lush, verdant and productive Chouxville, Kurdsburg, Baronstown and Jeroboam to the inexplicably barren Marshlands and the outsiders who live there. With characteristically well-crafted exposition, she creates a land alive, ready for readers to walk through, tasting the potent pastries, cheeses and wines. And she closes the first chapter with a hint at intrigue to come: The legend of the Ickabog.

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Chapter Two, “The Ickabog,” explains the origins, or rather, the evolution, of the legend itself, and Rowling aptly captures the sense of mystery surrounding a story that cannot be tamed, for it grows and changes with both the teller and time. A creature who inhabits the Marshlands, the Ickabog takes any number of forms–depending, again, upon the tale being spun–and possesses untold powers.

The legend might be used to deter unruly, wild children or be told as a rousing “ghost story,” worthy of digging out and dusting off for the purpose of entertainment. In one such case, the telling results in nightmares, as tales of monsters sometimes do, and Rowling uses this turn of events to hint that this “myth” might soon upend the country of Cornucopia, which was, until now, “the happiest kingdom in the world.”

It is a captivating beginning, to be sure, and, no doubt, only a hint of the story to come! Rowling herself described the fairytale as follows:

The Ickabog is a story about truth and the abuse of power.  To forestall one obvious question: the idea came to me well over a decade ago, so it isn’t intended to be read as a response to anything that’s happening in the world right now. The themes are timeless and could apply to any era or any country.”

We invite you to read the first two chapters for yourself here and become acquainted with King Fred, the country of Cornucopia and the legend of Ickabog in all its glorious detail. Having done so, consider how those chapters might fit into Rowling’s synopsis of her story.

Who do you suspect is abusing power or has nefarious plans to do so? What is true and what is myth–or is it somewhere in between? Who might be manipulating it to suit their own purposes–and why? What characters do you think will play a larger role in the story going forward?

As previously reported by Leaky, chapters will be published every weekday through July 10 at The Ickabog website, where readers will also find more information about the competition to illustrate the story. Some readers are already taking the task in hand and putting their imaginations to work!

Now, let us know your thoughts on the above questions and the first two chapters of The Ickabog in the comments!





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