Cornelia Funke


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Inkheart Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.

Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart is a novel of magical realism—the story takes place in the real world, but magic figures into the plot and character development. As the book opens, Meggie Folchart lives with her father, Mo, a specialist who repairs books for a living. One night, they are visited by Dustfinger. This mysterious stranger prompts Mo to flee their small farm and go to Meggie’s great-aunt Elinor’s estate. On the way there, Dustfinger and Mo explain that they are running from Capricorn, an evil man. Capricorn desires an object Mo is hiding—and also to benefit from some talent that he has, which Meggie knows nothing about. Mo refuses to tell her, even as they are fleeing from Capricorn.

When they reach the estate, Meggie is thrilled to find a plethora of books. Dustfinger betrays them, arranging for Capricorn’s black-jacket henchmen to kidnap Mo. Unfortunately for Capricorn, the attempt is only partially successful because the henchmen were unable to find the object Capricorn so desires—a copy of a book called Inkheart. Because Elinor has kept the book in her custody, Capricorn’s evil plans are delayed. Dustfinger returns to convince Meggie and Elinor that they should travel to the Italian foothills to rescue Mo. There is a village hidden away there where he says they can face off against Capricorn to recover Mo.

Meggie and Elinor try to sneak into the village, but they are caught and brought to Capricorn. Capricorn burns copy after copy of the book, Inkheart, saving only one for himself. While Mo, Elinor, and Meggie are imprisoned together, Mo reveals his secret ability. When he reads a book, he can conjure the characters and objects from the book into reality. That’s not all—whenever something is read to life, it takes the place of something in the real world, which then must go into the book.

Meggie learns that this is what happened to her mother, Theresa. Though it was an accident, Mo read her into Inkheart. When he read Theresa into the book, he read three characters out of it: the evil Capricorn; Basta, chief lieutenant to Capricorn; and Dustfinger, a coward and a performer.

Meggie, Mo, and Elinor manage to escape from Capricorn, making their way to the next village where Fenoglio, the author of Inkheart, lives. Meggie and Fenoglio are captured by Basta, who followed the trio. Basta brings them back to Capricorn. Meanwhile, Dustfinger tries to steal the only remaining copy of Inkheart from Capricorn but is unsuccessful after Resa, a mute maid and his companion, is discovered.

During her second bout of captivity, Meggie discovers that she possesses the same ability as her father. Capricorn realizes this, and decides that he does not need Mo—he can force Meggie to read the Shadow, his favorite assassin, out of Inkheart. Capricorn wants the Shadow to kill Dustfinger and Resa, but Meggie realizes that Resa is her mother, Theresa. With Fenoglio’s help, Meggie reads an alternate text that will destroy Capricorn and his plans. Meanwhile, Mo sets fire to the village with the help of Farid, a character whom he read out of another story.

One of the themes in the novel is Dustfinger’s plight. Dustfinger is a fire-eating performer who suffers because his desires are pulled in so many directions. Not only does he want to return to his own world in the book, but he also feels lonely and isolated in a modern world. However, he gets the notion from Mo that his fate in the story is not a good one, and so he refuses to read to find out what happens to him. He wants to return to the story and at the same time, he does not. This push-and-pull, when combined with his cowardice, leaves Dustfinger susceptible to the desires of others, such as Capricorn, and leads him to betray his friends on multiple occasions.

That brings to mind another important theme in Inkheart, betrayal. Dustfinger betrays Mo and Meggie by leading Capricorn’s henchmen to Elinor’s estate and lures them away from safety so that Mo can be kidnapped. He then betrays Meggie and Elinor, convincing them to rescue Mo, just to get the copy of Inkheart into Capricorn’s hands. Capricorn seemingly betrays Dustfinger by burning the books, and then Mo betrays Dustfinger to Fenoglio.

The third important theme centers on Mo and Meggie’s ability to conjure or manifest characters and objects from literature. The consequences of this ability are many; the characters conjured from the book are confused, homesick, and upset. Mo and Meggie feel guilty for the consequences of their actions, both for the characters they pull out of books and those they send into them.