The Thief Lord Summary

Cornelia Funke

The Thief Lord

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The Thief Lord Summary

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The Thief Lord is a German children’s novel by Cornelia Funke, first published in 2000 and translated into English in 2002. It tells the story of Prosper and Boniface, two brothers who run away and join a gang of street children that live in an abandoned theater.

12-year-old Prosper and five-year-old Boniface (“Bo”) run away from home and are pursued by a detective, Victor Getz. The boys’ rich aunt and uncle want to find them because their mother has passed away, but they want to adopt Bo and put Prosper in a boarding school. While on the run, the brothers meet a gang of street children living in a theater in Venice, a city their mother said was full of fairy tales.

The gang is led by one child, Scipio, a kindhearted thief who calls himself “The Thief Lord” and teaches them to steal from the rich to sell what they steal to a shopkeeper, Ernesto Barbarossa. One of the shopkeeper’s customers, a man calling himself “The Conte,” asks the thief lord to steal a wooden lion’s wing for him. He pays them 5 million lire.

Victor Getz finds the brothers before they can carry out their plan, but he is captured by the gang of children. Earlier, Victor had visited Scipio’s father, and he reveals that the boy is a wealthy young man. He hadn’t stolen any of their loot; all of it came from his own home. The children are angry that Scipio lied to them and they kick him out of their gang.

The rest of the children decide to steal the wing anyway. They make a plan and head to a woman named Ida’s house. She is in possession of the wing and has been for a while. Scipio also intends to steal the wing, and he and the group run into each other at her house. They argue, and the commotion wakes Ida, who is an orphan herself. She confronts the children with an old rifle.

She tells them that the wing was part of a merry go round that possesses magical powers and can turn adults into children and vice versa. She decides to help them take it to the Conte. They arrive at a secret island but are chased away by two huge dogs.

They return to the theater to discover a note that says the police were poking around. Victor swears that he didn’t alert the police, but he lets the children know that the Conte’s money is fake. Scipio decides to become an adult, and when Barbarossa arrives, they trick him into becoming a child.

Barbarossa breaks the merry go round afterward, and all the changes are permanent. Most of the children go to live with Ida, while Barbarossa is adopted by Prosper and Bo’s rich aunt and uncle. He is eventually caught stealing jewelry and shipped off to boarding school where he becomes a bully. Scipio decides to work for Victor, and no one ever talks about the merry go round again.

One pressing theme of the book is the idea of family. Prosper and Bo believe that their only real family is each other. Their mother has passed away. Their aunt and uncle don’t want to adopt Bo because they love him but rather because he is little and cute. Scipio’s father only wants a puppet, not a son. They fight because Scipio doesn’t want to do everything that his father tells him.

When the children find each other, they find the family they are all searching for. Many of the children at the theater are orphans, and once they are all together, they bond like a real family. Ida understands what the children are feeling and towards the end of the story, she becomes the head of their family.

Friendship is another theme in this book. All the children begin as friends, and eventually, come to see each other as family. Scipio passes himself off as an orphan to make finding friends easier. When the truth comes out, his friendship with the others is rocky for a while because of his lies, but they later accept him back into the fold. They are able to accomplish what they do because of their bond.

To some extent, the relationship between childhood and adulthood is also examined. For most of the novel, the adult characters are shallow or deceitful. They use the children in their lives as pawns and decorations rather than seeing them as people. Only when the children meet Ida, do they find an adult who understands them. She can identify with their hardships because she is an orphan herself.

The book is a fantastic romp through Italy as the children go on adventures and find something magical. It’s full of secrets, mystery, and the ability of friends to band together to find something more valuable than just treasures: family and friends.