Rodrigo Roughneck and Nipper, his Knave

Age 6

208 pages

173 x 245 mm


Michael Ende, Wieland Freund, Regina Kehn

Rodrigo Roughneck and Nipper, his Knave

In a  nutshell:
Nipper is on the road with his parents, who earn their living as puppeteers. Nowhere is more boring than at home, in Nipper’s opinion. He therefore runs away, determined to learn the tricks of the trade from the notorious robber Rodrigo Roughneck. What Nipper doesn’t know: Rodrigo Roughneck is quite different from how he makes out to be. All his jittering adventures are smoke and mirrors and lies, because deep down Rodrigo is a real wimp. To ensure he isn’t exposed, he must get rid of this Nipper as soon as possible – and demands proof of his courage! Full of determination, Nipper hatches a plot to abduct Princess Flip, not suspecting that a far mightier villain than he has set his sights on the princes.

Nipper is on the road with his parents, who earn their living as puppeteers. He knows no fear and therefore flees from his boring parents to become a knave to the notorious robber Rodrigo Roughneck. But the silly thing is that he is quite different from how he makes out to be. He made all the skeletons lining the path to his Shudder Castle out of plaster to perpetuate the myth of his frightfulness, because in his heart of hearts he is a true scaredy-cat and all his adventures are smoke and mirrors and lies. Consequently, Nipper with his hunger for adventure gives him quite a fright when he is suddenly standing at the castle gate and will not be deterred. Rodrigo is glad to get rid of him without being exposed.   Michael Ende’s fragment of three chapters goes as far as here. Many characters are introduced, but the world that Nipper heads off to at the end of the third chapter is entirely missing: whoever wants to develop it is seemingly free to do so as they please, but only seemingly. Because in a brilliant opening, the Roughneck ensemble is already dangling from the ceiling of the puppet carriage in the first chapter in the form of numerous marionettes, the stage of a play within a play bumping over rough paths. “There were princesses and kings, citizens and farmers and witches, magicians, death and the devil, tomfools, Turks, horses and dragons and many, many knights”, writes Michael Ende and goes on to count “all the little things that occurred in the puppet show”, namely: “little sabres and shields, the royal sceptre and little plates and chairs and trees and ships and so much more besides.” Wieland Freund adheres precisely to this, with this enumeration becoming his cast list. He will introduce a princess and a king, a magician and a dragon, as well as many knights. Rodrigo and Nipper remain the main protagonists, of course. Nipper, who knows no fear, will bring Rodrigo into danger and fear for him. And Rodrigo, who typically cultivates cacti at his Shudder Castle, will give up his refuting attitude towards the outside world through the encounter with Nipper and everything that results from it. For the precise sequence of events, I refer to the chapter plan by Wieland Freund, as well as the detailed project description and the original fragment as a scan. The showdown takes place after many trials and tribulations, in suitable fashion with a ghostly puppet show at the Shudder Castle. Wieland Freund has taken up all the threads of the opening chapter and weaves the plot to a furious finale.

"Rodrigo Raubein is such a treat! What makes it into a wonderful piece of literature is the sophisticated interplay between form and content, so characteristic of Ende's genius. It puts into play all the typical characters of the Medieval lore – the knight, the king, the princess, the dragon, the evil magician, but they are all unhappy with their casting and gradually reveal their true desire and role in life. In an intricate game of musical chairs the authors change the characters' positions and put them in the right place. As in The Neverending Story it plays on the theme of story-telling and the way life and story unfold and interact. It has true spirit, psychological depth, and tons of humor. I feel Wieland captured the soul not only of this story but of Ende's writing so faithfully that I couldn't really know where Ende's chapters ended. It was an immensely enjoyable read and I am sure kids will love it and adults would gladly volunteer to read it with them. It will be a joy to translate and to publish. "

(Review by Israeli publisher Kinneret-Zmora)


  • 20 years after the death of Michael Ende this fragment of a children's novel has been completed
  • Brilliantly continued by Michael Ende expert Wieland Freund
  • Fulminant fairy tale and an exciting knight adventure

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