The King's Stilts
|Cover artist||Dr. Seuss|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|Preceded by||The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins|
|Followed by||The Seven Lady Godivas|
The King's Stilts is a children's book written and illustrated by Theodor Geisel under the pen name Dr. Seuss, and published in 1939 by Random House. Unlike many Dr. Seuss books, it is narrated in prose rather than verse.
The King's Stilts tells the story of King Birtram of Binn, who dedicates himself to safeguarding his kingdom, which lives in a precarious existence. It is surrounded by water, which is held back from flooding the land by a ring of dike trees, which are in turn subject to attack from flocks of nizzards. To protect the kingdom, a legion of Patrol Cats is organized to keep the nizzards at bay, and King Birtram sees to their care personally.
When not attending to his royal duties, the King enjoys himself with a rigorous cavorting on his personal red stilts, which distresses his minister Lord Droon. When Droon manipulates the King's page boy Eric to steal and hide the stilts, the King grows depressed and begins to neglect his duties. As a result, the Patrol Cats become less vigilant, and soon the nizzards make headway in eating away the dike trees.
Seeing the results of his actions, Eric resolves to return the stilts to the King and succeeds in doing so despite Lord Droon's efforts to stop him. King Birtram then summons the energy to mobilize the Patrol Cats to fight off the nizzards and save the kingdom. Lord Droon is imprisoned and forced to eat nizzard every day while Eric is rewarded with his own pair of red stilts, joining the King on his outings.
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Like many of Dr. Seuss's books, this book serves as a morality tale or fable, commenting on people's fundamental need to rest from their labors and experience a regular time of unmixed relaxation and refreshment in order to be able to carry out their responsibilities to the best of their abilities. The moral of the story is presented through the continuous repetition of the phrase, "when the king worked, he really worked. And when he played, he really played," as well as the kingdom's eventual decay due to the king's inability to pursue his hobby and experience full relaxation during his down time.
Publication and reception
The King's Stilts was published in 1939, as Geisel's second book for Random House and his fourth book overall. Although it was considerably more successful than his previous book, The Seven Lady Godivas, its sales were still a disappointment: 4,648 copies were sold in 1939 and 394 in 1940.
- Cohen 2004, p. 199
- Cohen 2004, p. 201
- Cohen, Charles (2004). The Seuss, the Whole Seuss and Nothing But the Seuss: A Visual Biography of Theodor Seuss Geisel. Random House Books for Young Readers. ISBN 0-375-82248-8. OCLC 53075980.