The Thief Lord

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The Thief Lord
English book cover by in English from Chicken House Publishing, Ltd and Scholastic.
AuthorCornelia Funke
Original titleHerr der Diebe
IllustratorChristian Burmingham
LanguageTranslated to English

The Thief Lord is a children's novel written by Cornelia Funke. It was published in Germany in 2000 and translated into English by Oliver Latsch in 2002 for The Chicken House, a division of Scholastic publishing company. It was also adapted into a film in 2006.

Plot summary[edit]

The Thief Lord follows the story of brothers, Prosper (Prop) and Boniface (Bo), who run away to Venice, Italy. They are taken in by a group of street children who live in an abandoned movie theater, the Stella, and are led by a proud orphan named Scipio. He appears to steal valuables and the orphan group sells them to a sly shopkeeper, Ernesto Barbarossa. A customer of Barbarossa, calling himself the Conte, asks the "Thief Lord" to steal a wooden lion's wing for him. The runaway boys' aunt and uncle figure out where they are and set a detective, Victor Getz, on their trail. Victor recognizes the boys on the street and manages to initiate a conversation with innocent little Bo. Bo accidentally lets slip that he lives in an old movie theater. When the rest of the children see Victor, they cause a distraction and run away, taking his wallet with them. In his search for the theater, Victor visits the home of Dottor Massimo, the owner of the Stella, where he sees Scipio, who is actually the son of the rich Dottore.

When Victor arrives at the Stella, the optic clan ambushes him. When Prosper confronts Scipio, he learns that Scipio is indeed Dottor Massimo's son. While they are gone, Victor escapes, leaving a note that he will not reveal their location if they do not steal the precious lion's wing. The children leave that night to steal it from a woman called Ida Spavento. Arrived in her house, the children meet Scipio, who wants to steal the wing as well. In the following argument, Ida is awakened by the racket that the children make and confronts them with an old rifle. When they explain, Ida tells them the story of the wing, which came from a magical merry-go-round. It has the ability to change a person's age. She agrees to let them have the wing if they let her accompany them to the exchange. The next night, all of the children go for the deal except Hornet and Bo. They join Ida and Scipio, meet with the Conte and his sister, Morosina, and make the exchange. They follow the Conte through a maze of islands to one in particular called Isola Segretta. They watch the pair unload the wing and go inside. Suddenly Ida drops the binoculars she was using into the lagoon. The sound travels to the island. Morosina rushes out with a shotgun and two huge dogs firing away randomly into the night. The group speeds off and regroups at the pier. When they return to the theater, Hornet and Bo are gone, leaving a note that there were police at the door. They angrily confront Victor, who informs them that he did not direct the police's attention there. To add to the misery he tells them that the lire they received are fake.

While searching for Hornet and Bo, they find Hornet at an orphanage and manage to get her out. However, they did not find Bo at the orphanage. They spend a restless night at Ida's house, but Prosper cannot sleep and wanders outside, where he meets Scipio. He says that they are going to get the money that is rightfully theirs. They travel back to the island and get caught in the act of climbing a wall by the Conte's sister. The two end up locked up in a stinking stable on the island. Meanwhile, Victor receives a phone call from Esther, informing him that she had Bo, but that he had misbehaved and run away from them. Victor finds Bo at the Stella and takes him back to Ida's, where they find Prosper missing.

On the island the next morning, Scipio and Prosper meet the Conte and Morosina, who are both young children. They tell him that the magical merry go-round worked. Scipio demands a ride and comes off an adult. Just as he gets off the merry-go-round, Barbarossa, the man who found the Conte and hired the Thief Lord for the job of stealing the wing, arrives. However, while Barbarossa becomes a seven-year-old boy, he accidentally breaks the merry-go-round. Scipio and Prosper leave after promising the Conte that they will not talk about the merry-go-round, and Barbarossa will be forced to give the Conte all the money in his shop safe. The next day, when everyone at Ida's home finds Prosper, Scipio, and Barbarossa. They do not recognize Scipio or Barbarossa and Prosper cannot explain. Scipio sets up a meeting between Barbarossa and Esther. Esther adores Barbarossa and his manners and decides to adopt him. Prosper, Bo, and Hornet decide to live with Ida and go to school, while Mosca and Riccio live in an abandoned warehouse. Scipio decides to work for Victor.

Eventually, he and Prosper take another trip to the Isola Segreta only to find that the Conte and Morosina have disappeared. Esther eventually catches Barbarossa stealing her jewelry and other possessions and sends him off to boarding school, where he becomes a menacing bully; he forces other children to do things for him like his homework, encourages them to steal, and intimidates them to call him "The Thief Lord". Scipio, when he becomes an adult, he works as Victor's assistant in his detective agency and he was freed from his father's envy and cruelty.


Scipio Massimo: (pronounced ship-ee-oh[1][2]) The Thief Lord. Bo alone is allowed to call him 'Scip' (although on one occasion Prosper is allowed to). He is thirteen, has dark brown eyes and raven black hair. He also wears a mask that he found. He is the son of Dottor Massimo (what the other children first don't know). Scipio is clever and quick-witted, but he dislikes his father and being talked to as if he were "too stupid to put his own pants on." This feeling is so strong that it causes him to ride the magical merry-go-round and become older. Scipio, while having no care for his father, has a kind heart, especially for poor children such as Prosper, Bo, Riccio, Mosca and Hornet. He also seems to have a soft spot for cats. After becoming an adult, he becomes Victor's assistant in his detective office and changes his name to Scipio Fortunato ("the fortunate one.")

Prosper Hartlieb: A 12-year-old orphan and brother of Boniface (Bo). He is very caring to all his friends and especially to his younger brother. Prosper has dark hair. He is described to always have a very serious look on his face. He tends to worry excessively, but is very mature. Prosper is sensitive and does not like stealing; he especially forbids Bo to steal in case Esther uses Bo's behavior against him. Since his mother's death, he has taken care of his brother by himself until taken in by Scipio. He is also referred by his nickname "Prop" throughout the book.

Boniface Hartlieb: Also known as Bo, Boniface is 5 year old orphan who ran away to Venice along with his brother, Prosper. He is described having "blond hair and an angelic face." He admires Scipio and wants to grow up just like him, much to his brother's dismay.

Caterina 'Hornet' Grimani: The only girl in the Stella cinema. Hornet used to live with Riccio and Mosca in the basement of an abandoned house. Scipio found them and took them to the Stella. She is described to be "slender, with a brown plait braided down to her hips". Her plait resembles a hornet's stinger, which is where she got her nickname, 'Hornet'. Hornet is an avid reader, and on occasion reads to the rest of the orphans. She is the only one of the children who is not afraid to stand up to Scipio. Hornet still has got parents, but she doesn't want to live with them.

Riccio: (Pronounced Ree-choh) A scrawny boy and smaller than Prosper (but claims not to be much younger). He has brown hair that sticks out everywhere, earning him his nickname, Hedgehog. He has missing teeth, which he lost in a chase. His bed is stuffed with stuffed animals and comics. He grew up in an orphanage, never knowing his parents. Scipio found Riccio when Riccio attempted to steal something off of him.

Mosca: A tall, muscular boy of African descent. Riccio says that his skin is so dark that "he could creep through the shadows". He loves the water and made his own boat. Mosca loves tinkering with his radio. Although he does not speak of his past, he is said to have a horrible family that he dislikes.

Victor Getz: A detective looking for Bo and Prosper hired by Esther and Max Hartlieb. He likes collecting disguises, especially false beards, and has lived in Italy for 15 years. He speaks both English (his mother tongue) and Italian. He chases after Prosper and Riccio on their way back from Barbarossa's. He is kidnapped by the children, and later escapes, but gives his word he will not tell where they are. Esther referred to him after going to the police who were no help. He soon befriends the children and lies to Esther, saying the boys left Venice. Victor has two pet tortoises named Lando and Paula.

Ida Spavento: A nice lady who looks after the kids for a while and, at the end of the book, takes in Prosper, Bo, and Hornet. She is an orphan and grew up in an orphanage. She found the Conte's wing during her early life at the orphanage and kept it until she gave it to Scipio's gang to sell to the Conte. She also has a bad smoking habit, but she is trying to quit.

Esther Hartlieb: Prosper and Bo's rich aunt. She only wants to keep Bo because he looks like an angel. She is very biased toward Prosper and wanted him to go to a boarding school (where he could hardly see Bo). She hires Victor to find the two boys and ends up adopting Barbarossa (as a child after he had taken a ride on the magical merry-go-round). Later, she finds out Barbarossa has been stealing her valuable items that had gone missing long ago that disappeared into his room. She sends him away to a boarding school where he is feared by the other children.

Max Hartlieb: Prosper and Bo's rich uncle. Along with Esther, Max thinks Bo is an angel because he looks like one. He does not like children. He is described as "a giant" and has small, dull eyes and a nose peeling from sunburn when he hired Victor.

Ernesto Barbarossa: Sometimes referred as "the Redbeard" or "Baby Barbarino" (after he was turned unto a child). An extremely cheap antique dealer who does not ask many questions and loves to cheat people. He ends up riding and breaking the merry-go-round and gets stuck at an age a little younger than Bo. At the end of the book, Barbarossa is adopted by Esther (he wants to live with her because she is rich). However, Esther finds him stuffing her earrings into his pockets and then discovered in his room a collection of valuable items that had disappeared. He was sent to a boarding school where he becomes a bully; he made the other children do his bidding, including his homework and even steal. He also forced everyone to address him as "the Thief Lord."

Conte: The old man that Scipio, Mosca, and Prosper met in a confessional while planning to steal something for him. He is the Thief Lord's first client asking for something to be stolen and says that he will give him a large amount of money ( five million lire). The money exchanged for the stolen wooden wing turns out to be fake (because he cannot afford real money). He uses the wing to fix the merry-go-around, and becomes a child. He and his sister offer Scipio a ride in exchange for the stolen wooden wing (instead of money they do not have). The Conte's real name is "Renzo".

Contessa: The Conte's younger sister. Her real name is Morosina. She was the one who found Prosper and Scipio wandering around in the Isola Segreta and held them captive for the night. She did not want Scipio and Prosper to ride on the magical merry-go-round.

Dottor Massimo: Dottor Massimo is Scipio's father. He owns a mansion that he and Scipio live in and several movie theaters in Venice, including the Stella. Scipio doesn't have a very good relationship with his dad and thinks he is a very serious and selfish person.


  1. ^ According to the pronunciation in the audiobook. Read by Simon Jones
  2. ^ In Italian, sc + i creates a "sh" sound; see
2. Funke, Cornelia Caroline., and Oliver Latsch. The Thief Lord. New York: Scholastic, 2002. Print.

External links[edit]