Nick and the Nasty Knight by Ute Krause was published in 2012. The book is not anti-Trump protest literature. It’s just a story about a boy who lives in an impoverished town where the political power (the nasty knight) uses taxes, sleazy political (legal) maneuvers and physical violence to drain every last penny out of the residents.
This knight lives in an enormous castle where he keeps all of the gold locked up, forces people to carry him around because he will not be bothered with walking and…get this…he uses a golden toilet.
Much like Maurizio Cattelan’s “America“, the similarities and political applicability are almost eerie. While it’s important to note that Trump’s golden toilet is an internet myth, it’s symbolism is very much a political reality.
When I first read this book to the children in my life, I was hoping for an anti-bullying or a problem solving story. Every once in a while I will come across a kids book with excellent pictures and some good hard advice for dealing with people – this is not that book.
The story is about Nick, a child who is taken from his family, by the nasty knight, as a slave (yes, he is actually taken as a slave) because his family is poor and had no more money to give to the knight when he came pounding on their door during one of the all-to-frequent tax-collecting tours. Nick is trapped in a never-ending cycle of work, the reality of which is well illustrated without being excessively scary.
He decides to escape his indentured bondage by climbing out a castle window and accidentally stumbles across the knight’s secret room full of (stolen) gold. Nick steals one coin and successfully escapes. Once in the woods beyond the city, he encounters a group of bandits and thieves who are just as horrible as the nasty knight – possibly worse.
At this point in the story I’m feeling both impressed by the realism and a bit disappointed in the lack of proactive resolution. The main character just can’t get a break.
The bandits find the single gold coin and Nick tricks them into returning to the castle. He leads them to the secret room filled with gold and sounds the alarm, causing an enormous brawl between the knight, his soldiers and all of the bandits.
Side note: the knight won’t walk to his golden toilet but he’ll jump into a potential bloodbath of a battle to protect his gold…interesting.
Ok, that was pretty good. Tricking bad guys into fighting bad guys is an impressive maneuver.
But then it turns out that the coin the boy stole was a magic coin, which ultimately transforms all of the bad guys into alligators. This saves the town and returns peace and prosperity to all. Here’s a quote:
When the people up in the castle saw what had happened, they began to cheer. Without the Nasty Knight, they were once again free!…From that day on, Nick made sure that at last his poor mother and his family had enough to eat every day.”
It’s a good story for kids. The ending to the plot is pretty standard in literature and film but…
I really wish the resolution hadn’t been reliant on a magic coin or the elimination of a handful of bad guys. Neither scenario is real and there are other ways to resolve the story.
Even so, this book remains on the family bookshelf and is pulled out from time to time because acts of bravery and defiance in the face of corrupt powers and politicians is a good place to begin. It’s an excellent story to enjoy and to talk about; because, sometimes, the flaws in stories lay the groundwork for excellent discussions about what is fun fiction vs effective in real life.
In this case, the symbolism is fitting and powerful: It’s a story about using money to take down a corrupt politician with a golden toilet.
There may be a few adults in your life who would appreciate listening to this story over the holiday break.