The German Riveter: From ZIPPEL: THE LITTLE KEYHOLE GHOST by Alex Rühle, translated by Rachel Ward, illustrated by Axel Scheffler (Andersen Press, 2019)

‘Don’t ghosts normally live in castles?’ said Paul.

‘I don’t,’ said the ghost. ‘I live in keyholes. Really truly.’ Then it looked questioningly at Paul. ‘What sort of castles?’

‘You know, big castles. The ones where kings live, and knights and princesses.’

‘Are you a king?’ asked the ghost.

‘No, of course not, I’m Paul.’

‘Oh, a Paul. Is that like a knight?’

‘No, silly, that’s my name. It’s what I’m called. How about you?’

The ghost waved its right hand a bit and said: ‘Not at all.’

‘Your name’s Notatall?’

‘No. I mean I’m not at all cold. I think it’s rather warm in here.’

Paul almost burst out laughing. ‘No, not “are you cold”, what are you called? Do you have a name?’

‘Don’t know,’ said the keyhole ghost. ‘Maybe . . . Maybe Karaputzonogypolatusomow?’

‘That’s not a name,’ said Paul.

‘Why not? It sounds really big and dangerous,’ said the ghost, spreading out its little arms as if it was trying to scare Paul. It floated to and fro on Paul’s knee with a very serious face and a clenched fist. ‘Oh, tremble, one and all! You kings and knights and Pauls and all, hear my name and tremble, here comes Karaputzo . . . Ah . . . what was my name again?’

*

‘Here comes the ghost train,’ cried Zippel.

Paul had to laugh. ‘Do you know what a ghost train is?’

‘Uh, this, here,’ cried Zippel. ‘That’s a train, I’m a ghost, so it’s a ghost train.’

‘Yes, but there are really big ghost trains too.’

‘Oh,’ said Zippel, looking excitedly round the room.

‘Where are they?’

‘Not here, they’re much too big for my room. They have them at funfairs.

They’re so big even grown-ups can go on them. And get scared.’

‘What are the grow-nups scared of? They scare me!’

‘Well, of the ghosts.’

Zippel laughed and laughed: ‘They don’t need to be scared. I won’t hurt them. Really truly.’ He shook his head. ‘Grow-nups are really daft sometimes.’

‘The ghosts on a ghost train are very ugly,’ said Paul. ‘Gigantic, with blood round their mouths and their eyes hanging out and an axe in their heads, and they groan or suddenly scream.’

‘Oh, are they all hurt?’ asked Zippel. ‘Is the ghost train a hospital for ghosts?’

‘No, they’re not real ghosts at all, just gruesome-looking puppets to give people a fright. We can go and see when it’s the Oktoberfest again.’

‘Ooh, yes. Tomorrow?’

‘No, the Oktoberfest is in a few weeks.’

‘Afeweeks?’ asked Zippel. ‘Is that a big city?’

By Alex Rühle

Translated by Rachel Ward

An extract of Zippel: The Little Keyhole Ghost, text © copyright Alex Rühle and illustrations © copyright Axel Scheffler, originally published in German as Zippel, das wirklich wahre Schlossgespenst in 2018 by dtv Verlagsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG, Munich, first published in English in 2019 by Andersen Press Ltd, London, English translation © copyright Rachel Ward.

Read The German Riveter in its entirety here.

Find the books from The German Riveter on the Goethe-Institut page.


Alex Rühle studied comparative literature, French, theology and philosophy in Munich, Paris and Berlin. He is a renowned journalist and works as a culture editor for Süddeutsche Zeitung. He lives in Munich with his family.


Rachel Ward studied literary translation at the University of East Anglia. She still lives in Norfolk today, where she works as a freelance translator from German and French, specialising in crime fiction, children’s books and non-fiction.


Axel Scheffler is an award-winning, internationally acclaimed illustrator of some of the most well-loved children’s books. His books have been published in many languages and his work has been exhibited all over the world.

Category: November 2019 - The German RiveterThe RiveterTranslations

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