13 CLOCKS, THE-P561636/4

by James Thurber

Paperback, 1992

Call number



Yearling (1992), 128 pages


In a cold, gloomy castle where all the clocks have stopped, a wicked Duke amuses himself by finding new and fiendish ways of rejecting the suitors for his niece, the good and beautiful Princess Saralinda.

User reviews

LibraryThing member tapestry100
I'm not quite sure what to make of James Thurber's The 13 Clocks. To be honest, the biggest reason that it caught my eye was the introduction by Neil Gaiman. Then I discovered it was on the 1001 Books list, so I thought that it would be worth picking up. And it was; but I just don't know what to
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think of it. In his introduction, Gaiman says that The 13 Clocks is one of the best books ever written, or something like that. I have to agree that it is a fun book, but calling it one of the best books ever written I think is stretching it a bit far.

The 13 Clocks is a hard book to label; is it YA? A child's fairy tale? Something written for adults? I can honestly say yes to all these questions. It has just about every aspect of the typical fairy tale present: there is a damsel in distress, an evil duke, a prince who comes to the rescue, impossible tasks, magical creatures, curses and a happily ever after. The Princess Saralinda is something of a captive to her wicked 'uncle,' the Duke, who is actually not her uncle, but her kidnapper, and who plans to marry her on her 21st birthday. She has had many suitors over the years, but each the Duke gives an impossible task to complete for her hand, or he simply kills them for practically no reason. Along comes the prince, Zorn of Zorna, disguised as a traveling minstrel, who goes on an impossible quest set forth by the Duke. Accompanying Zorn is the Golux, who seems to be something of a wizard, but maybe not, and together they accomplish the task, but just barely. I'm giving nothing away here, as we all know how these fairy tales end, and this particular tale follows in the footsteps of every one before it.

Marc Simont's illustration are very simplistic, but they match the tone and feel of the story perfectly. I found them a fresh accompaniment to the story.

Don't take me the wrong way, I really enjoyed reading The 13 Clocks. Thurber created a fun little story, but I'm just not 100% convinced that it deserves the amounts of praise that has been heaped on it, though.
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LibraryThing member kvanuska
James Thurber's humor shines in this tale of the cold evil Duke who holds the Princess SaraLinda hostage while putting off suitors with impossible tasks. But thanks to the marvelous Golux, as unique of a character one's likely to find in fiction, there is a Prince who might succeed, if only he can
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make Hagga weep jewels before it's too late. For the young and the young of heart, this book is a treasure not to be missed.
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LibraryThing member jenniferthomp75
Wonderful, wickedly weird fairy tale with great characters and a fun storyline. The drawings are magnificent and add so much to the tale. Pick it up if you've never read it!
LibraryThing member krau0098
I wasn't sure what to expect when I got this book. It is definitely a children's chapter book; it took me maybe 20 minutes to read. Overall though it was a very good read.

This book tells the somewhat classic tale of a princess locked up by her evil father. Any price who comes to woo the princess is
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given an impossible task to perform, in order to win her hand in marriage. That is until a minstrel comes along and with the help of an elven/dwarfish prankster, tricks the old king in his own game.

This was a great classic fairy tale with some humorous quirks thrown. It is cleverly written and would sound wonderful read out-loud. The characters are a bit stereo-typed but each have their own unique quirks. There is a sharp sense of humor throughout the book. The pictures throughout are down in a dark medieval style that somehow still has a bit of humor in it.

Overall I think everyone would enjoy this book; no matter what your age. Kids will enjoy the castles, knights, and general fairy tale aspects of it; adults will enjoy the clever word play and interesting plot. I am glad I read it and it is a book that I will keep on my shelf to read to my son when he gets old enough to sit still for 30 minutes at a time :-)
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LibraryThing member debnance
The 13 Clocks is a fun fairy tale. It reminds me of The Princess Bride (perhaps PB was modeled after 13 Clocks?) A prince arrives at the castle of a mean, mean Duke, incognito, to find a way to win the hand of the Princess. The Duke sees through his disguise (via his secret spies) and sends the
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prince off, as he has many other princes in the past, on an impossible mission. But the prince has a helper, the Golux, who is helpful, though he often makes things up.
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LibraryThing member tsias
The thirteen clocks is a simple tale, told with an uncommon sophistication.

It is certainly aimed, primarily, at children, but the writing is such that it will appeal to a far broader audience. It is at times hilarious, at others achingly poignant, and startlingly clever throughtout. Through this
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story we learn that the jewels of sorrow are forever, while the jewels of joy turn again to tears a fortnight after, and are advised to never trust a spy whom we cannot see.

A quick read, whose content far exceeds a the small package. It's short; read it twice.
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LibraryThing member sometimeunderwater
Didn't find this especially charming, unlike the inspirational 'Wonderful O'.

Feels much more obviously "for children" than his other writing I've read, and not particularly memorable. The basic plot feels rambly, with all the important information thrown in right at the end, and a deus ex machina
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that removes all sense of urgency. Not funny enough to be a parody, and not sincere enough to be affecting.
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LibraryThing member ktooth
In the introduction, Neil Gaiman describes this story as "probably the best book in the world." I'm not sure how literal I was to take that, but perhaps it did skew my expectations. This story is considered a classic, so my expectations were high regardless.

This is a not-so-typical fairy tale about
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a prince's quest to rescue a princess from the clutches of her uncle, the evil Duke. The style and flow is good, but the story itself seemed to lose its way. The price is sharp in the beginning but by the end is totally relying on the Golux and just stumbling his way through the plot. I'm not sure what he did to truly earn the hand of the princess or why the Golux decided this was the suitor worth guiding.

Fun story for kids, but nothing exceptional, in my opinion.
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LibraryThing member acl
One of the greatest children's books ever written, bar none. A literary miracle.
LibraryThing member extrajoker
first line: "Once upon a time, in a gloomy castle on a lonely hill, where there were thirteen clocks that wouldn't go, there lived a cold, aggresssive Duke, and his niece, the Princess Saralinda."

This is a wonderful book to read aloud. Thurber's prose reads like poetry: beautiful, precise, and
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often hilariously funny. Both the language and the story should be savored.
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LibraryThing member Nikkles
The 13 Clocks is a very interesting, slightly non-linear story. The story has a great humor about it that really celebrates the beauty of words. It is all about the words. It is great to read and great to read aloud. Like I said the story is not overly linear and the reader does need to fill in
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some bits for themselves, but for some reason that really works for the story rather then against it. I would highly recommend reading The 13 Clocks.
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LibraryThing member BoundTogetherForGood
I had high hopes for this book, from the reviews I had read. I expected more than I received. It wasn't bad...it just wasn't as deeply funny as I expected. I feel it is sutiable and probably would be most funny to the 8-10 year old crowd. That works though, as I bought it for our 10 year old son as
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a Christmas present.
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LibraryThing member Neftzger
If you love cleverly written fantasy books, it doesn't get much better than the 13 Clocks. The story takes you on a wild and yet slightly farcical ride as you follow the prince's efforts to win the hand of the princess from her wicked Uncle. Yes, this book has the classic elements of a fairy tale
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but it's also filled with imaginative interpretations of everyday things such as the Duke who killed time (an event which left blood on his sleeves). This is a children's book and a short read, but well worth the time.
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LibraryThing member sturlington
One of my favorites from childhood, this is a charming fairy tale with a lot of humor. I can read it again and again.
LibraryThing member AMQS
This was such a fun read aloud, perhaps best described by Neil Gaiman: "It's one of the great kids' books of the last century. It may be the best thing Thurber ever wrote. It's certainly the most fun that anybody can have reading anything aloud."

This is an archetypal fairy tale, with a wicked
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duke, a captive princess, a handsome prince who fulfills a quest through bravery, trickery, and luck, and even a pair of white horses to carry off the principals at the end. Add to that mix the Golux (an enigmatic and somewhat unreliable wizard), a monster so horrible it defies description, a woman reputed to cry precious stones, and delicious wordplay (I think my 8th grade daughter has quoted the book to her entire school), and you have a bona fide treasure that begs to be reread aloud. Superb!

Thurber, J. & Simont, M. (2008). The 13 clocks. New York: New York Review of Books.
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LibraryThing member leslie.98
Another fun 'fractured' fairy tale! I had completely forgotten this so I am glad I took the time to reread it.
LibraryThing member jmoncton
This classic children's book is perfect for children and adults. Thurber's wit and humor will have you laughing out loud at this not-so-conventional fairy tale.
LibraryThing member rakerman
As indescribable as the Golux's hat.
LibraryThing member mlbelize
This was a wonderful, farcical Children's fairy tale that I would never have come across had it not been on Boxall's 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list. Reading this book reminded me of when I happily read Dr. Seuss to my children, not really knowing who loved the books more, who giggled the
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most, who said "again", just glowing in that feel good emotion that only sharing the best children's books with them brought out in me. How we missed this one is beyond me, I feel as though I've short-changed them.

I'm not exactly sure why the book was on this particular list, but I enjoyed it nonetheless and will doubtless read it again. As an added bonus, this edition came with an introduction by Neil Gaiman, which is a treat in itself.

To rate it is difficult, what do I compare it to, other children's books, most of which I've forgotten, or just on its own? I guess I'll go with a combination of the two and hope I don't lead anyone astray.
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LibraryThing member mhanlon
My son (8) got this book for Christmas, from me. I couldn't remember having read it before, but James Thurber is a fantastic, wry story teller, and from a quick flick I thought he'd enjoy the story.
Well, he brought it to school and began reading it during their reading time. And one day he brought
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it home to me. He wanted me to read it, too. "You'll see when the scary part comes up," he said.
So I sat down with it one night and blazed through it in a sitting. It's a lovely, quick read. Quirky and funny the way James Thurber can be -- it reads like he's having so much fun telling the story and the backstory from the introduction makes it all the sweeter. He maybe overindulges himself sometimes, but you can forgive it, because it sort of fits with his theme of over-the-top villainy and the tenuous nature of the Golux's solutions and plans for the prince.
It's the sort of book you want to read out loud. It's fairy tale-esque, complete with daring, head-spinning leaps from one moment to the next, a sort of propulsion by a water cannon with a kink in the hose. Worth a few hours of your time.
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LibraryThing member Debra_Armbruster
I initially picked up _The 13 Clocks_ because Neil Gaiman told me to and I follow all of Neil's instructions. All kidding aside, this was a fun book, with wonderful words and rhythm. My rating (3 shading into 4) will probably increase once I've had a chance to re-read it aloud.
LibraryThing member Lisa2013
A wonderful introduction by Neil Gaiman and and an interesting foreword by the author got me excited to read this book, but I admired it more than I enjoyed it. While I did smile and even chuckle at times, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. It was clever but in my opinion not that brilliant, and I
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simply didn’t find it emotionally satisfying or that entertaing. It was just okay for me, though I did like it well enough. I’m very aware that this may simply not have been the right book at the right time, for me. I think one issue is that I often don’t like fairy tales. I thought I’d like this one though, and I did. I’m just not wild about it. 2 ½ stars
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LibraryThing member liz83
One of my absolute favorites. It is a children's fairy story that can be enjoyed equally (or more so!) by adults. The language is beautiful, the characters memorable, and the story magical.

You will love it because, as Thurber says, "Everybody has always wanted to love a Princess. Everybody has
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always wanted to be a Prince. Everybody has always wanted the wicked Duke to be punished. Everybody has always wanted to live happily ever after."
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LibraryThing member akmargie
I like the post modern fairy tale. What I mean Thurber wrote this toward the end of his career and it's sly humor and clever wordplay are all there but so are classic folktale elements, supernatural, good v. evil, tricksters and beautiful princesses. But it retains the magic, the timelessness of
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those stories, while still being some how modern. I'm horrible at explaining it but it works, it just plain works.
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LibraryThing member kslade
Good story by Thurber.




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