The Book Thief Prologue

Instructor: Shelley Vessels

Shelley has taught at the middle school level for 10 years and has a master's degree in teaching English.

The prologue of 'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak is an important read because it plants seeds of events that will happen much later in the story. The narrator - Death - discusses each time he meets the protagonist, the book thief, yet leaves plenty for the reader to discover later.

The Book Thief: Prologue

Did you read the first pages of The Book Thief and feel a little lost? Details come at you like water from a firehose, and they're intentionally vague and mysterious. However, they read like an outline for the most important parts of the novel. Don't worry - we're here to help you through it!

Death and Chocolate

Yes, that's right. The narrator of The Book Thief is Death. Death is not a person, and is not living or dead. Death just is. He wants you to know that he'll meet you sometime, but it's nothing that you need to fear because he's not mean, he's simply fair.

Death explains that he focuses on the ever-changing rainbow of the sky, and his favorite color is chocolate brown. The colors allow him to relax, and provide a distraction from the difficult work of collecting souls. The ''leftover humans'' - the survivors - are worrisome to him, and he needs to focus on something else.

He tells the readers that this story is about one of those leftover humans - the one who is always left behind. And he's met her three times.

In total, Death explains, the story is about ''a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.''

Beside the Railway Line

The first time Death meets the book thief, he is distracted by the snow-white sky. He finds two guards, a mother, a daughter, and the body of a small boy beside a stopped train. One of the guards is fixed on getting the passengers back on the train or leaving without them. The other seems to have more compassion for the moment: a young boy lost his life, after all.

As Death carries the soul of the book thief's brother, he knows her belly is empty, and he sees that tears are frozen to her cheeks.

The Eclipse

The next time he sees her, the sky is the deepest black from the plane that just plummeted from the skies. Death explains that he's present to collect the soul of a pilot in his mid-twenties - and he has arrived too soon. Death scolds himself for sometimes rushing because ''some people cling longer to life than expected.'' Death is about as callous as you might expect, isn't he?

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