For other uses, see The Thief Lord (disambiguation).
The Thief Lord
The Thief Lord
Author(s) Cornelia Funke
Translator Oliver Latsch
Illustrator Cornelia Funke
Cover Artist Cornelia Funke
Publisher(s) Cecilie Dressler Verlag (Germany)

The Chicken House (UK)
Scholastic Inc. (US)

Preceded by N/A
Followed by N/A

The Thief Lord is a children's novel written by German author Cornelia Funke. It was published in Germany under the title Herr der Diebbe. It is translated into English by Oliver Latsch.

The Praise

"[A] radiant novel... Today's young readers will probably love this book as they love the Harry Potter series, for its zany plot and well-defined characters...splendid."

- The New York Times Book Review

"[An] exquisitely told tale of adventure and intrigue...display[s] the kind of zest that makes you inhale a book in as few sittings as possible."

- USA Today

"A darn good yarn-the charming tale of a band of urchin-thieves, a magical carousel, and two orphaned brothers."

- Newsweek

"Funke's deft exploration of a timeless theme-the longing of kids to grow up and of grown-ups to relive their youth-should engage both young and old"

- People

"[A] fantasy/mystery/adventure, all rolled into one spellbinding story."

-' Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"A compelling tale, rich in ingenius twists, with a setting and cast that will linger in readers' memories."

- School Library Journal, starred review

"The Venetian setting is ripe for mystery, and the city's alleys and canals ratchet up the suspense in the chase scejnes."

- Publishers Weekly

"[A] masterly work."

- The Guardian




Two orphaned brothers have run away to Venice, where crumbling canals and misty alleyways shelter a secret community of street urchins. The leader of this motley crew of lost children is a clever, charming boy who calls himself the Thief Lord.

And he has a dark secret. Something from a forgotten past that poses a threat to the boys' freedom: a treasure so enchanted, it can spin time...

Detailed Plot Summary

The Thief Lord follows the story of two brothers, Prosper and Bo, who run away to Venice after their mother's death. They are taken in by a group of orphans who live in an abandoned movie theater, called the Stella, and are led by a boy named Scipio, who calls himself the Thief Lord. He steals valuables from wealthy homes and they sell them to an old shopkeeper, Ernesto Barbarossa. The 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 them and finds out where they're staying. When the rest of the children see him, they cause a distraction and run away, taking his wallet with them, from which they discover his identity. In his search for the theater, Victor visits the home of Dottore Massimo, the owner of the Stella, where he sees Scipio, who immediately leaves to warn the others.

When Victor arrives at the Stella, the children ambush him, tie him up, and lock him in the bathroom. During an argument, Victor tells them the truth about Scipio. When Prosper confronts Scipio, he learns that Scipio is indeed Dottore Massimo's son, and all the loot he told them he stole from wealthy houses was actually stolen from his own home. Furious, Prosper leaves and tells the others about what he has learned. While they are gone, Victor escapes, leaving a note that he will not reveal their location if they do not steal the wing. The children leave that night to steal it and meet Scipio inside the house.

During the ensuing argument, Ida Spavento awakens and demands to know who they are. When they explain, Ida tells them the story of the wing, which came from a magical merry-go-round that had 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, in hopes that she can find the merry-go-round. 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, but narrowly escape being shot when they try to search for the merry-go-round. 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 swears he did not do it and informs them that the lire they received are fake.

While searching for Hornet and Bo, they find her at an orphanage and Victor and Ida manage to get her out. They spend a restless night at Ida's house, but Prosper cannot sleep and wanders outside, where he meets Scipio. The two return to the island to demand payment, but end up spending the night in a stable there. Meanwhile, Victor receives a phone call from Esther, informing him that she had Bo, but he has run away from them and she no longer wants anything to do with him. 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, having gotten the merry-go-round to work. Scipio demands a ride and comes off an adult, looking much like his father. Just as he gets off the merry-go-round, Barbarossa arrives, and demands a ride on the merry-go-round. However, while Barbarossa becomes a five-year-old boy, he accidentally breaks the merry-go-round, infuriating the Conte. Scipio and Prosper leave after promising the Conte that they will not talk about the merry-go-round, and Barbarossa is forced to give the Conte all the money in his shop safe as repayment.

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, but Ida immediately understands what happened. Scipio sets up a meeting between Barbarossa and Esther, to which Barbarossa consents after learning that Esther is rich. Esther likes Barbarossa 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 and sends his father a letter saying that he is safe and happy, but will not come home.

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 and encourages them to steal, and insists that everyone call him "the Thief Lord."


New York Times Bestseller

USA Today Bestseller

Book Sense Bestseller

New York Times Notable Book

ALA Notable Book

School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Child Magazine Best Book of the Year

Parenting Magazine Book of the Year

Winner of the 2003 Mildred L. Batchelder Award for an outstanding translated book

Winner of the Zurich Children's Book Award

Winner of the Book Award from the Vienna House of Literatur

Winner of the Swiss Youth Literature Award

Film Adaption

Main article: The Thief Lord (film)

The Thief Lord was adapted into a film on 2006.


  • The German title literally means The Thief Lord
  • The Thief Lord has sold over 1.5 million copies.