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Krabat is a German Young Adult novel by Otfried Preußler, loosely based on an old Sorbian folk legend. It has been published in English under the titles The Satanic Mill and The Curse of the Darkling Mill, but later also under its original title.

Set in Saxony, Germany in the early 1700s[1], it tells the story of the beggar boy Krabat. One night he has a dream of a voice and some ravens telling him to go to a mill in the village Schwarzkollm, which he eventually does. He gets accepted by the sinister, one-eyed miller as an apprentice, but he soon learns that he is in no ordinary mill: It is a "black school" -- a school for Black Magic. An avid student at first, Krabat slowly recognizes the danger he is in: As part of the miller's Deal with the Devil, each year, one of the apprentices has to die -- as eventually happens with Krabat's mentor and friend, Tonda.

Note: In ancient times, mills and millers were generally suspected to be somewhat too close to the devil. Consider this: There were no machines around yet, and when the people saw a mill move by itself, as it seemed, and make strange sounds, they became scared. The fact that some millers cheated the peasants and kept some of the flour for themselves also didn't help. Also, sometimes mills would explode because flour (like all kinds of fine organic dust) is very flammable.

There are also two movie adaptations: A Czech animated one from 1978 by Karel Zeman, and a German live action film from 2008.


Tropes in Krabat a.k.a. The Satanic Mill:

  • Abnormal Ammo: A golden button used as a bullet.
  • Affably Evil: The miller. Ok, he is a bit weird but still a strict but benevolent master on any field he teaches you - he even takes you to one of his trips to show you what magic can do for you. That and he eventually will sacrifice you to prolong his life. The movie emphasized this even more.
  • Almighty Janitor: Juro fulfills a similar role.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • This may happen if you separate your spirit from the body and don't return until dawn - you'll become a kind of ghost who is completely unable to interact with the world. Almost happens to Krabat.
    • Also this: To make some money, one of the boys turns into a big fat ox, who is sold to a rich merchant. However, they have to make sure to keep the rope around his neck, otherwise this trope would happen. This time it doesn't - but one year later, they try the same trick, with Krabat turning into a horse, and when Juro sells "Krabat" to a one-eyed lord, he forgets to mention the halter until it's too late, dumb as he is... and since the lord is whom you suspect already, he won't give it back either.
  • Bad Dreams: When some peasants ask the miller to make it snow, Lyschko uses magic to make them think they were attacked by wild dogs. In the night, someone makes Lyschko dream of wild dogs killing him. Five times, then the boys have enough and make him sleep somewhere else.
  • Better to Die Than Be Killed: Merten, after his cousin Michal dies.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Tonda for Krabat, later Krabat for Lobosch.
  • Butt Monkey: Juro most of the time. He rolls with it most of the time and to him it is never mean... Lyschko on the other hand... deserves what he gets.
  • Closed Circle: You can't run away from the mill - the master will prevent it. Even suicide won't work.
  • Deal with the Devil: The master did one. As a price, he has to sacrifice one of his students each year - or will lose his soul himself. And sometimes at night, the boys will have to do an extra shift - as Krabat finds out, to grind bones and teeth, presumably human ones.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Everyone should recognize Pumphutt for his big hat immediately, but they never do until he tells them who he is. Can be explained with A Wizard Did It.
  • Do You Want to Haggle?: When they sell the "ox". They're lucky to find a fat rich trader who buys the "ox" for 30 thalers (and expects to get twice the money somewhere else).
  • Eyes Are Mental: The master has magic to take on a different appearance, but he'll always be missing the one eye he lacks in real life. Also applies to animals he creates. (When Krabat tries to run away, he repeatedly meets black animals with one eye - it's not sure whether they're the shapeshifted master, or created by him.)
  • Flight: Also possible thanks to magic. You can even take a non-magic user as a passenger, so to speak.
  • The Fool: Juro. Also, The Klutz.
  • Functional Magic: Rule magic based on words, gestures, drawn signs and a few other bits, with some theurgy.
  • Glamour Failure: In each shape he transforms into, the miller is lacking an eye.
  • Golden Bullet: The only thing that can kill a magic user.
  • Here We Go Again: In the first year, Krabat has a hard job at the beginning, but his mentor Tonda helps him. In the third year, the boy Lobosch becomes the new apprentice and Krabat becomes his mentor.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Once per year, the boys have to spend the night at a place where someone has died. "Mordkreuz" (murder's cross) and "Bäumels Tod" (Bäumel's death) certainly fit.
  • I Gave My Word: Once per year, the boys have to swear that they'll obey the master. Which binds them by magic.
  • Impossible Task: Theoretically, the master can be defeated easily - but he twists the words of the condition to his advantage. If a girl who loves one of the master's students asks on New Years' Eve to let him go, this would do the trick. However, she has to recognize her boy for this - and there's nowhere written that they may not turn into ravens. Which lead to the death of one girl and her boy Janko.
  • Jerkass: Lyschko. Even the miller claims he doesn't like him. Also, some soldiers who visit the mill (when the master is absent) and demand that the boys become their servants.
  • Karmic Trickster: Pumphutt
  • Kick the Dog: The miller mistreats the boys. Not all the time, but if he does, he gets mean.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: The master once had a friend, named Jirko, whom he killed. Later, he wants Krabat and Juro to re-enact the scene. Of course, they're just acting... are they?
  • Like Reality Unless Noted
  • The Little Detecto: Krabat gets a knife from Tonda which can detect if he's in mortal danger. If this is the case, its blade will be blackened.
  • Love At First Note: In the book - Krabat falls in love with the Kantorka when he hears her singing at the Easter procession.
  • Love Redeems: Only if a girl pleads for the release of her beloved one can the contract that binds the apprentices to the mill be broken.
  • The Movie: The Czech animated movie from 1977 (original title: Čarodějův učeň) is highly praised, but lacks a DVD release until now. The German adaptation from 2008 changed the setting; the book was set during the reign of August the Strong of Saxony, the movie during the earlier Thirty Years War, which is better known.
  • Mundane Utility: The boys may and do use magic for their daily work and even Just for Fun.
  • Nice Hat: Pumphutt has one. It's part of his Meaningful Name (Hut = hat).
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Noone but Juro.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Kantorka (means: 'little cantor' or 'singing girl'). Fortunately, because I Know Your True Name also applies.
  • Plot-Relevant Age-Up: The first year in the mill counts as three. Becomes important because at the beginning of the story, Krabat was too young to be interested in girls. Justified by, you know, magic.
  • The Power of Love / The Power of Friendship: Both help Krabat.
  • The Prankster: Andrusch
  • The Quiet One: Kubo, who has just one line in the whole book.
  • Ravens and Crows: During their magic lessons, the boys are changed into ravens.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Just the most obvious example: Where Jesus had twelve apostles, one of which became a traitor and thus responsible for his death, the master is an Evil Sorceror with twelve students. One of them stops following him, which leads to the master's death.
  • Rule of Three: The book is divided into three parts. Each one takes a year. Krabat has three dreams of the mill before he decides to go there. In the first year in the mill, he ages three years.
  • Shapeshifter Showdown: In a dream. Krabat as a bird is hunted by the miller (also polymorphed). Krabat sees a well, turns into a fish - but now he's caught in the well. Fortunately, Kantorka is there to take him out. He shapechanges into a golden ring on her finger. Then suddenly a one-eyed nobleman appears. Krabat turns into one grain, which Kantorka throws on the ground. The miller turns into a rooster - but Krabat is faster, turns into a fox and bites him dead.
  • Sic Em: Lyschko pretends to sic the miller's dogs on the farmers who asked him for a favor. (They're not real, but the peasants think so.)
  • Someone Elses Problem: There's one useful spell which does this.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: At the closing credits of the 2008 movie adaptation, the song Wir sind allein is played. Why does a suitingly old-timey, folk-ish soundtrack have to end with electro pop?
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: Once per year, the boys are allowed to make fun of the miller, and do this.
  • The Voiceless: Merten, after Michal's death. He gets better, however.
  • Wizard Duel: The master vs. Pumphutt.
  • Wizarding School: The mill. Also, Academy of Evil.

Notes

  1. The live action movie however is set during the Thirty Years War, presumably because that period is more recognizable.
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