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File:WarWithTheNewts w200 6171.jpg


War with the Newts is an 1936 novel by Karel Čapek.

Czech Captain Van Toch is ordered to go pearl fishing and ends up on Tana Masa, an island near Sumatra. The natives won't let him into Devil Bay, contending that there are demons there, but Van Toch goes there anyway with a few gutsy native boys, who return with several pearls and a strange tale of darkly colored lizard demons. Toch, after quite a bit of drinking, teaches these lizards to fetch him pearls but sees that their small population is threatened by sharks. As he has become to see these lizards as almost his children, he becomes enraged, and goes to his old childhood rival from his village, Bondy, who is now an industry magnate. Which isn't as unlikely as it sounds, considering the small size of Czechoslovakia.

The doorman Povondra is not sure whether to let him in, which eventually becomes a plot point. Bondy does not believe the insane, rambling, racist-epithet-full tale, but has a feeling that he should grant the request of a ship to carry the lizards around and establish lizard colonies. Which happens to have some very far-reaching effects on the planet Earth.

Karel Čapek segues from this point into short stories and newspaper clippings to tell of the eventual eponymous war with the Newts, as they come to be called, while sharply satirizing everything from Nazism to Hollywood. Oh, and he seemingly foretells the Munich Agreement, except Czechoslovakia is China, and Germany is the Newts.


War with the Newts provides examples of:

  • Downer Ending: The ending seems to be this; Newts are about to take over the world, and Povondra is dying, guilt-ridden, as he considers himself responsible. However, the author then starts an argument with an internal voice, that tells him that he can't finish the story like that. He eventually envisions a war between the different kind of Newts in which they destroy themselves, and humanity can retake what remains of Earth.
  • Fictional Document: The novel contains many fictious newspaper clippings about the Newts.
  • It's All My Fault: When the use of the Newts has positive effects, Povondra likes to claim that it's all thanks to him, because he let van Toch in. When the war breaks out, and the Newts reach Czechoslovakia, he feels horrible guilt. His son, however, tells him that it isn't really his fault; everyone is guilty.
  • Master Race: Poking fun at the Third Reich, Čapek has German government claim that German Newts are a superior Nordic race and deserve more "lebensraum" than the inferior Newts of other countries.
  • Same Story, Different Names: The general plot of War with the Newts is very similar to that of RUR, which Čapek had published 15 years earlier.
  • Slave Race: The Newts.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: The inevitable Newt rebellion.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The debates surrounding treatment of the Newts.
  • You Have to Believe Me: Partially averted when Bondy does eventually listen to van Toch about the Newts.
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