What we've learnt from the first two chapters of JK Rowling's 'The Ickabog'

The British author is releasing her first children's story away from Harry Potter bit by bit online

JK Rowling has released her first children's story away from the world of Harry Potter. JK Rowling / The Ickabog
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Getting lost in a fairy tale world sounds like a nice escape right now, doesn’t it? Reality has, over the past couple of months, become a surreal and scary narrative, the kind that could give you nightmares had it come from the pages of a story book.

Thankfully, JK Rowling, the creator of perhaps the most famous of fantasy worlds, has stepped in to offer us another.  On Tuesday, the author made the surprise announcement she would be publishing a fairy tale online for free, her first children’s story not connected to Harry Potter.

Starting on Tuesday, May 26, The Ickabog is being released online, bit by bit, to entertain children stuck in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Rowling has not just come up with the tale of The Ickabog, in fact, far from it. The story had been locked away in the author's attic, gathering dust now that her own children have outgrown bedtime stories.

But, as the pandemic has unfolded, Rowling was drawn back to the story and decided it was time to share the fairy tale with the world.

The first two chapters of The Ickabog are now available. The tale is designed to be read aloud, just as Rowling did for her own children, but older children might like to read for themselves, the author suggests.

“Once upon a time, there was a tiny country called Cornucopia, which had been ruled for centuries by a long line of fair-haired kings,” the story begins.

The story talks of a fertile land full of delicious food, so good it will make you cry at every bite, and a handsome king adored by his loyal subjects. It has all the hallmarks of a classic fairy tale. The king is even flanked by two not-so-good friends who definitely don’t have his – or the kingdom’s – best interests at heart. The king, of course, is naive to their intentions. He thinks his pals are “jolly good chaps”.

Each district of Cornucopia produces its own goods. There’s Chouxville with its cakes, Kurdsburg with its cheeses, and Baronstown with its meats. In fact, every area has its specialty. Every area but the Marshlands, only capable of growing dry grass and tasteless mushrooms.

The rest of Cornucopia thinks Marshlanders, as they are known, are a little odd. Located in the northernmost tip of the tiny kingdom, they only thing they have contributed to the country, so people say, is the legend of the terrifying Ickabog, feared by children across the land.

We don’t yet know quite what the Ickabog is, or whether it is in fact real, but we do know that the Ickabog and the legend of its existence, is about to wreak havoc on idyllic Chouxville.

Rowling is yet to say how many more chapters of The Ickabog there will be, but we know that the story will be delivered, bit by bit, until July 10.

In Cornucopia, Rowling has already mapped out a place in which children’s imaginations will run wild, excited to return to each night, and for the adults, there will be plenty of aspects of the fictional land that feel oddly familiar, leaving them to question just how much of what they are reading is a fairy tale after all.

While this is a step away from the world of wizards and Hogwarts, the magic is still there, right when we need it the most.

You can read the first two chapters of ‘The Ickabog’ online here.