The King's Stilts
The King's Stilts Man and the Natural World Quotes Page 1
This was the work of caring for the mighty Dike Trees that protected the people of Binn from the sea. The sea pushed against the kingdom on three sides. The kingdom was a low one; the sea was a high one; and only the Dike Trees kept the sea from pouring in. They grew so close together in a row along the shore, that they held back the water with their heavy, knotted roots. (7)
The main work of King Birtram isn't signing all of those important documents in his bathtub (still weird, by the way), or making sure that his castle is big, imposing and scary. It's not even about raising an army, although those Patrol Cats are oh-so important. His job is primarily to ensure that the kingdom can coexist peacefully in its natural setting without imposing on it too much (refer to our "Setting" section for more).
The townsfolk began to feel frightened. Housewives couldn't keep their minds on their housework. They heard Nizzards flapping over their rooftops and poked their heads out for a look. "If the cats don't keep those Nizzards away from our Dike Trees," they asked one another, "what will keep the ocean back out of our land?" (57)
The townsfolk in this case don't fear an outside army of barbarians, as is often the case in fairytales. There are no Huns here. And they're not quaking in their shoes at the threat of a giant ogre. Instead, what they fear is a disruption of the balance between their homes and nature. If they don't keep the balance perfectly restored, then the sea will rush into the kingdom and destroy… everything.
A hundred thousand Nizzards stopped their pecking and sprang to meet the charge. The Dike Trees shook as the cats roared their warcry. The sea's surface swirled into wild raging whirlpools. (114)
For such a pleasant and sometimes silly man, King Birtram can really bring the fire and brimstone when he gets down to business. The final scene of conflict in which King Birtram comes out with (metaphorical) guns blazing and has a showdown with the Nizzards is a classic portrayal of the battle of man vs. nature. In the final moments, the King (representing man) stands up to the true fury and terror of nature as the sea swirls into wild raging whirlpools and the Nizzards fly at them from the sky. But, it must be noted that without the help of some part of the natural world (the Patrol Cats), King Birtram would have never been successful.