Number the Stars | Study Guide

Lois Lowry

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Number the Stars | Chapter 2 : Who Is the Man Who Rides Past? | Summary



Kirsti and Annemarie are snuggled into bed, and Kirsti wants to hear a story. As the narrator explains: "All Danish children grew up familiar with fairy tales." At her sister's request, Annemarie tells a story of a king and queen and their daughter, who lived in a palace. When Kirsti sleeps, Annemarie thinks about the Danish king, Christian X, who is beloved by his people. He rides through the street alone on his horse, and Annemarie remembers seeing him when she was with her older sister, Lise. Thinking of the king makes her think of her sister, who has died, and of a story their father told about a German soldier asking why the king had no bodyguards. Her father said the answer to the Nazi soldier was: "All of Denmark is his bodyguard."

Annemarie thinks back to her confusion about why the Danes had not fought the Germans when they invaded Denmark. Mr. Johansen tells her that "they fought very fiercely in Norway." However, it was futile there. Her father explained Denmark had a small army and many Danes would have died fighting the Nazis in a fight they could never win. There are now German soldiers in Norway, Holland, Belgium, and France. The exception is Sweden. That had been the case three years ago, and it is still the case. Thinking about all of that makes Annemarie think more of her sister, Lise, who was to be married only two weeks after the day she died. Lise's intended fiancé, Peter Neilsen, has changed since then, as has Annemarie's father. The narrator explains that "the whole world changed. Only the fairy tales remained the same."


This chapter further establishes the setting. Denmark, unlike other nations, quickly surrendered to the Germans. The result of this was that the Germans allowed the Danes to continue on as before occupation in numerous ways. Their king—an example of strength and a unifying point for the country—stands still. Annemarie's confusion is understandable, however. Why not fight? Why surrender to the Nazis? Her father's explanation is as much for the reader as it is for her. Understanding why a nation would accept the rules of the Nazis is difficult for a young reader. Lowry provides the historical context for her novel, addressing any confusion her readers might experience.

Also in this chapter the reader sees the first reference to fairy tales. These tales are part of the setting and context of the novel. This novel occurs in the homeland of one of the world's most renowned fairy-tale creators, Hans Christian Andersen. Further, fairy tales are, at their core, about disparities such as fear and hope and about the consequences of action. The story of the Danish king offers hope. Even in the darkest of times, there are ways to find hope. Number the Stars not only highlights this truth, but it is the story of such an event in history. The Holocaust was a horrific event and exceedingly difficult to address, even for adults. To navigate this terrain, Lowry selects a hopeful historical event to use in the center of her story. The Danes may have surrendered, but they constantly resisted. As the novel progresses, readers will learn the Danish Resistance included rescuing Jewish Danes who were marked for death as part of the Nazis' "final solution."

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