Tulku (novel)

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Tulku is a children's historical novel by Peter Dickinson, published by Gollancz in 1979. Set in China and Tibet at the time of the Boxer Rebellion, it features a young teenage boy orphaned by the violence, who flees with others to a Buddhist monastery. Dickinson and Tulku won two major awards for British children's books, the Whitbread Children's Book Award[2] and the Carnegie Medal.[3] The Carnegie Medal from the Library Association then recognised the year's outstanding children's book by a British subject.

Tulku cover.jpg
First edition (UK)
AuthorPeter Dickinson
Cover artistTudor Humphries
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreChildren's historical novel, adventure novel
PublisherVictor Gollancz Ltd (UK)
E. P. Dutton (US)
Publication date
22 February 1979
Media typePrint (hardcover, paperback)
Pages286 pp (first edition)
LC ClassPZ7.D562 Tu 1979[1]

Dutton published a U.S. edition within the calendar year under its Unicorn imprint.[1][4]

Plot summaryEdit

Thirteen-year-old Theodore lives in a remote region of China at his father's mission. When the violence of the Boxer Rebellion finally reaches them, Theodore escapes alone from its destruction. He soon becomes one companion of a formidable Englishwoman, "painted, blasphemous, gun-toting Mrs Jones".[4] She is an amateur botanist and a former actress with an entourage.

The party flees bandits into Tibet and take refuge at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. Theodore is briefly seen to be the Tulku, a great lama reincarnated; then the recently conceived child of Mrs Jones and her Chinese lover is identified as the one. Theodore is exposed to the "magnetic, repugnant rituals of Buddhism" and develops as a "whole, willing Christian". Mrs Jones is recruited to remain on site and the boy finally returns to England with the fruit of her botanical expedition.[4]


The themes of Tulku are the intertwining of religion and politics, the nature of personal belief, and how far belief can coexist with cynicism. Thus it is similar to Dickinson's earlier novel The Blue Hawk (Gollancz, 1977),[5] for which he won the once-in-a-lifetime Guardian Children's Fiction Prize.

See alsoEdit

Tibetan Buddhism


  1. ^ a b "Tulku" (first U.S. edition). Library of Congress Catalog Record. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
  2. ^ "Costa Book Awards" Archived 2012-10-28 at the Wayback Machine (past winners complete list.pdf). Costa Book Awards. Retrieved 2012-09-18.
  3. ^ Carnegie Winner 1979. Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 2018-02-27.
  4. ^ a b c "Tulku By Peter Dickinson". Kirkus Reviews (no date; review of US ed. published 9 May 1979). Retrieved 2012-09-18.
  5. ^ John Rowe Townsend, Written for Children: An Outline of English-language Children's Literature, 3rd edition, 1987, Penguin Books, pp. 218-19.

External linksEdit

  • Tulku in libraries (WorldCat catalog) —immediately, first US edition
Preceded by
The Exeter Blitz
Carnegie Medal recipient
Succeeded by
City of Gold