Review: The Missing Barbegazi by H.S. Norup



Although she had wished for and almost expected it, the next thing that happened surprised Tessa: six fingers and a furry head appeared at the top of the hole. Two pointed ears and a rather large potato-like nose stuck out of the shaggy, whitish fur. Beneath bushy eyebrows, a pair of icy-blue, beady eyes were staring at her. 

(The Missing Barbegazi by H.S. Norup. P59.)


Tessa’s grandfather recently died and her grandmother is ill. Nobody else believes Tessa about the Barbegazi – the fairy-like creatures who live in the mountains. There is only one old book which confirms their existence.

Tessa sets out to prove their existence.

Gawion is a young Barbegazi who has grown up with one golden rule: never trust humans. Humans have imprisoned Barbegazi before, trapping them in iron cages. Humans can’t be trusted.

Now Gawion’s sister is missing and he might have to break that golden rule to get her back.

A story of friendship, trust and the reason some things are better kept secret.


A gentle and beautifully-written fairy tale set in the snowy mountains of Europe. I was charmed by the Barbegazi – a word which describes the creatures’ frozen beards. Barbegazi are fairy-like creatures who hide away in the mountains. They only come into contact with humans during an avalanche. They will rescue any humans who are in danger, but they will knock those humans out so they have no memory of their rescuers.

Many humans can’t be trusted with secrets of the natural world. It is a sad but honest fact – as a species, we are inclined to destroy the world around us in the name of human progress. This story is told from two perspectives – that of a young Barbegazi who needs to recognise that a small number of humans can be trusted, and that of a young girl who wants everyone to believe her when she talks about the Barbegazi.

There is a secondary storyline about an old book and a professor who may be the only person who knows about the Barbegazis’ existence. I loved the way this history was pieced together through extracts from the book. It reminded me of the storyline in Paddington, about the one explorer who gave up everything because he refused to deny the existence of talking bears.

I also loved the setting – the Swiss Alps are simultaneously beautiful and dangerous. A skier distracted by the view can find themselves falling off a precipice or buried under feet of snow. Although this is not somewhere I have visited, it was brought to life in such a way that I felt as if I knew the place. At a time when certain British politicians are pushing anti-European sentiments around, it is important to introduce young readers to the geography and culture of Europe. Stories build connections between people in different places. Now more than ever we need to share art and literature from around the world.

This would be a perfect read in the run-up to Christmas. Snuggle down in front of the fire with a mug of hot chocolate and be swept away by the magic of a great story.


Thanks to Pushkin Press for my copy of The Missing Barbegazi. Opinions my own.





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