31 pages 1 hour read

Alejo Carpentier

The Kingdom Of This World

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1949

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Summary and Study Guide


The Kingdom of This World, written by Alejo Carpentier and originally published in 1949, traces events in 20th-century Haiti, beginning in the French colonial period and stretching through the lifetime of its protagonist, Ti Noël. This novella is a work of dark magical realism and tells the story of two attempted rebellions against the French, the eventual reign of King Henri Christophe, the nation’s first black king, and his downfall. The human costs of slavery (under white and black slave-owners), as well as the hopes and beliefs of Africans living in Haiti during these regime changes, is shown from Ti Noël’s perspective.

Ti Noël is a slave on the plantation of Monsieur Lenormand de Mézy. He resents Lenormand de Mézy and wishes to see him dead. His fellow slave, Macandal, tells him tales of Voodoo loas (spirits or gods), inspiring him. After losing his arm in a cane mill, Macandal gains Voodoo powers and endeavors to exterminate the whites of Haiti through mass poisoning. Ti Noël and countless others assist him. When Macandal is found out, he disappears, transforming into animals and staying hidden—except to his followers. Eventually, he is burned at the stake, but his vision lives on.

Twenty years later, another revolutionary slave, Bouckman the Jamaican, encourages another revolution: this time, slaves storm the homes of the slavers directly. However, after much violence and rape, the revolution fails. In the chaos, Lenormand de Mézy takes Ti Noël to Cuba. Lenormand de Mézy gambles away his money and enjoys the carnival atmosphere, while events in Haiti escalate. Pauline Bonaparte and others witness the continuing spread of disease, and Pauline begins praying to the loas before returning to France.

Ti Noël is given away as part of a gamble and receives money from his new Spanish master. He saves up and buys his way to Haiti, where he finds himself in the kingdom of King Henri Christophe. He is forced into slavery and finds it more reprehensible to be mistreated by a black king. When Christophe falls ill, his subjects plan their revolt. Christophe kills himself, and his palace is looted. His wife and daughters go to live in Rome, where their blackness is a novelty.

Meanwhile, Ti Noël returns to the Lenormand de Mézy plantation and takes up residence, pretending to be a king. He wears Christophe’s robe, gives out titles, and holds balls. However, mixed-race surveyors come from Port-au-Prince and enslave the population once again. Ti Noël, frustrated, develops the powers of transfiguration and attempts to hide amongst the geese, but they reject him. He ultimately learns it is his duty to struggle against injustice in the mortal world. Just as he makes a declaration of war, he is killed by a wave.

Related Titles

By Alejo Carpentier

Study Guide


The Lost Steps

Alejo Carpentier

The Lost Steps

Alejo Carpentier