Thursday, November 14, 2013

Found Two Grand Old Heros Of My Younger Days

When I am hanging out here in the evenings with nobody to talk to other than Molly, I have been trying to find some sensible entertainment on the internet. And while I was thinking of old movies I hadn’t seen in a long time, I suddenly remembered two gentlemen I have read about and seen on TV some 40 years ago. Both figures were extremely popular and are still remembered and celebrated in Germany. They were created in the late 1800s by a man named Karl May. Karl May was possibly the most gifted author Germany has ever seen. He possessed the ability to describe environments he had never seen himself. The two figures I have in mind were Winnetou, chief of the Mescalero Apaches and Old Shatterhand. Of course, they were fictive and Karl May made them into the heroes loved by the entire nation.
winnetou 001
The books of Karl May were made into many movies where the French actor of Pierre Brice played Winnetou and the American actor Lex Barker, who, in America, was known as Tarzan, played Old Shatterhand. Thousands of German girls in their early teens fell in love with the beautiful Winnetou and the young boys cried their eyes out when the likewise beautiful sister of Winnetou, Nscho-tschi, died of a gunshot wound in the very first of all Winnetou movies.


Back to YouTube.  It was the old movies about Winnetou and Old Shatterhand I found on the popular video channel. They are there – in German – and some of them even dubbed into English. Besides of outstanding movie photography the movies are featuring a wonderful western-style music. For me, the music alone would be worth watching the movies again. Here’s some of the facts about the movies:

Winnetou is a fictional Native American hero of several novels written in German by Karl May (1842–1912), one of the best selling German writers of all time with about 200 million copies worldwide.

According to Karl May's story, first-person narrator Old Shatterhand encounters Winnetou and after initial dramatic events, a true friendship between Old Shatterhand and the Apache Winnetou arises; on many occasions they give proof of great fighting skill but also of compassion for other human beings. It portrays a belief in an innate "goodness" of mankind, albeit constantly threatened by ill-intentioned enemies.

Non-dogmatic Christian feelings and values play an important role, and May's heroes are often described as German Americans.

Winnetou became the chief of the tribe of the Mescalero Apaches (and of the Apaches in general, with the Navajo included) after his father Intschu-tschuna and his sister Nscho-tschi were slain by the white bandit Santer. He rode a horse called Iltschi ("Wind") and had a famous rifle called "Silberb├╝chse" ("The Silver Gun", a double-barrel rifle whose stock and butt were decorated with silver studs). Old Shatterhand became the blood brother of Winnetou and rode the brother of Iltschi, called Hatatitla ("Lightning").

Interestingly, none of the movies were made in America as the film makers found their Shangri-la in the mountains of Croatia.

Now, lets have a look at the author of all this, Karl May himself:

Karl Friedrich May, 25 February 1842 – 30 March 1912) was a popular German writer, noted mainly for adventure novels set in the American Old West (best known for the characters of Winnetou and Old Shatterhand) and similar books set in the Orient and Middle East (with Kara Ben Nemsi and Hadschi Halef Omar). In addition, he wrote stories set in his native Germany, in China and in South America. May also wrote poetry, a play, and composed music; he was a proficient player of several musical instruments. Many of his works were filmed, adapted for the stage, turned into audio dramas or into comics. A highly imaginative and fanciful writer, May never visited the exotic places featured in his stories until late in life, at which point the clash between his fiction and reality led to a complete change in his work. Some times it is good that imagination wins the battle, as reality can be quite disillusioning and destructive to a creative mind.


In 1908 Karl and his wife, Klara May, travelled for six weeks in North America. They visited among other cities, Albany, Buffalo, the Niagara Falls and friends in Lawrence. But May did not travel as far as the Wild West. May used the journey as inspiration for his book Winnetou IV.

When I am watching the old Winnetou movies I can forget anything around me. I am transported back – at least 40 years. I remember the series of bound books I owned and which had even followed me to Norway in 1977.

Of course, watching these movies wouldn’t be the same for you, but I recommend to try, maybe an English version. You will just enjoy the beautiful scenery and the great music. Type in “Winnetou” at Youtube and you’ll get an assortment of choices. The movies are displayed on Youtube in several parts. Once one part is finished, the next part will be in upper left corner of the appearing Youtube menu.

Have fun!

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