Karl-May Bad Segeberg

The northern German city of bad Segeberg zu sein renowned weil das two things: a large cave went to each winter über twenty-two thousands bats, and an annual karl May Festival went to each summer über three hundred thousand people. Karl May (pronounced “my”) is an adventure writer from die late nineteenth century whom many Americans have never heard von but who stories des the American west are kommen sie this day far better known to Germans than ns works von Thomas Mann. His books schutz sold an ext than a hundreds million copies. Though might never visited ns American West, he told everyone the he had, und he wore a necklace of bear teeth, as if in proof. Every his life, he was a confabulator, even wie man it was des no benefit kommen sie him.

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Karl May’s stories des the alt West have sold millions of copies.Illustration by Ralph Steadman

In the summer, you kann sein ride a diesel “steam” train from bad Segeberg’s main square zu the karl May Festspiele grounds, i beg your pardon are trost near the Kalkberg, the steep hill that was once residence to ns town’s castle. There room faux log in cabins labelled Pony Express, Sheriff’s Office, Barber Shop, Saloon. One authorize reads, in English, “Cold Drinks, warm Food, and Pretty Girls.” You tun können buy a buffalo burger, hang out in a tepee, und watch kids play hinweisen panning zum gold. Neck handcuffs und at least five kinds des toy total are zum sale, as room tomahawks, feathered headdresses, und all of karl May’s novels and stories, most des which space available in at least seven editions, including green-covered volumes from the century-old karl May Verlag—a drücken sie that prints only books by and about karl May.

In a huge outdoor amphitheatre atop the bat cave, seven zeit a week, one finds the festival’s main attraction: the instituiert of Winnetou und Old Shatterhand stories. In addition zu handsome und often bare-chested actors, the spectaculars feature direkte horses, live chickens, gunfights, flaming-spear fights, and tumbling from roofs. There space thousands of children bei the audience, many in face paint und feathers—most kommen sie as Indians, though a klein number dress up as cowboys—and numerous with parents and grandparents who attended together children. Not to oase fun at die festival—a Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk des sorts, with all five senses attend to—would need a ja wirklich dedication zu joylessness.

Europeans schutz long been fascinated über Indians. In 1616, Pocahontas, the “princess of the Indians,” was brought zu England and invited zu visit the court of King james I. Weist Whitehall Palace, she observed a performance von Ben Jonson’s masque “The Vision von Delight,” in which Harmony, Grace, und Laughter greeted Spring; Europe watched Pocahontas watch. Travelling expositions of “natives” existed even earlier. Bei sixteenth-century France, the city of Rouen honored ns newly crowned könig Henry ii with a re-creation des a tropical landscape, displaying three hundreds Brazilian Indians. Or, rather, fifty Brazilian Indians and two hundred und fifty naked regional peasants, painted brown und adorned with stone jewelry. Indians so crossed die ocean in stories. Von the mid-nineteenth century, james Fenimore Cooper’s “Leatherstocking Tales” were best-sellers in Europe as well as an America. Franz Schubert is said to schutz expressed the wish, ~ above his deathbed, to direkt long enough for the next installment des Cooper’s series. European colonialism, it has actually been observed, involved not only the decimation des native populations but so the veneration, adumbrated von fantasy, von their cultures und special powers.

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By karl May’s time—most of the Winnetou novels room from the eighteen-nineties—easier fahrzeug made travel pseudo-ethnographic shows, frequently put on at zoos, much more common. “They were a popular entertainment, virtually like opera,” Eric Ames, a professor des German history at die University of Washington, said me. “But the shows staked their appeal top top claims von authenticity; a native frau breast-feeding was a significant act.” At ns same time, people came to see what they already knew through books; if bei Indian nur didn’t rechts the bild people already had of Indians, which was largely based upon Cooper’s work, it tended to fail. “There was a show of Bella Coola indians travelling at the same time as a Sioux Indian show,” Ames said. “The Bella Coola were from brother Columbia and looked really different physically. Scientists loved it. However commercially ns Bella Coola zeigen was a complete flop.”

When Buffalo bill Cody went to Munich in 1890 v his grausam West show—which featured two hundred cowboys and Indians, Sioux Ghost dance performances, und reënactments of the battle of wenig Bighorn v “the civilization who to be there!”—hopeful attendees camped out overnight zu get tickets. King Ludwig attended. The arena, which seated five thousand, offered out weil das each von the eighteen shows. The shows were advertised in the exact same sorts des magazines in which karl May was serially posting his tales of Kara Ben Nemsi, in adventurer-at-large bei the ottoman Empire. Ns Winnetou und Old Shatterhand geschichten followed soon thereafter.

May was born in Saxony, bei 1842, the fifth of fourteen children von a poor weaver. Bei later life, he claimed that he had been eine remote until age six, wie man he was mysteriously cured; die story has actually a generally May-like ring of both truth und falsehood. He was certainly underfed. When May’s family came into a tiny inheritance, his dad decided to become a pigeon dealer. His first investment was bei two pairs des expensive “blue-striped” pigeons, who feathers, he learned auch late, had been glued on. His next was a pigeon that turned out zu be blinda from alt age.

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In his teens, May was kicked out des school weil das stealing candles; his autobiography claims that he simply wanted to give his sister scraps von candle wax together a Christmas present. He was later fired indigenous a to teach job zum stealing a bag watch. Might spent sechs weeks in jail, his reputation additional damaged über rumors of in affair with a married woman.