Early Winnetou – developping the Apache chief (cont’d)
Excerpt from: Savage To Saint: The Karl May Story, Lulu.com
The traits of the guardian angel of Winnetou IV from 1910 began to filter through, and Winnetou was about to undergo yet another transition.
Winnetou was the manifestation of very complex symbolism (Wohlgschaft). The chief was the ideal embodiment of the red race, was at the same time the ideal Self of the author Karl May—evidenced by the foregoing excerpts—and occasionally also became the mirror image of some aspects of his wife Emma, his mother, or other females.
But the obvious feminine traits also signaled something else. May understood the importance of balance, the function of male and female energy (not to be confused by the physical difference between the male and female of a species)—the expression of yin and yang, dark and light, positive and negative—because one cannot exist without the other; one gives life to the other in perpetuity. Winnetou would not be Winnetou if he didn’t have the female attributes given to him by May; and this is equally true for his savage traits. Winnetou only exists in this form because he embodies both, the yin and the yang of May’s inner Self.
The warlike macho characteristics of Chief Winnetou were gradually augmented by female traits, and by the time May wrote “HolyNight!” (1896), the Apache suddenly had ‘kissable lips’; his voice attained an “inimitably attractive deep timbre that could only be compared to the soft, gentle clucking of a hen that gathered her chickens under her plumage…when he spoke of God, his great and good Manitou, his eyes turned to Madonna eyes; when he spoke to friends, they seemed like gentle woman’s eyes, but when he spoke in anger, his eyes grew into intimidating Odin eyes.”
In 1891 May moved house again, this time into Villa Agnes, which had iron spikes on the palisade fence, according to publisher F.E. Fehsenfeld—when he visited, the gate and the front door were securely bolted again after he entered the house. Hans-Dieter Steinmetz (1992) writes that this symbolized May’s desire to lock his past away from the outside world—a justified remark as May signed a contract with Fehsenfeld that would see his serialized novels published in book form, between five hundred to six hundred pages each book, and he wouldn’t have wanted old sins to jeopardize this. A few years later, both men were wealthy.
Winnetou made his grand entrance in 1893 with the publishing of Winnetou der rote Gentleman (Winnetou The Red Gentleman) volumes I-III; they were instant bestsellers. Karl May had entered the phase of writing some of his best-known works, both within the Wild West and the Orient series of novels. Many say the Winnetou books are the most printed books after the Lutheran Bible, but above all, they are the most-read books in German literature.
For once, everything seemed to go well for May, and with the Winnetou trilogy he intended to create a monument to the red race, a literary masterpiece desired by hundreds of thousands of readers. Countless millions have since read Winnetou I, II, III, and readers continue to fall under the spell of the blood brothers in the Wild West. Did May have a magic formula for his unparalleled success? He brought the faraway lands to ‘his readers’ in a roundabout way. Because he never traveled there himself he had to pull the depictions of the exotic places from somewhere.
May had access to a great number of informative publications during his lifetime that gave him inspiration for his own writings. One such publication, the German translation of Commerce Of The Prairies by Josiah Gregg (Karawanenzuege durch die westlichen Prairieen und Wanderungen in Nord-Mejico by M.P. Lindau, Dresden, Leipzig, Germany, 1845/48) gave May many ideas, for example, the description of the vaqueros in ‘Deadly Dust’, the fable of ‘The White Mustang’ in Black Mustang or the depiction of the terrible Llano Estacado in both Old Surehand I and ‘Deadly Dust’. There were other works that undoubtedly influenced May’s texts, for example, a possible German version of Joaquin Miller’s Life Amongst The Modocs: Unwritten History (1874), it was a great success in Paris during Miller’s stay in Europe (May was fluent in French), or John C. Fremont’s accounts of his wilderness explorations—especially in California. During one of Miller’s adventures, the battle of Castle Crags, he was wounded by an arrow through his cheek or jaw and throat—the possible inspiration for Old Shatterhand’s famous ‘knife wound’ through the jaw and tongue that Winnetou inflicted upon him (first in ‘Der Scout’ and later, in a more life-threatening version in Winnetou I).