Early Winnetou – developping the Apache Chief (cont’d)

Early Winnetou – developping the Apache chief (cont’d)


Excerpt from: Savage To Saint: The Karl May Story, Lulu.com

Der Schatz im Silbersee, or The Treasure In Silver-Lake, is the most revealing work with regard to Winnetou’s evolution. Suddenly, the Apache has stepped out of the obscurity of remote legends to become THE Apache chief, Winnetou, and the equal of, if not superior to, all the famous and respected white frontiersmen. SilverLake, as an aside, received its name because of the immense gold and silver treasures that were said to have been hidden in a secret submerged tunnel by the people of an ancient culture.

Excerpts from: Der Schatz im Silbersee, 1890:

These excerpts demonstrate Winnetou’s sudden progression. May almost forcibly separates Winnetou, the Apache chief, from all other Red Indians, or his perception of their cultural level, makes him a completely separate identity, and stands him above all others, even Whites. Some of the figures, including Winnetou, in Der Schatz im Silbersee are May’s tools to describe the Apache:

“He had only fired a warning shot in the air, because he didn’t believe that he was dealing with murderers. When he rushed closer, one of the rogues recognized him, got a shock and called his name. They were capable of cowardly murder, but the six of them together didn’t have the guts to face him alone. They ran off; by using the house as cover they escaped to the forest.”

“Then the stranger had to be a famous and feared frontiersman.”

“Frontiersman? Pshaw! It was an Indian. Yes, folks, I tell you, a redskin saved me!”

“A redskin? Feared enough for six rafters to run from him? Impossible!”

“Better believe it! If you had cause to have a guilty conscience, you’d leave everything behind to get away from him, because he was no other than Winnetou.”

The physique of the Apache becomes less bulky:

“A frontiersman cannot be judged by his physique alone; his spirit has far greater value. It is indeed rare that such giants also have the matching courage. Of course [Old Firehand] has it altogether. Old Shatterhand isn’t as tall and broad, and Winnetou, the Apache is of even slighter build; but both are [Old Firehand’s] equal in every way.”

And Winnetou introduces himself:

“I am Winnetou, chief of the Apache. My hand fights evil people, and my arm protects anyone with a clear conscience. I will tend to your wounds, but it is important to learn why the murderers turned around to follow you. Do you know?”

The Apache is credited with wide-ranging medical skills, a hallmark of May’s writings on account of his powerlessness to overcome the social obstacles to his studying medicine, his dream career from childhood.

“I will examine [the wounds]. My brother will have care on the farm, but no doctor; however, there will be one in Sheridan. Winnetou also understands the treatment of wounds. He can mend broken bones and carries with him an excellent remedy for wound fever. Show me your arm now!”

Winnetou knows how to find his way around the prairies, forests and mountains of the Wild West like no other:

“Winnetou will never be lost, neither by day nor by night. He is like the star that is always in the correct spot, and he knows all the places of the land as precisely as the paleface knows the rooms of his house.”

Winnetou also pays his friend, Old Shatterhand, the compliment that Karl May the writer so desperately desires to hear from his contemporaries:

[Winnetou and a Yankee observe the ghostly silhouette of a rider charging through thick fog past them.]
“Uff!” Winnetou called in surprise. “A paleface! There are only two Whites who have the skills to ride in the manner in which this man rode: Old Shatterhand but he is not in this area because I am planning to meet him at Silver-Lake, or Old Firehand. Should he be in Kansas at present? Could this have been him?”

“Old Firehand?” the Yankee remarked. “He is a famous frontiersman.”

[To which Winnetou replies:] “He and Old Shatterhand are the best and most courageous, also the most experienced palefaces known to Winnetou. He is their friend.”

Winnetou the Samaritan is another new attribute that Karl May gives to his Apache chief. In another passage, the victim has been left for dead by his attacker and tells how Winnetou found and nursed him:

“When I came to, I lay beside a large pool of blood in the lap of an Indian who had found me. It was Winnetou, the chief of the Apache.”

“What luck! You were in the best hands. It seems that this man is omnipresent.”

“It is true that I was in good hands. The Apache had already dressed my wounds. He gave me water and I had to tell him what had happened as best as I could in my weakened state.”

On a third such occasion, two friendly groups meet in the wilderness for a common purpose. Winnetou is absent, investigating the surroundings to ensure their camp is safe, and returns only after the people of the two groups have made one another’s acquaintance.

“[I was] only injured, sir, only injured. Luckily, the knife didn’t hit the heart. Yet I would have perished on account of the large blood loss if there hadn’t been a savior, an Indian, who showed up, bandaged me, and then took me to other Indians, where I was allowed to stay until I was healthy again. This, my savior, is the most famous of all Indians, and his name…[is Winnetou, of course.]”

Yet Winnetou remains aloof, distant from the others but ever vigilant.

Winnetou didn’t join in the conversation. He leant against the rock and had his eyes closed; but he wasn’t asleep because he lifted his eyelids occasionally, and then a flash-like, sharp and searching glance shot out from under them.

The traits of the guardian angel of Winnetou IV from 1910 began to filter through, and Winnetou was about to undergo yet another transition.

To be continued.

More: Savage To Saint: The Karl May Story, Lulu.com