Early Winnetou – Developping the Apache Chief.

Early Winnetou – developping the Apache chief.


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

In 1883, Karl May published ‘Im “wilden Westen” Nordamerikas’ (‘In the “Wild West” of North America’), complete with the Ave Maria and the events around the Helldorf settlement and Hancock Mountain, as a serial in a family publication called ‘Feierstunden im haeuslichen Kreise’ (‘Merry Hours In The Domestic Circle’); Winnetou took his last breath to the sounds of the Ave Maria in this earlier version already before it was incorporated into the trilogy ten years later. However, Sharlih’s description of his noble savage in this story did not appear in the trilogy for obvious reasons—it was not quite that of the refined appearance of the Apache chief Winnetou of later years. The Indian’s described deportment, nevertheless, was beginning to leave the bloodthirsty image behind.

Description based on: ‘Im “wilden Westen” Nordamerikas’, 1883.

Winnetou, as he appeared in 1883, wasn’t overly tall or bulky but rather graceful yet sinewy, had broad shoulders and a strong chest—naked and covered in scars. The Indian’s outfit didn’t yet resemble that of the later Winnetou, although the colorful blanket and two revolvers were already there. May wrote that Winnetou had a fine multi-colored blanket from Santillo (Saltillo in most subsequent works) wound around his narrow, rounded hips. A pair of short, splendidly tanned suede trousers stretched tightly over his muscular thighs and were decorated with the scalp locks of killed enemies. Leggings fashioned from scarlet fabric covered his lower legs and were tied below the knees and above the ankle with straps made from human hair. May even detailed the aglets of these human hair straps; they were made from porcupine quills. The moccasins were artfully decorated with hair from a horse’s mane or tail—very different from the gold nuggets of unusual shape in the later works. A waterproof leather belt belonged to the outfit, worn over the colorful Saltillo blanket; it held a slightly curved scalping knife, the shiny tomahawk and two revolvers. To complete the outfit, the heavy fur of a grey bear was draped over his shoulders.

The greatest visible difference between the Winnetou of 1883 and the Winnetou in later works was the war paint in his face, the savage’s garb and the chieftain’s feathers. Had it not been for the paint, according to Old Shatterhand, one could have admired a true Roman nose, an unusually high forehead, the bold lines of his lips, as well as a pair of eyes that seemed to be destined to govern by mere gazes. The cheekbones were hardly noticeable and therefore didn’t disturb the harmony in the plain, manly features; on the contrary, it gave them a certain alien appearance that had to baffle and at the same time captivate the onlooker. He wore no head covering but had his hair plaited into a high bun from which the chief’s insignia—several raven feathers—protruded. The manner in which the hair was tied created a helmet-like shape that only served to heighten his war-like appearance.

He was revered by his friends and feared by his enemies; he had never turned his back on an opponent but was without any bloodlust, and fairness guided all of his actions.

The majority of the accessories that formed part of the Winnetou persona throughout May’s subsequent works were already in existence: the artfully plaited lasso, the calumet, and above all, the precious double-barreled rifle, the wooden parts of which were tightly studded with silver nails—the famous silver rifle.

To be continued …

More: SavageTo Saint: The Karl May Story, Lulu.com