The Two Snuffles

The Two Snuffles

from: The Phantom of Llano Estacado,

(Short diversion away from The Rose of Shiraz, into the adventure novel for which May created the two characters, The Snuffles.)

Written in 1888; which makes Old Shatterhand’s statement in The Rose of Shiraz, that he had never met the two Westerners, a bit of a furphy; however, Karl May strictly separated most characters and events between his adventure novels (novels for teenage boys), and his travel fiction novels, except Old Shatterhand and Winnetou, of course. There are rare exceptions (Old Firehand, Bloody-Fox, Sam Hawkens with side-kicks Dick Stone and Will Parker, as well as The Snuffles). This short detour into The Phantom of Llano Estacado, plucking the description of The Snuffles from it, illustrates one aspect of Karl May’s work—repeating and re-using the same formula, events as well as staffage for subsequent works.


Excerpt from: The Phantom of Llano Estacado,

About two hours before Hobble-Frank and Bob met Bloody-Fox, two other men came riding along from the direction of the town of Coleman. Yet, they could not possibly have visited the place, because they looked like men who had stayed away from inhabited areas for a lengthy period of time.

The two mules ridden by the two men displayed signs of tiredness, but seemed to be in good hands, and were well nourished. The impression the riders made were of the exact opposite; they were tall, exceptionally lean figures and it was tempting to think that they had suffered long periods of hunger. But that wasn’t so and their healthy skin colour and robust bearing in the saddle evidenced it. The air in the West is very dry, which doesn’t tolerate much meat on bones, yet it steels the sinews and gives the limbs that certain tireless strength and resistance without which a human being would soon perish.

The unusual similarity between the two men was surprising. Anyone who saw them would immediately have thought they were brothers, perhaps even twins. The resemblance was so significant that one was able to only distinguish them on account of a scar across the cheek of one of them, especially since they also dressed identically.

They wore very comfortable, dark-grey woollen shirts and trousers, lace-up boots on their feet, broad-brimmed beaver hats on their heads, and their camp blankets draped over their shoulders like raincoats. Their leather belts were covered in rattlesnake skins, and held the usual small weapons, as well as other necessities required by a prairie man. They also had guns, but those hadn’t exactly come directly from the store of a gun dealer; they looked as though they could rightfully be termed ‘shooting irons’. Nevertheless, someone who knows what a capable Westerner can achieve with such an old flintlock weapon would never turn their nose up at the firearm. The owner cares for the gun, but he doesn’t show off with it. The less conspicuous it has become during the many years of use, the greater is the reverence he has for it.

Unfortunately, the riders weren’t endowed with great male beauty, and the reason for that was that the most prominent part of their faces had developed in a quite unusual manner. They had noses, but what sort of noses! One could safely place a bet that there were no other noses like theirs in the entire country. And not just the size alone but also the shape was just as extraordinary, and so was the colour. One had to see those noses to be able to visualize them. If one imagines a grape-shaped wooden burl on a small tree trunk, which shimmers in all colours of a painter’s palette, then one would gain an approximate idea of the noses. And they also resembled one another to an astonishing degree. There was no pair of brothers that was more identical than those two men, who had probably experienced many a storm, since they were at least in their mid-fifties.

But one mustn’t think that the impression of their faces was repulsive, oh, no! They were cleanly shaven, so that no beard hid their benevolent expressions. A merry, carefree smile had permanently nestled in the corners of their mouths and their bright, keen eyes gazed into the world with such friendliness that nobody would have had cause for mistrust.

More: The Phantom of Llano Estacado,