Where Old Shatterhand Began – part 2

Where Old Shatterhand Began – part 2

Excerpt of the introduction to Old Shatterhand – Genesis, Lulu.com

The Shatters (Die Both Shatters). The earliest accepted date when May published Die Both Shatters is October 1881 in a magazine titled Fuer Alle Welt (For The Whole World), written under his pseudonym Karl Hohenthal, with the subtitle An Adventure from the Wild West; it plays in Montana. It is rumoured that the first publishing date of this story might have been around 1877, or even earlier, though this can no longer be established, but the fact that the name ‘Old Shatterhand’ was already being mentioned in 1879 (see below) seems to give this rumour credibility; the name ‘Shatter’ was quite obviously the blueprint for the name ‘Old Shatterhand’. Moreover, the characterisation of Big Sam, including the scalping (and the description of what later becomes known as ‘Liddy’, Sam Hawkens’ unmistakable shooting iron), as well as Josias Shatter with his long, white hair, are reminiscent of the figures Sam Hawkens and Old Firehand contained in the 1875 story Old Firehand. In addition, a chap by the name of Bill Hawkens makes an appearance in The Shatters—all good reasons for placing The Shatters ahead of Old Firehand.

Also compare how the young adventurer received his stallion ‘Swallow’— in The Shatters: “I received him from Winnetou, a chief of the Apache with whom I spent a little time along the Rio Suanca.” And in Old Firehand: “From Winnetou, an Apache chief with whom I last got together for a while at the Rio Suanca.” Old Firehand is a tale that deals in great detail with the unfortunate story of Ribanna, daughter of Tah-Sha-Tunga, who was brutally murdered by Parranoh, a cruel Ogallala chief for having married Old Firehand, a white man; The Shatters is a very short story where May only very briefly (almost as an aside) mentions that Winnetou’s sister (without a name) had been murdered by a cruel chief of the Yankatou, called Sha-Tunga, for marrying a white man, Josias Shatter. The natural progression of that common thread is obvious to me: the shorter, less detailed story had to have existed before Old Firehand, a very intricate, extended tale, was penned. The Shatters as a piece of prose is in itself not yet as polished in text-technical aspects as Old Firehand is.

In 1879, Karl May for the first time applied the name ‘Old Shatterhand’ to his alter ego in the Wild West, by proxy, through Emery Bothwell who “calls him Old Shatterhand at times”, in a story that plays in the Orient. In The Shatters, the two heroes, father and son Shatter carry that name because they use the back of their axes in hand to hand combat. Old Shatterhand later surpasses both by using his fist, and applying his famous ‘hunting blow’.

The Shatters not only contains the nucleus to Shatterhand’s own famous traits, but also the prototypes of many of the greatest Wild West characters in his famous adventure novels and travel fiction adventures, such as Fat Jemmy and Long Davy, or even the Two Toast in Old Surehand, among others—not the least of which being Sam Hawkens and Old Firehand—as well as the first mention of a special horse Winnetou gave the young German adventurer. Not only characters, but also events can be recognized in their first incarnation. For example: the short one-on-one fight between Josias Shatter and Sha-Tunga and the Indian’s subsequent scalping by Big Sam is easily recognizable, later, in the more extensive skirmish described in Old Firehand / Winnetou II, when Winnetou fights Parranoh, the white Indian chief who had killed Ribanna, Winnetou’s love, or the fateful battle in Old Firehand’s fortress, with the trapper’s long, white hair fluttering about him.


Excerpts from: The Shatters in Old Shatterhand – Genesis, Lulu.com

“Hm, your horse is good, very good,” he said with an admiring glance at Swallow. “But the man, he could be better, methinks. You sit a tad too parade-like in the saddle, your coat has neither patch nor blotch, your belt and the things hanging on it are so shiny from metal and polish, and your fowling piece is scrubbed as clean as if it had just come out of the store. You must surely be a greenhorn, sir?”

“Greenhorn, sir?” the other piped up as well.

I knew the kind of prejudice with which a proper woodsman looked upon well looked-after equipment, and smiled:

“Don’t worry, Mr Sam! Have you ever heard of a certain Jake Hawkins in St. Louis?”

“I should think so! He’s the best gunsmith in the States!”

“Alright, he made this firearm, this Henry rifle, which shoots twenty-five rounds before it has to be reloaded, as well as these two revolvers. And, although the man who carries them is no Kentucky shooter, he’s a German who wouldn’t be firing his first shot today.”

“Behold, sir, that’s what I’d like to hear, methinks! The weapons are good, and Big Sam has made the acquaintance of many a man from Germany who had the knack of putting a bullet into the grizzly’s eye. Come along; but climb off the horse, because the Indians have devilishly sharp eyes, and a man sitting on a horse is much easier to spot than one who’s only travelling by shank’s mare!”

I dismounted, led Swallow by his reins and, while walking on, asked:

“Now tell me who you are, sir! I’ve given you information about myself and must know, of course, whom I’m lending my bullet.”

“Who are we, sir? Hm, that would be a fiendishly long story; but my name is Sam and the name of the fellow on my side is also Sam, hence our friends only call us the two Sams. We belong to the company of the Shatters, and our hide-spot is up there along the river.”

I was so surprised that I stopped walking and looked at the two men in astonishment. The two Shatters, father and son, were the most famous hunters between the lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. No one knew their real name, no one knew where they were from, but everyone had some kind of extraordinary adventure to tell about them. They were the most terrible enemies of the Indians, and although no stranger had ever set foot into their camp, a rumour circulated that there were more gold nuggets and Indian scalps than could be loaded onto an ox-cart.

“To the Shatters? Is that true, sir?”

“Of course, sir! And when you meet them, they’ll gladly tell you about Big Sam and Tall Sam, who are always together and have pulled the fur off the head of many a red scoundrel. Haven’t we, Tall Sam, you old coon?”


In the centre of the open space burned a white fire around which several genuine woodland figures had made themselves comfortable. The edge of the clearing had been made completely impenetrable and when I looked along it, I noticed a small blockhouse in the furthest background where two men stood in the open door and looked at us.

“The Shatters, sir,” Big Sam said and pointed to them. “Come, we have to make our report first!”

“Report first!” Tall Sam repeated. He reckoned that his connection to Big Sam was best made obvious in that manner.

The two men approached us a few steps. No matter whether or not fama exaggerated, the way those men were standing in front of me at that moment, I believed them to be more capable than a hundred other men.

The father was of a truly gigantic stature. His long, white hair fell down to his broad shoulders; age had not dimmed the light in his large, blue eyes yet; storm and weather, snow and rain, heat and cold had tanned his solid features, and every hand’s breadth on his figure evidenced a power that neither time nor exertion had been able to weaken.

The son was almost as tall, and definitely as powerful as his father. He wore his dense, black hair long, and tied in a twist like an Indian; his full, yet sharply chiselled face had been tanned by the sun, or maybe by his descent because his striking features revealed the mestizo; the tightly fitting elk shirt underscored his broad chest, rather than concealed it, and every one of his movements was sudden, agile and powerful, like those of a jaguar that spotted an enemy.

The conversation began completely different to how I had expected it. The gaze of the older Shatter moved from me to my mustang.

“Swallow?” he exclaimed with astonishment. “Truly, it is Swallow! How do you come by that animal, sir?” he gave me a look from his glowing eyes as if he wanted to bury me with the suspicion that rose in him.

“I received him from Winnetou, a chief of the Apache with whom I spent a little time along the Rio Suanca.”

“He was supposed to have given his best horse to you? That means you must have rendered him a very great service!”

“He had been attacked and taken captive by a small tribe of Athabaskans and was going to be put to the stake. I came along and—well you can imagine the rest! After that, I’ve roamed far and wide with him, and have had an excellent teacher in him. When we parted I received Swallow from him.”

“I don’t know you, sir, and what you’re telling me could be invented. Winnetou didn’t even offer me that animal; he wouldn’t have sold it for anything because there is no other animal like it, as far as the prairie stretches, and the one who sits on the horse and appears in front of Josias Shatter is deemed to be the murderer of the Apache. Can you rid yourself of that suspicion?”

I took a step back and reached for my knife.

“Sir, say that word one more time and you shall have the opportunity to compare the edge of my blade with your bowie knife! How am I supposed to deliver proof here on the Yellowstone that Swallow was given to me a year ago at the Rio Suanca?”

His gaze seemed to penetrate deep into to my soul.

“Proof can be furnished. If Winnetou is fond of you, then he has opened his taciturn lips for you. Do you know his greatest enemy?”

“You mean Sha-Tunga, the chief of the Yankatou who murdered Winnetou’s sister because she refused to become his wife and married a white hunter instead?”

“And who was the white hunter?”

“Josias Parker, a Kentucky man.”

He offered me his hand.
“You’ve passed the test; welcome, sir! But how did you meet my two Sams?”

“Let us tell you that later, sir,” Big Sam cut us short. “Methinks that I’ve got to report something more urgent beforehand. The Yankatou attacked us at the Big Horns, only I escaped, and Tall Sam, the old coon; but they’ve picked up our trail and have followed us into the bight down there, where they’re waiting for our bullets.”

“For our bullets,” his lanky comrade confirmed.

“S’death, was that possible, Sam? And you really let yourself be ambushed and butchered—you’ll have to tell me all about it; but first we’ll have to take care of our security above all!”

He placed his hand over his mouth and emitted the howling call of the prairie chicken. Within a few minutes nine weather-hardened men joined us.

More: OldShatterhand – Genesis, Lulu.com