Where Old Shatterhand Began

Where Old Shatterhand Began

Karl May’s early life, up to 1874, when he was discharged from Waldheim, had not exactly been ‘exemplary’. It needed to be forgotten, expunged from memory and history; he re-wrote the period between 1860 and 1874 as having been away in exotic lands, experiencing adventures. He wrote many of his stories under pseudonym, especially in his early career as an editor for a publishing house. One such story was called ‘Die Both Shatters’.


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

The story of ‘The Shatters’ is a part of: Old Shatterhand – Genesis, Lulu.com

‘Die Both Shatters’ (‘The Two Shatters’), is said to have been published as early as 1877. The early date can no longer be confirmed, and the only concrete dating is October 1881, when it was published in ‘Fuer alle Welt’ (‘For The Whole World’) in three installments.

May wrote this, as well as a number of other tales, at the same time and for the same and other magazines under the pseudonym of Karl Hohenthal, clearly a contraction of ‘Hohenstein-Ernstthal’, his place of birth. Still very much an image of slash-and-burn savagery, not only on the Indians’ but equally on the white man’s side, with the young German greenhorn not batting an eye about killing Indians en masse, the various elements were later incorporated into other stories and then into his famous Winnetou trilogy.

This story seems to have been May’s source for later names, figures, characters, as well as plot elements. Die Both Shatters, father and son, were known as famous hunters from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. The son was of mixed blood, the son of Winnetou’s sister (who was still nameless in this story, but in the trilogy received the name Nsho-Chi) and Josias Shatter, alias Josias Parker. In this version, enemy Sioux had killed Winnetou’s sister and her two younger children; only her third offspring, Shatter junior, survived. May’s description of Shatter senior is akin to that of Old Firehand; Sam Thick in appearance and Bill Hawkens in name, later reincarnated as Sam Hawkens, to mention but two of the best known. And even then, Sam Thick already paid ‘four full bundles of beaver pelts’ for his wig after his scalping. Swallow the brave mustang made an appearance—a gift from Winnetou to the young frontiersman for saving his life from an enemy tribe of Athabaska—and so did the Henry rifle and, naturally, the fatal blow—but by Shatter senior and junior, not the ‘greenhorn’ yet.

The young German received a greeting similar to the one he received on his approach to New Venango: “Your horse looks good, but the man, the man could be better, I guess.”

The destruction of around two hundred enemy Indians occurred via an elaborately booby-trapped log cabin that was blown up when the bulk of the redskins entered, intent on getting at the palefaces. The rest were slaughtered when they tried to flee. The scene was reminiscent of the one in the Mapimi (in ‘The Scout’, Winnetou II) when Winnetou executed around three hundred enemy Indians.

Although the young German greenhorn didn’t take scalps, he nevertheless still killed Indians by the dozen, even shot them from behind; and upon observing ten, twenty, twenty-five, thirty or more scalps draped on the walls of the Shatters’ log cabin, he pondered that: “The dark and bloody grounds are no fertile soil for the flower of mercy.” The young German adventurer recognized that the red race was doomed to become extinct.

Excerpt of ‘The Shatters’ in a future post.

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