Karl May's Imaginary America

Karl is one of Nature's athletes. He can shoot a target at 1500 yards, kill a grizzly with one blow of his fist. Hence his name 'Old Shatterhand,' although he's a mere Greenhorn in the eyes of his Frontier companions. But May assures his readers that 'Old' is Frontier vernacular. His books are peopled with similar bizarre expressions. Perhaps the two most famous are "Hough" and "Uff,Uff" which translate roughly to something like "couldn't care less" and "So be it!". That no American knows what you're talking about is beside the point. Successive generations of Germans have grown up assuming that what May invented must be common usage throughout America.

Anyway, young Karl joins a team surveying the Arizona so that the Railroad can run all the way into California. It never occurs to the railroad bosses, all Yankees (always portrayed as mean, greedy, cadaverous and basically dishonest) to ask permission of the Apaches who live on the land. To cut a long story short, Winnetou captures Old Shatterhand and his small band of surveyors and sentences them to a slow and particularly gruesome death, unless, you've guessed it, unless Old Shatterhand can defeat an Apache warrior in single combat.

Karl May's Imaginary America

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The American West in the American Imagination

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