Karl May's Imaginary America

The most famous trapper is Sam Hawkins. Sam hasn't washed in years. He's shy with women. He prefers his mule and his rifle. They don't talk back. Sam wears a leather jerkin so encrusted with filth that arrows bounce off it. German audiences go crazy for Sam Hawkins. One actor has made a lifetime's career playing the role on film, TV and stage. With his endless stream of Americanisms, including the immortal 'Pschaw' which most Germans are surprised to discover is unintelligible and unknown to Americans, Sam Hawkins is the quintessential German immigrant success story.

The bad guys are usually either 'cadaverous' Yankees or Mormons. Mormons seem to be stock villains in most nineteenth century European Westerns. By a strange coincidence, most academic research in this country on Karl May is also centered around the University of Utah. Most of the other Indian tribes also end up on the wrong side, led astray by whisky or some other temptation proffered by those dammed Yankees. The 'bad' Indians, of course, want to get even with the 'good' Apaches. The Yankees and the Mormons always have their sights set on the fabled gold nuggets the Apaches are said to have discovered somewhere up in the Rockies.



Karl May's Imaginary America

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The American West in the American Imagination

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