Saturday, January 21, 2012

Weird Tales from Germany and Austria

Friedrich von Schiller
Né Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller
Born November 10, 1759, Marbach am Neckar, Württemberg, Germany
Died May 9, 1805, Weimar, Saxe-Weimar, Germany

For Weird Tales
"Song of the Brothers of Mercy" (Poem, translated by Francis Hard, a pseudonym of Farnsworth Wright, Dec. 1926)

Friedrich Schiller was a giant of German literature and a subject too large for a mere blog entry. His life was brief and he spent his last fourteen years as an invalid. Nonetheless, Schiller wrote some of the most acclaimed drama of any Continental playwright. Schiller also wrote poems, histories, translations, philosophy, and an unfinished novel, Der Geisterseher: Aus den Papieren des Grafen von O (The Ghost-Seer: From the Papers of the Count of O, 1789), a tale of necromancy, spiritualism, and conspiracy. Schiller's poem, "An die Freude" ("Ode to Joy," 1785), is the basis of the fourth movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. Weird Tales used another Schiller poem for its own purposes, reprinting "Song of the Brothers of Mercy," translated by Francis Hard, in its December 1926 issue. 

Schiller died on May 9, 1805, and was entombed in the ducal vault in the Historical Cemetery of Weimar. Almost exactly two hundred years later, German scientists announced that the skull supposed to have been his belonged to someone else. I don't know how the switch happened. It's equally unclear to me whether the skeleton was Schiller's or not. In any case, skeleton, skull, and all have been removed. Schiller's tomb is now vacant. This is just one more bit of evidence supporting my proposition that very often, life is essentially weird. 

Wilhelm Hauff
Born November 29, 1802, Stuttgart, Germany
Died November 18, 1827

For Weird Tales
"The Severed Hand" (Oct. 1925)

Wilhelm Hauff was a German poet, novelist, and journalist known for his fairy tales and a very popular historical romance, Lichtenstein: Romantische Sage aus der wuerttembergischen Geschichte (Lichtenstein: A Romantic Saga from the History of Württemberg, 1826). His work has been the inspiration for two motion picture fantasies, the live-action Die Geschichte vom Kleinen Muck (The Story of Little Mook, 1953) and the animated Little Longnose (2003), a Russian film. Hauff died at an unbelievably young age, only a few days short of his twenty-fifth birthday. Weird Tales reprinted his story "The Severed Hand" nearly a century later, in its October 1925 issue.

Gustav Meyrink
Pseudonym of Gustav Meyer
Born January 19, 1868, Vienna, Austria-Hungary (now Austria)
Died December 4, 1932, Starnberg, Bavaria, Germany

For Weird Tales
"The Violet Death" (July 1935)
"The Man on the Bottle" (Fall, 1973, originally in The Lock and Key Library, 1912)

Although Gustav Meyrink lived into the Weird Tales era, the magazine reprinted his work only after he had died, first, "The Violet Death" in July 1935, then, "The Man on the Bottle" in Sam Moskowitz's revived version in Fall 1973. An author, playwright, translator, banker, and--paradoxically--occultist, Meyrink may have done for the golem what Bram Stoker did for the vampire by committing an ancient legend to the pages of a modern novel. After the scandal of his occult activities brought his banking career to an end, Meyrink devoted himself to writing and translating.

I have tried to assemble an accurate list of Meyrink's books with original titles in German, translated titles in English, and original years of publication. As always, information on the Internet is contradictory, inaccurate, incomplete, and of dubious value. If anyone has any additions or corrections to make, please send them my way. All or most of these works are in the genres of fantasy, horror, and weird fiction. Some have been adapted to film.

Der heiße Soldat und andere Geschichten (The Ardent Soldier1906)
Waxworks (1908)
Des deutschen Spießers Wunderhorn (The German Philistine's Horn, 1909)
Der Golem (The Golem, 1914)
Das grüne Gesicht (The Green Face, 1916)
Walpurgisnacht (Walpurgis Night, 1917)
The Land of the Time-Leeches (1920)
Der weiße Dominikaner (The White Dominican, 1921)
At the Threshold of the Beyond (1923)
Goldmachergeschichten (1925)
Der Engel vom westlichen Fenster (The Angel of the West Window, 1927)

The last book includes as one of its characters a fictionalized John Dee (1527-1608 or 1609), the English mathematician, astronomer, and occultist who made his entry into the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft and his associates through Dee's supposed translation of the Necronomicon.

Friedrich von Schiller's life and work have been used to sell chocolates . . .  
postage stamps . . .
and meat extract. The cards are from the early 1900s, the stamp from French-occupied Germany after World War II.
Wilhelm Hauff's image has appeared on a postage stamp as well. The castle is the one described in his romance Lichtenstein (1826). The boy is Muck, from one of Hauff's fairy tales. 
Here's an illustration from an English-language version of Hauff's fairy tales from 1881. I believe this is from the story of Longnose the Dwarf. I'm afraid I don't know the artist.
In 2003, a Russian animation studio released its own version of Little Longnose, Ка́рлик Нос.
A movie poster for Die Geschichte vom Kleinen Muck, based on Hauff's fairy tale and released in East Germany in 1953.
And a still from the movie, with Thomas Schmidt as Kleiner Muck and an actress whom I don't know playing a part I don't know. That's too many "I don't knows," but I'm just beginning to explore European pop culture. The story of Muck ("Mook" in English) has indeed been popular. As evidence: 
There have been books about Muck . . .
And records, and even video games.
A portrait of Gustav Meyrink in the mode of a mystic or magus, painted by Carl Alexander Wittek. Upon seeing this painting, I immediately thought of . . . 
Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), a near contemporary of Meyrink and also an occultist. Despite his sobriquet as "the wickedest man in the world," Crowley seems clownish to me, especially when he's in front of the camera. On the other hand, photographs of Meyrink convey a fire and intensity that in my mind make him more akin to someone like Rasputin or the fictional Svengali. In any case, after I thought about it a little more, it seemed to me that Meyrink's portrait reminds me of no one so much as . . .
Doctor Zin, arch enemy of Jonny Quest's father, Doctor Benton Quest.
Ming the Merciless . . . 
and Fu Manchu seem to be cut from the same cloth.
Finally, four covers for Meyrink's most well known work, The Golem, in English, French, Spanish, and French [?]. The illustrations are by Hugo Steiner-Prag (1880-1945) (top) and three unknown artists. Again, too many question marks. Can anybody fill in the blanks?

Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley

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