Monday 26 April 2021

Storm, Theodor "Paul the Puppeteer"

Storm, Theodor "Paul the Puppeteer" (German: Pole Poppenspäler) - 1874

A novella by a famous German author known as one of the most important figures of German realism.

He has been compared to Thomas Hardy. I think the comparison isn't bad. Theodor Storm is certainly worth having a look at.

In this story, he tells us about a guy called Paul (Low German Pole) who is a puppeteer (you guessed it, Poppenspäler in Low German).

Of course, this was a novella we had to read in school. I enjoyed it tremendously and even after all these years, it's still vividly in my mind. Still, when I came upon my old copy when moving, I decided to read it again.

And there is no change. The book is still as good as it was when I first read it. We learn about the changing of the world, how the marionette theatre vanishes from everyday life, like so many other things that disappeared with the coming of the television. But we also hear about the life of those travelling and bringing joy to the people.

The author was born in Husum, a lovely city on the North Sea where you can still visit his house. He called it "The Grey Town by the Sea". But it's not at all grey, it has some lovely (mainly red brick) buildings and being located at the sea makes it even more attractive.

As an English translation, I only found a collection with two other books, "The Village on the Moor" and "Renate" which I haven't read. Maybe some day when I happen to find them.

From the back cover:

"Pole Poppenspäler is the nickname given to the cabinet-maker Paul Paulsen, because of his childhood enthusiasm for Herr Tendler's travelling puppet theatre and his friendship with the latter's daughter, Lisei. In later life Paul comes across Lisei in great distress while he is working as a journeyman in a town in central Germany; her father has been imprisoned on a false accusation of theft. Paul's local influence succeeds in freeing Herr Tendler and shortly afterwards he marries Lisei, taking both her and her father to his north German home, Husum. Herr Tendler is able to help Paul in his workshop for he is a wood-carver of great skill, as demonstrated by his former creation of the puppet 'Kasperle' which plays a leading part throughout the tale. His desire, however, to continue to produce puppet plays is strong, but his first attempt in the town hall is ruined by rowdy local youths. He retires deeply hurt and dies a saddened man shortly thereafter."


  1. Thank you for this post. I have not heard of him, but the likeness to Hardy is a good one for me. I will add his name to my to read list and try to find something which has been translated.

    1. Thank you, Lisa. He is quite a well-known German classic author but, of course, Goethe and Schiller are mainly the ones we hear about most often.

      I would think that most of his books have been translated into Swedish. Apparently, this one is called "Pole Dockspelare" (though I can't find it on Goodreads).

      I have chosen another one of his most famous stories for my classic list and will read it soon. It's called "Der Schimmelreiter" in German and the Swedish translation is "Spökryttaren" (I think the Swedish title describes the book even better). This is the one he is most famous for.

      And if you ever come through Husum, visit his house.

      Happy Reading and thanks for the comment.

    2. Sorry, Lisbeth, I wrote so many comments to Lisa at the moment, my fingers were typing it automatically. LOL