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01 July 2009 @ 11:07 pm
Customizing: Karl May figures  
My today's picture post is a bit OT regarding Stargate action figures (I have to work a bit yet on the next pictures before I can post them) but I really want to show you what I recently found in one of my shelves. It also shows that my love for little figures goes way back to my childhood.

In my youth I was a big fan of Karl May. Karl May was a German author of books about the Wild West, and about the friendship between a German and an Apache chief. He also lived and wrote not far away where I live.

So, I once made those figures from Suralin, which is plasticine that can be hardened in the oven, like FIMO. Those are a bit smaller than the Stargate actionfigures, approximate 4". If you want to see more details you can click on the pictures to make them "BIG-GER"

This is Winnetou, the Apache chief.

Winnetou front (every child used to know the rifle with the silver nails):

Winnetou back:

I actually didn't realize that cowboy boots were meant in Karl May's description, that's why my boots rather look like soldier ones. Please bear with me ;)

Old Shatterhand front (one rifle in hand, one on the back):

Old Shatterhand back:

Old Firehand front:

Old Firehand back:

I also made a little tee pee and the thing next to it shall be the three legged thing which Indians use to sit/lean on:

And a peace pipe and a tomahawk:

And also two fires:

The totem pole is also not accurate at all, I just went with my imagination there:

Even though all the flaws and the shiny coat which made it difficult to photograph I am very proud about all the details and work I put in there. Hope you like it, too!

PS: If anywone is interested, at the age of 16 I also built a K.I.T.T. model from scratch.
sharp2799: Housepeanutssharp2799 on July 2nd, 2009 01:45 am (UTC)
I never heard of Karl May but how cute!
Antjedieastra on July 2nd, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC)
I was very amazed (if you look two posts down to l_jade), that she actually knows the books! They were in fact translated into a lot of languages and I think he was pretty famous during his lifetime (he died in 1912).

But for some reason never in the country where his books actually are set. I have no idea why, could it maybe have to do with the fact that in old (American) Westerns usually the Indians were the "bad guys" while Karl May wanted to show that all nations shall be friends and live in peace with each other?
immerrdaimmerrda on July 2nd, 2009 03:31 am (UTC)
I was never into cowboys and indians. I think it was because I had to watch Bonanza every Sunday night when I was young.

But your creativity never ceases to amaze me and your attention to detail is stunning!
Antjedieastra on July 2nd, 2009 07:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

I never have seen "Bonanza", it was not on Eastern German TV. Now I could watch it of course, but somehow never got around to it.

In fact, a lot of Eastern Germans were fascinated about all things that are Indian. There used to be several clubs, where they sewed their own clothes and lived in tents during the weekend, whole families.

I think it was a way to express freedom they did not have in their lives otherwise.
Xaveria: Jack-ARGH!l_jade on July 2nd, 2009 04:29 am (UTC)
Awww... Winnetou & Scharliech (sp?) I think that's how Winnetou called Charlie in his Apache-dialect. How cute! and Old Firehand too !! You're so talented!.

I remember reading all Winnetou/Old Shatterhand series of Karl May in Junior High. I was crying when Winnetou died, love their friendship and the tricks & the journeys, the diffrent Indian tribes, the Rocky Mountains & Llano Estacado.

They were translated into my country languange from German, when I tried to read again in English here, I got really confused since they adapted a few names, I just can not get into them again .. LOL!
Antjedieastra on July 2nd, 2009 11:10 am (UTC)
Squee! Somebody knows what I am talking about! I'm impressed!

And you are right, Winnetou called him "Scharlih". And Charlie is the English version of Karl, actually.

Are you also a bit familiar with the biography of Karl May? In his youth he did a lot of stealing and deceiving, he always had a great imagination and disguised himself as a police man to get people's money. And one day he came into prison for all that. There is where he started to write his stories, at first for journals, later as books. He actually got all his informations about the American landscape or the Indian languages from books and maps, he only once visited America when he was in old age already. But everybody who knows the real landscape claims it is all very realistic. Amazing!

But for some reason he always claimed that he had indeed survived all those adventures and spoke over 20 dialects, so his last years were overshadowed with trials for that. There are also pictures of him where he poses in costume as Old Shatterhand, or as Kara Ben Nemsi (there was another series of books which were set in the Orient, but I never liked those).

If you ever happen to come to Dresden, Radebeul where he lived is not far away, I can go by tram there. And we can visit the museum they have in his house. His desk is there and his library and also a lot of original Indian things.

Every year in the woods nearby where he got his inspiration for his writing is the Karl-May-festival held. With a real Western town and a soldiers camp and they also invite Indians which show their customs and dances. There is line dance and country music and I just love it. Everybody going there tries to dress up a bit with hats and boots and shirts. Especially the little children are cute, dressed up as cowboy or indian. If you wanna see some pictures, please go here:


The girl with the red hat is me ;)

Between 1962 and 1968 also a lot of German movies were made with Winnetou and Old Shatterhand and the others. They filmed in Yugoslavia, and those movies are famous all over Europe. Old Shatterhand was played by Lex Barker, whom you might know as Tarzan. If you want any more infos to seek those out, please ask!

And yes, the books were translated into a lot of languages. But you confused me now a bit, what would "your countrie's language" be? I thought that was English? Where are you originally from, do you wanna tell?

Sorry for the long answer, but I always start to babble when it comes to this ;)
Xaverial_jade on July 3rd, 2009 04:38 am (UTC)
Wow! reading those books, I never thought Karl was written them based on maps & books research. It was amazingly detailed. When I come to the US and did some road-trips I always remember Karl May's stories of how the cactus looks like, the dunes, the rocks, the arches. It's amazing!. I never see those movies though... Karl May movies was not popular back home, Tarzan was though, so I prolly saw a Lex Barker one, but I don't remember him, I saw many more of Johnny Weissmueller's ones.

I'm Indonesian, the books that I read was printed in the 70s, and they keep on re-print those books until the 80s but not so much now I guess, with lots of Mangas and everything else :(

My nieces & nephews don't know what I'm talking about, which is sad... coz Karl May did write good books with moral covered with adventures and friendship.

And yeah.. I didn't like his Kara Ben Nemsi either.. somehow I like TinTin better for the Orient adventures ;)

You do know about TinTin, right ?? he's another fun stories to read.

Antjedieastra on July 3rd, 2009 01:14 pm (UTC)
Karl May did write good books with moral covered with adventures and friendship.

Exactly! I think he was way ahead of his time, he had the vision of all people, all kind of nations living in peace with each other.

German children of today also don't like the thick books anymore with the long descriptions of landscape. They only want action.

Somehow it makes me proud that the little Saxonian boy Karl who was one of many childs of a poor webster family later became so famous with his writing that he even was translated into Indonesian language.

I searched for a picture of Lex Barker as Old Shatterhand for you. When I read the books I already had this image in my mind. He also was the first crush I ever had ;)

I wonder how Old Shatterhand looked in your mind? Something like this?


And here are two of Winnetou and Old Shatterhand together.



Sadly, Lex Barker died in 1973 at the age of only 53, but Pierre Brice (he is French and played Winnetou) is still around and has also aged very well.

I never read any TinTin comics. We didn't have that kind of comics back in Eastern German days. I also never saw the original "Enterprise" show. I'm happy though that in 1989 after the Berlin wall had come down and the world had changed I discovered MacGyver, and that's how it all started ;)
Xaveria: Jack-ARGH!l_jade on July 4th, 2009 08:43 am (UTC)
You know... looking a the pictures, I think I saw at least one of the movie..on one of those Saturday afternoon movie back home. I don't remember the story, but I remember the brown leather clothes.

Back home in the early 80s, they used to re-runs old movies on saturday afternoon like The Blob (yikes! it used to scare the hell outta me :-P) just after The Little House in The Praire.. LOL! we had a very vanilla childhood ;)

Oh TinTin is a wonderful adventure comics, very different than say X-Men or Superman and they are re-making a big screen-movie of Tintin now.. you better prepare for it ;)
colej55: MyOhMycolej55 on July 2nd, 2009 04:37 am (UTC)
These are brilliant! Your imagination and talent for making the figures and their accessories is awesome, especially considering you did them as a part of your childhood! (Truth be told, they are better than I could ever do as an adult.)

Of course, I love the tipi (spelling is correct?). As for the totem pole, it looks very much like the one I have on my mantle from Minnesota, where we spent our summers when I was a child. (We stayed in a cabin up in RDA's neck of the woods.) The cowboy boots are nearly perfect - just a bit more of a pointy toe and you'd have it. I don't think they look at all like army boots.

My dad was a fireman, so he'd have loved a little figure like yours from me, although all he ever got were ugly clay ashtrays. I'm afraid I never was much of a sculptor.

I find it fascinating that there are German authors of books on the Wild West. I am sure that people from many nations came to explore North America, but I've never much thought about it. I know that the Spaniards laid claim to parts of the southern US, but I know of no Germans, so I really must study more history. Very interesting! Sadly, most of the early Americans spent their time stealing land and riches from Native Americans, either killing them outright or imprisoning them on reservations, killing them along the way (Trail of Tears).

My family came from Austria Hungary after that period in our history had passed, but I still find it profoundly sad for my nation, as if I had some part in it, because it takes away from my sense of national pride. I used to love Indian movies as a kid because my mother loved them, but now that I know more about history, I can't watch them. I have thought about reading some Louis L'Amour novels, though, to see if I would enjoy the cowboy genre.

Your post gets perfect marks from me!!! Thanks for sharing these!!!
Antjedieastra on July 2nd, 2009 09:00 pm (UTC)
(third time's the charm)

Thank you very much!

I'm not sure whether I can claim that it was in childhood, I might have been a teenager alread, maybe thirteen or something.

As for the totem pole, it looks very much like the one I have on my mantle from Minnesota, where we spent our summers when I was a child.

Really? I thought "real" totem poles show animals, like wolves, eagles, bears. Mine look rather like monsters.

The cowboy boots are nearly perfect - just a bit more of a pointy toe and you'd have it.

I don't like that they are black. I think, when the are made from leather, they should be brown. Soft leather, not hard one. And come to think of it, should not the pant legs go over the boots instead inside? Somehow it looks odd ;)

I find it fascinating that there are German authors of books on the Wild West.

In fact, the first time Karl May travelled to America was at old age, together with his wife. He never experienced any of the adventures he wrote about (although he always claimed he had, and was called a liar for it). He just had a great imagination, and a big library full with books about the landscape and the languages and everything, so his details are very correct.

In the 19th century people loved to read adventurous stories that took part in foreign countries. There is another German author from this time, his name was Friedrich Gerstäcker. Between 1962 and 1968 they also made German Western movies from the Karl May books. You may know Lex Barker who once played Tarzan - Old Shatterhand was his most famous role, he was perfect for it (*whispers* he also was the first crush I ever had ;) )

I also have some books by Liselotte Welskopf-Henrich who wrote about the difficult life at the reservations. I think it is very sad that such a rich culture was pretty much wiped out. That the language almost died out because they were not allowed to speak it for so long.

Main theme (apart from all the adventures, getting caught, getting freed) in Karl May's books always was the struggle of the Indian nation, and that all nations shall live together like brothers and not fight each other, and nobody should claim to be better than anybody else.

Those ideals definitely appeal to me.

Oh, and we have the annual Karl-May-festival here near Dresden, if you want to see some pictures of people dressed up, a little Western town or a real steam engine train, please go here:


I never heard about Louis L'Amour, though. Other authors I loved to read in my youth were Jules Verne and Jack London. Should get those books out again after all this time. They are from my father actually, so very old!
sharp2799: Jack framesharp2799 on July 2nd, 2009 09:31 pm (UTC)
Butting in here--Louis L'Amour books are wonderful. I've read pretty much all of them. Two of them, Bowdrie, and Bowdrie's Law, are short stories he wrote of a fictional Texas Ranger. But in between each story are brief pages of historical facts that are just fascinating. He's written fiction where Indians were the good guys and the bad guys--his own grandfather had been scalped by the Sioux.
colej55: Cactuscolej55 on July 5th, 2009 09:24 pm (UTC)
I'm absolutely amazed at the scope of the Karl-May-Festival! I had no idea that other countries had an interest in Native Americans and the Wild West. I live in a city that was unfortunately on the Trail of Tears. There are Native American burial grounds and places to hunt artifacts (river beds) all over this area. I have quite a collection of arrowheads and scrapers. Sadly, I have never visited any of the local festivals. (Shame on me!)

As for your reading list, Jules Verne and Jack London are worthy authors.

Sharp2799, thanks for the referral. I know that Louis L'Amour books are wildly popular, but I had no idea that he had a real link to Native Americans. I must head to the local "used" bookstore and stock up on some of his novels!
Antjedieastra on July 19th, 2009 04:22 pm (UTC)
I have no idea whether it is in other countries the same, or even in Western Germany. There were a lot of people in Eastern Germany that adored Indians, for their way how to live with nature, how to only use how little they need and not more, and all the other things.

In fact, there were clubs where whole families lived like Indians during the weekend, sewing their own clothes, cooking meals over the fire, teaching their children the knowledge about Indian customs, that kind of life. Back to the roots, so to speak. Maybe they found a kind of freedom in this lifestyle they otherwise didn't have. I don't think many of those clubs have survived till nowadays.

But we had way before "Dancing with Wolves" movies that showed Indians in a respectful way.

I heard Tom Hanks is going to make a movie about Dean Reed. Dean Reed was from the USA but later lived in Eastern Germany, and was a big star over here. He sang songs with his guitar and also played in some Western movies. And he died a tragically and early death, nobody knows what exactly happened back then.

But yeah, especially in the Seventies, the Western fever burnt hot in my little country!
colej55: Cactuscolej55 on July 5th, 2009 09:27 pm (UTC)
BTW, nice photos! Everything looks so realistic. Very cool! I really should get more involved in our rich, local history. I am originally from Chicago, which is a Native American word for "skunk". They sure got that one right! Chicago stinks! (It's a great place to be from!
woodencoyote: burgerswoodencoyote on July 28th, 2009 09:42 pm (UTC)
Wow, these are really neat!

Is Suralin easier to work with than modeling clays like sculpey? Does it naturally have that glossy appearence when baked, or did you get with a glaze?
Antjedieastra on July 28th, 2009 11:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

I have never used sculpey, so I don't know anything about that. I remember once using some clay (which only comes in the colors of brown and beige)which hardens without baking just after some hours of exposure to air. Suralin is not as easy to work with, because it can get very dry and hard and you need warm hands or oil to make it moldable. That often frustrated me ;) But apparently it's good stuff, I just recently got it out to make some things for my Stargate figures, and it still works after over 20 years since my childhood in Eastern Germany.

Usually it is not glossy when baked, I had added varnish or whatever the English word is after baking, which I kinda regret now. But I had no real paint back then, so it was to protect what I had painted. Most of the colors come from different Suralin colors, though.