Max and Moritz

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Max and Moritz.

Max and Moritz (A Story of Seven Boyish Pranks) (original: Max und Moritz - Eine Bubengeschichte in sieben Streichen) is a German language illustrated story in verse. This highly inventive, blackly humorous tale, told entirely in rhymed couplets, was written and illustrated by Wilhelm Busch and published in 1865. It is among the early works of Busch, nevertheless it already features many substantial, effectually aesthetic and formal regularities, procedures and basic patterns of Busch's later works.[1] Many familiar with comic strip history consider it to have been the direct inspiration for the Katzenjammer Kids and Quick & Flupke. The German title satirizes the German custom of giving a subtitle to the name of dramas in the form of "Ein Drama in ... Akten" (A Drama of ... acts), which became dictums in colloquial usage for any event with an unpleasant or dramatic course, e.g. "Bundespräsidentenwahl - Drama in drei Akten" (Federal presidential Elections - Drama in Three Acts).[2]

Cultural significance[edit]

Busch's classic tale of the terrible duo (now in the public domain) has since become a proud part of the culture in German-speaking countries. Even today, parents usually read these tales to their not-yet-literate children. To this day in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, a certain familiarity with the story and its rhymes is still presumed, as it is often referenced in mass communication. The two leering faces are synonymous with mischief, and appear almost logo-like in advertising and even graffiti.

During World War 1, the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen, named his dog Moritz, giving the name Max to another animal given to his friend.[3][4]

It even occurs that young German couples name their boy twins Max and Moritz respectively, depending on their individual sense of humour and the intended parenting.

Max and Moritz is the first published original foreign children’s book in Japan which was translated into rōmaji by Shinjirō Shibutani and Kaname Oyaizu in 1887 as Wanpaku monogatari ("Naughty stories").[5]

Max and Moritz became the forerunners to the comic strip. The story inspired Rudolph Dirks to create The Katzenjammer Kids.[6]

The influence of these characters in German culture is also evident in their names being appplied to two British armoured command vehicles that were captured by the German army during World War 2 in North Africa. Their new German owners named the vehicles Max and Moritz, as can be seen in numerous photographs of the vehicles online and in books.

The pranks[edit]

The widow's four chickens (first trick)
The widow's house (second trick)
Sawing through the bridge planks (third trick)
The teacher's pipe detonates (fourth trick)
May bugs on a tree (fifth trick)
Max and Moritz covered in dough (sixth trick)
The fate of Max and Moritz (final trick)

There have been several English translations of the original German verses over the years, but all have maintained the original trochaic tetrameter:

Preface[edit]

Ah, how oft we read or hear of
Boys we almost stand in fear of!
For example, take these stories
Of two youths, named Max and Moritz,
Who, instead of early turning
Their young minds to useful learning,
Often leered with horrid features
At their lessons and their teachers.

Look now at the empty head: he
Is for mischief always ready.
Teasing creatures - climbing fences,
Stealing apples, pears, and quinces,
Is, of course, a deal more pleasant,
And far easier for the present,
Than to sit in schools or churches,
Fixed like roosters on their perches

But O dear, O dear, O deary,
When the end comes sad and dreary!
'Tis a dreadful thing to tell
That on Max and Moritz fell!
All they did this book rehearses,
Both in pictures and in verses.

First Trick: The Widow[edit]

The boys tie several crusts of bread together with thread, and lay this trap in the chicken yard of Witwe Bolte, an old widow, causing all the chickens to become fatally entangled.

This prank is remarkably similar to the eighth history of the classic German prankster tales of Till Eulenspiegel.[7]

Second Trick: The Widow II[edit]

As the widow cooks her chickens, the boys sneak onto her roof. When she leaves her kitchen momentarily, the boys steal the chickens using a fishing pole down the chimney. The widow hears her dog barking and hurries upstairs, finds the hearth empty and beats the dog.

Third Trick: The Tailor[edit]

The boys torment Schneider Böck, a well-liked tailor who has a fast stream flowing in front of his house. They saw through the planks of his wooden bridge, making a precarious gap, then taunt him by making goat noises, until he runs outside. The bridge breaks; the tailor is swept away and nearly drowns (but for two geese, which he grabs a hold of and which fly high to safety).

Although Till removes the planks of the bridge instead of sawing them there are some similarities to Till Eulenspiegel (32nd History).[8]

Fourth Trick: The Teacher[edit]

While their devout teacher, Lehrer Lämpel, is busy at church, the boys invade his home and fill his favorite pipe with gunpowder. When he lights the pipe, the blast knocks him unconscious, blackens his skin and burns away all his hair. But: "Time that comes will quick repair; yet the pipe retains its share."

Fifth Trick: The Uncle[edit]

The boys collect bags full of May bugs, which they promptly deposit in their Uncle Fritz's bed. Uncle is nearly asleep when he feels the bugs walking on his nose. Horrified, he goes into a frenzy, killing them with a shoe.

Sixth Trick: The Baker[edit]

The boys invade a bakery which they believe is closed. Attempting to steal pretzels, they fall into a vat of dough. The baker returns, catches the breaded pair, and bakes them. But they survive, and escape by gnawing through their crusts.

Final Trick: The Farmer[edit]

Hiding out in the grain storage area of a farmer, Bauer Mecke, the boys slit some grain sacks. Carrying away one of the sacks, Bauer Mecke immediately notices the problem. He puts the boys in the sack instead, then takes it to the mill. The boys are ground to bits and devoured by the miller’s ducks. Later, no one expresses regret. (The mill really exists in Ebergötzen, Germany, and can be visited)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ruby, Daniel (1998). Schema und Variation – Untersuchungen zum Bildergeschichtenwerk Wilhelm Buschs (in German). Frankfurt am Main: Europäische Hochschulschriften. p. 11. ISBN 3-631-49725-3. 
  2. ^ "The German presidential elections in June 2010" (in German). Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  3. ^ http://www.theaerodrome.com/forum/people/51676-von-richthofens-belongings-9.html
  4. ^ http://books.google.com.au/books?id=wHfzAAAAMAAJ&focus=searchwithinvolume&q=moritz
  5. ^ "Wanpaku monogatari" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  6. ^ Derleth, August in Dirks, Rudolph: The Katzenjammer Kids, Dover Publications, New York 1974
  7. ^ "8th history of Till Eulenspiegel" (in German). Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  8. ^ "32nd history of Till Eulenspiegel" (in German). Retrieved 2010-08-02. 

External links[edit]