The cold heart

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Carl Offterdinger : Peter conjures up the little glass man

The cold heart is a fairy tale by Wilhelm Hauff . It appeared in 1827 in Hauff's fairy tale almanac for the year 1828 , in two parts as an internal narrative embedded in the narrative Das Wirtshaus im Spessart .

Table of contents

Peter Munk, called the Kohlenmunk-Peter leads in the Black Forest , the charcoal of his late father. He is dissatisfied with the dirty, exhausting, poorly paid and little respected work. He dreams of having lots of money and being respected. Then he learns that there is supposed to be a forest spirit in the Black Forest , the little glass man, also known as the treasure house. This fulfills three wishes for anyone, like Peter Munk, who was born on a Sunday between eleven and two o'clock, if one conjures up a certain verse . Peter sets out to find the glass man. In doing so, he meets another forest spirit in the forest, the dangerous, huge Dutch Michel, who is up there on stormy nights as an evil magician. However, Peter can escape him.

With the verse: “Schatzhauser in the green pine forest, are already many hundred years old. You own all the land where there are fir trees - only lets you see Sunday children ”, cries Peter the little glass man, who grants him three wishes. First he wants money and dance skills for the inn, then a glassworks with the accompanying horse and carriage. Angry about the short-sighted wishes, the glass man refuses Peter the fulfillment of his last wish. However, Peter is initially very satisfied with his glassworks and his new status in society. He quickly became a respected man in the Black Forest. But the lack of understanding for his business soon becomes noticeable. Increasingly, he is drawn into the maelstrom of idleness and play. He neglected his glassworks to such an extent that he had to mortgage it last . In his need he turns to the Dutch Michel, who - in contrast to the Glasmännlein - is in league with evil . Michel proves to be more generous than the glass man, but asks Peter's heart as a price for his help. This is only a hindrance to his feelings in life, he says. For this Peter should get a cold stone in his chest and initially 100,000 thalers , but he can come back at any time if he needs more money. The next day, Peter begins a two-year trip around the world.

Bertall : Peter in the hand of the Dutch Michel

Soon he has to find out that he can no longer enjoy anything, that he can no longer laugh and cry, that he no longer feels love and that nothing is beautiful anymore. His new heart made of stone cannot participate in anything. He returns to the Holländermichel to reclaim his heart. Michel refuses the request, pointing out that he will only receive his heart again after death. He shows Peter his collection of hearts, and he learns that many other "great personalities" in the Black Forest, including Peter's role model Ezekiel, have exchanged their hearts with Michel for the disdainful Mammon. Michel gives Peter even more money and advises him to look for a job and marry in order to drive away his boredom. Peter builds a huge house in the Black Forest and works from then on as a dealer and moneylender at usurious interest . He is notorious for his inexorable avarice; he drives away all the poor who beg in front of his house. He only gives his old mother alms and otherwise keeps her away from him. Now he goes looking for a bride and asks for the hand of the beautiful woodcarver's daughter Lisbeth. They get married, but Lisbeth soon feels unhappy. Peter is just in a bad mood, stingy, and he forbids Lisbeth, despite her immense ability to help the poor, which is why she is soon thought to be even more stingy.

One day, while Lisbeth is happily enjoying Peter's absence, a short old man comes by and asks Lisbeth for a drink of water. She offers him bread and wine. The moment the man thanks him and says that such a heart will not go unrewarded, Peter comes back. Beside himself with anger, he beats Lisbeth with the wooden handle of a whip, who is instantly dead. Peter initially regrets what he did, whereupon the old man identifies himself as the little glass man and replies that Peter trodden the most beautiful flower in the Black Forest. Peter blames the glass man, who then turns into a monster with anger. Just for the sake of Peter's dead wife, who helped him, he gives Peter eight days to rethink his life. Peter sleeps poorly and hears voices telling him to “get a warmer heart”. He lies to the people who miss Lisbeth by saying that his wife has gone away unexpectedly. In addition, what happened makes him think about his own death.

Finally he goes into the forest and calls the glass man because he still has one last wish. He wants his heart back, but the treasury cannot help him because the “money for heart” trade was not made with him. But he tells him a trick. Peter goes to the Holländermichel for the third time and claims that he cheated on him, because he didn’t use a stone heart at all. Michel wants to prove him wrong and uses his real heart again "as a test". Peter then takes a glass cross that he received from the glass man and holds it out to Michel. This enables Peter to keep the angry Michel away and to flee to the glass man. Now he regrets his botched life, whereupon the glass man brings him together with his mother and Lisbeth, who has been brought back to life. On the advice of the little glass man he worked hard as a charcoal burner and became a recognized man even without a lot of money. For the birth of his son he receives four rolls full of thalers as a godparent gift from the glass man.


It is noticeable that the story does not begin with the typical fairytale formula once upon a time , but that the first sentence echoes travel literature : Anyone who travels through Swabia should never forget to take a look at the Black Forest; not because of the trees ... but because of the people.

According to Ottmar Hinz, the story stands “on the threshold of literary realism ” with a “subtle psychogram of injured, hurtful and healing masculinity”; at the same time it preserves "the longing of romanticism for love and its belief in the good in people". This becomes clear when Lisbeth and Peter find each other again and have a child, as well as in the return of the mother.

The half-orphan Peter Munk is a coal burner. At that time, this craft was “obsolete”, as the mines and steam engines can do this work faster. Hauff's father died in 1809, when Hauff was only seven years old. Problems of young Hauff could be reflected in the character of Peter Munk, who is initially morally and psychologically unsound and is plagued by feelings of inferiority. Peter goes to the "wrong father" Holländermichel, because he has no basic trust in his work sense . Everyone can identify with the common name Peter.

The glass man obviously stands for the conscience or (according to Freud's terminology) for the superego or for the positive archetype of the father (according to Jung's terminology). It can also be seen as a moral compass, a daimonion (after the term of Socrates). It also stands for “civil industry and social morality”, while the Dutch Michel represents the unrestrained “profit-making of commercial capital in the first third of the 19th century”. The name Ezekiel goes back to the biblical prophet Ezekiel , who said: "I will take the heart of stone out of your body and give you a heart made of flesh".

Peter Munk remains in a state of self-alienation by playing, dancing, drinking and striving for wealth and outward recognition. Peter is in middle age, that is, it is based on the model of Erik Erikson (identity and life cycle) at the level of "generativity vs. Stagnation". The central tasks of this age include passing on life to the next generation, building houses and social engagement. Peter initially fails on these tasks. Sandra Kegel's “The Insecure Man” describes the option he made as “convertible instead of pram”. But at the end of the story he is holding a “handsome boy” as a proud father in his hands. The change for the better takes place through a change in his inner attitude and his evaluation standards with the help of the glass man, who had given him a period of eight days. Peter manages to repent in seven symbolic days.

The money dominates almost a leitmotif social practice: opinions, social intercourse, Respektbezeugungen, influence and reputation hanging in the cold heart almost exclusively from material wealth from. As a symbol of things, the heart of stone represents the ever stronger connection between wealth, greed for money and hard-heartedness.

Hauff completed the work in July 1827, after an economic depression triggered by Great Britain, with entire branches of industry in southern and western Germany disappearing due to the mass production of the superior British industry.


Connections to the Romantic era can be established. During this literary era it was quite common to write prose works in fairy tale form. Hauff made use of a legend; Use the legend of the "glass man" he set the romantic search for happiness . Another visible sign of this epoch is the turn for the Mystical -Unheimlichen, ghostly and native legends .

The catchphrase of romanticism is the " longing " embodied by the coal munk Peter when he is granted three wishes in the course of the plot. The consequence of this longing is, as is often the case with the protagonists of romantic works, self-destruction, because his desired wealth crumbles into misery, and his longing degenerates into avarice and malice. As an imperturbable romantic, the coal munk Peter still does not give up the search for happiness, so that at the end of the fairy tale he still finds happiness at the side of his wife.

It should be mentioned that the "heartless", that is, pitiless characters are reminiscent of psychopaths , that is, people who are not able to feel the emotions of their fellow human beings and who have just learned to appear likeable and therefore have an above-average career.


In 2014 Armin Petras staged a two and a half hour stage version at the Schauspiel Stuttgart .

Film adaptations


Theobald Rehbaum used the story as a template for his opera Das steinerne Herz, which premiered in 1885 . Another opera adaptation by the composer Norbert Schultze was made in 1943 .

On October 27, 1988, the fairy tale was premiered in Munich at the State Theater on Gärtnerplatz as a “Scenic Ballad in Three Parts by Wilhelm Hauff” under the direction of Reinhard Schwarz. Composer: Volker David Kirchner , librettist: Marc Guenther, concept: Harald Weirich

In 2006 the revue Das kalte Herz premiered in the Hans Otto Theater Potsdam , including compositions by the Pankow frontman André Herzberg .

In 2009 the band Saltatio Mortis released the song Das kalte Herz on their album Wer Wind saet , the lyrics of which refer to the fairy tale by Wilhelm Hauff. The song Kaltes Herz by the medieval rock band Subway to Sally , which is included on the single Sieben , is also inspired by the fairy tale .

In 2013 the Swedish band Next Stop: Horizon composed the musical accompaniment for a production of “The Cold Heart” at the Saarland State Theater and published it on the CD The Cold Heart .

In 2017, the song Das kalte Herz appeared on Philipp Poisel's CD Mein Amerika .

Radio plays

In 1963 the WDR produced an approx. 52-minute radio play directed by Otto Kurth . The following spoke: Hubert Berger (Peter Munk), Hanns Ernst Jäger (Holländer-Michel), Hans Madin (Schatzhauser), Robert Rober (Jani), Christine Ostermayer (Lisbeth), Friedl Münzer (Barbara), Heinz Schacht (Johann) and others at the radio of the GDR another radio play adaptation. In the production, among other things were Jochen meadow hedgehog (Wortbbearbeitung) Herwart Hoepfner (composition) and Manfred Täubert (Director) involved. The speakers included: Brigitte Lindenberg , Wolfgang Ostberg , Klaus Mertens , Hans-Joachim Hanisch , Lothar Dimke , Juliane Korén , Erik Veldre and Wiebke Fuhrken . The playing time is 44 minutes. The radio play is available in the DRA Babelsberg. An elaborate radio play for children was created in 1985 in the litera radio play production of the former GDR. The speakers were prominent; Peter Munk was spoken by Ulrich Mühe , the glass man by Rolf Ludwig , Peter's father by Kurt Böwe and Peter's mother by Käthe Reichel .

The record label Europa from Hamburg , famous for radio plays , also released a version in 1971. Konrad Halver took over the direction and title role . The speakers were Horst Beck as Glasmännlein and Herbert AE Böhme as Holländermichel.

An even older version of the radio play exists on a record from the Philips sub-label Fontana Records (order no. 701510 WPY). According to the information on the cover, the radio play editing and production was in the hands of Kurt Vethake . Directed by Benno Schurr , Ludwig Thiesen said the role of Peter Munk.

The producer and director David Holy released a new version of the material in 2016, which can be found for free on YouTube.


Since 2001, a “walk-in theater” has been shown in the Museum Schloss Neuenbürg , which presents the fairy tale in six multimedia rooms in front of a backdrop of wood-carved figures.

Reading and study edition

  • Thorsten Utter: Wilhelm Hauff: The cold heart. Text output with explanations of words and materials. Krapp & Gutknecht, Berkheim 2018, ISBN 978-3-94648227-7 .


  • Benedikt Descourvières: Wilhelm Hauff's story The cold heart: introduction, analysis and teaching materials. Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2008. ISBN 978-3837028591 . Online partial view
  • Wolfgang Schmidbauer . The cold heart. About the power of money and the loss of feelings. Murmann Publishers 2011, ISBN 9783867741248
  • Thorsten Utter: Wilhelm Hauff: The cold heart. Text output with explanations of words and materials. Krapp & Gutknecht, Berkheim 2018, ISBN 9783946482277

Web links

Commons : The cold heart  album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Mathias Jung: The cold heart: how a man finds love; a depth psychological interpretation based on the fairy tale by Wilhelm Hauff. 2006, pp. 145, 151, 152, 159-161, 168.
  2. Mathias Jung: The cold heart: how a man finds love; a depth psychological interpretation based on the fairy tale by Wilhelm Hauff. 2006, p. 49.
  3. Mathias Jung: The cold heart: how a man finds love; a depth psychological interpretation based on the fairy tale by Wilhelm Hauff. 2006, pp. 55, 58.
  4. Mathias Jung: The cold heart: how a man finds love; a depth psychological interpretation based on the fairy tale by Wilhelm Hauff. 2006, pp. 62, 63, 77, 122
  5. The Cold Heart (1933) website for the film. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
  6. The Cold Heart - film adaptation from 1933 by Karl Ulrich Schnabel
  7. Hannes Rall from Tübingen filmed Hauff's “Kaltes Herz” , in: Schwäbisches of April 26, 2013, accessed on June 24, 2013
  9. The Cold Heart - multimedia production in the Museum Schloss Neuenbürg