The treasure in Silbersee

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Places of action and itinerary

The treasure in Silbersee is the title of an adventure novel by the German writer Karl May (1842–1912), which can also be assigned to the genre of the Wild West novel . The treasure in Silbersee was published for the first time in 1890/1891 as a sequel in the magazine “ Der gute Kamerad ”; the first book edition appeared in 1894.


In this novel, set in the Wild West at the end of the 1860s , Karl May describes the journey of a group of trappers , referred to by Karl May as Westmen, to the Silver Lake in the Rocky Mountains . The action begins on board a paddle steamer on the Arkansas . The main characters are the Westmen Old Firehand and Aunt Droll as well as the villain Cornel Brinkley , who is also known as the "red Cornel" because of his hair. "Cornel" is a corruption of the military rank "Colonel" (German colonel ). Cornel Brinkley is the leader of a large gang of tramps who are not afraid to raid and rob farms and trains.

Old Firehand discovered a silver vein at Silbersee before the actual action began and is now returning to Silbersee to have the find examined by an engineer named Butler and then to exploit the silver vein. On the trip to Silbersee, Old Firehand encounters all sorts of bizarre characters such as the competition-obsessed Lord Castlepool , the Westman Gunstick-Uncle , who always speaks in rhymes, and his hunchbacked companion Humply-Bill . Winnetou , Old Shatterhand , Hobble-Frank and fat Jemmy and tall Davy join in later .

The red Cornel is also on his way to the Silbersee with his tramps. He wants to find a treasure there, which is said to be in the Silbersee, because he is in possession of a treasure map that he stole from the original owner years ago. Aunt Droll has followed him as a detective. He got his nickname because he has a high voice, wears a suit reminiscent of an old woman in a nightgown, and likes to help friends by looking after them like a good aunt. He cleverly uses this funny appearance as a disguise for his work as a detective.

Cornel Brinkley meets Old Firehand for the first time on board the paddle steamer and later meets Aunt Droll. Brinkley insults the Indian "Big Bear" and so falls for a blood revenge that will later cost him his ears. On board the paddle steamer, Brinkley steals a large amount of money, which the engineer Butler is carrying, and escapes by distracting the passengers by piercing the hull, whereupon the steamer takes water and has to dock on the bank. More and more tramps converge on their journey to Silver Lake, so they are strong enough in numbers to raid a group of loggers and Butler's brother's farm, and even attempt to rob a train that carries the railroad treasury. Cornel Brinkley's criminal plans, however, are always thwarted by Old Firehand and the other Westmen, and many tramps are killed in attempted raids. Most of them are locked in a tunnel on a train, have to surrender and are led to the court by soldiers. Only Cornel and a few confidants escaped.

Karl May's best-known characters in fiction, Winnetou and Old Shatterhand, do not appear until the second half of the book. Now the Westmen no longer have to deal with Cornel Brinkley and his tramps, but with Indians from the Utah tribe and their devious chief "Big Wolf" who capture the Westmen Old Shatterhand, Hobble-Frank, Tall Davy and Fat Jemmy and want to torture to death. The western men are allowed to fight for their lives individually and defeat their respective opponents by cunning.

The Indians persecute the western men, but are trapped in a valley and forced to a peace. The Indians do not keep the peace and take the Western men prisoner again. Aunt Droll and Hobble Frank are the only ones who can escape. With their help, the heroes free themselves and take the chiefs of the Utahs hostage.

On their way to the Silver Lake, the group around Winnetou, Old Shatterhand and Old Firehand is said to be ambushed again. But you can bypass this. They discover the bodies of the remaining tramps around the red Cornel. They fell into the hands of the Indians and died on the torture stake. Enemy Utah are invaded by Navajo , but their numerical superiority can win the battle. Hobble-Frank manages to capture the Navajo chief. The heroes finally reach the silver camp and shortly afterwards the silver lake. There they meet Indian friends from the Timbabatschen tribe, whose chief "Long Ear" betrays them to the Utahs. He shows this one passage under the lake through which they would have come into the rear of the western men. The "Little Bear" and "Big Bear" open the passage so that many of the Utahs drown in the invading lake water.

At the end of the plot, the western men force a peace. The "Big Bear" gives them permission to lead water to the silver mine found by Old Firehand and mine the valuable ore there.


The book is one of Karl May's classic works and his most successful of those that he wrote specifically for young people. As in the other pronounced youth stories, May does not use the narrative style of a first-person narrator. Old Shatterhand is described in the third person with the words: “A Western man does not want to be judged by figure alone; the spirit has far higher value ... Old Shatterhand is not so long and broad ... "

As a classic of adventure and youth literature, the trivial novel depicts the struggle between good and evil. The plot is partly loosened up by funny scenes with Aunt Droll, Hobble Frank or Lord Castlepool.

The book contains some drastic descriptions of violence: a trainer is bitten off by a big cat; the ears of the red cornel are cut off; a tramp is scalped alive , later martyred with his comrade, and finally mauled by bloodhounds. In contrast to other works, Karl May also lets his heroes kill people. The reader learns about the crimes of the red Cornel in flashbacks. The original owner of the treasure map is murdered in his own house together with his family. To cover up the act, Brinkley simply set fire to the house.


In 1940, were on the Rathen rock stage "Wild West Games Karl May" from Dresden circus Sarrasani organized with motifs from The Treasure of Silver and Oil Prince under the general title "The Treasure of Silver Lake" - Book: Adolf Steinmann, Director: Josef Firmans . Karl May fell by the wayside in favor of circus performances. This embarrassing solution for Rathen after the Karl May Games moved to Werder cannot be considered the start of the Silbersee dramatizations.

The treasure in Silbersee was dramatized for the first time for open-air stages in 1954 with a text book by Roland Schmid, arranged by Wulf Leisner for the Karl May Festival in Bad Segeberg . Further dramatizations followed:

  • Karlheinz Freynik (1994)
  • Arnd Limpinsel (1995)
  • Uwe Hänchen (1998)
  • Klaus Seidel (1998)
  • Rochus Millauer (1999)
  • Michael Stamp (2001)
  • Thomas Koziol (2002)
  • Christian Städter (2004)
  • Peter Görlach (2006)
  • Jean-Jacques Pascal (2006)
  • Erika Frischler (2007)
  • Olaf Hörbe (2007)
  • Friedrich Grud (2010)
  • Erhard Preuk (2011)
  • Mike Dietrich (2014)
  • Tommy Tatzber (2014)

Hans-Jochen Menzel dramatized the material for the puppet theater in 2000 .

Film adaptations

Real film

The treasure in Silbersee was made into a film in 1962 as the first Karl May film based on a western novel by the author.


In 1990, a puppet cartoon was made in the GDR in a feature length (84 minutes) under the title The trace leads to the silver lake , which remained closer to the novel than the real film from 1962.

Since the film was released during German reunification, viewers in the East found the animated film to be “old-fashioned” in direct comparison with other films. It only reached a small audience. In the old Federal Republic the film did not come into the cinemas. The film had its television premiere, divided into five episodes, at Christmas 1990 in the ARD children's program.

Parts of the film's props are part of the permanent exhibition in the Karl-May-Haus in Hohenstein-Ernstthal .

TV movie

At Christmas 2016, a three-part television film Winnetou - The Myth Lives was broadcast, the second part of which, entitled Winnetou - The Secret of the Silver Lake, is based on this novel.

radio play

In 1955, the NWDR produced a multi-part radio play with a total length of 278 minutes. The direction was directed by Kurt Meister , who also acted as narrator. The actors included u. a .:

Audio book


In 1898 the Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck (1886–1957) wrote a short opera based on the novel . The incomplete score was found in the Zurich Central Library and supplemented. “Old Shatterhand” is sung by a baritone , “Winnetou” even has two arias as a soprano . The reconstructed opera was heard for the first time during the 2003 Karl May Society conference in Plauen.

The opera can be found as a CD supplement in the 2005 yearbook of the Karl May Society.

In 1994, the German game software company Software 2000 published Der Schatz im Silbersee, an adventure role-playing game for the PC based on the book . The cardboard packaging and the cover image were modeled on the book edition from the Bamberg publishing house.

There is a silver lake in what is now the Mescalero Apache area . The book's fictional silver lake would of course be in the US state of Utah.

See also

Work edition


  • Christoph F. Lorenz: Introduction "The long march to the silver lake" to the reprint from "The good comrade". In: The treasure in the silver lake (series: The good comrade, volume 4). 1987. ( online version )
  • Hainer Plaul, Gerhard Klußmeier : Illustrated Karl May Bibliography (contains the works published during May's lifetime)
  • Peter Essenwein: fool's gold. Missteps on the way to Silver Lake? In: Karl May circular from August 16, 1990.
  • Wolfgang Hammer : "The treasure in the Silbersee" - a structural analysis . In: Yearbook of the Karl May Society (Jb-KMG) 1997. ( online version )
  • Eckehard Koch: “... the Reds owned all the land; it has been taken from them by us ... ”On the historical background of May's“ Treasure in the Silver Lake ”. In: Jb-KMG 1997. ( online version )
  • Wolfgang Hermesmeier, Stefan Schmatz : Karl May Bibliography 1913-1945 , Karl May Verlag . ISBN 3780201577
  • Erich Heinemann : The treasure in the Silbersee. In: Gert Ueding (Ed.): Karl-May-Handbuch. Verlag Königshausen & Neumann Würzburg 2001, pp. 283–287. ISBN 3-8260-1813-3
  • Karl Otto Sauerbeck: The Treasure in the Silver Lake - A work of language art? An analysis of grammar, style, structure and motives. Special issue of the Karl May Society 124/2002. ( Online version )
  • Ralf Junkerjürgen : The "tension doubled, no tenfold". The treasure in the Silbersee in the light of psychological reception aesthetics. In: Jb-KMG 2003. ( online version )
  • Peter Essenwein: Stumbling blocks on the way to the Silbersee (I) . In: Communications from the Karl May Society No. 178/2013.
  • Christoph F. Lorenz: Real treasures and astray. On the variation of a motif in B. Traven's “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and Karl May's “The Treasure in the Silver Lake” , in: Jb-KMG 2015, pp. 291–304.

Web links

Commons : Der Schatz im Silbersee (Karl May)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  2. Anders Hansotto Hatzig: Dramatisierungen , in: Gert Ueding (Hrsg.): Karl-May-Handbuch. 3rd edition , Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2001, p. 524.