The crocodiles

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In the crocodile . Original drawing by Th. Pixis , 1866

Die Krokodile was a Munich group of poets that existed from 1856 to 1882.


Under King Ludwig I , Munich was expanded into a representative residence, including numerous cultural institutions such as the Glyptothek and the Pinakothek . This went hand in hand with an attempt to bring the greats of intellectual life to Munich, which only Ludwig's successor Maximilian II succeeded to a significant degree. The call to Munich was followed by the chemist Justus von Liebig , the ethnologist Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl and the historian Heinrich von Sybel . There were also artists such as Emanuel Geibel and Paul Heyse .

In 1852, on the occasion of Geibel's relocation, the cultural society Die Zwanglosen was founded , in which Bavarian artists and newcomers, so-called Northern Lights , met. However, friction quickly arose between the parliamentary groups, and Geibel resigned in 1858. Heyse, however, continued to strive to create a circle of Munich poets based on the model of the Berlin Tunnel over the Spree Association , to which he and Geibel belonged.

Foundation and beginnings

Together with Julius Grosse , Heyse invited to the founding meeting on November 5, 1856 in the coffee house Zur Stadt München . In the early years, Friedrich von Bodenstedt , Felix Dahn , Wilhelm Hertz and Hermann Lingg were among the members. The name of the association came about because both Geibel and Lingg had written a crocodile poem (that's how Felix Dahn describes it), or, according to Heyse, who is probably more credible here, the group of poets was named solely after Lingg's poem The Crocodile of Singapore .

The crocodile of Singapore
In the sacred pond of Singapore
There lies an old crocodile of an
extremely grim nature
and chews on a lotus stem.

It's very old and completely blind,
And when it freezes at night,
it cries like a little child,
But when it's a beautiful day, it laughs.

“The sublime character of this amphibian seemed to us to be an excellent model for idealistic poets, and we hoped that one day, in our Munich holy pond , we would be armored against the disdainful prosaic world, just like that ancient sage who was only sensitive to changes in temperature was. "(Paul Heyse: memories of youth and confessions )

At the meetings of the association, texts were read and the latest works - from their own and others' pens - discussed. Similar to the tunnel over the Spree , the members were given club names (“pond names”); Geibel, for example, was the "original crocodile". A complete list of the club names has not been preserved.

Literary orientation

The crocodiles differ from the previous literature on Junge Deutschland in their decidedly apolitical stance. They wanted to continue poetry as a pure, almost sacred art in the sense of models from antiquity, the Middle Ages and partly also from the Orient. The result is an eclecticism , which is technically and linguistically partly of a high level, but whose works almost always lack substance. It is no coincidence that a number of translations and adaptations have survived to this day, such as Bodenstedt's adaptations of oriental and Hertz's adaptations of medieval material.

Further development and end

After the death of King Maximilian II (1864), the promotion of non-Bavarian artists and scholars became less important. The crocodiles had lost their most important sponsor and their public role. The attempt to bring out a second anthology of the association in 1866 also failed. As a result, the crocodiles remained a mainly sociable group of artists.

Members (club name)


  • Emanuel Geibel (Ed.): Ein Münchner Dichterbuch , Stuttgart 1862
  • Paul Heyse (Ed.): New Munich Poet Book , Stuttgart 1882


  • Véronique de la Giroday: The translation work of the Munich group of poets. Wiesbaden 1978.
  • Johannes Mahr (ed.): The crocodiles. A Munich group of poets. Reclam, Stuttgart 1987.
  • Renate Werner: Society of Crocodiles . In: Wulf Wülfing u. a. (Ed.): Handbook of literary-cultural associations, groups and leagues 1825–1933. Metzler, Stuttgart 1998, pp. 155-161. (there further references)
  • Crocodiles in Munich . In: The Gazebo . Volume 34, 1866, pp. 531-534 ( full text [ Wikisource ] - with illustration).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Die Gartenlaube 1866, p. 533.