Flying Dutchman (Sage)

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The saga of the Flying Dutchman is about a captain who has been condemned by a curse to wandering about on the sea with his ghost ship until the end of the day, without being able to enter a port or find redemption in death.

The origins of the legend are unknown. The earliest written versions date from the 18th century. In the 19th century, the myth was taken up by numerous authors. One of the most famous performances is Richard Wagner's opera Der Fliegende Holländer , which premiered in Dresden in 1843 .

On board the Flying Dutchman (illustration by Johannes Gehrts , 1887)

Motifs of the legend

The extent to which the Flying Dutchman is a saga , legend or literary material can hardly be defined. Above all, the transmission of the legend can hardly be separated from its literary form. It is assumed that the legend is rooted in the oral tradition of seafarers and thus represents a kind of seaman's thread .

At the heart of the legend is a captain who, through his own fault, incurs a curse. This forces him to continue sailing until judgment day if he does not find salvation through a special circumstance . Often there is hardly any distinction between the figure of the captain and the ship, so it is unclear whether the captain is called the "Flying Dutchman" or whether it is the name of the ship.

In concrete terms, it is a 17th century Dutch captain who, while trying to circumnavigate the Cape of Good Hope , vows to sail until Judgment Day if need be. This also occurs.

The story is extended by the possibility of redemption: every seven, ten or one hundred years the cursed captain is allowed to go ashore. If he finds a woman there who loves him sincerely and faithfully, he will find salvation. First of all, this has the character of an impossible condition that is supposed to condemn the captain to perpetual wandering. Only in later designs does the motif become central (especially with Wagner) and the redemption through love is realized: The Flying Dutchman finds a faithful soul in a woman who sacrifices herself for him and is allowed to ascend to heaven with her.

The letters represent a special motif: Sometimes the Flying Dutchman lets a dinghy into the water and a ghost hand delivers letters that - as it turns out later - are all addressed to the long dead. The letters have to be handled in a special way (nailing them to the mast, burning them, etc.), otherwise an accident will happen. In general, the encounter with the Flying Dutchman is considered a gloomy omen and heralds the sinking of the ship or at least an impending great disaster for his crew.

The ship itself is said to have incredible capabilities. So it should be able to sail against the storm, in absolute calm or even backwards. It appears floating in the air or suddenly emerges from the depths of the sea. The sails are bloody red or appear red as illuminated by embers or dancing Elmsfeuer ghostlike around the mast and the hull is black as hell. Nobody of the crew can be seen, their bodies can be seen on deck, or they are made up of living dead.

Roots of the legend

Cape of Good Hope and Cape Colony

The legend of the Flying Dutchman seems to have been localized at the Cape of Good Hope from the start .

The waters at the Cape of Good Hope, more precisely the waters between Cape Point and Cape Agulhas , where the cold Benguela Current from the South Atlantic meets the warm Agulhas Current from the Indian Ocean , were considered an extremely dangerous area for sailing ships . In Table Bay alone (northwest of the Cape of Good Hope) divers found more than 300 sailing ship hulls. At the cape, Table Mountain rises above 1000 meters directly from the sea, which creates dangerous gusts of wind. The sailing ships coming from the east sometimes confused the Cape Hangklip east of the Cape of Good Hope with Cape Point, which is on the same peninsula as the Cape of Good Hope and together with it marks the geographical point from which the ship route leads north again . So the ships sailed north into the bay between the capes, which was then given the name False Bay (German: Falsche Bucht ).

The rainy season is from May to October . From October to April the dreaded Southeasters blow . The contemporary sailing ships were not able to gain space against the wind, which led to grueling cruising , sometimes for weeks , a fact that was well known to every sailor, which together with the perilousness of the waters, the rigors of the storms etc. led to this could have that the Cape became the home of the Flying Dutchman. Such a derivation is supported by the fact that reports from the Flying Dutchman were localized in the waters at Cape Horn , which were similarly dangerous, especially after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, when the voyage around the Cape of Good Hope lost its importance, and instead Cape Horn became the most prominent danger point for seafaring.

In addition, the Cape of Good Hope is linked to the name Vasco da Gamas , which could perhaps have served as the archetype of the Dutch. Da Gama succeeded in circumnavigating the Cape in 1497 and thus opening the sea ​​route to India . The representation of da Gamas in the early reports, such as in Gaspar Correias Lendas da India (1551) and in the Lusiaden des Luís de Camoes , could have been the basis for the identification. In the Chronicle Lendas da India, for example, an alleged mutiny on Vasco da Gama's ships is reported in detail. The crew did not want to continue sailing. Da Gama had the sailors' navigation equipment delivered and thrown overboard, had the helmsman and master of the ship put in chains and exclaimed that he needed neither master nor helmsman. God be the helmsman from now on. Even if da Gama may have been a gloomy and bossy character, the mutiny is not historical and da Gamas is not demonized. In any case, there were no other historical effects and the cursed captain is not Portuguese, but a Dutchman.

Bernard Fokke , a 17th century Dutch East Indiaman , is specifically named as the captain of the Flying Dutchman . Back then he was known for the incredible speed with which he drove from the Netherlands to Java. He regularly covered the distance so quickly that he was said to have a covenant with the devil . When he did not return from his last voyage, it was assumed that he would now have to cross the seas as a Flying Dutchman on behalf of the devil.

The other names of the Flying Dutchman known from tradition are also typically Dutch: Vanderdecke, Tyn van Straten, van Diemen, van Evert, van Halen. In connection with the localization at the Cape, this also makes sense, since the Dutch began to dominate seafaring in the 17th century and important chapters of Dutch history took place at the Cape. The Dutch Cape Colony was founded there in 1652, Dutch rule ended in 1806, the Cape became British, and around the same time the ghostly Dutchman appeared at sea. The connection between the decline of Dutch rule and the appearance of the Dutchman was explicitly made by Washington Irving and applied analogously to the end of the Nieuw Nederland in North America.

Ghost and phantom ships

Ghost ships are ships found at sea with no or dead crew. They were and are not uncommon. In the past, plague , scurvy and epidemics wiped out entire crews of ships. For fear of contagion, plague ships were not accepted in any port. Surviving crew members wanted to call passing ships for help, but they hurriedly fled for fear of the plague. After all, when everyone was dead, such a “ghost ship” drifted back and forth across the seas for an indefinite period of time, an eerie phenomenon for anyone it encountered. The legend of the Flying Dutchman could have condensed itself from several such ghost ships.

Many sources prove that such floating wrecks were not uncommon; For example, in an annual report from 1869, 214 ships were counted abandoned at sea.

Mirage at sea

Another possible root for the legend of the Flying Dutchman can be the sighting of phantom ships. In this context, a phantom ship is created through the distorted image of a real ship in a mirage . Such a mirage at an interface between cold and warm air can, for example, make the image of a ship actually located far behind the horizon appear nearby, with a fantastic distortion. In the case of a sailing ship, for example, the sails could be torn and the shape of the ship could appear to be in constant, undulating transformation. At the moment when the shape of the interface changes perhaps only a little, the phantom ship would disappear and thus literally vanish into thin air.

The fact that mirages occur particularly frequently at sea where cold and warm ocean currents meet (and therefore cold and warm air masses) and that these conditions are ideally fulfilled at the Cape of Good Hope fits into the picture.

Development from saga to legend

The main reason for the development into a legend , i.e. a story with partial truth claims or assertions, are alleged sightings. Sightings have been reported since the 19th century. Only through reports of sightings does it become a legend, if not yet a reality. A number of sightings are therefore listed in chronological order, whereby it must be clear that even contemporary evidence does not have to offer any guarantee of factuality.

HMS Leven 1823

On April 6, 1823, off the South African coast of HMS Leven under the command of Captain WF Owen, on the voyage from Algoa Bay to Simons's Bay , the escort ship Barracouta was sighted 2  miles away and clearly identified by peculiarities of the rigging . The barracouta was seen launching a boat, but was not near it. It was later discovered that the Barracouta was 300 miles away at the time and that no boat was watering that night. The anonymous author of the report also cites three of his own sightings of phantom ships, including a very typical one in a storm.

Joseph Somers 1857

On February 29, 1857, the Joseph Somers is said to have had a close encounter with the Flying Dutchman off the island of Tristan da Cunha in the southern Atlantic, including the ghostly appearance of his captain. Shortly afterwards, a fire broke out on board, killing several seafarers.

General Grant 1866

The shipwreck of the General Grant caused a worldwide sensation, mainly because of the suffering and the dramatic circumstances that led to the rescue of the few survivors. In addition, the General Grant carried a significant amount of gold. Perhaps this drama attracts the legend, at least the Flying Dutchman is said to have been sighted on board immediately before the General Grant was driven to the rocks of the coast of Auckland Island on May 13, 1866 . Where this report came from remains unclear. The fact that several attempts to recover the cargo of the General Grant , some tragically failed and have remained unsuccessful to this day , probably contributed to the creation of the legend .

HMS Inconstant 1881

Probably the best known alleged sighting of the Flying Dutchman took place on July 11, 1881 from board the HMS Inconstant , a frigate of the British Navy, off the Australian coast on the voyage from Melbourne to Sydney , after passing the Bass Strait . The prominence of the witnesses contributes to the awareness of the sighting, as the British princes George (later King George V ) and Albert completed their naval training as midshipmen on board the Bacchante . In his diary, Prince George writes:

At 4 a.m. the Flying Dutchman appeared in front of our bow. A strange red light like from a glowing ghost ship, with the masts , spars, and sails of the brig about 200 yards away clearly visible as it approached from port . The officer on watch on the bridge saw them very clearly, as did the quarterdeck ensign, who was immediately sent to the foredeck . But when he got there, there was nothing to be seen of a physical ship, not a trace, neither near nor far to the horizon, since the night was clear and the sea was calm. A total of 13 people saw the ship. ... At 10:45 am, the sailor who had seen the Flying Dutchman in the morning fell from the spreader on the Vor-Marsstenge and was completely crushed.

Two other ships of the association, the HMS Cleopatra and the HMS Tourmaline are also said to have noticed the red light. This testimony seems weighty and is practically always quoted when speaking of sightings of the Flying Dutchman. A corresponding entry in the Inconstant logbook is not known and Prince George was just 16 years old at the time, but a depiction out of thin air would hardly have been published promptly with official support.

Orkney Belle 1911

In January 1911, the Flying Dutchman was said to have been sighted off Iceland by the crew of the Orkney Belle , a Scottish whaler. A bell was heard three times, then the ghost ship turned to starboard and disappeared. In 1914, the Orkney Belle is said to have been sunk by the German Navy as one of the first British ships in the First World War .

HMS Jubilee 1942

On August 3, 1942, 9 p.m., the Flying Dutchman is said to have met the HMS Jubilee , which was on its way to the British naval base in Simon's Town near Cape Town . Both 2nd Officer Davies and 3rd Officer Nicholas Monsarrat saw a schooner running under full sail, although there was no wind. To avoid a collision, the Jubilee had to evade. Monsarrat was a well-known author of sea stories and made use of his experience in the novel series The Master Mariner , of which only the first volume Running Proud (1978) could appear before his death .

Straat Magelhaen 1959

The last report of a sighting for the time being comes from the Straat Magelhaen , a Dutch freighter, on the night of 7/8. October 1959. The captain P. Algra and his second officer wanted to have met the Flying Dutchman sailing under full sail, and a man at the steering wheel of the ghost ship could be clearly seen. Just before a collision occurred, the ship disappeared.

Designs of the saga / legend


The best-known design is the opera Der Fliegende Holländer by Richard Wagner, which premiered on January 2, 1843 in Dresden, but literary designs were decisive for the development of the material.

Early reports

The first references appear in travelogues and sailors' memories of the late 18th century. Jeffrey Baron de Raigersfeld reports that he saw the Flying Dutchman himself in 1787 and heard the legend that it was one of two Dutch East Indiamans who had promised each other help in need. The captain of the cursed ship had broken this promise and had to sail endlessly across the seas as a warning. A tyrannical captain appears at the French admiral Augustin Jal's, who wants to circumnavigate the Cape at all costs around 1800, throws an unwilling sailor overboard and is condemned by God as a punishment. Both reports do not appear until the 1830s.

Lyric creations

In literature, the haunted ship with the cursed captain appears in the 1798 ballad The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge . The eponymous old sailor incurs a curse and punishment when he deliberately shoots an albatross , and only when he recognizes the beauty of creation is he allowed to go ashore again, but has to confess the animal murder to everyone he meets.

In the following years, a number of lyrical works with ghost ships appeared in the Anglo-Saxon region: In John Leyden's verse story Scenes of Infancy (1803) it is a slave ship on which the plague broke out, which is no longer accepted in any port and therefore forever over the Seas drifting, shrouded in glistening light and with ghosts as a crew. He adds in a footnote that there is a widespread belief among seafarers that the occurrence of severe storms on the southern tip of Africa is heralded by the appearance of a ghost ship called the Flying Dutchman:

Deep in the night, the glistening body of a ship flying rapidly into the wind with a flared topsail. In the early days of seafaring, the crew was believed to be guilty of an evil iniquity, was struck with the plague [...] and condemned to continue to sail the sea that was their doom until the time of theirs Repentance is over.

Leyden's friend Walter Scott takes this up and extends it in Rokeby (1813). Further encounters with eerie ships can be found in Thomas Campbell's The Specter Boat (1822), The Death-Boat of Heligoland and Richard Henry Dana's The Buccaneer .

In 1804, in a footnote to his poem Written on passing Dead-man's Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence , Thomas Moore named the Flying Dutchman as the inspiration for his poem's description of a gloomy, ghostly ship. There it says:

Fast gliding along, a gloomy bark
Her sails are full, though the wind is still,
And there blows not a breath her sails to fill.

Vanderdecke's Message Home

In 1821, the first prose version to cover all the basic themes of the legend appears in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine . A certain John Howison (fl. 1821–59), a member of the East India Company , has now been identified as the author . In this tale, held as an eyewitness account, the name of the Flying Dutchman is Vanderdecke and his ship is a Dutch merchant from Amsterdam who, 70 years earlier, had tried a whole day to get around the Cape. In the evening another ship called it and asked if it would be better to run into the bay, to which the captain replied:

I want to be damned forever if I do this and if I have to cruise around here by Judgment Day.

Which of course was also promptly fulfilled. The narrator's ship meets the Flying Dutchman in a stormy sea, the Dutchman launches a dinghy and one of the men from the dinghy comes on board the narrator's ship. He appears as an ordinary seaman, holds a few letters in his hand and asks them to be sent to Amsterdam. He is replied that that would not make much sense, since the recipients were probably long dead. Then the sailor and the other men in the dinghy are very sad and torn by homesickness. Now for every single letter that the sailor claims to have ordered, he is told why that is no longer possible. At the end the cruelly disappointed sailor lays the pack of letters that no one wants to accept on the deck and disappears. The letters are eventually washed overboard, which is generally very gratifying. The title of the narrative is "Vanderdecken's Letter or The Persistence of Natural Affection", and the structure of the narrative suggests that it is precisely aimed at overcoming the durability of emotions and affects To exemplify time and damnation using the example of the Flying Dutchman Vanderdecke, who would have loved to see his wife again and bring her the promised mirrors for the living room.

This little novella appeared just two months later, without any indication of its origin, in a German translation in the Stuttgarter Morgenblatt for educated estates . It should be the first publication of the Dutch legend in the German-speaking area.

Washington Irving

1822 appeared in Washington Irving's story collection Bracebridge Hall , the short story The Storm Ship . In it Irving tells a story from the time when New York was still a Dutch colony and was called New Amsterdam . One day a ship was spotted in this sleepy nest, sailing up the Hudson with full sails against the wind and responding neither to calls nor to cannon fire. The cannonball just seems to fly right through this ship.

The ship eventually disappears, but is sighted repeatedly in the lower Hudson in the following weeks. Hans van Pelt, an old Dutchman who also knows the colony at the Cape of Good Hope, thinks it is the Flying Dutchman who has now come to America after giving up on finding a port on the Cape. Others believe that the ship was the Half Moon under the command of Henry Hudson , who was commissioned by the East India Company in 1609 to find a north-west passage to China.

The sightings became rarer over time, but never stopped, and it was believed that they were a bad omen pointing to the end of the Dutch colonies on the east coast of America.

Wilhelm Hauff

Illustration to Wilhelm Hauff's fairy tale The story of the ghost ship

In 1826 Wilhelm Hauff published the story of the ghost ship in his almanac for the year 1826 . In his story, Hauff transposes the motif of the cursed captain and his undead crew into an oriental-Islamic context.

In the framework narration of the caravan , the narrator Achmet reports the encounter with the cursed ship as his own experience: From a shipwreck, Achmet is the only survivor to save himself to this ship with a servant, whose crew consists of corpses that cannot be moved . The captain's body is pinned to the mast with a nail through his head. The following night the rescued fell into a paralyzing sleep in which they thought they heard the noise of kicks and the clash of weapons, and when the servant woke up for a moment, he saw the captain and the helmsman sitting in the cabin, singing and drinking. The following night they manage to stay awake by praying verses from the Koran and reciting a saying that the servant Ibrahim knew from his grandfather.

This helps. From a side chamber they watch the captain and helmsman arguing in a foreign language, followed by fighting noises on deck. The next day everything is back to the way it was. In addition, the team seems to sail back the route sailed during the day overnight. To prevent this, at night they wrap the drawn-in sails with verses from the Koran and the magic spell on parchment and during the day they sail in the direction in which they suspect land. On the sixth day they reach the Indian coast and go ashore near a town. They are looking for a wise man in town. He advises them to bring the dead ashore, which is also achieved by sawing them and the planks below them from the deck. When brought ashore, they immediately turn to dust. In the end, only the captain is on board, as the nail cannot be loosened from the mast in any way.

But as soon as the wise old man has sprinkled some earth on his head and mumbled a spell, the captain opens his eyes and reports what the curse brought on him, his ship and his crew: They had been pirates and the outrageous murder began a pious dervish had brought his curse on them, not being able to live and die until they lay their head on the earth. After the murder, a mutiny broke out in which everyone died, but in the night they all awoke to undead life and had to repeat the events of the night of the murder over and over again. After giving his report, the captain dies and also turns to dust. Achmet, however, takes the treasures of the ship and returns to Basora twice as rich as before .

Edward Fitzball

Frontispiece by Isaac Robert Cruikshank to Edward Fitzball's The Flying Dutchman

The first play that brought The Flying Dutchman to the stage was The Flying Dutchman; or, The Phantom Ship by Edward Fitzball , also known as "The Terrible Fitzball" because of his preference for gruesome subjects and Grand Guignol effects. The play premiered on January 1, 1827 in Adelphi, London, and may have been seen there by Heinrich Heine, who in April 1827 lived just a few streets away. The music was from George Rodwell, then director of the Adelphi.

At Fitzball, the Dutchman Vanderdecke is cursed by Rockalda, the evil spirit of the depths of the sea, and is only allowed to go ashore every 100 years. In the opening scene, the sea witch Rockalda grants the Dutch audience an audience in her grotto and allows him to go ashore, as well as being invisible and invulnerable. There he should find a bride who would then serve him as a woman and the sea witch as a slave for the next 100 years. The bridal show is made more difficult by the fact that the Dutchman has to keep silence on land.

The chosen victim is Lestelle Vanhelm, niece of Captain Peppercoal, who lives in the tower of a castle on the Cape of Good Hope with her companion Lucy. On the wall of her room hangs a painting by the young Vanderdecke, dated 1727 (exactly 100 years before the London premiere). Mynherr Peter Von Bummel from Amsterdam is chosen as her future husband, but Lestelle already has a secret love affair with the handsome lieutenant Mowdrey and Lucy has meanwhile fallen in love with Mowdrey's companion, Toby Varnish, a painter.

When the three applicants, Von Bummel, Mowdrey and Vanderdecke meet in the tower, there is some potential for confusion, mix-up and disguise, as Lestelle finds the dress of his last bride in a chest. This potential is also allowed to develop, with plenty of theatrical thunder and stage effects , which the Adelphi's stage technology was designed to provide. This even included electrical effects with voltaic columns , which means that Vanderdecke lets a “magic beam” jump out of his finger.

Finally, Lstelle is kidnapped by Vanderdecks and taken to a sea cave, where she is supposed to sign in the mystical book of the sea witch to be a slave for 100 years. Mowdrey joins them, but cannot do anything with his sword against the invulnerable Vanderdecke, who exclaims at the moment of triumph: “Die! Mortal! ”- and is defeated by it, because he has broken his silence. The lovers Lstelle and Mowdrey are said to remain locked in the cave until Vanderdecken's return. No one can save her from this prison, except for a son of a sailor who was born at sea. Fortunately, Toby Varnish is just that. Varnish comes into the cave and lights the spellbook with his torch. Vanderdecke sinks, everyone is saved and the play ends.

Another stage adaptation of the subject, The Flying Dutchman; or The Spectral Ship by Douglas William Jerrold , published in 1829.

Heinrich Smidt

It is thanks to Heinrich Smidt that the poodle found a place not only in the Faust , but also on board the Flying Dutchman. In 1825 he summarized the content of his poem Der Ewige Segler , published in 1822, as follows:

The Dutch say: one of their compatriots [...] returned from the East Indies, but was unable to reach his destination, Amsterdam [...] because a contra wind blew without stopping. After drifting about twenty weeks, he cursed himself and his entire ship and devoted himself to hell, and swore that he would spend his whole life in the ocean. Suddenly there was a rustling and roaring, it was like dark night; The sailors were taken from the eyes of the shipper, and by Providence transferred to their fatherland; only he remained, an eternal plaything of the elements. With him a big white poodle. He always sits upright with his master at the helm, a place he never leaves. Storm and weather drive him inexorably from country to country, from coast to coast; and when he wants to land, a storm as fast as an arrow takes him away. Wrapped in a black cloak and his head uncovered, he stares out into the dark night:
"So, with gruesome winds,
The sons of the sea have often seen him. "

Smidt designed the motif of the ghost ship several times, including in the novella, also published under the title The Eternal Sailor (1828 in sea ​​painting ). In it, a loving couple, Elise and her captain Milton, are said to be prevented from marrying by their father. Elise vows to throw herself off the chalk cliffs in Dover if she doesn't get her Milton, who conspires that he will then "wander around forever in the barren waters of the wild ocean", and so becomes the Flying Dutchman. In addition, ghost ships appear in Smidt's stories Der Geister-Lootse and Das Todtenschiff , both in Seemanns -Tagen and Schiffer-Märchen (1835).

Heinrich Heine

The Flying Dutchman appears twice in Heinrich Heine's work . The first time in 1827 quite casually in one sentence in The North Sea , the second time in the 7th chapter of the 1834 fragment Memoirs of Herr von Schnabelewopski. It says:

“You are certainly familiar with the fable of the Flying Dutchman. It is the story of the cursed ship that can never get into port and has been cruising the sea since time immemorial. If it encounters another vehicle, some of the eerie crew come up in a boat and ask you to take a package of letters with you. These letters have to be nailed to the mast, otherwise the ship will suffer a misfortune, especially if there is no Bible on board or no horseshoe on the foremast. The letters are always addressed to people you don't even know or who have long since passed away, so that sometimes the late grandson receives a love letter addressed to his great-grandmother, who has been in the grave for a hundred years. That wooden ghost, that gruesome ship, takes its name from its captain, a Dutchman who once swore by all the devils that he wanted to and should circumnavigate some promontory, the name of which I have forgotten, despite the violent storm that was blowing Have to sail until Judgment Day. The devil has taken him at his word that he will have to wander around the sea until the last day, unless he is redeemed through the faithfulness of a woman. "

The narrator then reports on a visit to the theater, where he saw a play about the Flying Dutchman, as well as a piquant acquaintance he made there. The piece ends with the Dutchman's bride throwing herself from a rock and the Dutchman being redeemed by this love sacrifice and sinking with his ship. Heine comments:

“The moral of the play for women is that they must be careful not to marry a Flying Dutchman; and we men see from this piece how we perish by women, in the best case scenario. "

Wilpert suspects Heine's source in an internal narrative of the student novel Karl Berthold's diary by Martin Hieronymus Hudtwalcker (1826), which was well known at the time and read by Heine , which essentially reproduces the content of Vanderdeck's Message Home . The correspondence between the description of the play described in Schnabelewopski and Fitzball's play is also remarkable. In the plot of the fictional play told by Heine, the nameless Dutchman is allowed to go ashore every 7 years. During such a stay he gets to know a Scotsman and meets his daughter, who is quite shocked because she has an heirloom painting, "a true likeness of the Flying Dutchman, as you saw him a hundred years ago in Scotland", and according to tradition the women of the family should beware of men who look like the portrait - which of course applies to the Dutchman. The Dutchman, however - quite unlike Fitzball's everything in the vicinity of bewitching Vanderdecke - is of a well-behaved manner and relies more on empathy . He reports as he did

"[...] on the immeasurable desert of water must endure the most unheard of sufferings, as his body is nothing more than a coffin of flesh, in which his soul is bored, as life pushes him away and death also rejects him: like an empty barrel When the waves toss each other and mockingly throw each other back, the poor Dutchman is tossed back and forth between life and death, neither of them wants to keep him; his pain is as deep as the sea on which he swims, his ship is without anchor and his heart is without hope. "

He is successful with this, because when asked “'Katharina, do you want to be loyal to me?', She answers resolutely: 'Faithful to death.'” Later she will redeem that and save the Dutchman through her sacrificial death.

While in 1821 the Flying Dutchman was still completely unknown. For example, when the German translator of Vanderdeck's Message Home spoke of a “Flying Dutchman”, Heine can assume that the legend is well known in 1834. Nevertheless, the relatively casual appearance of the Dutchman at Heine contributed significantly to the general awareness in the German-speaking area.

Heine's plot had a direct and formative influence on the design by Richard Wagner. Wagner himself expressly acknowledged this influence in 1843: “In particular, the genuinely dramatic treatment of the redemption of this Ahasuerus of the ocean, invented by Heine, gave me everything I needed to use this legend for an opera subject.” In 1871 he called the subject “the Treatment taken from a Dutch play of the same title by Heine ”, thus takes up the Heinean fiction of a play seen in Amsterdam and at the same time deprives Heine of the previously recognized authorship, probably against the background of Wagner's increasing anti-Semitism .

Frederick Marryat

“Flying Dutchman” in Terneuzen, the monument in the background

From Frederick Marryats 1839 published novel The Phantom Ship appeared three different German translations in the same year and Marryats novel was popular in the wake of the German-speaking world than in English.

At Marryat , Vanderdecke , who comes from Terneuzen in Holland, tried to circumnavigate the Cape of Good Hope, first threw the stubborn pilot overboard and then swore at the cross of Christ that he would not give up his project until Judgment Day. Vanderdecken's son Philip now learns from his dying mother that the father can be redeemed if someone brings the relic of the Holy Cross to him on board, which the faithful son now makes his life's work. The specter of the pilot opposes this plan. After several attempts and shipwrecks, the son manages to get on board the ghost ship, where he and his father find redemption and peace.

Marryat's novel is also the basis for the fact that Terneuzen sees itself as the birthplace of the Flying Dutchman and uses it for tourism.

Further literary designs

The literary designs of the saga of the Dutchman and of the subject matter of the ghost ship are very numerous in the 19th century, especially in poetry and there especially in ballads and verse epics, and have found successors up to the present day. To mention are among others:


Visual arts

Movie and TV

Backdrop of the Flying Dutchman from Pirates of the Caribbean at the Disney Resort Castaway Cay

Comic and cartoon

Donald Duck

In 1959 the Flying Dutchman appeared in the Donald Duck story "The Flying Dutchman" by Carl Barks (original title: The Flying Dutchman ). Uncle Dagobert bought the logbooks of a Dutch shipping line for 1000 Taler, where he found clues to the ship Fliegender Holländer , which was lost with a load of gold bars, whereupon Dagobert went on a treasure hunt with Donald and the nephews. After the main cable of the African anti-invasion alarm service had been lifted due to a navigation error, the search was made again and steered south, towards Antarctica . On a stormy night, the Ducks even see the Dutchman flying through the clouds with blood-red sails against the wind, which makes Dagobert and Donald a bit queasy. In fact, Donald's clumsiness destroys the compass and the ship drifts disoriented in the fog. A bolt of lightning strikes the steering wheel, provisions are running out and it is getting colder and colder, meanwhile you are approaching the position where Dagobert thinks he has located the Flying Dutchman. That's where the ancient ship can be found, frozen in an iceberg . The Ducks can not only retrieve the gold, but also steer a compass and a steering wheel and so back home.


In the television series SpongeBob SquarePants , the Dutchman appears as a glowing green ghost without feet, so instead of shoes he wears - occasionally - a large sock.

Further allusions and references:


  • JQ Davies: Melodramatic Possessions: The Flying Dutchman, South Africa, and the Imperial Stage, approx. 1830. In: Opera Quarterly , Volume 21, 2005, No. 3, pp. 496-514, doi: 10.1093 / oq / kbi058 ,
  • Manfred Frank: The endless journey. The story of the Flying Dutchman and related motifs. Reclam, Leipzig 1995, ISBN 3-379-01537-7
  • Olaf Fritsche : Are there really ghost ships? - The truth behind the marine myths . Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Reinbek 2018, ISBN 978-3-499-63253-2 .
  • Helge Gerndt : Flying Dutchman and Klabautermann. Legendary figures of the sea. Göttingen 1971, ISBN 3-509-00533-3
  • Gernot Giertz (Ed.): Vasco da Gama. The discovery of the sea route to India. An eyewitness account from 1497–1499 . Thienemann, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-522-61070-9
  • Gerrit Kalff: De Sage van den Vlegen Hollander. After treatment, oorsprong en zin onderzocht. Thieme, Zutphen 1923 (extensive collection of material with psychoanalytic interpretation)
  • Gero von Wilpert : The German ghost story. Motif, form, development (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 406). Kröner, Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-520-40601-2 , pp. 278-303.
  • Burkhardt Wolf: Cape of Storms. The Flying Dutchman and the odyssey of maritime globalization. In: Hannah Baader and Gerhard Wolf (eds.): The sea, the exchange and the limits of representation. Diaphanes, Zurich / Berlin 2010, pp. 357–377.

Web links

Wikisource: Fliegender Holländer  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Fliegender Holländer  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gaspar Correa: The Three Voyages of Vasco da Gama and his Viceroyalty. From the "Lendas da India" . Trans. V. Henry EJ Stanley. London 1869, p. 63
  2. ^ Wilpert: Ghost story. 1994, p. 283
  3. Gerndt: Flying Dutchman and Klabautermann. 1971, p. 107
  4. ^ Lloyd's Record of Losses - Black Book; Lloyd's Book of Ship Losses Volume 1869, 1892, 1893, 1912, 1932
  5. The enlargement shown in the engraving in the horizontal direction (on the right ship) is extremely unlikely in reality.
  6. ^ Army and Navy Chronicle, and Scientific Repository . Volume 3, No. 26, p. 406, digitizedhttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3DZKZLAAAAYAAJ~IA%3D~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3DPA406~ double-sided%3D~LT%3D~PUR%3D
  7. Margaret Baker: Folklore of the sea. David & Charles, Newton Abbot 1979, p. 59
  8. Malcolm Archibald: Sixpence for the wind. A knot of nautical folklore. Whittles, Latheronwheel 1999, p. 110
  9. It is often falsely claimed that the sighting took place on board the HMS Bacchante . In fact, Prince George was temporarily on board the HMS Inconstant at this point .
  10. ^ At 4 am the Flying Dutchman crossed our bows. A strange red light as of a phantom ship all aglow, in the midst of which light the masts, spars, and sails of a brig 200 yards distant stood out in strong relief as she came up on the port bow, where also the officer of the watch from the bridge clearly saw her, as did the quarterdeck midshipman, who was sent forward at once to the forecastle; but on arriving there was no vestige nor any sign whatever of any material ship was to be seen either near or right away to the horizon, the night being clear and the sea calm. Thirteen persons altogether saw her… At 10.45 am the ordinary seaman who had this morning reported the Flying Dutchman fell from the foretopmast crosstrees on to the topgallant forecastle and was smashed to atoms. The Cruise of Her Majesty's Ship “Bacchante”, 1879-1882. Compiled from the private journals, letters and note-books of Prince Albert Victor and Prince George of Wales, with additions by JN Dalton. London 1886, vol. 1, p. 551, digitizedhttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3Dcruisehermajest01georgoog~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3Dn597~doppelseiten%3D~LT%3D~PUR%3D
  11. John Harding: Sailing's Strangest Moments. Robson, London 2004, p. 14
  12. ^ A b John Harding: Sailing's strangest moments. Robson, London 2004, p. 15
  13. ^ The Nautical magazine. Vol. 183/4 (1960), p. 46. The incident was reported on October 21.
  14. Jeffrey Baron de Raigersfeld: The Life of a sea officer. Private print, approx. 1830. New edition: Cassell, London 1929
  15. ^ Augustin Jal: Scenes de la vie maritime. 1832
  16. ^ "At dead of night, the luminous form of a ship glides rapidly, with topsails flying, and sailing straight in the wind's eye. The crew of this vessel are supposed to have been guilty of some dreadful crime, in the infancy of navigation; and to have been stricken with pestilence […] and are ordained still to traverse the ocean on which they perished, till the period of their penance expire. " Digitalisathttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3Dscenesinfancyde00leydgoog~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3Dn88~ double-sided%3D~LT%3D~PUR%3D
  17. ^ Canto II, 11
  18. Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine Vol. 9 (1821), No. 50, pp. 127-131, digitizedhttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3Dblackwoodsmagazi09edinuoft~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3D125~ double-sided%3D~LT%3D~PUR%3D
  19. ^ Alan Lang Strout: A Bibliography of Articles in Blackwood's Magazine 1817-1825 . 1959, p. 78
  20. ^ "May I be eternally damned if I do, though I should beat about here till the day of judgment." Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 9, 50, p. 128
  21. "Vanderdecken's message to the home, or the violence of love for relatives." In: Morgenblatt für educated estates, No. 165–167 (July 1821)
  22. Johannes Barth: News about the Flying Dutchman. In: Fabula , Vol. 35 (1994), Issue 3/4, p. 311
  23. Washington Irving: The Storm-Ship . In: (id.): Bracebridge Hall Vol. 2, 1822
  24. Nieuwe Wereldt ofte Beschrijvinghe van West Indies, uit veelerhande writings end Aen-teekeningen van verscheyden Natien . Bonaventure & Abraham Elseviers, Leiden 1625, p. 83
  25. ^ Wilpert: Ghost story . 1994, pp. 288-290
  26. ^ Larry Stephen Clifton: The terrible Fitzball: the melodramatist of the Macabre. Bowling Green 1993, pp. 130ff; 181
  27. a b J. Q. Davies: Melodramatic Possessions. In: Opera Quarterly Vol. 21 (2005), No. 3, p. 496
  28. The tower is always the scene of Vanderdecken's 100-year search for a bride.
  29. Frederick Burwick, "The Flying Dutchman," when it was funny. In: Daniel Fulda, Antje Roeben, Norbert Wichard (eds.): “Can't you be very serious while laughing?” Languages ​​and games of laughter in literature . de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2010, pp. 19–28
  30. Footnote to The Eternal Sailor in the anthology Poetic Attempts , 1825,
  31. seascapes 1828, p 94
  32. ^ Wilpert: Ghost story. 1994, p. 290
  33. "The story of the Flying Dutchman, which you see sailing past in a storm with open sails and who sometimes launches a boat in order to give all sorts of letters to the boatmen who meet them, which one does not know how to get afterwards, since they are addressed to people who have long since died." The North Sea. 3rd department. In: Travel Pictures. Second part. 1827. See Heinrich Heine: Works and Letters . Volume 3. 2nd edition. Berlin / Weimar 1972, p. 100, .
  34. ^ Heinrich Heine: Works and Letters. Volume 4. 2nd edition. Berlin / Weimar 1972, p. 79,
  35. ^ Heinrich Heine: Works and letters in ten volumes. Volume 4. 2nd edition. Berlin / Weimar 1972, p. 83,
  36. ^ Wilpert: Ghost story . 1994, p. 290 f.
  37. Heine: Works and Letters . Volume 4. 2nd edition. Berlin / Weimar 1972, p. 80
  38. Heine: Works and Letters . Volume 4. 2nd edition. Berlin / Weimar 1972, p. 81.
  39. ^ Wilpert: Ghost story . 1994, p. 291 ff.
  40. ^ Richard Wagner: Autobiographical sketch. Version 1843 or 1871. Quoted from Wilpert: Gespenstergeschichte . 1994, p. 297.
  41. ^ EL Carey & A. Hart, London 1839, 3 vols .; First printed as a serial in The New Monthly Magazine (March 1837 to August 1839)
  42. ^ Wilpert: Ghost story . 1994, p. 300
  43. Joseph Christian von Zedlitz The ghost ship
  45. ^ Philipp Polzin, Christian D. Dellacher and Daniel Werner: The flying Dutchman - The musical. Retrieved February 27, 2018 .
  46. Carmen Braun: Video: Musical - The Flying Dutchman . May 13, 2017 ( [accessed February 27, 2018]).
  47. The Flying Dutchman in the Internet Movie Database (English)
  48. Land of the Lost: Flying Dutchman (1976) in the Internet Movie Database (English)
  49. De vgende Hollander in the Internet Movie Database (English)
  50. U. a. in: The Greatest Stories by Donald Duck - special issue Vol. 39 (1974). Original: Uncle Scrooge 25 (May 1959), see Uncle Scrooge: The Flying Dutchman
  51. Flying Dutchman in the SpongeBob Wiki
  52. The Frying Dutchman on the Simpsons Wiki