In the valley of the thundering hooves

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In the valley of thundering hooves is a story by Heinrich Böll , which appeared in March 1957 in the Insel-Bücherei of Insel Verlag in Wiesbaden. Previously, extracts from the small poetic work had already been reprinted several times - for example on March 14, 1957 in the FAZ

The young love of the neighborhood children Paul and Katharina is not happy.


In the small wine-growing town of Zischbrunn, Käte goes down to the Rhine to have a little fun at the regatta. She locked her daughter Katharina Mirzow in the apartment for good reasons. The Zischbrunners can't take beauty well. Three hundred years ago, these citizens would most likely have burned such a natural youth as a witch. So Kate wants to prevent lewd calls at the festival from the start. Second, Katharina has to take the evening train to Vienna. She is supposed to stay there for a long time - presumably with her father. People say that Kate “remained a real Zischbrunn girl”, but from Zischbrunn's point of view, there is a flaw in her mother: Katharina's father, Mirzow from Moscow, is red .

Katharina packed her suitcase at home long ago. Out of boredom, she looks through the binoculars at the open window and accidentally watches Paul taking advantage of his family's absence and stealing her father's pistol. When Paul leaves his father's house, the lonely girl asks him to go upstairs to say goodbye. Paul gets in. The two repeat the game that Paul's mother disapproved of so much months ago. On request, Katharina shows the boy her breast. The fourteen-year-old Catholic estimates that he is still too green for a relationship with a woman, but asks Katharina to come back from Vienna one day. The girl promises. The young couple say goodbye. Paul pulls away with the gun.

His friend Griff is expecting Paul. Both boys are tired of life. Paul plays with the idea of ​​shooting himself. Then luckily the boys only shoot at objects. Paul is handed over by the policeman to the care of his father - during wartime “division master in gun cleaning”.


Katharina to Paul: It's a shame you're so Catholic .


The title is not directly related to the plot. In the title, the poet Böll addresses the discrepancy between adolescent daydreaming and raw reality. Paul and Griff would love to take a look at the valley of the thundering hooves. But Paul only saw one badly shod horse once.


  • Katharina is a stranger in the Rhineland. Böll used the "Russian motif" to "depict alienation".
  • Rothe rightly remarks that the story is not a western.
  • Balzer assigns the story to the author's “psychologically 'most correct' work”.
  • Barner also praises in high tones. He counts the little work among the “most beautiful initiation stories in our literature ever”.


Every year in the second half of the 1950s, the regatta takes place in the small wine-growing town of Zischbrunn on the banks of the Rhine. A hot summer day. Paul, fourteen years old, struggles with puberty. Having grown up in a narrow Catholic life, he has no opportunities to try out his new feelings. His repeatedly pressing feeling of closeness and desire must always be controlled, because giving in to this would mean a mortal sin. He fears God's punishment, but also does not want to confess repentant and guilty in order to obtain God's forgiveness and grace in personal confession. He feels in a natural way that the sensations that fill him anew do not turn against general custom and order, although the tensions between instinctual sensations and moral expectations often drive him into existential despair. The encounter with the girl Katharina from the neighborhood, in his age, but almost a woman and therefore not well known in the town, helps him to reorient his values ​​and gives him hope for a fulfilled future.

In his story, Heinrich Böll sensitively describes the emotional needs of a young person in puberty who grows up in a sanctimonious Catholic small town and has to deny and suppress all physicality and burgeoning sexuality in order not to conflict with his conscience and the moral demands of his fellow men .

In an identification with the main characters of the story, the readers' own experiences and emotional experiences are activated and lead to an intensive perception of the events in the depicted world. This makes the sensual, scenic design of the story vividly imaginable. The restrictive influence of everyday life through the practiced religion in a small German village can be experienced directly in the protagonists. The resulting tensions between the unfolding natural instinctual needs and the internalized religious and social laws that simultaneously threaten the salvation of the soul allow the reader to relive the discrepancies experienced during his personal development. A consternation arises.

The described historical and cultural conditions offer themselves for a comparison with other living conditions and at the same time for the investigation of the similarities and parallels.

From this point of view, Böll's psychologically correct narrative is particularly suitable for stimulating an intercultural discussion. How does a child become an adult, when and where? Which solution and detachment processes does it have to successfully pass through in the socio-historically most important initiation given the different cultural conditions?

What ultimately makes the young person emerge successfully from his maturity?

Heinrich Böll unexpectedly finds redemption from the entanglement of the emotional contradictions in the religious context itself. Not only the conflicts and problems described get entangled here, not only the clash of drives and controls, but also the “heavenly Jerusalem”. A vision in which, after the final battle between God and the devil, God ultimately emerges as the victor and earth and heaven are renewed: a new Jerusalem is born. So it is worth living for Paul and waiting for his Mirzowa. His life gets meaning, it becomes worth living. ( Hans-Werner Gessmann )


First edition
  • Heinrich Böll: In the valley of the thundering hooves . Insel Verlag Wiesbaden 1957, 63 pages. Insel Library No. 647/1
  • Heinrich Böll: When the war broke out. Stories. Pp. 140-187. dtv Munich, November 1965 (23rd edition October 1990) 261 pages, ISBN 3-423-00339-1
  • Heinrich Böll: In the valley of the thundering hooves. With materials . Klett Stuttgart 1986, ISBN 978-3-12-260570-4
Secondary literature
  • Bernd Balzer: Anarchy and tenderness . S. [11] to [187] in: Heinrich Böll Werke. Novels and short stories 1. 1947–1952 . Kiepenheuer & Witsch Cologne 1977 (supplemented new edition 1987, 877 pages), ISBN 3-462-01871-X
  • Klaus Schröter : Heinrich Böll . Rowohlt , Reinbek, November 1982 (5th edition April 1992) 157 pages, ISBN 3-499-50310-7
  • Arnold Rothe: The literary title. Functions, forms, history Vittorio Klostermann Frankfurt a. M. 1986. (The West - New Series 16, 479 pages), ISBN 3-465-01693-9
  • Manfred Jurgensen: "The poetry of the moment". The short stories pp. 43–60. In: Bernd Balzer (Ed.): Heinrich Böll 1917–1985 for his 75th birthday. Peter Lang AG Bern 1992. 354 pages, ISBN 3-906750-26-4
  • Wilfried Barner (ed.): History of German literature. Volume 12: History of German Literature from 1945 to the Present . Beck , Munich 1994 (1116 pages), ISBN 3-406-38660-1
  • Werner Bellmann (ed.): The work of Heinrich Böll. Bibliography with studies on early work. Westdeutscher Verlag Opladen 1995, 292 pages, ISBN 3-531-12694-6
  • Gero von Wilpert : Lexicon of world literature. German Authors A-Z . P. 68 (698 pages). Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-520-83704-8
  • Curt Hohoff: The red tiles in the "valley of thundering hooves". In: In the matter of Böll. Views and Insights . Edited by Marcel Reich-Ranicki. dtv, Munich, 8th edition 1985. (dtv 730.) pp. 192-198.
  • Jörn Stückrath: In the valley of the thundering hooves . In: Heinrich Böll. Novels and short stories. Interpretations . Edited by Werner Bellmann. Reclam, Stuttgart 2000. pp. 161-178.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Source, p. 1174
  2. a b Bellmann, p. 145
  3. Böll invented the name. There is only Bischbrunn am Main
  4. ^ Source, p. 851, 9. Zvu - 2. Zvu
  5. Source, p. 850, 11. Zvu
  6. Source, p. 843, 10. Zvu
  7. Jurgensen, p. 50 middle
  8. Schröter, p. 92 above
  9. Rothe, p. 403
  10. Source, p. [70], 3rd Zvu
  11. Barner, p. 378, 8th Zvu
  12. Gessmann, H.-W .: Additional aspects to Heinrich Böll's story "In the valley of thundering hooves". In: Schibaewa, Natalia. Elaboration of the work in German lessons, Staatliche Nekrasow University Kostroma, 2012, p. 59