Little Zaches called cinnabar

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Zinnober as minister on the lap of the fairy Rosabelverde. Contemporary copper engraving for the cover of the first edition, engraved by Carl Friedrich Thiele (1780–1836) based on a draft drawn by ETA Hoffmann

Klein Zaches called Zinnober is an art fairy tale by ETA Hoffmann from 1819.


It takes place in a fictional principality that ostensibly reminds of the small German states of the early 19th century, but on the other hand has fairytale-like fantastic features, is populated by fairies with carriages pulled by pigeons and is otherwise the scene of many miracles . After the death of the liberal prince Demetrius, his successors Paphnutius and Barsanuph introduced the “ Enlightenment ” by decree . They not only have "the forests cut down, the village schools improved and the cowpox inoculated", but above all they forbid the "secret poison" of poetry and let the fairies ship to their homeland, the country of Jinnistan. Only a few are allowed to stay out of consideration for the people, including the fairy Rosabelverde, who is housed as “Fräulein von Rosenschön” in the noble women's monastery of Baron Pretextatus von Mondschein.

One day she comes across the poor, ragged farmer's wife Liese, who is dragging her two and a half year old misshapen son, the " changeling " Zaches, with her in the basket . He cannot stand or walk on his “spider legs”; instead of talking, he growls and meows like a cat. He eats "like the strongest boy of at least eight years". Out of sympathy, Rosabelverde secretly combed his shaggy hair and gave “the bad little mandrake ” the gift that everyone would consider him a pretty and sensible person and that all the achievements that someone else would accomplish in his presence are attributed to him.

Taken from a pastor in care, to Zaches makes after years in the famous university town Kerepes to there the rights to study. The natural scientist Professor Mosch Terpin introduces him to his guests as the “young Mr. Zinnober” over a literary tea. Despite his ugly looks, awkward demeanor, and an inglorious fall from his horse on his entry into Kerepes, Zaches arouses admiration. The poem From the Love of the Nightingale to the Rose , which the student Balthasar recites in order to impress Terpin's daughter Candida, is widely praised, but to Balthasar's chagrin is attributed to Mr. Zinnober as his work, while his feline squeaking is blamed on Balthasar.

The violin virtuoso Sbiocca had to make similar experiences at his concert and the Referendarius Pulcher when applying for a position as a secret agent in the Foreign Office, where he was examined together with the “cursed witch guy” von Zinnober. Finally, the young civil servant Adrian has to experience how the Foreign Minister praises his own designs as Zinnober's work over breakfast with the Prince, while the Prince wrongly blames him for the butter stains on his Kasimir trousers.

Balthasar desperately accepts the announcement of the engagement of Zinnober, who has risen to become the Privy Special Councilor, to his beloved Candida; he is aware that a “wicked magic” keeps his surroundings entangled, which has to be broken. For this purpose, through his friend Fabian's mediation, he seeks out Doctor Prosper Alpanus, a magician who was allowed to stay in the country despite the enlightenment introduced by Prince Paphnutius. After some research in his folios, the Zinnobers conjures up an image in his crystal mirror and leaves Balthasar to hit his opponent with a cane - whereupon the blows rain down on the real vermilion. Because of his screams of pain, Prosper realizes that this is not an earth spirit , not a root man and also not a beetle king , but a person made of flesh and blood who is only under a secret magic. Balthasar's friend Fabian then mocks the Magus and is punished for the fact that in future the sleeves of every tailcoat and jacket will slide up to his shoulder while his laps grow to the floor.

One morning Balthasar's friends Pulcher and Adrian Zinnober surprised him in his garden just at the moment when the fairy Rosabelverde was combing his hair, as she did every nine days, in order to refresh the power of magic; Pulcher informs Balthasar of this observation in a letter. In the meantime, Prince Zinnober was even promoted to Minister of Foreign Affairs and awarded him the "Order of the Green-Spotted Tiger with Twenty Buttons", which had to be specially adapted to Zinnober's overgrown physique. His future father-in-law, Mosch Terpin, was then elevated to the status of “General Director for all natural matters” with the right to royal venison and the right to unlimited studies in the princely wine cellar.

The magician Prosper Alpanus on a dragonfly. Copper engraving for the cover of the first edition, engraved by Carl Friedrich Thiele (1780–1836) based on a drawn design by ETA Hoffmann

In the meantime, Rosabelverde seeks out her adversary Prosper Alpanus and asks him to let go of her protégé. In the course of a magical contest, in which the two magicians turn into stag beetles , butterflies and hummingbirds , the fairy's magical comb breaks, with which cinnabar has to be coiffed regularly so that the magic resting on it retains its power. However, the fairy remains friends with Prosper Albanus, because Baltasar's horoscope shows her what he is called to do. As a result, Prosper tells Balthasar that if the opportunity arises, he only has to tear the minister's three fiery-colored hairs from the head, "with one jerk", and burn them immediately to break the spell for good .

The attack is being successfully put into action at Zinnobers and Candida's engagement, the wedding guests are amazed at the appearance of the "tree-topped guy" who is the " Simia Beelzebub who ran away from the museum ". In vain, Zaches asserts that he is minister Zinnober, can barely escape and locks himself up in his residence, where he dies. The fairy Rosabelverde comes with Zaches' mother and see the deceased, who looks more beautiful in death than ever in life; The mother hopes in vain to inherit Zinnober's property. The fairy settles old Liese, who is more saddened by the financial damage than the death of her son, with a lucrative courtly onion trade. Balthasar, meanwhile, marries Candida and moves with her to the estate given to him by Prosper Alpanus, where the pots are never empty, no porcelain can break and on the housewife's laundry day “on the large meadow behind the house, it should be the most beautiful, brightest weather it also rains all around, thunder and lightning. ”Since the bride also received a“ necklace from the fairy as a wedding gift, which expressed a magical effect that she [Candida], she had done it, never about little things, about one badly nested ribbon, over a bad hair ornament, over a stain in the laundry or otherwise annoyed ”and also“ never (...) took off, it could not be missing that Balthasar had the happiest marriage in all delight and glory led as a poet may have ever led with a pretty young woman - “.


Little Zaches called Zinnober represents a so-called art fairy tale , which, in contrast to the folk tale handed down orally from ancient times, is the creation of the imagination of an individual author.

Literary and real role models

Nevertheless there are literary role models. Unmistakable, for example, are the borrowings from the “fairy tales”, which originally came from France and which became popular in Germany not least because of Christoph Martin Wieland's Dschinnistan . For Prosper Alpanus and Rosabelverde and their magical competition, Oberon and Titania , the rulers from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night 's Dream , should have been the godfathers , especially since the name Prosper refers to the magician Prospero from Shakespeare's The Storm .

The real role model for the protagonist of the story is a dwarfed, grotesquely distorted court referendar von Heydebreck, as well as a student named Friederici, whom Hoffmann occasionally met on walks in the Berlin zoo . According to Franz Fühmann , however, the poet himself must also be considered insofar as the symptoms of a liver and nervous disease in the spring of 1818 marked him badly. The attending physician, Senior Medical Officer CAW Behrends, had also advised him to exercise more, especially by riding on horseback. The idea of ​​having to ride with such remains inspired Hoffmann to write Zeche's grotesque horse fall scene in Chapter 2. Reference is also made to a hunting experience of the poet on October 25, 1812, in which Hoffmann - just like his creation Zinnober - is attributed the hobby of someone else. The physical profile of Zaches, like many other Hoffmannian figures, was given its final polish by the bizarre drawings by the French engraver Jacques Callot , who also gave Hoffmann's collection of fantasy pieces his name in Callot's manner .

Time criticism

According to the poet's own admission, the Zaches contains “nothing more than the loose, relaxed execution of a joking idea”, “the most humorous thing I have written so far, and recognized as such by my local friends”. Nonetheless, the graceful and humorous fairy tale flashes a little criticism of the real conditions of its time, albeit with a cheerful and ironic cover, even if these conditions are alienated by a transfer to a fairytale world in which B. Fairies “really” exist (a really enlightened person would dismiss the belief in fairies as “ superstition ” and not, like Minister Andres, initiate an “action fairy persecution” with police-state methods).

On the one hand, it is taken on the corn in the reality of the enlightened absolutism of the Restoration period around 1819 in the wake of the Enlightenment really rampant exaggerated belief in science , in Hoffmann's fairy tale for example in the figure of Professor Mosch Terpin, who not only nature "in a cute compendium" summarized, but also found out after extensive physical studies that "the darkness is mainly due to a lack of light". In the course of the rise of his future son-in-law Zinnober, he was appointed with touching naivety as the “General Director of Natural Affairs” and “censored and revised the solar and lunar eclipses and the weather forecasts in the calendars permitted in the state”.

Belief in the omnipotence of absolutist politics is similarly satirized , for example when Prince Paphnutius wants to introduce the Enlightenment “by decree”, when he announces that “without the Prince's will there should never be thunder or lightning and that we have beautiful weather and good weather Harvest is solely thanks to his noblesse efforts “or if he thinks he can simply expel the fairies from the country by the police. In this context, the exaggerated veneration of titles (“Privy Special Council”) and medals (“Order of the Green-Spotted Tiger”), as well as the dubious judgment of the people who see aSimia Beelzebub ” adorned with “20 buttons” should also be mentioned in this context. (a kind of monkey) for a minister and thus reminds of the people from Andersen's The Emperor's New Clothes . Here Hoffmann's lifelong biting contempt speaks of “authorities”, which not only earned him a punishment transfer to Płock in 1802 , but also the so-called Kamptz trial in 1822 in connection with Master Floh . This shows that the described conditions could in no way be defused by making fun of them. The dangerousness of restorative politics is already clear from Minister Andres' catalog of planned measures at the beginning of the fairy tale: "Enemies of the state" (the fairies) are to be disempowered, expropriated and driven out or robbed of their identity, and Andres has certainly been successful with this plan.

The persecution of Fabian as an enemy of the state or a sectarian, who is suspect simply because he wears a tailcoat with too long tails, and whose academic career is opened up when he appears at the rector of the university in a well-fitting tailcoat, also has satirical traits. likewise the characterization of Candida as a pretty superficial girl who read a lot of books but forgot all of them. There is romantic irony in the remark of Prosper Albanus, "that according to the judgment of all sensible people I am a person who is only allowed to appear in fairy tales".

Hoffmann sees poetry and romanticism threatened both by his belief in science and by encroachments on the part of the authoritarian government . “I love”, he lets his Prosper Alpanus say, “young men who, like you my Balthasar, have longing and love in their pure hearts, inside whose hearts those wonderful chords still echo that belong to the distant land full of divine miracles, that is my home. ”In this respect, Balthasar is strikingly reminiscent of the student Anselmus from The Golden Pot , who has a similarly difficult position in his philistine-bourgeois environment - and in the end also retires to the idyll of a country estate with his loved one.

History of origin

According to the questionable information from Hoffmann 's friend Julius Hitzig, the author of Klein Zaches called Zinnober was stimulated by visions of fever that plagued him during a severe liver and nerve ailment in the spring of 1819. In reality, Hoffmann fell ill in the spring of 1818 and was already working on the fairy tale at the end of 1818. On January 24, 1819, he sent Prince Pückler-Muskau an author's copy corrected by himself; the story, “the birth of a somewhat exuberant ironic fantasy”, has just left the printing press. The work was published by the Berlin publisher F. Dümmler.

Impact history

Very soon after the story was published, the critics showed in detail the literary models mentioned above, which Klein Zaches relies on. Hoffmann was not a little astonished, “when he came across a review in which [...] every source was carefully mentioned from which the author is said to have drawn. The latter was of course pleasant to him insofar as it gave him an opportunity to visit those sources himself and to enrich his knowledge. "

The literary response to Klein Zaches called Zinnober was divided. On some quarters, reservations of a moral and theological nature were voiced against a mingling of the supernatural with such an almost Carnival-like cheerfulness. The story was recognized, however, in extensive reviews, for example in the weekly literary newspaper and in the Heidelberg yearbooks.

The figure of Klein Zaches was spread particularly through its processing in Jacques Offenbach's opera Hoffmanns Erzählungen from 1881, where Hoffmann sings the famous song by Klein Zack : "Once upon a time at Eisenack's court ..." The Russian composer Nikolai Karetnikow finally has the material processed in a ballet .

When asked what kind of community the GDR was, Uwe Tellkamp is strongly reminded of ETA Hoffmann's description of the fictional principality in the fairy tale Klein Zaches called Zinnober : “What was the GDR? [...] A [...] snail shell of the ludi magister of the ETA Hoffmann University of Kerepes ”. Shortly thereafter, Tellkamp judged: "The father of all the better literature on the problem [GDR] is, in my opinion, ETA Hoffmann, where the (night) dreams grew into reality."


Based on Hoffmann's work, the Berlin band Coppelius composed the world's first steampunk opera Klein Zaches - called Zinnober , which premiered on November 14, 2015 in the Gelsenkirchen Music Theater.



  • Little Zaches called cinnabar. A fairy tale published by ETA Hoffmann . Ferdinand Dümmler, Berlin 1819. (first edition)
  • Little Zaches called cinnabar. A fairy tale. Edited and with an afterword by Gerhard R. Kaiser. Reclam, Stuttgart 1985, ISBN 3-15-000306-7 (= Reclams Universal Library 306).
  • Little Zaches called cinnabar. Painted by Friedrich Hechelmann . 2nd Edition. Kunstverlag Weingarten, Weingarten 1987, ISBN 3-8170-3003-7 .
  • Little Zaches called cinnabar. With illustrations by Ernst Kößlnger and an essay by Franz Fühmann. CH Beck, Munich 1990, ISBN 3-406-34620-0 .

Secondary literature

  • Achim Aurnhammer: Little Zaches called Zinnober. Perspectivism as a plea . In: Gunter Saße (Hrsg.): ETA Hoffmann: Novels and stories . Reclam, Stuttgart 2004, pp. 117-134.
  • Fritz Felzmann : Who was Klein Zaches? In: Mitteilungen der ETA Hoffmann-Gesellschaft 23, 1977, pp. 12–21.
  • Franz Fühmann : Klein Zaches - an epilogue. In: Franz Fühmann: Miss Veronika Paulmann from the Pirna suburb or something about the horrible at ETA Hoffmann. Hoffmann and Campe, Munich 1984, ISBN 3-455-02281-2 , pp. 145 ff.
  • Alexandra Hildebrandt : "Laughter is more vicious than sleep in the herd ...": ETA Hoffmann's fairy tale Klein Zaches called Zinnober and its title figure . In: ETA Hoffmann-Jahrbuch , Volume 5. Erich Schmidt, Berlin 1997, pp. 37-46.
  • Bettina Knauer: The art of "as if": ETA Hoffmann's fairy tale by Klein Zaches called Zinnober . In: Aurora. Yearbook of the Eichendorff Society for the Classical-Romantic Period , Volume 55. Jan Thorbecke, Sigmaringen 1995, pp. 151–167.
  • Gisela Vitt-Maucher: ETA Hoffmanns Klein Zaches called Zinnober: Broken fairy tale world . In: Aurora: Yearbook of the Eichendorff Society , Volume 44. Jan Thorbecke, Sigmaringen 1984, pp. 196-212.
  • Jürgen Walter: ETA Hoffmann's fairy tale 'Little Zaches called Zinnober': An attempt at a socio-historical interpretation . In: Communications from the ETA Hoffmann-Gesellschaft-Bamberg 19, 1973, pp. 27–45.
  • Hans-Werner Weglöhner: The social and political aspects in ETA Hoffmann's fairy tale Klein Zaches called Zinnober . In: Der Deutschunterricht 44, 1992, pp. 21–32.
  • Hans-Werner Weglöhner: The sociological literary dimension in ETA Hoffmann's art fairy tale Klein Zaches called Zinnober . In: Études Germaniques 244, 2006, pp. 593-615.
  • Gabrielle Wittkop-Ménardeau : ETA Hoffmann. With testimonials and photo documents. (= Rowohlt's monographs. 113). 13th edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek 1994, ISBN 3-499-50113-9 , p. 137 f.

supporting documents

  1. Uwe Tellkamp: The German question of literature . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . August 16, 2007 ( [accessed February 19, 2015] essay ).

Web links