Master Martin the Küfner and his journeymen

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Master Martin the Küfner and his journeymen is a story by ETA Hoffmann , which appeared in the fourth section of the second volume of the collection " Die Serapionsbrüder " in 1819 by G. Reimer in Berlin. In autumn 1818 the text was preprinted in the Gleditsch'schen Buchhandlung in Leipzig. While writing Carl Wilhelm Kolbe's painting “Bötticher Werkstatt. Old German from 1568 ”and read Wagenseil's “ De civitate Noribergensi commentatio ”from 1697 and Johann Georg Krünitz 's“ Economic Encyclopedia ”.

Master Martin imagines that he had his only daughter a capable Küfner masterful give in marriage. Three young men - a craftsman, an artist and a knight - pretend to be co-workers and woo the beauty. The craftsman, a silversmith , wins the race. He cures the father-in-law of his madness.


The Serapionbruder Sylvester ( Contessa ) tells an old Nuremberg story:

How Mr. Martin was elected candle master and thanked for it

On May 1, 1580, in the free imperial city of Nuremberg, master Thomas Martin was elected head or candle master at the solemn trade union meeting of the honorable guild of cooper, Küper or Küfner. The new candle master trumpets with the conviction that he has only received what is due to him. Master Martin's inaugural speech was astonished and only thawed out when the stout master Martin offered his colleagues fine wines from his cellar.

What then happened in Master Martin's house

May 1st, it seems to Master Martin, will be a good day. First the election as candle master and now Junker Heinrich von Spangenberg, the oldest customer, also enters the house. Master Martin is hoping for orders.

How Master Martin raised his craft above all others

But the Junker has only one question. If his son asked for Rosa, the master's daughter, what answer would Martin give? The husband replies without hesitation, his 18-year-old Rosa would get no patrician , but only a Küper master who with mallets , Degsel , band Hake and Fügbank can handle. Because Master Martin considers his craft to be the most wonderful.

The old grandmother's prophecy

The father's rigid posture is no accident. Rosa's mother had died in childbed . That was how the girl was raised by her grandmother. On her deathbed, grandmother sang a cryptic song that Master Martin interprets as follows: Everything will be fine if Rosa one day chooses a capable Küpermeister to be her husband.

How the two young journeymen, Friedrich and Reinhold, got to know each other

The two young journeymen Friedrich and Reinhold meet at the gates of Nuremberg. Both are on their way to see Master Martin. Friedrich actually wanted to become a goldsmith like Benvenuto Cellini once did . Out of love for the lovely Rosa, he quit his job and trained as a Küper. Reinhold raves about his stay in Italy, the land of art, the place of painters.

How the two young journeymen, Reinhold and Friedrich, were accepted into Master Martin's house

Rosa, whom Friedrich knows from earlier, cannot understand why he no longer practices the art of the silversmith. Master Martin proudly introduces his journeymen Reinhold and Friedrich to the guild masters.

How the third journeyman came to Master Martin's house, and what happened next

Master Martin takes on Conrad as a journeyman. Although Conrad cannot identify himself with a single handyman's paper, he does not only hit the workbench quite hard. On Sundays on the Allerwiese he defeats all opponents in knightly games. In the evening he requests and receives from the lovely viewer Rosa that slightly withered bouquet that the girl wears on her breast.

Conrad's argument with Master Martin

When Conrad smashes a barrel with his bear strength during his daily work, the angry master Martin hits him “a good blow over the back”. The punished journeyman strikes back, wounding the master with one blow of the steering ax and flees.

Reinhold leaves Master Martin's house

Reinhold can no longer be seen. When Friedrich checks in Reinhold's chamber that everything is in order, he stands in front of a work of art - a painting with a portrait of Rosa. Reinhold confesses to Friedrich that he is not a Küper, but a painter. The pathetic Küperhandwerk outside in the workshop disgusted him indescribably. He is drawn to his Italy: “... how could I have reneged on the divine art! - soon I will bathe myself again in your glowing scents, wonderful country, you home of all art! ”The painter rides away.

How Friedrich was chased away from the workshop by Master Martin

Master Martin promises Friedrich his daughter as a wife. Instead of producing his masterpiece, Friedrich works as a silversmith again. When confronted by Master Martin, Friedrich confesses: “Master! - it's all over now - no and if it costs me my life, if I am to perish in nameless misery - I can no longer - no longer work in the disdainful craft, because it draws me to my wonderful art, ... ”Schöde Nobody in Martin's workshop has mentioned the Küperei yet. The master throws the journeyman out.


Grandmother's oracle comes true. Everything will be really good - a perfect happy ending. Master Martin gives Friedrich, the future excellent “Goldschmidt”, his Rosa to wife. The painter Reinhold and the Junker Heinrich von Spangenberg appear at the wedding party with his son, the knight Conrad. The latter has meanwhile married another Rosa and greets Master Martin: “Actually, dear master, I have to kill you; You will probably understand that, but now everything has turned out quite differently. "The addressee replies," He didn’t care about the little scratch with the ax. "


Statements in the 19th century
  • An anonymous author said in 1818 in the “ Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung ” (vol. 3, no. 290) that the text “belongs to the most perfect that our literature has to offer in the genre of poetry”.
  • In the “Journal für Literatur, Kunst, Luxus und Mode” (Weimar, October 1818) it says on p. 636 that every brushstroke is right and “wrong, the eyes of the superficial observer dazzling shimmer” is missing.
  • In 1819, Wetzel sympathetically discussed the story, which was well received by the reader, in the “Heidelberg Yearbooks of Literature”.
  • George Sand said in her Le Compagnon du Tour de France (Chapter 9) in 1840 that this story was Hoffmann's masterpiece.
  • Willibald Alexis praised the text in 1823, but Segebrecht also sees rebuke in the statement when it comes to how ETA Hoffmann had to tame the “wild strength” and the “extravagant imagination” while writing. According to Segebrecht, Eichendorff played Alexis' horn in 1847. Segebrecht also wants to hear Eichendorff blow the horn of ETA Hoffmann's despiser, Goethe . In 1827 (published posthumously in 1833) Goethe raged against “the pathological works of the suffering man” from his Olympus in Weimar, thereby damaging Hoffmann's reputation for the rest of the century. Goethe was again in its judgment Walter Scott followed s condemnation of Hoffmann.
Statements since the beginning of the 20th century
  • Ricarda Huch , Franz Blei , Richard von Schaukal and Hans von Müller finally found their way out of Goethe's waters with the maxim that the author must only truly express his personality . However, such authors would have turned away from the prevailing appreciation of the “Master Martin” in the 19th century and rather favored texts like the “ Sandman ”. Georg Ellinger thinks that ETA Hoffmann should rather not be able to prove that ETA Hoffmann has “whitewashed ... the old, cheerful German bourgeois life”. Carl Georg von Maassen writes: “ Master Martin is certainly a brilliant achievement; but whoever is inclined to regard this piece as Hoffmann's best work has probably never felt a trace of his spirit. "
  • In 1920, in view of the end of the text, Walther Harich remarked that it was crumbling in the structure of the early modern era . A look at a "turning point" will be thrown, in which the familiar gets out of balance. In 1971, Hans-Georg Werner complained about the transfigured image of the stalls at the end of the 16th century. In addition, ETA Hoffmann simply leaves out the serf peasant alongside craftsmen, artists and patricians. Safranski speaks of a “backward-looking utopia” and Kaiser of a “chronicle-like narrative”. This is about reflecting on lost artistic craft. Feldges and Stadler articulate concerns about the socially critical part of Werner's work.
  • Bergengruen distances himself: It is true that ETA Hoffmann wrote “things of pure symmetry, such as Master Martin ; but here he is least of all himself, and such things have wrongly been called master stories. "
  • At the beginning of the reading, Segebrecht is reminded of the " pouring out of the heart of an art-loving monastery brother ". Segebrecht names three references: Bernhard Schemmel (editor of the surviving manuscript), Bamberg 1984; Bernhard Schubert, Königstein 1985 and on the Kolbe painting found above: Klaus Türk, anno 2003.
  • The three “journeymen” are not interested in the masterpiece - the perfect wine barrel - but in favor of the beautiful master's daughter. Kremer points out another comic element. In the competition between the three “journeymen” there is actually no real loser. The knight gets a "twin-like" pink for his wife and the painter creates a new work of art - the image of the master's daughter.
  • The story is one of the author's most illustrated works.
  • In more recent reviews, the understanding of literature of the second half of the 20th century is bluntly articulated. Kremer writes in 1998: The author lets himself “into clichés that sometimes freeze in tough kitsch ”.
  • Feldges and Stadler name works by Franz Fühmann , Harvey W. Hewett-Thayer, P. Kolb (1924), Claudio Magris , Jean FA Ricci, Arthur Sakheim (Leipzig 1908) and Ilse Winter.


First edition

  • Master Martin the Küfner and his journeymen in: The Serapionsbrüder. Collected stories and fairy tales. Published by ETA Hoffmann. Second volume. Berlin 1819. With G. Reimer. 614 pp.

Used edition

  • ETA Hoffmann: Master Martin the Küfner and his journeymen p. 502-569 in: Wulf Segebrecht (ed.): ETA Hoffmann: The Serapions Brothers. German classic publisher in paperback. Vol. 28. Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-618-68028-4 (corresponds to: Vol. 4 in: Wulf Segebrecht (Ed.): "ETA Hoffmann: Complete Works in Seven Volumes", Frankfurt am Main 2001)

Secondary literature

  • Hans-Georg Werner: ETA Hoffmann. Representation and interpretation of reality in poetic work . Arion Verlag, Weimar 1962, p. 111-116 .
  • Rüdiger Safranski : ETA Hoffmann. The life of a skeptical fantasist. 2nd Edition. Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-596-14301-2 (Licensor: Hanser 1984)
  • Brigitte Feldges, Ulrich Stadler: ETA Hoffmann. Epoch - work - effect . CH Beck, Munich 1986, ISBN 3-406-31241-1 , p. 168-179 .
  • Gerhard R. Kaiser: ETA Hoffmann. Metzler, Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 3-476-10243-2 . (Metzler Collection; 243; realities on literature)
  • Detlef Kremer: ETA Hoffmann for an introduction. Junius Verlag, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-88506-966-0
  • Detlef Kremer: ETA Hoffmann. Stories and novels. Erich Schmidt Verlag, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-503-04939-8
  • Gero von Wilpert : Lexicon of world literature. German authors A - Z. 4th completely revised edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-520-83704-8 , p. 284, 2nd column below
  • Detlef Kremer (Ed.): ETA Hoffmann. Life - work - effect. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-11-018382-5


  1. It follows that Kremer (p. 306, chapter heading) calls the text a " Biedermeier picture arc".
  2. Lothar Köhn speaks of the "Komödienschluß" (Köhn, quoted in Segebrecht, p. 1432, 9. Zvu (p. 153 in Lothar Köhn: Ambiguous World. Studies on the structure of ETA Hoffmann's stories and the development of his work. Tübingen 1966)) .

Individual evidence

  1. Segebrecht in the edition used, p. 1221, 4th Zvo
  2. Segebrecht in the edition used, p. 1423, 4th above
  3. Segebrecht in the edition used, p. 1425, 8. Zvo
  4. Kremer anno 2009, p. 304, 17. Zvo
  5. Kremer, anno 1998, p. 159, 5. Zvo
  6. Kaiser, p. 99, 15. Zvu
  7. Safranski, p. 404, 12th Zvu
  8. [1]
  9. The writing of the subheadings follows the edition used
  10. Edition used, p. 557, 22. Zvo
  11. Edition used, p. 561, 9. Zvo
  12. Edition used, p. 566, 2. Zvo and 6. Zvo
  13. quoted in Segebrecht, p. 1428, 12. Zvu
  14. quoted in Segebrecht, p. 1429, 11. Zvo
  15. Kremer, anno 1999, p. 170, 10. Zvo
  16. see Segebrecht, p. 1429, middle
  17. Segebrecht, p. 1429, 1. Zvu
  18. see also Kaiser, p. 171, 9. Zvu
  19. Goethe, quoted in Segebrecht, p. 1430, 18. Zvo
  20. Segebrecht, p. 1430, 15th Zvu
  21. Segebrecht, p. 1431 1. Zvo
  22. ^ Kaiser, p. 173, 12. Zvo
  23. ^ Ellinger, quoted in Segebrecht, p. 1431 middle
  24. von Maassen, quoted in Werner, p. 114, 16. Zvu
  25. Harich, quoted in Feldges and Stadler, p. 178, 1. Zvo and p. 303, last entry
  26. Feldges and Stadler on Harich, p. 178, 13. Zvo
  27. quoted in Segebrecht, p. 1432 above
  28. Safranski, p. 422 middle
  29. ^ Kaiser, p. 71, 26. Zvo
  30. Kaiser, p. 72 below
  31. Feldges and Stadler, p. 177, 20. Zvo
  32. Bergengruen quoted in Werner, p. 114, 13. Zvu
  33. Segebrecht in the edition used, pp. 1423–1448
  34. see also Kremer, anno 1999, p. 169 middle
  35. Segebrecht, p. 1672, entry "Master Martin the Küfner and his journeymen"
  36. see also Kaiser, p. 84, 12. Zvo
  37. Kremer anno 2009, p. 308, 18. Zvo
  38. ^ Kaiser, p. 194, 14. Zvu
  39. reference
  40. Kremer, anno 1998, p. 158, 3rd Zvu
  41. Feldges and Stadler, p. 170, "Research literature"
  42. Segebrecht in the edition used, p. 1221 above

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