Under the pear tree

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Under the pear tree is a novella by Theodor Fontane .


Fontane wrote the novella in the period from 1883 to April 1885. As a criminal history , it was for a long time considered in literary studies as a less successful side work by Fontane. Although the reader knows the perpetrators and their motives right from the start, the inclusion of psychological aspects and the exact description of the village environment in which a crime is committed maintain the tension and create a gloomy atmosphere.

Tavern Zum alten Fritz in Letschin

Fontane processed childhood memories with the story of a robbery and murder committed jointly by a married couple - his father had to do with similar cases as a member of the civil guard in Swinoujscie . Years ago, information from his sister Elise about a slain French soldier who had been buried in Dreetz in Brandenburg also aroused Fontane's interest and was incorporated into the plot. The original image of the crime scene was the Zum alten Fritz inn in Letschin .

The novella appeared, beginning in August 1885, initially as a preprint in sequels in the journal Die Gartenlaube . It was first published as a book edition in November 1885 by Verlag Müller-Grote, Berlin, as volume 23 of the Groteschen collection of works by contemporary writers . The first edition was 1,500 copies. In addition to Unterm Birnbaum , Fontane wrote three other stories dealing with crime and murder: Grete Minde (1879), Ellernklipp (1881) and Quitt (1890).

Table of contents

Abel Hradscheck, the main character, has had a general store with an inn in the Oderbruch village of Czech for about ten years . He has been married to his 40-year-old wife Ursel for about the same time. Ursel has had an eventful life; Apparently coming from an orderly background, she was not taken back into her parents' house, an inn, after she had lived as an actress and tightrope walker for a while. Hradscheck, who was staying at her father's inn at the time, happened to witness this scene. His spontaneous marriage proposal gave his life an unexpected turn: as a carpenter's son, he had first learned his father's craft and went on a wandering journey, but then opened a shop in Neulewin . After a relationship with a woman there had obviously become a nuisance, he decided to emigrate to America. He was on his way to Holland when he made the acquaintance of Ursel in the Hildesheim area .

Ursel converted from the Catholic to the Protestant faith in order to get married with Hradscheck and therefore has a stone in the board with Pastor Eccelius. The other villagers, however, consider her aloof and haughty, especially since she was able to persuade her husband to buy several pieces of furniture at auction that look very unsuitable in their rural surroundings. The couple obviously live in harmony with each other, although their two children died on the same day and Ursel regularly reproaches her husband for drinking too much and playing with an unhappy hand, which is why a number of debts have accrued, of which she is apparently too late has experienced. As a company, with which he has considerable arrears, reports the imminent arrival of its traveler Szulski and at the same time urges that the debts be finally paid, Hradscheck initially sees no way out.

But while working in the garden under his pear tree, he stumbled upon the body of a French soldier, who is over 20 years old, and now has an idea of ​​how he could escape the debt swamp. He inaugurates his wife, who is initially reluctant to accept the idea, but who eventually agrees. The Hradschecks spread the rumor that they got money through an inheritance. At the same time, Hradscheck ensures through a small bill of exchange and other sources of money that he can pay Szulski the amount owed when he arrives from Poland as announced. After a long evening in the dining room, Szulski went to his room with instructions to wake him up at four the next morning, as he wanted to leave at five.

During the night, the old neighbor Jeschke wakes up due to a storm and observes a suspicious scene in Hradscheck's garden: Despite the strong storm, the neighbor digs a hole under the pear tree, but fills it up again after a short time. The next morning, the reader can guess, Ursel, disguised as Szulski, pretends to leave. A little later Szulski's car and his cap are found in the Oder and everyone believes that the Pole had an accident. Hradscheck is arrested on suspicion; However, nothing can be proven to him. The neighbor Jeschke now shares her observation that she saw Hradscheck buried something under the pear tree the night before Szulski's “departure”. When you dig under the pear tree, you don't find a fresh corpse, but the dead French. Hradscheck claims that he only buried rotten bacon that night, which is actually found elsewhere in the garden, and so he is released again. His plan to deceive everyone by convincing them of his innocence seems to have succeeded. The Hradschecks, however, are clearly uncomfortable in the house in which they committed the murder. Hradscheck has his inn expanded and Ursel moves into a new room. In the short term she feels more comfortable there; but she cannot live with the guilt and dies a few months later. During the extension work, Hradscheck also came up with the plan to have his basement vaulted higher. When the expert told him that it would be much easier to excavate the floor instead in order to gain more room height, he shrugged off in horror and dropped the whole thing.

The Jeschke, always at her observation post at the neighboring fence and consciously cultivating a somewhat eerie image, scares the servants of Hradscheck so that they no longer dare to go into the cellar. Claims that the basement is haunted continue to spread.

Hradscheck now wants to get the dead Szulski, who is actually buried in the basement, out of the house and throw it into the Oder. When he started digging up Szulski at night, he accidentally got a barrel rolling, blocking access to the basement. The next morning, his lifeless body is found next to the half-excavated corpse of Szulski. What exactly led to Hradscheck's death remains unclear.

Film adaptations


  • On September 28, 2018, a stage version under the title “Greed. Under the pear tree ”premiered. Director: Christian Schmidt ; Catherine Stoyan and Pascal Lalo play Abel and Ursel Hradschek as well as numerous supporting roles.

Expenses (selection)

  • Theodor Fontane: Under the pear tree . In: Die Gartenlaube 32 (1885), H. 33–41. ( Digitized and full text in the German text archive )
  • Theodor Fontane: Under the pear tree. G. Grote'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Berlin 1885 (= Grote'sche collection of works by contemporary writers. 23rd volume) Digitized .
  • Theodor Fontane: Under the pear tree. Arranged by Christine Hehle. Berlin 1997 (Great Brandenburg Edition, The narrative work, Vol. 7), ISBN 3-351-03120-3 .

Secondary literature

  • Michael Bohrmann: Reading key. Theodor Fontane: Under the pear tree. Reclam, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 978-3-15-015307-9 .
  • Eda Sagarra: Under the pear tree . In: Christian Grawe, Helmuth Nürnberger (ed.): Fontane manual. Kröner, Stuttgart 2000, ISBN 3-520-83201-1 , pp. 554-563.
  • Wulf Wülfing: "Inhumane religion of authority". On the role of church and state in Fontane's “Under the Pear Tree” . In: Hanna Delf von Wolzüge, Hubertus Fischer (ed.): Religion as a relic? Christian traditions in Fontane's work. International symposium organized by Theodor Fontane Archive and the Theodor Fontane Society eV on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Theodor Fontane Archive Potsdam, September 21-25, 2005 . Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2006 (Fontane a na, Vol. 5), ISBN 978-3-8260-3545-6 , pp. 121-134.

Web links

Wikisource: Unterm Pirnbaum  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Theater on the Edge. Retrieved October 7, 2019 .