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 Post subject: The source of the Oriental Odyssey
PostPosted: Sat Oct 04, 2008 5:06 pm 
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Joined: Sun Feb 04, 2007 2:25 am
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Location: Pierpont SD USA
As I began to translate this Travel Narrative I was curious as to where Karl May might have obtained his accurate information on the people and places he so vividly described. My curiosity and research led me to "A Popular Account of Discoveries at Nineveh" by Austen Henry Layard and J. C. Derby published in New York in the year 1854. The year, being well before Karl May penned his adventure narrative, suggested that it may be the writings he used as reference for his own work. But as I read this account, I discovered much more. For your own pleasure of discovery, you may read this book here http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/txt/ah/layard.
Was Mohammed Emin a character invented by Karl May? If we consult the third chapter of Austen Henry Layard’s “A Popular Account of Discoveries at Nineveh”, it would seem that this name actually referred to a real person who lived in the very era in which Karl May's tale take place. It is becoming more obvious now that Layard's account is indeed the source of the Oriental Odyssey's link to the real world. We should also compare the following passage in Layard's narrative:
Flowers of every hue enameled the meadows; not thinly scattered over the grass as in northern climes, but in such thick and gathering clusters that the whole plain seemed a patchwork of many colors. The dogs, as they returned from hunting, issued from the long grass dyed red, yellow, or blue, according to the flowers through which they had last forced their way.

Is this not echoed in the following lines of Karl May's writings?
As it was springtime, the ground resembled not so much a desert as a meadow; the flowers erupted from the earth in clusters. We had not run far before our trouser legs were colored with pollen. Due to the height of the vegetation, the trail was easy to see.

Mohammed-Emin, the Sheik of the Shammar in Karl May's Oriental Odyssey is clearly modeled on the Sheik of the Jebours, mentioned in Austen Henry Layard's account. It is therefore not surprising to also find a mention of Amsha, the mother of Hajji Halef Omar's bride Hanneh. And the lines:
Do you believe that upon this mare I hunted the wild donkey of the Sindsha until it collapsed from exhaustion?

echoing Layard's account of
Mohammed-Emin, sheikh of the Jebours, assured me that he had seen Sofuk ride down the wild ... of the Sinjar on her back, and the most marvelous stories are current in the desert of her fleetness and powers of endurance.

And yes, there was a German translation. The rather long title was "Austen Henry Layard’s populärer Bericht über die Ausgrabungen zu Niniveh, nebst einer Beschreibung eines Besuches bei den chaldäischen Christen in Kurdistan und den Jezidi oder Teufelsanbetern", published in 1852 by W. Meißner. Hartmut Schmökel reworked Meißner's translation in 1965 and the Beck-Verlag published this work.
Now, enjoy your own discoveries as you read Layards' account for yourself along with the translated work of Karl May's "Oriental Odyssey"

Michael M. Michalak MACS
Nemsi Books

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