Old Shatterhand

Old Shatterhand is a fictional character in Western novels by German writer Karl May (1842–1912). He is the German friend and blood brother of Winnetou, the fictional chief of the Mescalero tribe of the Apache. He is the main character in the Eurowestern by the same name from 1964, starring Lex Barker.

Old Shatterhand
Created byKarl May
Portrayed byLex Barker


Old Shatterhand is the alter ego of Karl May, and May himself maintained that he experienced all the adventures in person, even though in fact he did not visit America until after he wrote most of his well-known Western stories, and never traveled west of Buffalo, NY. Most of the stories are written from a first person perspective, and Winnetou often calls Old Shatterhand my brother Scharli ('Scharli' being a German phonetic approximation of 'Charlie', and ultimately meaning Karl in German). May also wrote stories about the same character traveling the Orient, where he is known as Kara Ben Nemsi.

May attached the prefix Old to the names of several of his characters, considering it to be typically American and a sign of the characters' great experience. In the stories, Old Shatterhand is given the name by his friend Sam Hawkens (who also originates from Germany but is already an old-timer in the American West), as he was able to knock his opponents unconscious with a single punch from his fist aimed at the head (specifically the temple).

Old Shatterhand owns two famous rifles, the Bärentöter (Bear Killer) and the Henrystutzen (Henry carbine), both made by a fictional gunsmith called Henry in St. Louis (based on gunsmith Benjamin Tyler Henry 1821–1898). The Henrystutzen was able to fire 25 shots without reloading, probably a hyperbolic reference to the Henry rifle. Old Shatterhand rode a horse called Hatatitla (Lightning), which he got from Winnetou, who rode the horse's brother, called Iltschi (meaning Wind).

The tales may have been an influence on the creation of the Lone Ranger media franchise.[1][2]

Original German Old Shatterhand stories

Travel stories

  • Deadly Dust (1880, later revised for Winnetou III')
  • Ein Oelbrand (1882/83)
  • Im »wilden Westen« Nordamerika's (1882/83, later revised for Winnetou III)
  • Winnetou I (1893, temporarily also entitled as Winnetou der Rote Gentleman I)
  • Winnetou II (1893, temporarily also entitled as Winnetou der Rote Gentleman II)
  • Winnetou III (1893, temporarily also entitled as Winnetou der Rote Gentleman III)
  • Old Surehand I (1894)
  • Old Surehand II (1895)
  • Old Surehand III (1896)
  • Satan und Ischariot I (1896)
  • Satan und Ischariot II (1897)
  • Satan und Ischariot III (1897)
  • Gott läßt sich nicht spotten (within Auf fremden Pfaden, 1897)
  • Ein Blizzard (within Auf fremden Pfaden, 1897)
  • Mutterliebe (1897/98)
  • „Weihnacht!“ (1897)
  • Im Reiche des silbernen Löwen I (1898)
  • Winnetou IV (1910)

Stories for youth

  • Unter der Windhose (1886, later also included inOld Surehand II)
  • Der Sohn des Bärenjägers (1887; from 1890 included in Die Helden des Westens)
  • Der Geist des Llano estakado (1888; from 1890 included in Die Helden des Westens)
  • Der Schatz im Silbersee (1890/91)
  • Der Oelprinz (1893/94)
  • Der schwarze Mustang (1896/97)

In some early stories (Old Firehand (1875), Im fernen Westen (1879), Der Scout (1888/89)) there is an anonymous first-person narrator, who was changed to Old Shatterhand in a revision of Winnetou II.

In the story Im Reiche des silbernen Löwen IV (1903) Kara Ben Nemsi says he was Old Shatterhand.


The character of Old Shatterhand was played in the German Karl May movies of the 1960s by American actor Lex Barker.

In contrast to the stories in the movies Unter Geiern (1964) and Der Ölprinz (1965) Old Surehand (starring Stewart Granger) was the hero instead of Old Shatterhand. Old Surehand is another character created by Karl May. Karl May dedicated three volumes to him, who, like Old Shatterhand, is a renowned Western hero and best friends with the Native Americans. Unlike Old Shatterhand, Old Surehand is a half-blood Native himself, though raised in a white family.

English translations of Karl May's works

Prose sequels

In the 1990s British writer B. J. Holmes produced two prose sequels featuring the character: A Legend Called Shatterhand, and Shatterhand and the People.[3]


  1. Lone Ranger Radio Broadcasts (The Lone Ranger), Modesto Radio Museum
  2. The Road to War: Portraying the Indian, continued..., American Indians in the Great War: Real and Imagined, Diane Camurat, online in the Karl May Gesellschaft website
  3. Bernard A. Drew, Literary Afterlife: The Posthumous Continuations of 325 Authors Fictional Characters, McFarland & Co Inc, 2009, p.320
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