Myth and Culture


At least it’s light now when I walk along the shore to our weekly chin-wag, I stopped by our storm damaged wharf which is getting fixed, thanks to a strong local community which came forward with cash, art and music. In fact there is a ‘Raise the Wharf’ fundraiser on Saturday, 16th March at the Gibsons Public Market.

‘Are you going to the event on Saturday?’ I asked Camp after I sat down at our usual corner table.

‘Planning to. Muriel is all over it and it promises to be a good time.’

Vicky set down a couple of pints, which demanded our immediate attention.

‘Does the name Karl May mean anything to you?’ I asked Camp.

‘Can’t say I recognize it.’

‘He is the most prolific German writer of all time,’ I said.  ‘He lived in the late 1800’s and wrote most of his 94 novels in jail.  This German Louis L’Amour has sold over 200 million copies of his books. He is mostly famous for his adventure novels set in the ‘Wild West’ and featuring a noble savage, an Apache named Winnetou, and his German sidekick, Old Shatterhand. Thanks to Karl May, the myth of an idolised North American Native culture is deeply embedded in the German psyche and is celebrated in festivals all over the country.

‘Now that you mention this I’ve heard about the German Powwows and tepee holiday villages.’ Camp said. ‘Bizarre at best.’

‘Drew Hayden Taylor’s documentary Searching for Winnetou looks at the fine line between appreciation and appropriation of Indigenous traditions.’

‘Did you read any of his books?’ Camp asked.

‘Are you kidding? Does the bear shit in the woods? I bet you every German speaking male from my generation has read Karl May. They are probably the first books I ever read, when I was a boy, probably no older than 10. I remember I cried  for days when Winnetou, the hero, died. I even had a small wooden canoe on my bedside table with a few Indian figurines in it. On the sail it said Canada.’

Camp just shook his grey head and concentrated on his pint.

‘And what about Brexit? Maybe it should be called Mayxit,’ Camp snorted.

‘Whatever they can clobber together, they should put it to a vote. Only the people, not the politicians, should decide the future of the country. May has asked for several votes on the same deal.  Why not ask the people a second time,’ I said.

Just in time Vicky brought around a second round and Camp ceased the opportunity to ask her about the university admission scandal in the US. ‘What do you think of these rich people who cheated, bribed and forced their offspring into some of the best schools in the US?’

‘Yeah, I heard about it but it doesn’t surprise me. Money always trumps merit and talent and rich people could always buy what others had to achieve,’ she said shrugging her shoulders.

“Isn’t that a bit cynical?” Camp said.

‘If being disgusted and disappointed by the truth is cynical, then I’m guilty,’ she said. ‘Maybe you can put in a word for my daughter. I’d like her to attend a school closer to where I live.’

Camp took a sip from his fresh pint, stalling for time.

‘Just kidding Camp, she is perfectly happy where she is.’

‘Dodged that bullet,’ I said when Vicky sashayed away from our table.

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