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The narratives Der Scout (The Scout), together with Deadly Dust are, in some sense, forerunners of the later Winnetou novels. This volume presents the translation named, The Scout. Karl May saw his narrative Der Scout published in the magazine ‘Deutscher Hausschatz’ (German Home Treasures) in 1888/89. Between 1881 and 1889, Karl May had successfully produced his Oriental Odyssey, following which he proceeded to accomplish the same for the Wild West of his imagination. In so doing, he incorporated some aspects of The Scout in Volume II of his Winnetou Series.
May’s Scout, a first-person narrative, plays before a historical background, shortly after the American Civil War and the battle for power between the forces of Juarez and Maximilian, supported by the French, in Mexico, in the years 1865/66. He, furthermore, uses the opportunity to insert and express his beliefs about the then recently founded Ku-Klux-Klan.
The Scout certainly holds a special position in May’s Wild West stories in that the first-person narrator is still a novice to the trials and tribulations encountered. Although the young man is capable, he is still encumbered by the trappings of civilization, and has difficulties dealing with his new environment. Still a greenhorn, aptly described here, he is familiarized with the rules of the West by the story’s other protagonist, his mentor, the Scout, going by the frontiersman’s name of Old Death.
In this narrative, the storyteller is still far removed from the later, always competent and experienced frontiersman, but is described as a fallible human being with a long way to go to become the Old Shatterhand of the Winnetou Series and other Wild West novels of May’s. However, he also meets and defeats Winnetou in this story and is befriended by the Apache chief, who, in this early epic, is vengeful and is yet to become the noble human being of May’s later writings.
The Scout is thought to be one of Karl Mays best travel stories, into which the author wove, as it appears, some of his early personal experiences from his incarceration, which find expression in the poem ‘The Night Most Terrible,’ and remarks of Old Death about his misdeeds.
So, if you have read the Winnetou Series, go back in time to meet the, not-yet-so-named, ‘Old Shatterhand’ when he was still a greenhorn. Enjoy!