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The characters in Karl May's famous 'Winnetou' series

Susanne Spröer kbm
December 22, 2016

Winnetou, Old Shatterhand, Nscho-Tschi: Here is an introduction to the main characters in Karl May's "Winnetou" novels. German television is releasing an updated version of the classic Wild West film.

Pierre Brice as Winnetou and Lex Barker as Old Shatterhand
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The Apache chief Winnetou and his German friend Old Shatterhand are classic figures known across Germany. Created by author Karl May, they were portrayed in a series of classic films made in the 1960s. Now private German broadcaster RTL has remade the story in a three-part, 15-million-euro mini-series.

Just like in the early films, the new ones freely interpret the books and their characters - so freely that the producers even got into a legal row with publisher.

For a while, it looked like the new films wouldn't even be able to use the Winnetou name. The Bamberg-based publisher was also collaborating on another Karl May film project. 

Christmas release for the Winnetou mini-series

In the end, the filmmakers won the rights to use the Winnetou name. Private German broadcaster RTL is premiering the three parts on December 25 ("Winnetou - A New World" ), December 27 ("Winnetou - The Secret from Silver Lake") and on December 29 ("Winnetou - The Final Battle").

Directed by Philipp Stölzl, the films feature actors Wotan Wilke Möhring (Old Shatterhand), Nik Xhelilaj (Winnetou), Iazua Larios (Nscho-Tschi), Mario Adorf (Santer Sr.) and Gojko Mitic (Intschu-Tschuna).

Having also played in the 1960s series, Adorf and Mitic will be recognized by older viewers. Jürgen Vogel (Rattler), Milan Peschel (Sam Hawkens), Michael Maertens (Santer Jr.), Henny Reents (Belle) and Fahri Yardim (El Mas Loco) can be seen in minor roles. El Mas Loco is a new imaginary character that didn't exist in the books.

Winnetou for new and old fans?

The soundtrack to the films was written by Heiko Maile, together with Martin Böttcher, who composed the catchy melodies from the 1960s films.

The modern new edition aims to draw in a younger audience while not losing old fans. Whether that will work remains to be seen.

Click through the gallery above to meet the key figures in the story.