Everybody who grew up in the German speaking world in the past 45 years is likely familiar with Urmel aus dem Eis (Urmel from the Ice), Max Kruse’s best known children’s book. Urmel aus dem Eis is the story of the critter Urmel who emerges from a deep frozen dinosaur egg and navigates the modern world. Kruse was allegedly inspired to write the story when his family purchased a freezer in the late 1960s. Here is a clip of Urmel singing from the famous TV adaptation by the Augsburger Puppenkiste puppet theatre.
However, Max Kruse wrote a lot more than just Urmel. And yes, many of his books are SFF. Hell, Urmel even gets to travel into space in one of the books. Indeed, it’s telling how many of our great SFF writers of the postwar era were children’s book writers such as Michael Ende, Ottfried Preußler and Max Kruse. And quite often, these writers and their books were beloved by young readers, but not by teacher and educators who hated them for their escapism and lack of realism, as this obituary for Max Kruse in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung shows.
Max Kruse also had a fascinating life story apart from his books. He was the youngest of eight children of a famous family. His father was the sculptor Max Kruse, his mother the dollmaker Käthe Kruse. Young Max even became the model for one of his mother’s dolls, namely this cutie, the life-size baby doll “Du Mein”, which was originally developed for nursing students, because its head and limbs were weighted, so it behaved like a real baby.
I was thrilled when I learned that the man who wrote the Urmel books was the son of Käthe Kruse and the model for the life-size Käthe Kruse baby doll I craved so much as a young girl, but couldn’t afford, because Käthe Kruse dolls were prohibitively expensive due to being still handmade. I never did get a “Du Mein” baby (and they’re no longer being made, it seems), but I do own a small Käthe Kruse baby doll that I bought in the late 1980s. I call him “Baby T”, because he looks just like Mr. T down to the distinctive hairstyle. And yes, there are black Käthe Kruse dolls and have been at least since the 1980s. I own two of them, Baby T and his big sister Tonya, who are joined by their white friends Irene and Patricia.
So rest in peace, Max Kruse, creator of Urmel, Don Blech, Lord Schmetterhemd and many others.