According to Karl May's story, first-person narrator Old Shatterhand encounters Winnetou and after initial dramatic events, a true friendship between Old Shatterhand and the Apache Winnetou arises; on many occasions they give proof of great fighting skill but also of compassion for other human beings. It portrays a belief in an innate "goodness" of mankind, albeit constantly threatened by ill-intentioned enemies.
Karl May's "Winnetou" novels symbolize, to some extent, a romantic desire for a simpler life in close contact with nature. In fact, the popularity of the series is due in large part to the ability of the stories to tantalize fantasies many Europeans had and have for this more untamed environment.
May's heroes drew on archetypes of Germanic culture and had little to do with actual Native American cultures. "Winnetou is noble because he combines the highest aspects of otherwise 'decadent' Indian cultures with the natural adoption of the romantic and Christian traits of Karl May's own vision of German civilization. As he is dying, the Apache Winnetou asks some settlers to sing an Ave Maria for him, and his death is sanctified by his quiet conversion to Christianity."
The latest Winnetou approach
Last week, the second of these groups posted their plans on the NativeCelebs page in Facebook. They noted the changes in the industry's portrayal of Indians:
Needless to say, none of this talk of nature or sustainability was in the 1890 novels. Not in the first one I read, anyway. Unless it's injected into the movie with subtlety and care, it'll stand out like a sore thumb.
The group also talked a bit about how they plan to evolve Old Shatterhand's character. Shatterhand
Can they do it, especially when they think all Indians belong to one touchy-feely culture? I have my doubts, but we'll see.
For more on the subject, see The German Obsession with Winnetou.