King Ludwig and German Handcrafts
King Ludwig and German Handcrafts
Bavaria, King Ludwig’s and the German Handcrafts, Nutcrackers and Figurines Devoted to Them.
Bavaria Germany is an area rich in folklore, each Christmas this region welcomes numerous Weinachtsmarkts and Christkindlmarkts. These are Christmas markets where little huts sell mostly handcrafted wares. As a backdrop for these cozy, festive gatherings are medieval towns with castles in the distance. Three of these castles were built be the "Mad King" Ludwig, who is the subject in numerous German nutcrackers and figurines.
The Bavarian King Ludwig II is both a historical person and a legend, portrayed in nutcrackers and plays. He was born in 1845 and became King of Bavaria (a German kingdom) when he was eighteen, in 1864. It is here that his legacy begins. Germany was at this time split into several different kingdoms, including Bavaria, Prussia and Saxony. Prior to Ludwig’s birth, Europe was going through a tumultuous time, France was experiencing the social upheaval and revolutions where the bourgeoisie denounced the nobility and monarchy. The several independent kingdoms which made up what is now known as Germany, was not immune to the political struggles between the people’s voice and monarch’s control. While Bismark was unifying northern Germany under what became known as the North German Confederation, led by Prussia, and while Austria was vying for lands and resources from Germany, Bavaria remained independent until two years after Ludwig’s birth, when it was forced to finally make an alliance with the German Confederation. In spite of this Bavaria remained in control of its own territory and King Ludwig remained in the hearts of his subjects and monarch of the throne.
King Ludwig was an odd man. He never married, which was unusual for monarchs of his time. He also indulged in two main obsessions, Wagner, a composer, and architecture. Ludwig loved whimsical music and images. While king, Ludwig financed several of Richard Wagner’s music ventures including a music hall. Today we can find whimsical nutcrackers in his image, some of them portray Ludwig holding a swan, his favorite bird. At Christkindl markets, you can find numerous music boxes handcrafted in Germany with figurines depicting the King, or swans, his favorite bird, dancing to Wagner’s music.
More than his support of music and orchestras, Ludwig is remembered for the whimsical castles. The castles he made stand today as reminders of this crazy king. During a time when war was being threatened on Bavaria, Ludwig decided not to invest in his soldiers or military, but on his homes. Furthermore, he pleased his subjects by spending the hoard of monarch coffers on his building ventures rather than using public funds. His family thought he was crazy, even going as far as having him declared insane and unfit for the crown, as he spent their savings. His subjects, on the other hand, loved his generosity as Ludwig provided buildings for them to dream about, jobs for them to put food on the table and did not raise any taxes to fund his plans. King Ludwig II was one of the favorite kings of his people and one of the most well-known, with numerous German nutcrackers, figurines and models of his castles sold at Christkindl markets and plays of his life performed across Bavaria.
At a time when money was tight and many men were conscripted to act as soldiers, King Ludwig paid individuals to build his vast castles. His subjects rewarded him by making him the subject of numerous nutcrackers. Nutcrackers were usually reserved for individuals who were mocked (political leaders, Church officials, policemen/Soldiers, etc.) however, King Ludwig’s nutcrackers are more than stern leaders, but are elaborate and ornate – almost like the character from a fairy tale, much like King Ludwig himself. Being more fun than mockery, these nutcrackers are among the most treasured. In addition to the nutcracker renditions of the King, three of his castles stand today: Neuschwanstein, Linderhof, Herrenchiemsee, and one castle was "remodeled," the Schachen King’s House. Each castle has a theme. The most known building is the fairytale Neuschwanstein castle, themed after Wagner’s operas with scenes painted on the walls. This is the castle which Disney Land based Sleeping Beauty’s Castle upon. If you visit Neuschwanstein you can find numerous Nutcrackers devoted to this king and his buildings. Linderhof resembles the French palace of Versailles, only it has a woodman’s hut carved into a hollowed tree and a lake that has lights underneath it so that it glows (remember this is the 19th century – this was almost unheard of!). Similar woodman huts have been found in German smoker figurines. The Castle of Herrenchiemsee is based on an island in the middle of a lake the small town which is situated around this castle is the location for a annual Weinachtsmarkt or Christkindl-market, in order to access these, you must ride a ferry.
Socially, Ludwig was known to be a bit of a hermit amongst the ranks of nobility and monarchy. However, amongst the peasants and his construction workers King Ludwig was known to fraternize, which may be one reason that nutcrackers were made of him personally, rather than of his position. The relationship that Ludwig had with his subjects, only added to the opinion that he was crazy. Ultimately, his oddities led to his suspicious death. Ludwig died mere days after being declared legally insane and dethroned by his family members. He was drowned, along with the doctor who found him "unfit for the throne." In spite of his early death, King Ludwig II lives on in the hearts of Bavarians. Find a King Ludwig nutcracker today and remember to dream and enjoy the silly moments of life.