Emil und die Detektive
is a German children's book by Erich Kästner, of The Parent Trap
Plot: Twelve-year-old Emil, son of a poor Single Mother
, is sent to Berlin
for the first time in his life, to bring 140 marks (about a month's income of his mother) to his grandma, for financial support. But when he falls asleep on the train, a man who calls himself Grundeis steals the money from him. Fortunately he meets Gustav with the [signal] horn, who's the leader of a children's gang and willing to help him catch the guy.
The novel received a sequel, Emil and the Three Twins
. It's been adapted for film, television and the stage, and some well-known creators have worked on the various movie versions; Billy Wilder
wrote the screenplay for the 1931 film, while Disney
produced an adaptation in 1964.
- An Aesop: Parodied by the grandma: "Never send cash — always use postal service."
- The Artful Dodger: Gustav
- Author Tract: There are many poor people in the world suffering. The world is unfair, And That's Terrible.
- Chekhov's Gun: Emil used a pin to make the bank notes stick in his pocket. When "Grundeis" wants to exchange the three notes in a bank, Emil remembers Just in Time that the notes have pinholes.
- Con Man: What "Grundeis" probably is.
- Creator Cameo: Kästner later appears in the story to write an article about the boys. And also had a minor role in one movie.
- Day of the Week Name: Dienstag (Tuesday)
- Disappeared Dad: Emil's. Just like Erich Kästner's, BTW.
- Not quite. Although Erich Kästner was much closer to his mother, his father was very much alive at the time the book was first published.
- Emil is twelve years old in the story, the book was published in 1929, so it is quite likely that his father died in World War I.
- Felony Misdemeanor: Emil participated in a prank in his hometown. For the record: They put an old hat on a monument of some famous guy, and Emil had to paint the monument's nose red, and add a moustache. After this, he has a bad conscience and becomes afraid of policemen. That's why he doesn't dare to tell the police.
- Film of the Book: Several. The script of the 1931 film was written by a then-unknown Billy Wilder.
- The Flapper: Pony Hütchen is a girl version. She wears a fringe haircut (="Pony" in German) which was the fashion at this time, and a little hat (=Hütchen). And she is quite outspoken (not to say: bratty), especially for her time, and challenges Emil to a fight. (Being a Nice Guy who Wouldn't Hit a Girl, and several pounds heavier than her, he declines of course.)
- Free-Range Children: Probably nowadays not many people would send a boy to a metropolis to deliver a month's wage of money.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Might be the case: "I thought there was someone playing hide-and-seek with himself!" Also later in the book: "Maybe he [=the villain] is looking under his bed to check whether there's someone playing Skat with himself."
- I Have Many Names: Grundeis / Müller / Kießling.
- Kid Detective: Emil and the titular - well, detectives.
- Momma's Boy: Emil himself doesn't like it if people call him this.
- Mustache Vandalism: Emil is reluctant to approach the police and instead uses the help of other children. The reason is that a few weeks earlier he painted a beard and mustache on a statue, so he's afraid the police won't believe him.
- Narrative Profanity Filter: "And then, Petzold said a very bad word and left." It fits in with the moralistic tone of the book.
- Nice Hat: "Grundeis" wears a bowler hat.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Pony Hütchen.
- Real Dreams Are Weirder: Emil has one in the train. It involves several real people he met in the last time.
- The Roaring Twenties
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: The boys get an offer to make advertising for several firms, after becoming famous, but decide against it.
- Smart People Wear Glasses: The "professor", one of the boys.
- Tall Tale: "Grundeis" makes fun of Emil, telling the unexperienced small-city-boy that people in Berlin sometimes leave their brain at the bank, to get a loan.
- Technology Marches On: Among the families of the boys, only one has a telephone in their home. That's why he has to stay home, as their communication center.
- Write What You Know: Believe it or not, but as a boy, Kästner helped catching a con woman who had stolen money from his mother.
- Erich Kästner's mother also worked as a hairdresser, like Emil's.