Literature: The Tin Drum

The first part of the Danzig Trilogy by GŁnter Grass, The Tin Drum (German: Die Blechtrommel) is a 1959 novel. Narrated by Oskar Matzerath, a dwarf of questionable sanity.

Oskar was born in 1924, in the Free City of Danzig. On Oskar's third birthday, he refused to grow up and turn into a miserable adult. Because of this, he remains a boy throughout most of his life. Along his travels, he watches the rise and fall of Nazi Germany and discovers that eternal youth is not all that it's cracked up to be. He narrates his story from within a mental hospital, where he is confined c. 1952-1954.

A Film of the Book was released in 1979, covering the first two books. While plans were made to film a sequel to complete the story, it never came to pass. The movie follows Oskar from his birth until after the end of World War II and the Soviet invasion where he finally decides to grow up. The film attained controversy in both Ontario and Oklahoma, due to the belief that it depicted child pornography. The cases were both quickly overruled, however.

Tropes found in both the book and the film:


The book provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Art Shift: One chapter in Book Two reads like a script for a stage play. The purpose may be an intentional Mood Whiplash: Said chapter ends with Wehrmacht soldier Lankes shooting a group nuns.
  • Cultured Warrior: Lankes, a Wehrmacht soldier who decorates bunkers with ornaments and becomes an artist after the war.
  • Pals with Jesus: Oskar talks to both God and the Devil. It's not supposed to be taken literally, but whether Oskar is being metaphorical or is just that crazy is up for debate.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The movie is more straightforward but in the book, there is a chance that perhaps Oskar just made up all this stuff, being not entirely sane. It doesn't help that he is telling us this story while in an asylum.
  • Stalker Shrine: Actually more like Stalker Relic: Oskars prays to Nurse Dorothea's severed finger.
  • West Germany: The third book of the novel.

The film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • The Film of the Book: Won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1979. It was also highly praised at Cannes.