Follow TV Tropes


Characters / The Sound of Music

Go To

Characters in The Sound of Music.

    open/close all folders 
    Fräulein Maria Rainer 
The protagonist of the story, Maria begins the story as a young nun at Nonnberg Abbey, but the other nuns consider her a misfit, and the Mother Abbess sends her away to be the governess of seven children.
  • '60s Hair: In the 1965 film, Maria dons a bowl cut, which would be considered out of place in late 1930s Austria. Somewhat justified in that Maria would've had her hair cut short upon entering the convent as a postulant, but still....
  • Adaptational Job Change: Maria in real life was not hired by George von Trapp as a governess for all seven of his children, but as a tutor for his daughter Maria Franziska von Trapp, who was sick with scarlet fever.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Maria's real-life maiden name was not Rainer, but Kutschera.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: According to her stepdaughter Maria Franziska von Trapp (Louisa), Maria Kutschera had a very bad temper.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: Maria Kutschera in real life had no reciprocating romantic feelings for the actual Captain von Trapp when she married him. In fact in her memoir she admits that while she was very fond of him, she was quite upset on her wedding day, because she didn't love him, and she still really wanted to be a nun; she married in him mostly due to her love for the children. However as she also admitted in her memoirs, "I learned to love him more than I had ever loved before or after."
  • Blithe Spirit: Maria in the von Trapp household.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Maria had some difficulty trying to realize her feelings for Captain von Trapp and tell him that she loved him. The things that girl has to do to get a kiss!
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: The nuns perceive her to be this, due to her carefree and unconventional ways.
  • Even Beggars Won't Choose It: The dress she leaves the Abbey in is one that even the poor didn't want, according to her.
  • Friend to All Children: The Mother Abbess knows that Maria is good with children, and is proven absolutely right.
  • Friend-or-Idol Decision: A much more benign version. Maria is afraid of her developing romance with the Captain, and flees back to the abbey due to her feeling she is betraying God. The Mother Abbess however points out to her that God intended the love between a man and a woman as a holy thing as well.
    Mother Abbess: My daughter, if you love this man it doesn't mean you love God less.
  • Good Stepmother: After falling in love with and marrying Captain von Trapp, Maria becomes this to his seven children.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: She's has golden blond hair and she's extremely warm, friendly, innocent and optimistic.
  • Honest Advisor: She isn't afraid to criticize Captain von Trapp's parenting habits (or lack thereof).
  • Magical Nanny: Maria is one of the classic examples, and it helps that she is played by the same actress as the other one. Maria comes to the household, improves the life of everyone and marries the father of the children she's taking care of.
  • Manic Pixie Dreamgirl: She ends up being this to the Captain.Un
  • Mentor: She becomes one for Liesl in particular.
  • Nun Too Holy: She is a mild example; her carefree spirit is a poor fit for the abbey, but she is clearly devoted to her faith.
  • The Pollyanna: To some degree. She has a firm grip on the realities of the world, but she always strives to look more on the optimist approach to life.
    Maria: When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.
  • Parental Substitute: She becomes one of these towards the von Trapp children and officially becomes their mother after marrying their father.
  • Sanctuary of Solitude: When she goes off to be alone in the Abbey, culminating in the Mother Abbess encouraging her to go back out into the world with the song number "Climb Every Mountain".
  • Second Love: For the Captain, after his first wife (the mother of his children) died.
  • Taking the Veil: She tries to pull this, but is rebuffed by the Mother Abbess who is well aware that Maria is running away from her feelings.

    Captain Georg von Trapp 
A retired Austrian submarine captain, a widower with seven children.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: His reaction to the children's lies about going to see Maria. He's clearly trying not to burst into laughter.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: The actual captain was spoken of to be a kind and loving man, and though his first wife's death was devastating, he still treated his children like a loving father. The only reason he used the whistle, was due to the massive size of the estate, as it was louder and easier to communicate with the children and staff.
  • Berserk Button: He manages to control his temper when confronting Nazis and Nazi sympathizers, but when the otherwise inoffensive Max expresses a blasé "what's going to happen is going to happen; just make sure it doesn't happen to you." attitude about the impending Anschluss, the Captain becomes furious.
  • Birds of a Feather: The stage musical in particular emphasises the love of music, Austria, and particularly his beloved mountains that he shares with Maria.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Other than being widowed, it may be another cause for his bitterness. He is a decorated captain of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire (which included former Yugoslavia and a piece of Italy and thus access to Mediterranean sea), but post-1918 Austria is a landlocked country. That means his career in the navy is over. The impending Anchluss with the hated Nazi Germany is making things worse, because they are obliterating Austria.
    The Baroness: You're far away. Where are you?
    Captain von Trapp: In a world that's disappearing, I'm afraid.
  • Dad the Veteran: He served in WWI and was decorated for his actions.
  • Death Glare: His is so awesomely deadly that it should be outlawed by the Geneva Conventions.
  • Defrosting Ice King: When his first wife died, he put up a wall and became very stern and strict, giving his children Drill Sergeant Nasty treatment. When he hears his children singing "The Sound of Music" so beautifully in the presence of the Baroness, he has a change of heart and asks Maria to stay.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Captain von Trapp treats his children this way at the beginning.
  • Gentleman Snarker: He has this tendency.
    Herr Zeller: Perhaps those who would warn you that the Anschluss is coming — and it is coming, Captain — perhaps they would get further with you by setting their words to music(!)
    Captain von Trapp: If the Nazis take over Austria, I have no doubt, Herr Zeller, that you will be the entire trumpet section.
    Herr Zeller: You flatter me, Captain.
    Captain von Trapp: Oh, how clumsy of me — I meant to accuse you.
  • Honor Before Reason: His defiant attitude toward Nazis which was almost Churchillian. He could be one scary dude at times. In the musical this defiance costs him his engagement with Elsa, though she's more broken up about it than he is.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He is a very strict father, but knows what's best for his children, and found a way for them to escape to Switzerland. Justified, as the "jerk" part mostly came into play in response to his first wife's death.
  • Job Mindset Inertia: In the movie, von Trapp summons his children via whistle as if he were still in the Navy and accidentally refers to Maria as "Captain".
  • Knight in Shining Armor: He was a member of Europe's noble caste and served by tradition, making him almost a literal as well as a figurative example of this. However, after the end of the Austrian Monarchy, the use of aristocratic titles was (and still is) forbidden in Austria (though not for informal use), so his name at that time would have been just Captain Trapp. Alternatively, this could be Warrior Prince.
  • Marry the Nanny: He falls in love with his children's governess Maria after she is so kind to them all and brings music back into the household, and they marry.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: He was formerly a sea captain.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: Downplayed, but in real life, while Captain von Trapp did fall in love with Maria, while she did like him very much, she herself didn't love him at first. Though she did later admit to falling just as much in love with him as the years went by, and reflected in her memoir that "I learned to love him more than I had ever loved before or after."
  • Smash the Symbol: On returning from his honeymoon, he discovers a Nazi flag flying in front of his home, and immediately rips it to shreds.
  • Stepford Smiler: In the film, he is a depressed Smiler when Maria leaves. He cheerfully explains Maria's departure to the children, then immediately asks the Baroness for a drink of "lemonade".

    The Children 
The seven children of Captain von Trapp: Liesl, Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta and Gretl.
  • Adaptation Name Change: None of the children share their names with the actual Von Trapp children. note 
  • Age Lift: In real life Captain von Trapp's oldest child was his son Rupert. The musical makes Liesl the oldest instead of Friedrich.
  • Blatant Lies: When the children explain to their father where they've been after secretly trying to go see Maria. Made even funnier by the fact that he's clearly aware they're talking rubbish, and the excuses to patch up the holes in their story just get more and more absurd. For instance, strawberries that were so cold they turned blue...
  • Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: as regards the three eldest girls, Liesl is beauty, Brigitta is brains, and Louisa is brawn.
  • Beta Couple: Liesl and Rolfe are a tragic version.
  • Captain Obvious: In the stage version only, Friedrich's introduction of himself to Maria is "I'm Friedrich. I'm 14. I'm a boy."
  • Children Are Innocent: The song "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" demonstrates Liesl's innocence. Ironically, Rolfe (who makes this point), turns out to be more immature than she is.
  • Curtain Clothing: When Maria learns the Von Trapp children have no play clothes, she makes them some out of curtains.
  • Cute Bookworm: Brigitta is implied to be one, as she's late answering her father's whistle because she's absorbed in a book.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: Subverted. Von Trapp tells the children that they won't have supper after they tell him they ate strawberries when they tried to see Maria. He revokes it pretty quickly, though. You can tell he didn't buy the berry story for a second.
    Von Trapp: Since you've obviously stuffed yourselves on thousands of delicious berries, you can't be hungry I'll have to tell Frau Schmidt to skip your dinner.
  • First Kiss: Liesl gets hers in the gazebo. She then runs into the rain and squeals in delight. "Whee!"
  • Flat Character: Marta von Trapp has the least personality of the Von Trapp kids in the film adaptation. She's the second youngest, but since Gretl gets to be the baby, Marta has none of that focus. Her most defining characteristic is saying that pink is her favorite color, and that's it.
  • Introdump: The children, commanded by a whistle from their father, introduce themselves in turn.
  • One-Steve Limit: In Real Life, one of Captain von Trapp's daughters was also named Maria; in the musical, she becomes a Louisa instead.
  • Parasol of Prettiness: Marta wants a pink one for her birthday.
  • Recitation Handclasp: The girls assume this posture during the recital at the festival. Friedrich and Kurt keep their hands by their sides instead.
  • The Runt at the End: Invoked by the Captain who lets his kids march about in the order of their age, with little Gretl last in line.
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: Liesl has one after she's caught out in the rain while with Rolfe.

    The Mother Abbess 
The Mother Abbess of Nonnberg Abbey.
  • Cool Old Lady: The Reverend Mother Superior of the convent. She instinctively knows that Maria's calling is outside the convent, sings "My Favorite Things" with her in the musical, and she realizes that Maria is in love with the captain. Not to mention when Maria, at first, told the Reverend Mother she left because she was "frightened". To which the Reverend Mother says, "Frightened, were they unkind to you?" The tone which she uses indicates she is very protective of the nuns.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Her name is never revealed, as she's only addressed by her title. (In Real Life, her name was Virgilia Lütz.)
  • Good Shepherd: She takes her title seriously.
  • Mama Bear: She is implied to be very protective of the nuns under her watch, as suggested by her tone of voice when asking Maria if the family was unkind to her.
  • Minor Character, Major Song: She only has a few minutes of screen time, but several of those minutes are spent singing "Climb Every Mountain."
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: She heads the Nonnberg Abbey, and is an excellent judge of what is best for someone like Maria, even though she is unaware of it at the time.

    The Nuns 
The other nuns of Nonnberg Abbey.
  • Badass Pacifist: All of them, but Sister Bertha especially, keep a cool head when the Nazis come to the convent in search of the Von Trapps, and are able to stall them without acting like anything is out of the ordinary.
  • Good Is Not Nice: The stern nun who was about the harshest on Maria? At the end, she's one of the two nuns who stole the Nazi's plugs, preventing them from giving chase to the Von Trapps.
  • Good Shepherd: While highly prim and proper, they are all good hearted and clearly learned Christ's lesson about heart of the law instead of letter of the law.
  • Hollywood Nuns: Alongside The Song of Bernadette and The Nun's Story, this film was one of the major Trope Codifiers.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: They split on how they view Maria, given she's not suitable for convent life, but they protect her and her family when the Nazis come after them.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sister Bertha is justifiably skeptical of Maria's suitability for the convent, but happily attends Maria's wedding and puts her life on the line so the Von Trapps can flee the Third Reich.
  • Nuns Are Funny: Maria aside, the other nuns also run on high doses of The Comically Serious.
  • Prayer Is a Last Resort: One chorus of "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?" is sung with folded hands and a heavenward gaze, indicating that the nuns are at their wits' end with Maria and there's nothing left to try but consulting God. (Though of course, given they're nuns, they presumably pray more frequently than that too.)
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Done by the two nuns at the end of the movie who remove key components from the Nazis' cars to keep them from working; technically, sabotaging a vehicle is against both legal codes and their holy orders. They even admit to it by saying "Reverend Mother, I have sinned."
  • Those Two Guys: The two nuns who steal components of the Nazis' cars at the end of the film.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: Two nuns reveal to their Mother that they have removed the distributor and coil (respectively) from the Nazis' automobile, the better to keep them from catching the Von Trapp family.

    Baroness Elsa Schräder 
A Viennese baroness who is the Captain's would-be fiancée.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: When she realizes how much the captain loves Maria, she suddenly realizes the captain isn't the man for her, either.
  • Les Collaborateurs: She is among the Austrians who are accepting of Nazi rule, unlike Captain von Trapp; this ends up causing the end of their engagement in the stage show.
  • Did Not Get The Guy: She doesn't get to marry Georg Von Trapp since he had developed a liking for Maria von Trapp, yet she's completely cool with this.
  • Disposable Fiancée: Her function in the plot is mainly to be a romantic obstacle between the captain and Maria. Once she realizes the captain can't shake his feelings for Maria, she agrees to call off their engagement.
  • Friend to All Children: In the stage musical. She tries to be this in the film, but fails.
  • Graceful Loser: In the film, when she realizes the Captain is in love with Maria and not her, she bows out graciously and says she realizes that he is not the man for her either as he is "far too independent". The scene where they break their engagement is quite heartbreaking. In the musical, the trope is not so applicable as their separation happens for an unrelated reason.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: When the Captain breaks off their engagement, she comes to realize that the captain wasn’t for her anyway, as she needed someone with a very strong need for her, or at least for her money. Her last line is an implicit endorsement of Maria:
    Baroness Schräder: Somewhere out there is a lady who I think will never be a nun. Auf Wiedersehen, darling.
  • Love Cannot Overcome: In the musical, she ultimately breaks off her engagement to the Captain when he refuses to bend to the Nazi will, even by pretending. She's heartbroken, but she knows they won't be happy together when the Reich rolls in.
  • Removing the Rival: In the film, she does this to Maria by making some subtly catty remarks about the Captain being infatuated by her. She succeeds temporarily, as Maria promptly leaves in secret to return to the Abbey. But she soon comes back after a heart-to-heart with the Mother Abbess, and when the Baroness realizes that the Captain and Maria are mutually in love, she bows out gracefully. One can scarcely blame her for putting up a fight, as she's been working on Georg for a long time now.
  • Romantic False Lead: At first, Captain Von Trapp has quite serious romantic intentions to the Baroness, and they even become engaged... for a while.

    Max Dettweiler 
A Viennese music agent and producer, and friend of Captain von Trapp
  • Ambiguously Gay: Some productions present him as such.
  • The Fatalist: In the musical version, he and Elsa sing "No Way to Stop It", a cynically defeatist ode to Nazi appeasement.
  • Honorary Uncle: He is "Uncle Max" to the Captain's seven children.
  • Took a Level in Badass: After spending the entire musical/film being pleasant and accommodating to the German occupation, he takes a serious risk by helping the von Trapps escape. The 2013 live version makes it darker. After it's announced the Von Trapps have escaped, Max is shown being seized and dragged offstage by Nazi officials, presumably to face Redemption Equals Death.
  • What You Are in the Dark: He spends most of the stage musical and film acting as a leech and an opportunist to Captain Von Trapp and the Nazis, claiming that it's better to bend to the Reich's will than to fight an inevitable defeat. Come the film's climax, he warns them via a Batman Gambit during a Music Festival that the Nazis are going to force Captain Von Trapp to work for them, and stalls during the awards to give them enough time to escape.

    Rolfe Gruber 
A young postman who is initially Liesl's love interest.

    Herr Zeller 
The gauleiter, and the main antagonist of the story.
  • Big Bad: While almost all the characters are extremely principled and mostly nice people, Zeller is an enemy of Von Trapp from the start and ends up being the Nazi they have to escape from.
  • I'll Take That as a Compliment: He says he's flattered when the Captain says he would be the entire trumpet section if the Nazis took over Austria. Makes more sense when you realize that trumpeters are generally regarded as egotistical, because they like to "blow their own horns".
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: The story is lighthearted till he shows up representing the looming threat of Nazi Germany.