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Literature / The Robber Hotzenplotz

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The Robber Hotzenplotz is a German children's book by Otfried Preußler, also famous for his adaptation of the Krabat legend and other works like The Little Witch and The Adventures of Strong Vanya.

Set in an unspecified (but certainly pre-World War I, and pretty technology-free) past Germany, it's essentially a Kasper (German equivalent to Punch) story: It has Kasper, his best friend Seppel (Joseph), Kasper's grandmother, a policeman, a robber, a sorcerer, and a fairy godmother. And even a crocodile (although it's really a polymorphed dachshund). But no Love Interest for Kasper or Seppel, however.

The plot: One day, the robber Hotzenplotz steals the grandma's most favorite thing - her coffee mill which can play a song when used - so her grandson Kasper and his friend Seppel develop a plan how to get it back. After this mundane start, the story also involves fantasy elements like a sorcerer and a fairy godmother, which may come as a surprise to some folks.


There are several film adaptations based on it, one of them featuring Gert Froebe as the robber. And even a theatre play.

The Robber Hotzenplotz provides examples of:

  • Abnormal Ammo: Hotzenplotz also has a pepper pistol. Useful if you don't want to kill people, especially in a children's book.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Kasper deliberately calls Zwackelmann by the wrong name in the hope of getting kicked out, but it doesn't work. He manages to never repeat himself, which is quite an achievement for someone (supposedly) so ditzy.
  • Antagonist Title: The title is named after the bandit whom the main characters are chasing.
  • Apothecary Alligator: Zwackelmann has one, as every true sorcerer should have.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Zwackelmann turned the fairy godmother Amaryllis into a fire-bellied toad and Hotzenplotz into a bullfinch. And in the second book, we meet a dachshund polymorphed into a crocodile. Fortunately, there is a special fairy weed (but you can only pluck it when there is a full moon) that can turn them back.
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  • Bioluminescence Is Cool: The fairy weed.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Hotzenplotz
  • Bound and Gagged: At the beginning of book 2, Hotzenplotz broke out of the prison (well... the fire engine house - it's a really small village, they had no real jail), took Dimpfelmoser's uniform, bound him with a fire hose and put a bucket over his head. Later, they manage to do it to him - they fool him into thinking that the mushrooms he ate were poisonous and would make him explode, so they'd have to bind him.
  • Closed Circle: You can't leave Zwackelmann's castle if he doesn't want you to. If you try, you'll get slapped by an invisible hand. And if he notices, he may also make a lightning strike just in front of you, as a warning. There is a loophole, however.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Petrosilius Zwackelmann
  • Granny Classic: To the point that she's only known as grandma.
  • Harmless Villain: Hotzenplotz may be able to scare a grandma and maybe a kid, but not much more. He only runs free because Police Are Useless too.
  • Heel–Face Turn: In the third book. To demonstrate that he means it, Hotzenplotz blows up his gunpowder in a place where noone gets hurt, and throws his seven knives into the swamp, with Kasper and Seppel as witnesses.
  • I Am Not Weasel: Kasper mistakes the polymorphed Amaryllis for a big frog or ordinary toad.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: After having to deal with Kasper's antics for a while, Zwackelmann has to summon a bottle of cumin liquor.
  • Knife Nut: Hotzenplotz carries no less than seven knives in his belt. He never uses them to hurt humans, though.
  • Large Ham: The actors of Hotzenplotz and Zwackelmann
  • Lovable Rogue: Hotzenplotz
  • Made a Slave: Kasper and Seppel when the robber catches them.
  • Magic Carpet: Zwackelmann's coat/robe doubles as one.
  • Mistaken Identity: Kasper and Seppel "disguise" as each other - by swapping their hats. It works, at least for Hotzenplotz - and when they state who they really are, he doesn't believe them. This becomes a plot point later.
  • Mundane Utility: Averted. Zwackelmann can do a lot of things with magic - except peeling potatoes, so he has to do it himself and hates it. And is enjoyed when he gets a servant to do this work instead.
  • Mundane Wish: Kasper gets a wishing ring from Amaryllis. He uses it to get the coffee mill back, and a new hat. The third wish however is for turning Hotzenplotz back into a human.
  • Musical Episode: The Gert Fröbe movie had several musical interludes, for unexplained reasons.
  • Never Split the Party: After the boys fooled him into leaving a track of sand leading to his cave, he fools them in return by making a second track with sand.
  • Nice Hat:
    • Kasper's trademark hat. He is not pleased when he learns that Hotzenplotz burnt it to Kick the Dog. Neither is Zwackelmann, for other reasons.
    • The pickelhaube Dimpfelmoser wears also counts.
    • Zwackelmann wears a wizard's hat, of course.
    • And Hotzenplotz has a big hat with a black feather.
  • No Name Given: The grandma. We also don't know Kasper and Seppel's last names, or Hotzenplotz' first name.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Kasper, when Hotzenplotz has caught them, deliberately pronounces Hotzenplotz' name wrong. As a result he's sold to the sorcerer Zwackelmann as a servant - Zwackelmann needs a stupid servant who won't snoop around.
  • Plot Hole: In the first movie. Kasper can break out of the sorcerer's castle if he leaves back something he wears, so he leaves back his - or rather, Seppel's - hat. The problem: Earlier, when he tried to flee without success, he also didn't wear the hat, so why didn't it work? Sometimes handwaved in that you have to be conscious of how the trick works.
  • Police Are Useless: Dimpfelmoser is a Meaningful Name - "Dimpfel" is Bavarian German for "The Ditz".
  • Reformed, but Rejected: Hotzenplotz in book 3, because of a misunderstanding. Fortunately, he doesn't try to take revenge, but he leaves a letter declaring he wants to go to America and become a gold digger. There's a happy ending.
  • Reverse Psychology: The trick with the box full of "gold".
  • Seers: The widow Schlotterbeck. Complete with Crystal Ball.
  • Spoonerism: Deliberately. To make fun of Hotzenplotz and Zwackelmann.
  • Stupid Crooks: Hotzenplotz falls for the trick the boys play on him: They transport a big wooden box with "ATTENTION: GOLD!" prominently written on it. (It's full of sand, and there's a small hole in the bottom, so when he steals it, he leaves a track to his secret cave.)
  • Tap on the Head: Kasper knocks down Dimpfelmoser (whom he mistakes for Hotzenplotz, who stole Dimpfelmoser's uniform earlier). Worse: They bind the policeman in the same way he's been before - thinking they give Hotzenplotz a taste of his own medicine.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Kasper acts like he couldn't understand the most simple orders. "You want me to scrub the firewood, and chop up the kitchen floor with the axe?"
  • Whip It Good: When Zwackelmann returns and Kasper has managed to leave the castle (which the sorcerer thinks is impossible for him), Zwackelmann gets angry and summons a kind of whip to punish Kasper.
  • Wrap It Up: In book 3, Preußler meticulously made sure that there were no possible plot hooks for yet another book.


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