Theodor Storm
Theodor Storm
Theodor Storm
Born(1817-09-14)14 September 1817
Husum, Schleswig
Died4 July 1888(1888-07-04) (aged 70)
Hademarschen, German Empire
OccupationLawyer, writer
Alma materUniversity of Kiel

Hans Theodor Woldsen Storm (German pronunciation: [ˈteːodoːɐ̯ ˈʃtɔʁm] (listen); 14 September 1817 – 4 July 1888), commonly known as Theodor Storm, was a German-Frisian writer. He is considered to be one of the most important figures of German realism.


Storm-bust by Adolf Brütt (1897/98), Husum Schlosspark
Storm-bust by Adolf Brütt (1897/98), Husum Schlosspark
Theodor Storm, drawing by Ingo Kühl 1980
Theodor Storm, drawing by Ingo Kühl 1980

Storm was born in the small town of Husum, on the west coast of Schleswig, then a formally independent duchy ruled by the king of Denmark.[1] His parents were the lawyer Johann Casimir Storm (1790–1874) and Lucie Storm, née Woldsen (1797–1879).

Storm attended school in Husum and Lübeck and studied law in Kiel and Berlin.[1] While still a law student in Kiel he published a first volume of verse together with the brothers Tycho and Theodor Mommsen (1843).

Storm was involved in the 1848 revolutions and sympathized with the liberal goals of a united Germany under a constitutional monarchy in which every class could participate in the political process.[2][3] From 1843 until his admission was revoked by Danish authorities in 1852, he worked as a lawyer in his home town of Husum. In 1853 Storm moved to Potsdam, moving on to Heiligenstadt in Thuringia in 1856. He returned to Husum in 1865 after Schleswig had come under Prussian rule and became a district magistrate ("Landvogt"). In 1880 Storm moved to Hademarschen, where he spent the last years of his life writing, and died of cancer at the age of 70.[1]

Storm was married twice, first to Konstanze Esmarch, who died in 1864, and then to Dorothea Jensen.[1]


Storm was one of the most important authors of 19th-century German Literary realism. He wrote a number of stories, poems and novellas. His two best-known works are the novellas Immensee (1849) and Der Schimmelreiter ("The Rider on the White Horse"), first published in April 1888 in the Deutsche Rundschau. Other published works include a volume of his poems (1852), the novella Pole Poppenspäler (1874) and the novella Aquis submersus (1877).


Like Friedrich Hebbel, Theodor Storm was a child of the North Sea plain, but, whilst in Hebbel's verse there is hardly any direct reference to his native landscape, Storm again and again revisits the chaste beauty of its expansive mudflats, menacing sea and barren pastures — and whilst Hebbel could find a home away from his native heath Storm clung to it with what may be called a jealous love. In Der Schimmelreiter, the last of his 50 novellas and widely considered Storm's culminating masterpiece, the setting of the rural North German coast is central to evoking its unnerving, superstitious atmosphere, and sets the stage for the battleground of man versus nature: the dykes and the sea.

His favourite poets were Joseph von Eichendorff and Eduard Mörike, and the influence of the former is plainly discernible even in Storm's later verse. During a summer visit to Baden-Baden in 1864, where he had been invited by his friend, the author and painter Ludwig Pietsch, he made the acquaintance of the great Russian writer Ivan Turgenev. They exchanged letters and sent each other copies of their works over a number of years.

Hungarian literary critic Georg Lukács, in Soul and Form (1911), appraised Storm as "the last representative of the great German bourgeois literary tradition," poised between Jeremias Gotthelf and Thomas Mann.


A poem about his hometown Husum, the grey town by the grey sea (German: Die graue Stadt am grauen Meer).

House of Theodor Storm in Hademarschen
House of Theodor Storm in Hademarschen
Die Stadt The town
Am grauen Strand, am grauen Meer
Und seitab liegt die Stadt;
Der Nebel drückt die Dächer schwer,
Und durch die Stille braust das Meer
Eintönig um die Stadt.
By the grey shore, by the grey sea
—And close by lies the town—
The fog rests heavy round the roofs
And through the silence roars the sea
Monotonously round the town.
Es rauscht kein Wald, es schlägt im Mai
Kein Vogel ohn' Unterlaß;
Die Wandergans mit hartem Schrei
Nur fliegt in Herbstesnacht vorbei,
Am Strande weht das Gras.
No forest murmurs, no bird sings
Unceasingly in May;
The wand'ring goose with raucous cry
On autumn nights just passes by,
On the shoreline waves the grass.
Doch hängt mein ganzes Herz an dir,
Du graue Stadt am Meer;
Der Jugend Zauber für und für
Ruht lächelnd doch auf dir, auf dir,
Du graue Stadt am Meer.
Yet all my heart remains with you,
O grey town by the sea;
Youth's magic ever and a day
Rests smiling still on you, on you,
O grey town by the sea.

Analysis and original text of the poem from A Book of German Lyrics, ed. Friedrich Bruns, which is available in Project Gutenberg.[4]

Translated works


  1. ^ a b c d Adolf Stern, Biographical Note in The Rider on the White Horse, The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction, 1917
  2. ^ Jackson, David A (1992). Theodor Storm: The Life and Works of a Democratic Humanitarian. Berg Publishers. p. 201.
  3. ^ Ebersold, Günther (1981). Politik und Gesellschaftskritik in den Novellen Theodor Storms. Peter Lang Verlag. p. 13.
  4. ^[permanent dead link]