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Ulrichs: Sailor Stories

The Storylines

Matrosengeschichten (Sailor Stories)
by Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the first known Gay activist.

  • Prefaced by the poem "To My Little Bee," which recounts Ulrichs' journey southward from Germany to Italy
  • Written in L'Aquila, Italy, 1884.
  • Consists of four stories told by Norwegian sailors:
    (1) "Sulitelma"
    (2) "Atlantis"
    (3) "Manor"
    (4) "The Monk of Sumbö"

  • (1) "Sulitelma" is the name of a ship and the name of the place in the snowy mountains in Norway where the ship sets out. The ship, which rides the winds of storms, is made of ice and is covered with crystals and clouds. Seeing the ship brings misfortune.

    Erich, 13, and Thyra, 16, his sister, who live in Scotland, are drawn to a rocky cliff. A storm rises, bringing the ship with it. Erich, seized by a magnetic force, reaches out and is helped aboard by Harald. Thyra, who sees Harald, a handsome and well-built sailor, gets jealous of her brother. She watches in dismay as Erich is carried away in the company of the handsome sailor.

    Erich carelessly goes to the sunny part of the ship and falls into the sea when the rail of the ship melts. His sister discovers him sitting on a rock in a daze. He tells Thyra of his wild and wonderful experience.

    They return to the rocky cliff, and the ship does return. Erich goes aboard, and shouts to his sister that they'll come back for her tomorrow. They do. Thyra throws her brother overboard, and he gets smashed on rocks. She wants to marry Harald, and he takes her to an icy bed on Sulitelma, where she freezes to death and is covered with a blanket of snow. That's her punishment from the gods for excess in love and fratricide.

    One scary aspect of the story is the load in the ship's hold: fingernail clippings of the dead. They're there to keep out the gods and prevent the end of the world.

  • (2) "Atlantis" takes it from there. Harald wants to get away from frozen Thyra. He gets a dispensation and a nine-day pass to visit Atlantis. He falls for Silvia and goes AWOL.

    The "Sulitelma," now with a sun-fast coating, comes to pick him up. He is arrested, and Silvia dies of grief.

    This story also contains the reason why people don't see the Phoenix anymore -- it also died of grief!

  • (3) "Manor" can be read here on Urania Manuscripts.

  • (4) "The Monk of Sumbö" is a mountain on Sumbö, one of the islands of Norway.

    Brothers Turo and Axar hear of the mermaid who lives in a grotto beneath "The Monk." She is nothing but trouble for sailors. Axar is engaged, but Turo is free. Turo is invited to go courting on another island.

    On his way, Turo gets caught in a storm and is drawn to the grotto. He sees Hayafialla, the beautiful mermaid, and barely escapes with his life.

    He tells Axar of her beauty, and Axar, curious, sneaks out to the grotto. Turo stalks him, they fight and fall into the water. Bloody, Turo climbs onto a boulder; Axar escapes with his life. Hayafialla takes pity, goes to Turo, kisses him, and he dies.

    Axar tells his fiancee he doesn't love her, returns to the grotto, is sucked down by a whirlpool, and spit out. He lands beside his brother. Now you can see their bleached bones on that boulder.

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