Pumuckl: Double jubilee

Meister Eder and Pumuckl

Meister Eder and Pumuckl in the Alps: Gustl Bayrhammer and the goblin according to Barbara von Johnson

60 years Pumuckl, 100 years Bayrhammer

First broadcast 60 years ago

The goblin with the red hair made his first appearance 60 years ago. However, he was still invisible then, because he only existed as a radio play. On 21 February 1962, the Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR) broadcast the first episode of the radio play series "Meister Eder und sein Pumuckl". It was called "Spook in the Workshop". This was the beginning of a long success story that continues to this day. Records, television series and feature films followed. BR broadcast 90 episodes of the radio play series before the last episode was aired on 30 December 1973: "Pumuckl goes to the sea", in which he returns to his relatives, the Klabauts - and Master Eder learns that at some point you have to let go of children.
To mark the anniversary, BR has dug out the original radio play series "Meister Eder und sein Pumuckl" by Ellis Kaut from the archives - with Hans Clarin as Pumuckl and Alfred Pongratz as Meister Eder. All episodes are available as podcasts on the website of Bayerischer Rundfunk.

He would have been one hundred years old now: Gustl Bayrhammer, the great Bavarian actor, the one and only "Meister Eder". Bayrhammer never really liked to be pigeonholed into a role: "I don't like a ‚wapperl‘ (badge) on my ass," said the charismatic grump shortly before his death in 1993. But the fact that generations of children still know and love him as "Meister Eder" - that would certainly have pleased him. After all, he had embodied the television role for a full 54 episodes not least because his own grandchildren were also Pumuckl fans.

Bayrhammer, born on 12 February 1922 in Munich, wanted nothing more than to be an actor at a Munich theatre from an early age. But it was to take a long time before his dream came true: For twenty years he played at smaller theatres until the great Therese Giehse finally "discovered" him in 1966 and brought him to Munich. From then on he played on the big stages and also got more and more roles in film and television.

He was a folk actor in the best sense of the word, but refused to do anything that would have put him in the vicinity of "Bavarian kitsch"; he successfully defended himself against the "Seppl image" of a "Bavarian hayseed".

He became known nationwide as "Tatort" detective Veigl when he was assisted by the equally unforgettable "Monaco Franze" Helmut Fischer. On television, Bayrhammer often played mayors and „Hallodris“, and on the stage of the Residenztheater he played the heavenly porter Petrus in "Der Brandner Kaspar und das ewig' Leben" over 700 times.

Meister Eder's carpentry workshop was located not far from the DPMA, but was demolished Long ago

Finally he got the role of "Meister Eder", which stuck to him like Pumuckl to the glue pot. He first "inherited" the part in 1977 in the radio play series of the Bayerischer Rundfunk, which had been running since 1962. Bayrhammer had already worked on it occasionally in other roles, but after the death of "Eder" narrator Alfred Pongratz, he became his successor.

From 1982 onwards, he played the character in front of the camera together with the trick-animated goblin, to whom Hans Clarin had lent his unmistakable voice since 1962.

In the year of Bayrhammer's centenary and the sixtieth broadcasting anniversary of the goblin, preparations are reportedly underway for a new film version of Pumuckl's adventures.

Ellis Kaut: Pumuckl´s mother

On 17 November 1920, little Elisabeth Kaut came into the world in Stuttgart. Her father, who was born in Munich, was an authorised officer at a bank, her mother a farmer’s daughter from the Württemberg region. The family moved to Munich when Ellis was two years old. The artistic streak of the girl was apparent even at an early age.

The four-year-old, nick-named "Lieserl", loved to sing songs with an infinite number of verses, at the top of her lungs and especially in the stairwell, to all friends, relatives and neighbours, and was almost unstoppable. One day, when the caretaker asked her if she wanted to become a singer, the girl replied: "No, I don't want to become something like that. I want to become world-famous."

A versatile artist

Therefore, it is not surprising that – without her parents’ knowledge – Ellis Kaut paid for drama classes out of her own small monthly salary as a clerical trainee at the City of Munich. She was offered an engagement in Wiesbaden, but she felt that this was too far away from her future husband. In 1939, she married the journalist and author Kurt Preis, who had also encouraged her to start writing. Finally, she studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich during the second world war. She managed to keep her family afloat by making a living from sculpting, selling ceramic figurines and making portraits of famous Munich people.

Pumuckl´s birth


Trade mark DE 1028393

It was only later that she began to write novellas, stories and radio plays and worked as an announcer for the Bavarian radio station "Bayerischer Rundfunk" (BR). She wrote her first and very successful radio play series for children about a tomcat named Musch, "Geschichten vom Kater Musch". When the voice actors of the main characters left Munich for professional reasons, the series was discontinued after more than 100 episodes.

A new series was to replace "Kater Musch" and Ellis Kaut was assigned the job. At a meeting of the editorial staff, she was looking for the pencil that she had just been holding in her hand – it had suddenly disappeared. She laughed: "What if it wasn’t I who had misplaced the pencil, but a goblin?" The editor was enthusiastic about the idea, creating the basis for a new series.

It was during a winter stroll with her husband that a name for the goblin popped up: Ellis Kaut had fun pulling down the snow-covered branches in such a way that the snow landed on her husband’s head. He put up with this, laughed and called her "a right pumuckl". A name that came to his mind on the spur of the moment.

"Pumuckl" as radio play, book and film

Did you know that... of the title sequence of "Pumuckl" were shot from the roof terrace of the DPMA office building on Zweibrückenstraße in Munich?

In 1961, "Pumuckl" made its radio premiere in the BR – a total of 90 episodes were broadcast. From 1969, the radio plays were produced on record and cassette.

But how was it possible to image what the little goblin would look like? Ellis Kaut organised a painting competition on what "Pumuckl" should look like. The winner was 21-year-old Barbara von Johnson. She created the unique figure with the protruding ears, the fat belly and the oversized hands and feet. From 1965, she illustrated the "Pumuckl" books.

In 1982 the feature film "Meister Eder and his Pumuckl" with Gustl Bayrhammer in the role of Meister Eder was released; shortly thereafter the television series followed.

Ein Brunnen in München

Pumuckl fountain in Luitpold park in Munich

Ellis Kaut’s son-in-law, Brian Bagnall, created the cartoon character in bright colours. It was animated in Budapest.

The trade mark rights to “Pumuckl” were obtained by Ursula Bagnall, the daughter of Ellis Kaut, (including word mark DE 1012772, Pumuckl, applied for on 31 March 1979 for the classes of goods 38, 9, 35, 41 and 42).

From then on, Brian Bagnall illustrated the "Pumuckl" not only on screen, but also in the children’s books. Barbara von Johnson felt that her copyright had been violated and went to court. In 2005, at the end of the lawsuit, she received a compensation, subsequently. Johnson is also the proprietor of the "Pumuckl" figurative mark DE 1028393.

In total, "Pumuckl" was sold about 10 million times on record, cassette and video. "Pumuckl" musicals, including that at the Gärtnerplatz theatre, and further TV series as well as a feature film were produced. There is even a "Pumuckl" fountain in
Luitpold park.

In September 2015, shortly before her 95th birthday, Ellis Kaut died. She will always be remembered for her works and stories, but especially for her little, cheeky goblin.

Pictures: BR Infafilm Gmbh / Barbara von Johnson, BR, DPMAregister, Oliver Raupach via Wikimedia Commons

Last updated: 17 November 2023