Monday, May 21, 2012

Casting Characters

The Last Daughter of Prussia was inspired by writings and stories I gathered from my family, but there were also many images that breathed life, heart and substance into the novel. Along the way, in this blog, I have shared quite a number of photos with you. If it's true that a picture says a thousand words then I need not write as many today except perhaps to explain how certain images gave form to the storyline and the characters in it.

Let me start with some of the CHARACTERS who evolved in my imagination as I researched old photos, diaries and books...

It all began with this image of  the famous Trakehner Fetysz Ox.
Fetysz Ox was tragically shot by the invading Russian Army at the close of WW2.
However, because of him I started thinking about a story involving an adventurous woman who
wanted to save her beloved Trakehners from the same terrible fate.

I turned to my grandfather Walter von Sanden's books
to find out more about what happened during the invasion.
The story started to unfold in my mind as I realized my own family
had lived through the nightmare of the Great Trek.
In my book, the character Baron von Falken
has a great deal in common with my grandfather.
I incorporated the story of his arrest by the Nazis into one of the chapters.
The Nazis thought he was an accomplice
 to the July 20th assassination attempt on Hitler.
(In my novel the baron wears the same green hunting jacket!)
(Photo (C) Gottlieb Family)

 Blacksmith Helling is a main character in the book
 and he is also a great hunter.
This pic is actually of a man named Hellwig— the forester who lived
 on my grandparent's estate in Guja, East Prussia
(Photo (C) Gottlieb Family)

 Baroness von Falken plays a big role too.
In The Last Daughter she is a sculptress
with a difficult personality—moody and depressed.
This pic is of my grandmother Edith von Sanden in her art studio
 in Guja, East Prussia before the war.
She really was an artist
 and though not nearly as complicated as my novel's baroness,
for as long as I knew her, she walked with a definite air of melancholy.
(Photo (C) Gottlieb Family)

Manya von Falken
In the story, she is the bright, spirited horsewoman and heroine whose courage
leads her family and her Trakehners on the dangerous  trek.
 Much of her character is based on the strength and outspoken boldness
that I saw in my own mother, Owanta von Sanden who is depicted in this photo.
(Photo (C) Gottlieb Family)

Joshi Karas
In my story, he is the son of Roma Gypsies.
He is a musically gifted and educated hero.
While researching information on Gypsies in the Third Reich,
I came across this photo of Karl Stojka a gypsy
 who was deported to the Nazi camp in Birkenau along with thousands of
other Gypsies, most of whom were gassed to death. Thankfully, he survived.
I hope he didn't mind me using his likeness as an inspiration.

The mare in the novel truly is a Last Daughter of Prussia.
She is brave, enduring and loyal until the end.
Her mission is to take her human family across the ice.
 Never  once does she stop to consider whether those she struggles so hard
 to carry are German, Jewish, Gypsy or Russian.
There is no prejudice in her.
 She is pure of heart and cares only about survival.
The horse in his picture is actually a stallion (Pregel)
but he has such a sensitive, intelligent face and
when I see him I think of Shambhala.
(The photo was taken from Erhard Schulte's fabulous book—Trakehnens Pferde.)
is my Trakehner stallion hero. 
Unlike Fetysz ox above who inspired the story, Aztec is jet black.
He is spirited and courageous beyond words
 and his role is pivotal in The Last Daughter of Prussia.
 (Again this pic was kindly shared by Erhard Schulte. It is the stallion Flaneur.)

Before I go, I want to say that there are other characters. Every story of this kind must have an antagonist or more simply said a villain. My villain's name is Golitsin. Although, I don't have a picture of him I clearly see him in my mind's eye. You'll just have to read the novel when it is published to get your own idea of what he is like.

Until next time,
Marina Gottlieb Sarles

(c) All content and photos are the private property of the Gottlieb family, unless otherwise stated or linked,  and may not be used without permission.
(c) Privatbesitz Gottlieb Familie


  1. Dear Marina, these photos do indeed bring the story alive in my minds eye. I am so excited to have a book in my hand.

    Sarah Epperly

    1. Thank you Sarah. We'll have to have a Party with the GF when it comes out!!!

  2. I second that! Can´t wait to read the book! My beloved Trakehner soulhorse Milva carries Fetysz blood in her which makes this book even more special to me.

    1. Marion, How cool is that - your Milva carries Fetysz's blood. What a beauty she is. You know that I borrowed Fetysz's photo from your blog! Thank you.

  3. Wow. What incredible family photos and inspiration — such a rich and compelling cast of characters — thank you for sharing this amazing post and backstory ... so looking forward to Last Daughter in Prussia's publication!

    1. Paula - thank you. You have been with the characters from day one! And you have been such a help with the new look on the blog. You are a doll- a brilliant one at that!

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