Indian Stereotypes in Italian Quaderni: Ugh!
You’ve all heard of the film genre known as the Spaghetti Western. The term was coined by Spanish journalist Alfonso Sánchez. In Italy they are known as western all’italiana (Italian-style Western) and in Germany, where German author Karl May was the most popular writer of stereotyped western adventures, they are known as, Italo-Westerns.
Incidentally May created the very popular Winnetou fictional Native American hero of several German language novels, he sold 200 million copies worldwide, including the Winnetou-trilogy.
Italy Meets West
But I digress. Westerns were as popular in Europe (they were among Hitler’s favorite genre of literature and film) as swashbuckler stories of pirates and swordplay or heroic knights and radical lords from the Middle Ages were in the U.S. And most were populated with heroes and scoundrels wrapped in black and white stereotypical characterizations.
The Italians also produced a fair share of comics and illustrations featuring these simplifications of the heroic yet heathen savage red man (and women) at odds with cowboys and cavalry soldiers. These were published in pulp-style magazines and newspapers and illustrated in exaggerated fantasy realism.
One of the foremost outlets of this genre particularly aimed at children were quaderni — the requisite notebook as lesson books for all Italian students. A quaderno is a small note or sketch book, usually with lined pages and frequently more often than not had illustrated covers of varying themes. In Italy these themes ran from banal scenes to political propaganda (notably during the Fascist period). They would show historical, fictional and comic vignettes. Inside covers might also contain bits of information — facts and lore, etc.
These use themes found in the Italo-Westerns. Curiously, the savage Indian is out-fighting and out-witting the white (American) soldier. Produced in the early 1950s, these particular quaderni may have been a last ditch effort to propagandize against their former World War II enemy (and liberator). Interestingly, the chief who is holding a scalp in triumph is a woman. A slain soldier lies motionless in the foreground waiting for the same ignominious hair removal.
That’s one approach, the other is the anomaly of a Aryanesque superhero, Jolly Durbans, leading a wagon train of innocent white folk through the dangers of Western wilds, from the threatening Indians to angry indigenous gators (it was little known the gators roamed the Western plains and deserts before the settlers came to wipe them out or send them to Florida).