A film, a novel and a German-American artist.
By Don Heinrich Tolzmann

Mention “Frankenstein” and the 1931 Hollywood film starring Boris Karloff will probably come to mind. It bears little resemblance to the 1818 novel by Mary Shelley (1797-1851): Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, as there is much more to the story than what you see in the film. However, it is probably better known than the novel, and is often shown on television during the Halloween season. Less well known is the story of a German-American artist named Frankenstein. His name came from the Frankenstein Castle near Darmstadt in what is today the German state of Hesse. It was built in the 13th century by Konrad I von Frankenstein, founder of the Barony of Frankenstein.

On her way to Switzerland, Shelley traveled down the Rhine, but apparently did not visit the ruins of the Frankenstein Castle that were more than ten miles away. However, she was fascinated by the Rhine River Valley, and incorporated descriptions of the Rhineland into her novel. She wrote: “The course of the Rhine below Mayence (French for Mainz) becomes much more picturesque. The river descends rapidly and winds between hills, not high, but steep, and of beautiful forms. We saw many ruined castles standing on the edges of precipices, surrounded by black woods, high and inaccessible.”

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