Born in Reichenberg, now Liberec in the Czech Republic, Preußler passed away in Chiemsee, Bavaria on 18th February after dedicating his life to entertaining children through stories which have been translated into 50 languages.
Despite penning his first book aged just 12, he discarded dreams of being a playwright in Prague after being drafted to the army during the Second World War. Afterwards Preußler moved to Rosenheim, Bavaria and trained to be a teacher. He qualified and taught for many years, writing children’s books on the side.
His first great success came with The Little Water-Sprite in 1956, before he hit the big time with the now classic The Robber Hotzenplotz which was later immortalised on screen by the actor Gert Fröbe.
Then came The Little Ghost in 1966 before Krabat, a novel aimed at older children in 1971 which won numerous high-profile awards.
Arguably, part of Preußler’s success came from his unwavering dedication to entertaining children. His books were always written to “do nothing more than make reading fun” and also to provide youngsters with “food for fantasy.” Presenting little ones with problems faced by adults was, in his mind, irresponsible.
Witchcraft, magic and mystery run through Preußler’s work, for which inspiration came from book ideas he had a child or stories his grandmother used to tell him, as well as Slavic and German mythology.
Later in life he began donating to a children’s orthopaedic clinic near his home in Chiemsee before working with the clinic to found a service to support patients and their families in times of dire need.
Last month Preußler said he planned to have the outdated and offensive word Negerlein, or “little negro,” removed from his book The Little Witch, sparking a debate in Germany over whether such words should remain in old children’s books. He had long opposed removing the term, but then changed his mind.