Ulf Ritter is the eldest son of Rolf and Karla Ritter’s numerous
family. They had Hulda and Gurda, then they’d had a son who’d
drowned, leaving Ulf as the eldest boy. Since the death of her
son Karla had been in failing health. Her latest baby had died,
which had reduced her further. Because his father would not
allow any of the children to work for the Gutshaus, they were
failing from lack of income, so Ulf took it upon himself to walk
to the big house and offer himself for work. He was only eight
years old, too young for stable work, but in consideration for
his situation, he was employed.
Rolf Ritter disowned Ulf for his disobedience, but he went home
whenever he thought his father was not there to take his
earnings to his mother, aided and abetted by Kurt and Luise,
with food provided by Emma. He was not the eldest, there being
girls older and younger than he was, but he felt responsible as
a boy to take care of them when his father didn’t or couldn’t.
Hulda was the teacher in the village school, and Gurda wanted to
be a governess like Amalie. To that end Gurda slipped out and
went to seek her employment at the Gutshaus. She was put in the
upstairs tending Hildegard. Rolf blamed Ulf for putting ideas in
Despite his hard life, Ulf was happy with the way things turned
out for him. He was well treated by Kurt, who he adored, he was
able to get help to his mother, and he was able to see his
sister every day. Kurt nicknamed him Kaulquappe, tadpole, which
was shortened to Quappe. A quappe is actually a burbot fish, but
the name stuck anyway.
The Ritters had once been the von Puttkamer’s faithful servants,
the riders in the days of horse soldiers, but Rolf’s father had
a huge falling out with Hildegard’s father. The Ritters moved
out, but they didn’t have a cottage so they moved into an
abandoned hut in the village. Rolf’s father didn’t know how to
run a cottage or farm, so they soon fell on hard times. His
siblings all moved away and made their livings, but Rolf
stubbornly stayed where his father had been, hoping one day for
the rift between the families to mend. He was appalled that Otto
had won over the von Puttkamers and took control of the estate,
and humiliated that Luise took clothing and food to his family.
Unaware that the times had changed and there was no place for
knights and their squires anymore, Rolf lived in a time warp
hoping to see bygone days come back.
Ulf, on the other hand, was in the present, happy to work with
the horses and look up to Kurt who would one day be the
stableman at Schönwald.