Born in the Hamlet of Husum, Jutland, in 1817, German poet Theodor Storm was a proponent of literary realism, writing a number of novellas, poems and short stories the most famous of which is The Rider on the White Horse. His father was a lawyer and the young Storm went to school in Husum before following in his footsteps and heading to Berlin to study law.
Along with his two brothers, it was whilst studying the legal profession that Storm published his first works, largely without success. He returned to his home town in 1843 to work as a lawyer.
Because he was sympathetic to the Russian cause at the time, Storm found himself exiled in 1853 and was forced to move to Potsdam and from there to Thuringia. He stayed there until his home region once again came back under Prussian rule at which point he moved back to Husum where he would spend most of the rest of his life.
Whilst he wrote poetry too, Storm initially gained his reputation with prose work such as his short stories and novellas, particularly from around 1843. One of his best remembered works, and one which settled his name in the pantheon of German literature, was Immensee which was published in 1849. By the time that he died at the age of 70 the work had been translated into over seventeen different languages and had gone through more than 30 reprints.
Whilst many poets of the day used their poetry to espouse political opinions and causes, Storm concentrated on individual personal experience and was friends with the likes of Fontaine in Berlin, a relationship which helped evolve a more determinist approach to his work. Storm was always enamored of the landscape that surrounded his native region, including the mud flats and areas of barren land, and brought his descriptions of it into his stories and poems.
He was greatly influenced by Eichendorff and Morike and later in his life the Russian literary giant Turgenev. The initial influence on his poetry however was through Theodor Mommsen with whom he had been friends since school. Storm often said that the strength of his prose work came from the immense effort he had put into his poetry.
Storm married twice, first to Constanze Esmarch in 1846, who died shortly after, and then, in 1866, to Dorothea Jensen who had been a long-time friend. The grief that followed the death of Constanze was encapsulated in his poem Einer Toten and marked his obsession with the fleeting nature of life, often comparing it to a clock ticking. He wrote more to please his inner musical voice rather than adhering to any strict form of the time and often borrowed heavily from ideas in the work of Goethe.
But it was his prose work and particularly his short stories that captured public attention, particularly his masterpiece The Rider on the White Horse which was written towards the end of his life. In later days publications like Immensee would be tarnished by their association with the fascist movement in the 1930s but he remains one of the most influential writers of his generation and is still read widely today.
Storm died at the age of 70, from cancer, in 1888 whilst living in Hademarschen.