The World of the Trapp Family

Book cover: 'The World of the Trapp Family'
William Anderson
Anderson Publications
Number of pages: 
168 pages
Grade / Age level: 

Whenever I hear the phrase "based on a true story", I want to know what the true story was. The World of the Trapp Family will provide just that for anyone interested in the real family behind The Sound of Music. The movie is just factual enough that Sound of Music fans will surely enjoy the flesh and blood behind the story. However, the real family is so much more vivid and fascinating than the movie that this book will probably be enjoyed even by those who didn't care for the movie (or grew tired of seeing it too many times.)

This in-depth history of the Trapp family (shortened from "von Trapp" when they became American citizens) begins with young Captain Georg von Trapp - a highly-decorated hero of the Austrian Navy during World War I. He and his wife Agathe (whose grandfather invented the torpedo) had just started a family a few years before the war broke out in 1914. The happy couple had seven children - Rupert, Agathe, Maria, Werner, Hedwig, Johanna and Martina - before Agathe's untimely death of scarlet fever in 1922.

Maria Kutschera was a twenty-two year old postulant at Nonnberg Abbey when her Mother Superior assigned her to become a teacher for one of the von Trapp children who was too sickly to attend school. The Captain and Maria were married within the year and Maria gave birth to three more children: Rosmarie, Eleanore and Johannes. Although there was a certain amount of musical talent in the family to begin with, Maria introduced to the family to a great variety of beautiful music (sacred music, traditional folk songs, etc.). Music became a big part of their lives and something that knit the family together very tightly.

After the family fortune was lost (1932) in events leading up to World War II, the family took boarders into their home in order to simply be able to keep their home. Because of these events, they became acquainted with a young priest, Fr. Franz Wasner in 1935. Fr. Wasner was a canon lawyer and musician who became interested in the family's musical talent and eventually became their musical mentor, conductor and composer who emigrated with them to America during the difficulties of World War II. He introduced them to an even greater variety of great vocal music and individual family members became skilled with the recorder and other instruments as well. Reluctantly, they began to accept invitations to sing before audiences and eventually came to realize that this was part of God's plan for them.

After the Nazi's took over Austria in 1938, the family had to turn down three separate propositions from the enemy: Captain von Trapp was offered the command of a German submarine, the eldest son - who was just barely out of medical school - was offered the post as head of one of the great Vienna hospitals, and the family choir was invited to sing for Hitler's birthday celebration. Each of these offered possibilities of fame and fortune, but the family felt that these would also compromise their basic obligations to God and country. Leaving behind their large estate and nearly all of their belongings, they traveled to America where they were invited to give an extensive concert tour.

The story continues to follow the von Trapp family as they make their way through the War years (with two sons fighting for the U.S.), become American citizens, tour as a choir for twenty years, establish themselves and a farm on a lovely site in Vermont and many other events all the way up to recent photos of the six children who are still alive today.

The book is brimming with hundreds of glossy photos (black and white of older family photos, color of beautiful scenes from Austria and America and more recent pictures) that are a real feast for the eyes. Their lives were so intertwined with significant parts of history, music and culture that this book - along with Maria Trapp's autobiography - could make an interesting supplement to a study of the 20th century. The beauty of the Catholic culture lived fully by the Trapp family through music, traditions, celebrations of Catholic faith and other aspects of their lives will make this especially enjoyed by Catholic families of today.

Additional notes: 

Donated for review by the author, William Anderson.

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