From Spanking Art
Der Pelzemärtel (1850).

Pelzmärtel (also known as Pelzemärtel, Pelzermärtel, Pelzamärdl, Pelzmartin, Bulzermärtel, Belzermärtl, Belzmärte) is a figure in German folklore similar to Knecht Ruprecht, but lesser known as it is only from a certain region that goes from Franconia via the Odenwald area to the Palatinate and the Saarland. His name derives from pelzen, which in old west middle German dialect meant to wallop or to drub, and Märtel, which is a Franconian diminutive variant of the name Martin. So his name could be translated as "Walloping Martin".

Unlike Krampus or Knecht Ruprecht, he visits children alone. Pelzmärtel has a frightening appearance wild-looking and dressed in rags or furs. He has a sack and a birch rod, and comes to families in the early winter — either on Saint Martin's day (11 November) or Saint Nicholas's day (6 December) to see the children, to praise reward the good ones with small gifts such as cakes, candies, and nuts, and to scold and wallop the bad ones (or at least threaten them).

It is unsure if his sack is filled with gifts, or if it is to take away naughty children, of if it has a dual purpose.


The tradition of Pelzmärtel was brought to Pennsylvania probably by emigrants from the Palatinate. There, he is known as Belsnickel (other variants: Belznickle, Belschnickel, Belznickle, Belznickel, Pelznikel, Pelznickel) and is preserved in Pennsylvania Dutch communities. "Nickel" is short for Nikolaus (St. Nicholas).


See also[edit]