A Klabautermann is a water sprite (or nix) who assists sailors and fishermen on the Baltic Sea in their duties. He is a merry and diligent creature, with an expert understanding of most watercraft, and an unsupressable musical talent. He also rescues sailors washed overboard.
His image is of a small sailor in yellow with a tobacco pipe and woolen sailor's cap. This likeness is carved and attached to the mast as a symbol of good luck.
The Klabautermann nowadays is sometimes described as having more sinister attributes, and blamed for things that go wrong on the ship. This incarnation of the Klabautermann is more demon- or goblin-like, prone to play pranks and, eventually, doom the ship and her crew. This deterioration of image probably stems from Sailors, upon returning home, telling stories of their adventures at sea. Since life at sea can be rather dull, all creatures - real, mythical, and in between - eventually became the center of rather ghastly stories.
Despite the positive attributes, there is one omen associated with his presence: no member of a ship blessed by his presence shall ever set eyes on him. He only ever becomes visible to the crew of a doomed ship.
- In the manga and anime series One Piece, the pirate ship Merry Go|Going Merry, unknown by the crew, has her own Klaubatermann. This Klabautermann fixed the boat when she was too damaged to go on, and spoke to Usopp, telling him not to worry because the boat would carry everyone a little longer. It was later revealed that the boat was beyond repair. This Klabutermann was portrayed in a manner strongly in line with the original, benevolent version of the creature (minus the pipe). Strangely enough, it was ranked as the 49th most popular character in One Piece (with 46 votes), 2 votes more than the Merry Go|Going Merry herself.
- Melville, F The Book of Faeries 2002 Quarto Publishing