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The Secret Tradition of Schiller

Aleia writes about one of Carleton's best traditions - chasing the bust of Friedrich Schiller

Aleia writes about one of Carleton's best traditions - chasing the bust of Friedrich Schiller

Students ran down the chapel hall, a particular piece of art clutched between them.

Sammi Poses with Schiller
Sammi Poses with Schiller.

“They have Schiller!” I hear a boy scream next to me. A cheer rang through the hall as two football players jumped over the pews to chase after them. Much to their dismay, the original carriers of Schiller, a bust to resemble Fredrich Schiller, were quickly out of reach. The disappointment was thick in the air of the Chapel, yet the Cross Country team grinned with delight. They had secured Schiller for another academic year*

Explaining the Story of Schiller

Juanita Poses with Schiller
Juanita and Paloma Smile with Schiller.

If my eyewitness testimony doesn’t already show it, Carleton College is a quirky place. It is well known for its traditions such as Friday Flowers, Freshman Frisbee Toss, etc. Yet, one of my favorite traditions is the heist and concealment of a particular bust of Friedrich Schiller. Friedrich Schiller was a German playwright, poet, and theorist who lived during the 18th century. He was a very interesting man, yet the artist’s replica of him is the important part of this story. 


For this tradition, student groups on campus will compete against each other to steal Schiller away from its original keepers. Once Schiller is stolen, he must be hidden until the original group of students is ready to display him. If Schiller is shown in public, it is fair game for other student groups to attempt to take him away. Every student group who has Schiller must display him at least once a year in order to attempt to “keep” him. 

Schiller’s Most Popular Appearances

Students and alums are big fans of Schiller. The bust has had many exciting experiences. He has been a guest on the TV show Desperate Housewives, wrote students a letter from Spain, and even appeared in a commencement speech with past President Bill Clinton! The bust of Schiller has also been displayed on a helicopter, and appeared on the Colbert Report. With a resume like that, one can understand why students are so enthusiastic to chase after him. 

Advice to Upcoming Students…

Many students may go their entire Carleton Career without seeing Schiller, so if you are one who does, you must take that opportunity to chase after him! You never know if you will see him again. 

*The current whereabouts of Schiller are unknown. This eyewitness testimony occurred in 2021.

Around campus you’ll find Aleia (she/her/hers) competing on the varsity swim & dive team, dancing in Synchrony II, and crafting (Aleia also up-cycles clothes!). Her favorite spot on campus is the Gould Library (aka “the Libe”) – be sure to ask her which floor is her favorite!