I have a couple of questions about the proverb:

Den Toren packt die Reisewut, indes im Bett der Weise ruht

I couldn't find a translation for die Reisewut. It seems composed by two words, die Reise and die Wut. I know the meaning of both but I can't wrap my mind around the overall meaning.

My second doubts is about the construction of the first part of the sentence.

Den Toren packt die Reisewut

Is den Toren the accusative declination of der Tor (the fool)? If the answer is affirmative, who is the subject in the sentence (to me die Reisewut seems a direct object)?

Is the meaning something like: The fool doesn't appreciate what he has, while the wise does?

2 Answers 2


Let me start by stating the only word order rule that applies to the German language:

You can move almost any part of the sentence to almost anywhere, as long as the verb is second (or last in subordinate clauses).

With that: Yes, den Toren is the accusative of der Tor and that is used as the fool. Die Reisewut is, however, not an object (den Toren is already accusative), so it should be subject.[1] It's hard to see, because accusative and nominative cases fall together for feminine nouns. It's easier if I substitute for a masculine noun:

Den Toren packt der Reisetrieb.

I'm inclined to say that there be no verb in German that has two accusative objects, but I'm sure that Emanuel will show up and give me a counter-example if I did so.

The word Wut, while nowadays only meaning rage, anger, has preserved its older meaning in compositions where it is understood to mean insanity or possessed by. Somebody who is reisewütig is possessed by the will to travel.

Apparantly, this word is connected to a Proto-Indo-European root *wāt- meaning prophet.

I'm not entirely sure about the true meaning (I never am with proverbs) but your meaning is certainly suggested. I'm pretty sure that being a proverb, it can also mean something along the lines of the fool thinks that the grass is greener on the other side, the wise man knows it isn't, or maybe merely the fool wants to see the world, the wise man already has?

[1] See this question (in German) in case you thought that every German sentence had a subject. But it's still safe to assume a subject for sentences in the indicative mood and the active voice.

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    @Em1... well, here I come... it is really rare indeed but there are some few exceptions, one of which we use everyday. "fragen", "lehren" and "angehen" ("Das geht dich einen Scheiß an."), I think a couple more. Also (@jan) , translating "Wut" as "temper" isn't a good pick because "losing temper, mild temper etc." . "Wut" is more like "rage", "anger".
    – Emanuel
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 10:38
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    @Em1 Re subject: Yes, sentences without subject are usually in the passive voice or the imperative mood. Other subjects seemingly missing are usually just left out because they're irrelevant or can't be misinterpreted. But I thought I would write something that, for a change, does not need a revision after Emanuel's comment ;)
    – Jan
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 11:32
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    which one is the closest translation for ReiseWut then ? Is it the urge of traveling?
    – Blackbelt
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 11:38
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    @Blackbelt: It's more of an obsession with travelling. Urge seems to be too weak a word imho. Reisewut has an negative connotation, and implies that the person should go seek help (whether from a doctor or a shaman is not specified). It shares the same root with Tollwut (rabies).
    – Jan
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 11:42
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    @Em1... ich hab' jetzt nochmal in der Duden Grammatik geguckt und die nennen erstmal "lehren", "abfragen" und "kosten" , "bitten" und "fragen" als Verben mit 2 AO. Bei "nennen" reden sie von einer Nominalphrase im A und "angehen" wird leider garnicht erwähnt. Ich kann deine Argumentation durchaus nachvollziehen. Interessant wäre, was denn dann jetzt das Komplement ist, da das Ergebnis immer falsch ist, egal welches von beiden man weglässt.
    – Emanuel
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 13:55

"Reisewut" means an urge to go travelling. "Wut" is used here in the meaning of "folly", so it is meant negatively.

You were correct about "Tor" (fool). Connected with my explanations on "Reisewut" the meaning could be translated as: Only fools travel around (in search of "something"), while the wise stays home (in bed, appreciating what he has).

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