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I am now occupied with more important matters, and your father better be too if he knows what's good for him.
~ Rolf leaving Liesl.

Rolf Gruber, or better known as Rolf, is the secondary antagonist of the 1959 musical The Sound of Music, and its 1965 film adaptation of the same name. He was an Austrian delivery boy who fell in love with Liesl Von Trapp until he betrayed her and her family to serve for Hans Zeller and the Nazi Party.

He was portrayed by Daniel Truhitte in the film.

Role

Rolf first appeared delivering a telegram at the Von Trapp estate. He asks the family's butler Franz to give the telegram to Liesl's father Captain Georg Von Trapp, to which Franz obliges to. Rolf later meets up with Liesl and after inadvertedly blurting out the name of a possible Nazi officer, Colonel Schnieder he subtly warns her about a possible merging of Austria and Germany (by saying that there are some Austrians who would rather be German much to the disgust of the proud Austrian captain). He then engages into a musical number 16 going on 17 (a musical number which implies that many might take advantage of an innocent like Liesl which ironically later happens to Rolf) with her before leaving. He later returns to the Von Trapp mansion to deliver another message, this time to Von Trapp's closest friend Max Detweiller. But as soon as he is about to give the telegram to Detweiller, a suspicious Von Trapp snatches it before telling him to leave while giving the telegram to Detweiller. Rolf obliges to this by escaping in his bicycle. It later turns out that Von Trapp doesn't trust Rolf due to the latter's allegiance with the Nazis.

Following the Anschuluss (Austria's annexation into Nazi Germany in 1938) several days after the Captain married his governess Maria Rainer, Rolf meets up with Liesl and her siblings as they are about to prepare themselves for the Salzburg Music Festival. At first, Liesl is glad to see him again, but Rolf states that he's busy. He then gives Liesl a telegram from Admiral Von Schreiber, telling her to deliver it to her father after he comes home from his honeymoon with his new wife Maria. Rolf then tells Liesl that he's now working for the Nazis and is tending to more important matters, coldly warning her that her family must do the same if they know what's good for them, an act that left Liesel confused and heartbroken.

As it turns out, the telegram details an offer for the Captain to accept a commission in the Kriegsmarine (the Nazi Navy) at the German Naval base in Bremerhaven and that Zeller intends to personally escort him there for the event. However, Von Trapp refuses to join up with the Nazis, so he and his family fled after finishing their performance in the festival. As Zeller, Lieutenant Karl and their men search around the local church, the Von Trapps manage to avoid getting spotted. Unfortunately, Rolf has arrived to the scene and has caught them hiding behind the catacombs, much to Liesl's objections. Rolf tries to blow the whistle, but Von Trapp confronts him while letting Maria and the children escape. Holding the Captain at gunpoint, Rolf demands for him to surrender, but grew conflicted as the Captain comes closer towards him. This allowed the Captain to take the gun away from Rolf, but he gives Rolf a choice: either he join with the Von Trapps to flee to Switzerland or remain with the Nazis. However, rather than accepting the offer, Rolf angrily alerted Karl of the family's location, prompting the annoyed Captain to escape with his family on a car. Rolf then catches up with Zeller and his other men to give chase, but the nuns have already sabotaged their vehicles, allowing the Von Trapps to flee away to Switzerland as possible.

It is unknown what happened to Rolf following the Von Trapps' escape as he wasn't seen or heard from again. It also is left unrevealed whether he would survive the upcoming second World War or not.

Quotes

Liesl? Liesl!! (Liesl: Rolfe? Rolfe, I'm so glad to see you! It's been such a-) Good afternoon. You will take this, please, and deliver it to your father as soon as he comes home. (Liesl: He's on his honeymoon.) I know that. (Liesl: You do?) We make it our business to know everything about everyone. (Liesl: Who's 'we'?) See that he gets it. (Liesl: What is it?) It's a telegram from Berlin.
~ Rolf asking Liesl to deliver a telegram detailing a commission for the Captain.
It's you they want, not them. (Von Trapp: Put that down.) Not another move, or I'll... I'll shoot!!
~ Rolf holding Von Trapp at gunpoint.
LIEUTENANT!!! LIEUTENANT, THEY'RE HERE!! THEY'RE HERE, LIEUTENANT!!
~ Rolf deciding to betray the Von Trapp family by alerting the other Nazi officers.

Trivia

  • A key difference between the movie and the play:
    • In the play, Rolf delivered the commission telegram to the Von Trapp mansion before revealing himself as a Nazi supporter alongside Franz, though he actually chose to let the Von Trapps escape after seeing that Liesl is among them, implying a sense of remorse.
    • In the movie, Rolf ordered Liesl to deliver the telegram before deciding to betray the Von Trapps to the Nazis, making him less guilty of his actions.
  • Movie audiences in 1965 saw 2 innocent characters becoming tragic villains after drifting into contrasting extremist ideologies. One was Rolf who drifts into Fascism, becoming a Nazi officer. The other was Pasha Antipov from Doctor Zhivago who drifts into Communism, becoming a much feared Bolshevik commander known as Strelnikov. Both Rolf and Pasha severed personal ties with women they loved after being indoctrinated, Rolf stopped courting Liesl, while Pasha abandoned his wife Lara and his daughter Katya. What happens to Rolf and Pasha could be seen as a forerunner to present day radicalization into extremist factions like ISIS.

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