Early Years (1848-1869)
Guido Karl Anton List was born in Vienna on 5 October 1848 to Karl August and Maria List (nee Killian). His father was a fairly prosperous dealer in leather goods, and we can assume that Guido's early life was lived in comfortable and nurturing surroundings. The List family was Catholic, and we also presume that Guido was trained in that confession.
From the start of adolescence we have evidence of some of his propensities in life. He was fascinated by the landscape of his native Lower Austria and by the cityscape of his native city, Vienna . His sketchbook - which has drawings from as far back as 1863 (when he would have been fifteen years old) - demonstrates his interest in such sites. Some of these sketches were later used to illustrate the Deutsch-German Mythological Landscape Scenes, published 1891.. In conjunction with the romanticizing of his environment, young Guido, by his own account, also had developed a strong mysto-magical bent of no orthodox variety.
'It was in the year 1862 - I was then in my fourteenth year of life - when I, after much asking, received permission from my father to accompany him and his party who were planning to visit the catacombs [under St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna] which were at that time still in their original condition. We climbed down, and everything I saw and felt excited me with a kind of power that today I am no longer able to experience. Then we came - it was, if I remember correctly, in the third or fourth level - to a ruined altar. The guide said that we were now situated beneath the old post office (today the Wohlzeile House No. 8). At that point my excitement was raised to fever pitch, and before this altar I proclaimed out loud this ceremonial vow: "Whenever I get big, I will build a Temple to Wotan!" I was, of course, laughed at, as a few members of the party said that a child did not belong in such a place… I knew nothing more about Wuotan than that which I had read about him in Vollmer's Woterbuch der Mythologie. '
Despite these artistic and mystical leanings, Guido was expected,
as the eldest child, to follow in his father's footsteps as a
businessman. He appears to have fulfilled his responsibilities in
a dutiful manner, but he took any and all opportunities to
develop his more intense interests.