When any parent is asked to consider what toy figures they would expect to be the most popular with their young Children and sought after by them, the initial thoughts would probably be to respond with the more traditional construction workers, medieval knights or even Star Wars "Stormtroopers". Yet the recent experience of executives at the German-based company Playmobil seems to run contrary to that opinion and offers up a rather unexpected alternative character, which seems to be flying off the shelves at the moment. The rather novel favourite at present seems to be that of the key Protestant Reformation figure, Martin Luther.

The "Little Luther" figure was introduced to the market place this month by Playmobil and swiftly became a major success for them, selling so well that it became the fastest-selling figure of all time for the brand. Sales of a staggering 34,000 units were made in under 72 hours by the company, resulting in the need for them to act swiftly to ensure that production was expanded at their Maltese factory.

Standing just 7.5cm (3 inches) tall, the original production concept for the new figurine came from the idea of celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017. The figures were intended for the Nuremberg tourist board and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria.

Suggestions for why the figures have proved quite so popular now are open to debate, but a reasonable hypothesis has been put forward by a government official who is currently part of the group involved in making preparations for the celebration. Astrid Muhlmann has postulated that it could be down to the great interest being shown in German history at present, with parents all too conscious of Luther's massive "impact on how society evolved in Europe" and showing a strong desire for their children to understand more about the man and his work.

Luther, a German friar, priest and theologian, was a key figure in the 16th-century Christian movement known as the "Protestant Reformation." He came to reject many of the teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church of which he was originally a part, causing him to be excommunicated by Pope Leo X and viewed as an outlaw by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. His work resulted in a description of those who followed his ideology and teachings as being referred to as "Lutherans", although he himself believed that Christianity was the more appropriate term for those who professed Christ. It is thought that as many as 80 million people worldwide associate themselves with Lutheranism as a branch of Protestantism, within the overall religious belief of Christianity.