Magill’s Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Baron Münchausen's Narrative of His Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia Analysis
The appeal of Baron Münchausen’s Narrative is rooted in an unusual combination of understated satirical wit, exotic venue, and legendary tall tale. Obvious models are Lucian’s “Voyage to the Underworld,” which elevated the value of a lie; the fifteenth century Arabian Nights’ Entertainments, rich in supernatural and unexpected circumstances; and François Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel (1533-1567), exaggerations composed across time and by several hands. Voyages of discovery from Homer’s sixth century b.c.e. The Odyssey onward have captivated people’s imaginations, the exotic surroundings both entertaining and enlarging the capacity of readers to isolate themselves in unfamiliar surroundings, free from ordinary human constraints.
Like Rabelais and Jonathan Swift after him, Raspe developed his stories around contemporary events. The surname of the hero is taken from a noble family of Brunswick, the hero himself being patterned on a younger son, Captain Hieronymous Karl Friederich, Freiherr von Münchhausen. Although it is unclear if Raspe and Münchhausen ever met, the author had known Münchhausen’s cousin and certainly was aware of the German soldier’s legendary exploits in the Russian ser-vice. The real baron not only served against the Turks, witnessed the eclipse of German influence at St. Petersburg, and was driven from Russia—events that can be traced in...
(The entire section is 374 words.)
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