Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Simplicissimus’s beginning is one of a child of pure innocence. Since he lives far removed from any other influences except the small, barely sufficient farm near the Spessart forest, he presents himself as nothing short of a simpleton. His main job is looking after the livestock, and when told to look out for the foxes who come to raid the chickens, Simplicissimus mistakes some soldiers for foxes. Since he never saw either a fox or a knight before, he interprets them in the only way he knows how. The soldiers are soldiers of the Thirty Years’ War and plunder his family’s farm as Simplicissimus escapes into the forest.

Deep in the forest, he meets a hermit. This hermit asks him many questions that Simplicissimus can answer only in the most naïve manner. He cannot even tell the hermit his real name. He states that his father calls him “boy.” For two years the boy stays with the hermit and learns from him. The hermit dies and the pastor who gives Simplicissimus supplies is captured by the soldiers. The small town nearby is plundered. Simplicissimus again escapes to the forest but ends up having even his small hut plundered. He is taken as prisoner to the Governor of Hanau. The soldiers questions Simplicissimus, and again he cannot tell his name, nor much of his history. A pastor comes to Simplicissimus’s rescue by stating that the pastor saw Simplicissimus in a hermitage with the old man, who happened to be a nobleman disenchanted with the war.

As Simplicissimus’s life goes on, he begins his climb in status. He becomes a page, but his simpleton ways are not those of the court. He is at a grave disadvantage. He ends up looking and playing a fool. He comments liberally about society, and during a great feast, he sees men acting with such bad manners he thinks that they are representing themselves as beasts instead of men. The more he sees...

(The entire section is 766 words.)