Baron Münchausen's Narrative of His Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia

by Rudolf Erich Raspe
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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 509

Hieronymus, Baron Münchausen

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Hieronymus, Baron Münchausen (MEWNK-how-zehn), a German nobleman who narrates an account of his journey to Russia and the adventures that followed his acceptance of a commission in the Russian army, in whose ranks he fought against the Turks. The baron explains that while he was en route to Russia, he had several unlikely experiences, and that after he joined the army, his misadventures continued, reaching a climax when he reached the moon by climbing a giant beanstalk and then had to improvise a means of returning to Earth. In the original version of his adventures (which concluded at this point), the baron is a laconic character who retails his anecdotes in a matter-of-fact fashion, seemingly expecting that no one could possibly doubt the word of a man of his standing. Later versions, however, have him speaking in a far more elaborate and pompous fashion, so that he becomes a manifest liar whose tales are rather risqué as well as frankly preposterous. In the later editions of his story, the catalog of his adventures is expanded far beyond the limits of the original, so that he becomes a rather cartoonish figure frequently to be found in the company of legendary beings and characters borrowed from myths and fanciful literary works. The original baron is essentially a sportsman, and many of his tales concern incidents of the kind commonly reported by huntsmen, but the baron of the later versions is a cavalier braggart and man of ludicrous ambition whose dealings with various inhabitants of the far corners of the globe are usually violent and grotesquely comical. In the later phases of the final version, he becomes the general of a veritable army of imaginary characters whom he leads into battle against various enemies, including Beelzebub himself. By virtue of this extraordinary elasticity, the baron is an unusually difficult character to pin down and analyze, but that is not entirely inappropriate for a person whose name has come to symbolize gross deception and essential unreliability.

The Grand Signior of Constantinople

The Grand Signior of Constantinople, a Turkish aristocrat encountered more than once in the course of the baron’s adventures. His attitude toward the baron is rather inconsistent: At one point he gives the baron free access to his seraglio, but at another he orders the baron’s execution.

Hilaro Frosticos

Hilaro Frosticos, a friend of the baron in the English court who helps him to mount his expedition to the interior of Africa and frequently offers his advice and opinions as to the best means of conquering that mysterious territory.

Lord Viscount Gosamer

Lord Viscount Gosamer, an associate of the baron who is unwise enough to employ his spurs while riding the Sphinx in the vanguard of one of the baron’s expeditions.

Don Quixote

Don Quixote, a knight of La Mancha. He attempts to interrupt one of Münchausen’s expeditions but is confounded by the baron’s allies, who include, at this time, the giants Gog and Magog, the Sphinx, Merlin, and Dick Whittington.

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