Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series Baron Münchausen's Narrative of His Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia Analysis - Essay

Rudolf Erich Raspe

Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series Baron Münchausen's Narrative of His Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia Analysis

It is difficult to see in the Münchausen stories much more than their obvious entertainment value. They are inspired by the memoirs of the real-life Baron Karl Friedrich Hieronymus von Münchhausen (1720-1797), who indeed served in the Russian army in two campaigns against the Turks and is said to have had a penchant for gross exaggeration in the retelling of his adventures. Rudolf Erich Raspe was a court librarian at Cassel when he became acquainted with the stories, but it was only after he fled to England to escape a criminal charge that he first compiled and published in English a version of the narratives. The collection enjoyed immediate and enormous popularity among English readers and quickly saw a second edition. The German Sturm und Drang poet Gottfried August Bürger (1747-1794), adding additional anecdotes, translated Raspe’s work into German, and it was Bürger’s version in 1786 that secured for the mendacious Baron lasting popularity with the German reading public. The figure of Münchausen has attained to the status of folk hero in German-speaking countries, where he is often referred to as “der Lügenbaron” (the baron of lies).

These sometimes grotesquely absurd tales—one describes a horse that was cut in half by a town gate, drank ravenously from a fountain, and then was sewn back together—fit neatly into a long and distinguished tradition of literary prevarication that stretches far back into classical antiquity and...

(The entire section is 443 words.)