Simplicissimus the Vagabond

by HansJakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

In Simplicissimus the Vagabond, the main character goes on a fantastic journey where he fights for various armies and attains more acclaim than he ever would have expected. By the end, though, he's tired of war and strife and realizes that the life he had when he was young and living in the woods is the place he still desires to be.

Simplicissimus runs from his farm when it's destroyed by soldiers. The next years of his life are dedicated to learning about the world and about Christianity under the tutelage of a hermit who lives in the forest. It's a simple life and when he leaves and enters the household of the Governor of Hanau, he enjoys the nicer things. He references the food and beds, for example.

None of it makes him truly happy, though. Simplicissimus falls backward into luck everywhere he goes; he is repeatedly captured by armies and works through the ranks through associations or goodwill. He finds his way from one place to another until he ends up married to the daughter of a man who works with the Swiss Army. He has money, women, friends, and acclaim across the continent. Indeed, his reputation is the very thing that saves him at one point when he's captured because the troops want him to join them.

None of it makes him happy, though. He loses his family. His first wife dies. His second wife dies after possibly cheating on him and bearing him a bastard son. He has children out of wedlock with other women. He doesn't have enough money to support his household. Despite his epic adventures, Simplicissimus never attains what he truly wants until he finds out that the hermit was his true father. He was the son of a noble family.

This still doesn't make him happy or successful, though. He doesn't have enough money to support his household. The people around him keep dying or being severely injured. In the end, he recognizes that he has to withdraw from the world that is based on corruption and goes back to live in the woods. His life is a series of cycles that see him go from the bottom to the top again and again—but none of it satisfies his soul or his nature until he returns to the life of the hermit.

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