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Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 612

When Simplicissimus is young, he takes over shepherding for his father. He's proud of the position but doesn't always understand everything that comes along with it. His father explains what a wolf is to him, saying:

"Daddy, tell me how a wolf looks: for such I never saw yet."

"O...

(The entire section contains 612 words.)

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When Simplicissimus is young, he takes over shepherding for his father. He's proud of the position but doesn't always understand everything that comes along with it. His father explains what a wolf is to him, saying:

"Daddy, tell me how a wolf looks: for such I never saw yet."

"O thou silly blockhead," quoth he, "all thy life long wilt thou be a fool: thou art already a great looby and yet knowest not what a four-legged rogue a wolf is." And more lessons did he give me, and at last grew angry and went away, as bethinking him that my thick wit could not comprehend his nice instruction.

This explanation leads Simplicissimus to believe soldiers mounted on horses are wolves. He watches them destroy his farm and then flees from his family. He ends up living in the woods with a hermit.

Though the man seems inclined to turn him away at first, he decides not to. Simplicissimus stays with him for two years and learns many lessons about the world. He says:

Now though of a certainty it must have vexed him greatly to endure my troublesome presence, yet did he resolve to suffer me to be with him; and that more to instruct me in the Christian religion, than because he would have my service in his approaching old age: yet was this his greatest anxiety, lest my tender youth should not endure for long such a hard way of living as was his.

He thinks of the hermit throughout his life, even when he isn't living by the lessons he taught him. Later, after the hermit dies, Simplicissimus is captured and led before a high-ranking official. He believes he'll be killed or tortured.

When the priest introduces Simplicissimus to the Governor of Hanau, he explains that Simplicissimus had a relationship with the hermit. Simplicissimus recalls:

Furthermore, he related how the hermit had found all his joy in me because, as he often said, I was so like in face to his dear lady, and that he had often marvelled at my steadfastness and unchangeable will to remain with him, as also at many other virtues which he praised in me.

Governor Ramsay was the hermit's brother-in-law and this warms him to the narrator. Simplicissimus stays and moves through the Governor's social circles. His face reminds the man of his beloved sister and brother-in-law. If the priest hadn't spoken up on his behalf, Simplicissimus might have been put to death or tortured after he was taken.

Much of the book is focused on the difference between the nobility and the common man. Simplicissimus finds out at the end of his main travels that he wasn't the birth son of his parents. Instead, the hermit who took care of him after his farm was destroyed was his real father. His father doesn't recognize him and tells him his tale:

"Now," says I to my dad, "ye have told me a pretty tale enough and yet forgot the best part: for ye have not told me the name of the lady or her husband or the child."

"Your honour," he answered, "I thought not ye desired to know it: but the lady's name was Susanna Ramsay: her husband was Captain Sternfels, of Fuchsheim, and because my name was Melchior did I have the child baptized Melchior Sternfels, of Fuchsheim, and so inscribed in the book."

This not only tells Simplicissimus the truth of his parentage; it also shows him that the noble life he repeatedly pursued was his by birthright. If he had stayed with his birth parents, he would have had the life to which he aspired throughout his years.

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