Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Singular Adventures of Baron Munchausen by Rudolph Raspe
3 stars

The Beloved Baron Himself

The Baron Munchausen is quite a character. He can singlehandedly defeat great beasts, make ships fly, discover new lands (even those on the moon) and in general, always save the day. He reminds me a great deal of Don Quixote, actually. Although instead of Rocinante, he has a bevy of fine beasts: one horse whom only he could tame (and then of course ride inside for tea, because, why not?), some fabulously brilliant dogs who smell game even in the middle of the ocean (and I can't even get my dog to sit more than 2 seconds), a gigantic seahorse whose eyes he gouged out and then took to riding, and a pair of great eagles whom he rode all around with, and also enabled them to get very drunk on native fruit (such a good influence). Each story is more ridiculous than the next, but he does succeed in creating a welcome distraction from the real world. I recommend reading some of his exploits to escape with a light read.

Origins of the Baron
Unlike Quixote, Baron Munchausen is a real person. He was a German aristocrat who lived from 1720-1797. His main contribution to posterity was his love of telling tall tales, especially at dinner parties with his friends. The legend he built himself up to be was snatched by the literary presses in the 1780s. The first English version was published by Rudolph Raspe  in 1785. Not to be outdone, the tales were translated back into German the following year. 

The Baron has appeared in more than 100 different volumes to date. His exploits have been heard on the radio and seen on the stage. He has been a cartoon and part of a feature film. So it seems that he did achieve great things, just perhaps not what he intended to be known for, but has been an enchanting diversion to audiences for more than two centuries.

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