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The prankster Till Eulenspiegel, depicted with owl and mirror (Straßburg edition of 1515)

Till Eulenspiegel (German pronunciation: [tɪl ˈʔɔʏlənˌʃpiːɡəl], Low Saxon: Dyl Ulenspegel [dɪl ˈʔuːlnˌspeɪɡl̩]) was an impudent trickster figure who originated in the Middle Low German folklore and was disseminated in popular printed editions narrating the string of lightly-connected episodes that outlined his picaresque career, primarily in Germany, the Low Countries and France. He made his main entrance in English-speaking culture late in the nineteenth century, but was first mentioned in English literature by Ben Jonson in his comedy play The Alchemist.

Origin and tradition

"General opinion now tends to regard Till Eulenspiegel (also: Thijl Ulenspiegel) as an entirely imaginary figure around whose name was gathered a cycle of tales popular in the Middle Ages," Ruth Michaelis-Jena observes[1] "Yet legendary figures need a definite background to make them memorable and Till needed the reality of the Braunschweig landscape and real towns to which he could travel—Cologne, Rostock, Bremen and Marburg among them—and whose burghers become the victims of his pranks."

According to the tradition, he was born in Kneitlingen near Brunswick around 1300. He travelled through the Holy Roman Empire, especially Northern Germany, but also the Low Countries, Bohemia, and Italy. In the legend, he is presented as a trickster or fool who played practical jokes on his contemporaries, exposing vices at every turn, greed and folly, hypocrisy and foolishness. "The fulcrum of his wit in a large number of the tales is his literal interpretation of figurative language."[2] Although craftsmen are featured as the main victims of his pranks, neither the nobility nor the pope are exempt from being fooled by him.

Ultimately, Eulenspiegel's pranks are not primarily about the exposure of human weaknesses and malice but the implicit breaking up and sublation of a given status of consciousness by means of negation itself (animus) as that which Eulenspiegel embodies. The common element of the Eulenspiegel stories consists by and large in turning the mental horizon prevailing in them upside down and unseating it by a higher one. The German term "Landfahrer" (≈ "vagrant") defines Eulenspiegel's social position best and most comprehensively. In his highly pronounced mobility are expressed the animus-inspired Late Middle Ages. Thus Till Eulenspiegel implicitly personifies the constitution of consciousness of this times. With Eulenspiegel's death occurs the entry of the embodied trickster-animus into the medium of things spiritual, the form of existence of pure spirituality so that the soul has seen through itself by way of its own spirituality and knows itself as living spiritual life: Eulenspiegel is still alive.[3]

While he is unlikely to have been based on an historic person, by the sixteenth century Eulenspiegel was said to have died in Mölln, near Lübeck, of the Black Death in 1350, according to a gravestone attributed to him there, which was noted by Fynes Moryson in his Itinerary, 1591.[4] "Don't move this stone, let that be clear - Eulenspiegel's buried here[5]" is written on the stone in Low German.

The tales in print

Till Eulenspiegel in Mölln
Man dressed as Till Eulenspiegel at an event in Schöppenstedt

The two earliest printed editions,[6] in Early New High German, "Ein kurtzweilig Lesen von Dyl Ulenspiegel, geboren uß dem Land zu Brunßwick, wie er sein leben volbracht hat …", are Johannes Grüninger's in Strassburg, 1510-11 and 1515.[7] In spite of often-repeated suggestions to the effect "that the name 'Eulenspiegel' was used in tales of rogues and liars in Lower Saxony as early as 1400",[8] previous references to a Till Eulenspiegel actually turn out to be surprisingly elusive, Paul Oppenheimer concludes.[9] The authorship is attributed to Hermann Bote. Puns that do not work in High German indicate that the book was written in Low German first and translated into High German in order to find a larger audience.

The literal translation of the High German name "Eulenspiegel" gives "owl mirror", two symbols that identify Till Eulenspiegel in crude popular woodcuts (illustration). However, the original Low German is believed to be ul'n Spegel, meaning "wipe the arse". In the eighteenth century, German satirists adopted episodes for social satire, and in the nineteenth and early twentieth-century versions of the tales are bowdlerized, to render them fit for children, who had come to be considered their chief natural audience, by expurgating their many scatological references.[10] In the current Oppenheimer edition (see above) scatological stories abound, beginning with Till's early childhood (in which he rides behind his father and exposes his rear-end to the townspeople) and persisting until his death bed (where he tricks a priest into soiling his hands with feces).[11]

Current popularity

The book has been translated, often in mutilated versions, into many languages. The only museum featuring Till Eulenspiegel is located in the small town of Schöppenstedt, Lower Saxony, Germany, which is nearby his supposed birthplace.

See also

External links

Footnotes

  1. ^ Ruth Michaelis-Jena, "Eulenspiegel and Münchhausen: Two German Folk Heroes", Folklore 97.1 (1986:101-108) p. 102.
  2. ^ Peter E. Carels, "Eulenspiegel and Company Visit the Eighteenth Century" Modern Language Studies 10.3 (Autumn 1980:3-11) p. 3.
  3. ^ Bote, Hermann, Eulenspiegel, 2009.
  4. ^ John A. Walz, "Fynes Moryson and the Tomb of Till Eulenspiegel" Modern Language Notes 42.7 (November 1927:465-466) p 465; Walz quotes Moryson's description of "a famous Jester Oulenspiegell (whom we call Owlyglasse)": "the towns-men yeerly keepe a feast for his memory, and yet show the apparell he was wont to weare." The earliest reference to the gravestone is of the mid-sixteenth century, in Riemar Kock's Lübscher Chronik. By the seventeenth century it was noted as "often renewed".
  5. ^ “Disen Stein sol nieman erhaben. Hie stat Ulenspiegel begraben. Anno domini MCCCL jar” (Diesen Stein soll niemand erhaben, hier steht Eulenspiegel begraben; http://www.eulenwelt.de/interessantes_eulenspiegel.htm)
  6. ^ Fragmentary manuscripts of ca. 1510 were found by Honegger, and an almost complete manuscript of Grüninger's 1510-11 edition by Paul Ulrich hucker in 1975 (Paul Oppenheimer, Till Eulenspiegel: His Adventures" (1991), Introduction, p. xxix).
  7. ^ The early editions have been translated by Paul Oppenheimer as A Pleasant Vintage of Till, Eulenspiegel (Wesleyan University Press) 1972, with introduction and critical apparatus; Oppenheimer, Till Eulenspiegel: His Adventures was published in the Garland Library of Medieval Literature, 1991
  8. ^ Michaelis-Jena 1986:102.
  9. ^ Oppenheimer 1991, Introduction, p. xxx.
  10. ^ Carels 1980.
  11. ^ Oppenheimer, Introduction
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edition of 1515)]] 

Till Eulenspiegel (Template:IPA-de, Low Saxon: Dyl Ulenspegel [dɪl ˈʔuːlnˌspeɪɡl̩]) was an impudent trickster figure who originated in the Middle Low German folklore and was disseminated in popular printed editions narrating the string of lightly-connected episodes that outlined his picaresque career, primarily in Germany, the Low Countries and France. He made his main entrance in English-speaking culture late in the nineteenth century as Owlglass, but was first mentioned in English literature by Ben Jonson in his comedy play The Alchemist.

Origin and tradition

"General opinion now tends to regard Till Eulenspiegel (also: Thijl Ulenspiegel) as an entirely imaginary figure around whose name was gathered a cycle of tales popular in the Middle Ages," Ruth Michaelis-Jena observes[1] "Yet legendary figures need a definite background to make them memorable and Till needed the reality of the Braunschweig landscape and real towns to which he could travel—Cologne, Rostock, Bremen and Marburg among them—and whose burghers become the victims of his pranks."

According to the tradition, he was born in Kneitlingen near Brunswick around 1300. He travelled through the Holy Roman Empire, especially Northern Germany, but also the Low Countries, Bohemia, and Italy. In the legend, he is presented as a trickster or fool who played practical jokes on his contemporaries, exposing vices at every turn, greed and folly, hypocrisy and foolishness. "The fulcrum of his wit in a large number of the tales is his literal interpretation of figurative language."[2] Anything that can go wrong in communication, does go wrong. And it is not the exception that communication does not work without complications, but it is the rule. In the model of communication Till Eulenspiegel is the inherent, unpredicable factor of complication that can throw into disarray any communication, whether with oneself or others. These irritations in communication have the potential of effecting mental paradigm changes, increases in the level of consciousness, and in end leading to truth. Although craftsmen are featured as the main victims of his pranks, neither the nobility nor the pope are exempt from being fooled by him.

Ultimately, Eulenspiegel's pranks are not primarily about the exposure of human weaknesses and malice but the implicit breaking up and sublation of a given status of consciousness by means of negation itself (animus) as that which Eulenspiegel embodies. The common element of the Eulenspiegel stories consists by and large in turning the mental horizon prevailing in them upside down and unseating it by a higher one. (Others of his pranks are less ambitious: they consist of tricking someone into eating, or otherwise involving themselves with, Till's bowel-movements. For instance, in one story he rolls his faeces into little balls and sells them to Jews in Frankfurt/Main as "prophet's berries"; in another he covers the contents of his chamber pot with a layer of coins and invites a priest to reach into his money-jar and take as much charity as he can grasp.[3] Yet even these provocative ones, being fiction, too, and thus to be read metaphorically, are also means to the end indicated above.) The German term "Landfahrer" (≈ "vagrant") defines Eulenspiegel's social position best and most comprehensively. In his highly pronounced mobility are expressed the animus-inspired Late Middle Ages. Thus Till Eulenspiegel implicitly personifies the constitution of consciousness of this times. With Eulenspiegel's death occurs the entry of the embodied trickster-animus into the medium of things spiritual, the form of existence of pure spirituality so that the soul has seen through itself by way of its own spirituality and knows itself as living spiritual life: Eulenspiegel is still alive.[4]

While he is unlikely to have been based on an historic person, by the sixteenth century Eulenspiegel was said to have died in Mölln, near Lübeck, of the Black Death in 1350, according to a gravestone attributed to him there, which was noted by Fynes Moryson in his Itinerary, 1591.[5] "Don't move this stone, let that be clear - Eulenspiegel's buried here[6]" is written on the stone in Low German.

The tales in print

File:Till Eulenspiegel Mö
Till Eulenspiegel in Mölln

[[File:|thumb|right|180px|Man dressed as Till Eulenspiegel at an event in Schöppenstedt]] The two earliest printed editions,[7] in Early New High German, "Ein kurtzweilig Lesen von Dyl Ulenspiegel, geboren uß dem Land zu Brunßwick, wie er sein leben volbracht hat …", are Johannes Grüninger's in Strassburg, 1510–11 and 1515.[8] In spite of often-repeated suggestions to the effect "that the name 'Eulenspiegel' was used in tales of rogues and liars in Lower Saxony as early as 1400",[9] previous references to a Till Eulenspiegel actually turn out to be surprisingly elusive, Paul Oppenheimer concludes.[10] The authorship is attributed to Hermann Bote. Puns that do not work in High German indicate that the book was written in Low German first and translated into High German in order to find a larger audience, although more recent research throws this into question.

The literal translation of the High German name "Eulenspiegel" gives "owl mirror", two symbols that identify Till Eulenspiegel in crude popular woodcuts (illustration). However, the original Low German is believed to be ul'n Spegel, meaning "wipe the arse". In the eighteenth century, German satirists adopted episodes for social satire, and in the nineteenth and early twentieth-century versions of the tales are bowdlerized, to render them fit for children, who had come to be considered their chief natural audience, by expurgating their many scatological references.[11] In the current Oppenheimer edition (see above) scatological stories abound, beginning with Till's early childhood (in which he rides behind his father and exposes his rear-end to the townspeople) and persisting until his death bed (where he tricks a priest into soiling his hands with feces).[12]

Current popularity

The book has been translated, often in mutilated versions, into many languages. The are two museums in Germany featuring Till Eulenspiegel. One is located in the small town of Schöppenstedt in Lower Saxony, which is nearby his supposed birthplace. The other is located in the supposed place of his death, the city of Mölln in Schleswig-Holstein.

See also

External links

Footnotes

  1. ^ Ruth Michaelis-Jena, "Eulenspiegel and Münchhausen: Two German Folk Heroes", Folklore 97.1 (1986:101-108) p. 102.
  2. ^ Peter E. Carels, "Eulenspiegel and Company Visit the Eighteenth Century" Modern Language Studies 10.3 (Autumn 1980:3-11) p. 3.
  3. ^ Till Eulenspiegel: His Adventures by Anon., translated by Paul Oppenheimer. Publisher: Routledge; 4 edition (August 8, 2001) ISBN 0415937639
  4. ^ Bote, Hermann, Eulenspiegel, 2009.
  5. ^ John A. Walz, "Fynes Moryson and the Tomb of Till Eulenspiegel" Modern Language Notes 42.7 (November 1927:465-466) p 465; Walz quotes Moryson's description of "a famous Jester Oulenspiegell (whom we call Owlyglasse)": "the towns-men yeerly keepe a feast for his memory, and yet show the apparell he was wont to weare." The earliest reference to the gravestone is of the mid-sixteenth century, in Riemar Kock's Lübscher Chronik. By the seventeenth century it was noted as "often renewed".
  6. ^ “Disen Stein sol nieman erhaben. Hie stat Ulenspiegel begraben. Anno domini MCCCL jar” (Diesen Stein soll niemand erhaben, hier steht Eulenspiegel begraben; http://www.eulenwelt.de/interessantes_eulenspiegel.htm)
  7. ^ Fragmentary manuscripts of ca. 1510 were found by Honegger, and an almost complete manuscript of Grüninger's 1510-11 edition by Paul Ulrich hucker in 1975 (Paul Oppenheimer, Till Eulenspiegel: His Adventures" (1991), Introduction, p. xxix).
  8. ^ The early editions have been translated by Paul Oppenheimer as A Pleasant Vintage of Till, Eulenspiegel (Wesleyan University Press) 1972, with introduction and critical apparatus; Oppenheimer, Till Eulenspiegel: His Adventures was published in the Garland Library of Medieval Literature, 1991
  9. ^ Michaelis-Jena 1986:102.
  10. ^ Oppenheimer 1991, Introduction, p. xxx.
  11. ^ Carels 1980.
  12. ^ Oppenheimer, Introduction


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