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Adventures of Baron Munchausen by Rudolf Erich Raspe

Updated on January 7, 2010

A fabulous collection of stories allegedly based upon the adventures of Baron Karl Friedrich Hieronymus von Miinchhausen, was known in England as Baron Munchausen. The original stories were written in English by Rudolf Erich Raspe and published anonymously as Baron Munchausen's Narrative of His Marvelous Travels and Campaigns in Russia (1785).

An edition enlarged by other anonymous contributors appeared the following year as Gulliver Revived or the Singular Travels, Voyages, and Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Numerous other editions were published with spurious additions written mostly by publishers' hacks. A German translation by Gottfried August Burger, Des Freiherrn von Miinchhausen wunderbare Reisen und Abenteuer (1786), was also popular. Although the book was influenced by Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726), it utilized the popular reputation of Baron von Miinchhausen as a notorious fabricator of travel stories. He had apparently enjoyed an adventurous life as an officer in the Russian campaign against the Turks in 1737-1739. After returning to his German estate, he gained a popular reputation as a storyteller.

Raspe had met the famous raconteur before leaving Germany to live in England, but most of the stories actually have counterparts in earlier literature, and Raspe undoubtedly used such sources as Heinrich Bebel's Facetiae Bebelianae (1508) and J.P. Lange's Deliciae academicae (1665). A characteristic anecdote is that of the traveler who ties his horse to a stake; during a snowstorm only to awaken after a night's thaw to find him dangling from a high steeple. Such stories have become proverbial examples of the extravagant mendacity of travelers' tales.


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