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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Baron Munchausen - the original (a translation) - Part 1


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The earliest printed edition of Munchausen (originally Münchhausen) stories I have found so far is from a magazine of humorous prose published in Berlin between 1774 and 1783. The Baron (or Freiherr) appears largely in 1781, with a couple of extra tales two years later (Vade Mecum für lustige Leute, Theil 8 (1781), Nr. 175, S. 92-101 und Theil 9 (1783), Nr. 106, S. 76–79). The first book dedicated solely to the Baron's adventures appeared in London in 1785.

Here is my translation of the Berlin edition's introduction and the first episode:
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There lives in Hessen a very witty man, Herr von Münchhausen, who has issued a certain type of curious stories that bear his name, though not all may have been invented by him. They are tales full of the most unbelievable exaggerations, but at the same time they are so comical and humorous that we have to laugh heartily without bothering about their plausibility. In their way, they are truly Hogarthian caricatures. Our readers, who may already have heard several of them, will find some of the finest here. The comic effect is greatly increased if the narrator relates everything as if he has seen or done it himself. So:

1. I once had to make a long and difficult journey in a hard winter.  I was on horseback and not dressed very warmly, either. On the way I saw a poor sick man who was almost completely naked; my heart bled for him and despite feeling so cold myself I threw him my coat. And a voice from Heaven could be heard, saying, “Münchhausen, Münchhausen, that shall not go unrewarded, or may the Devil take me!”
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Original:
Es lebt ein sehr witziger Kopf, Herr von M–h–s–n im H–schen, der eine eigne Art sinnreicher Geschichten aufgebracht hat, die nach seinem Namen benannt wird, obgleich nicht alle einzelne Geschichten von ihm seyn mögen. Es sind Erzählungen voll der unglaublichsten Uebertreibungen, dabey aber so komisch und launigt, daß man, ohne sich um die Möglichkeit zu bekümmern, von ganzem Herzen lachen muß; in ihrer Art wahre hogarthsche Karrikaturen. Unsere Leser, denen aber vielleicht schon manche davon durch mündliche Ueberlieferung bekannt sind, sollen hier einige der vorzüglichsten davon finden. – Das Komische wird sehr erhöht, wenn der Erzähler alles als selbst gesehn oder selbst gethan vorträgt. Also:

1) Ich hatte einst eine weite und unbequeme Reise im strengen Winter zu machen. Ich war zu Pferde, und eben nicht sehr warm gekleidet. Am Wege sah ich einen armen Kranken, der fast ganz nackt war; mein Herz blutete mir, ich warf ihm, trotz meines eignen Frostes, meinen Mantel hin. Und eine Stimme ließ sich vom Himmel hören: „M–n, M–n, daß soll dir, hol mich der Teufel, nicht unbelohnet bleiben!“


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