Literature / Baudolino
is a 2000 novel by Umberto Eco
During the sacking of Constantinople in 1204, Baudolino of Alessandria finds historian Niketas Choniates and saves his life. They decide to hide, along with other people, for as long as the sacking of the city continues. To pass the time, Baudolino decides to tell Niketas of his journeys and adventures in the mythical world of 12th century Europe, as a member of the court of Frederick Barbarossa and more. But as a caveat, he warns Niketas that he [Baudolino] has lived his whole life lying through his teeth every chance he had. After that, he starts…
Baudolino provides examples of the following tropes:
- Accidentally Accurate (In-Universe): Many of the more outlandish elements of Baudolino's letter turned out to be true. If Baudolino was telling the truth in the first place.
- All Jews Are Cheapskates: Well, at least the one that appears prominently.
- Been There, Shaped History: Baudolino is apparently responsible for quite a few of Barbarossa's decisions.
- Believing Their Own Lies: This is one of the main themes of the book. Baudolino and his friends go on a quest to find the kingdom of Prester John, even though they have no evidence that it exists; most people think it does because of a fake letter made by Baudolino's group. And if Baudolino made up the whole quest, he still falls victim to this trope at the end, when he rides away alone in search of the mythical land again.
- Con Man: Baudolino and everyone on his group try to pass useless junk as sacred relics.
- Consummate Liar: Baudolino.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: The monsters of Deacon John’s land are at the receiving end of this.
- Death Seeker: In the kingdom of Deacon John, there are a group of warriors who all want to die in battle, because they believe that then they'll go to heaven. The main characters think that this will make them good fighters in an impending war, since they won't be afraid. They are wrong, because they don't even fight, just ask the enemy to kill them.
- Direct Line to the Author: Baudolino alleges to be a Deleted Scene of sorts from the real Niketas's chronicles, which he removed on the advice of the sage Paphnutius. However, Paphnutius tells Niketas that one day, an even greater liar than Baudolino will tell the ostensibly true story of Baudolino reciting his fictional tale to Niketas, i.e. Umberto Eco himself.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The monsters’ continuing disputes over the interpretations of the Christ’s nature.
- Doomed by Canon: Barbarossa drowning in a river.
- Downer Ending: By the end of the story (assuming it was true in the first place) there are only three of Baudolino's friends left alive and they agree they're no longer True Companions, he's become a broken old man after he learns he might have murdered his adoptive father, and his wife and child are far out of reach.
- Dwindling Party: Baudolino went to search for the kingdom of Prester John with 11 other people. By the end of the book, only three remain of his group.
- The Ending Changes Everything: By the end, you’re not sure how much of what Baudolino tells Niketas is true. Especially since the story turns more outrageous with time.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Archpoet.
- Fictionary: The first ten or so pages are written in a made-up language, mixture of Latin, medieval Italian and some others.
- Framing Device: Baudolino telling his story to Niketas.
- Giant Flyer: The Hashshashin use rocs as Instant Messenger Pigeons, feeding them chunks of spoiled sheep.
- God Is Inept: Hypatia explains to Baudolino that her community believes that the universe wasn't created by the perfect God, but a lower entity, the Demiurge. The reason for all the suffering in the world is that the Demiurge botched the whole thing up.
- The Hashshashin: Abdul was raised in their captivity, allowing him to see the brainwashing they go through, taking a small amount of their drug with him when he escaped. Later the group are caught by them, where they find out the Old Man Of The Mountain also keeps cynocephals and rocs on the payroll.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: Baudolino has one after realizing that he and his friends unwittingly killed Frederick.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Gavagaï, in order to let the others escape the Hashshashin's fortress.
- Mundane Afterlife: When Baudolino's father is dying, he says that he's seeing Heaven. When Baudolino asks what it looks like, he responds that it looks just like his stable.
- No Name Given: The Archpoet, because he’s based on a historical character whose name is unknown.
- Nonindicative Name: The Archpoet never wrote a single poem in his life. He got his reputation by using the poems Baudolino wrote.
- Omniglot: Baudolino is able to learn any language after hearing it for a short time.
- Our Giants Are Bigger: Not so big, but certainly one-eyed.
- Our Monsters Are Weird: Monopods, satyrs, blemmyes, panotii and more. Eco didn't made these monsters up - they're all from medieval folklore.
- Parental Incest: One of the Wacky Wayside Tribes consists of people who live naked and fornicate with family members.
- Perspective Flip: On meeting Deacon John, he asks about the wonders of the Occident in a mix of Mundane Made Awesome (bread that rises!) and complete fantasy, exactly what supposedly happened in the Orient.
- Planet of Steves: A community of female, satyr-like creatures, who consider themselves the followers of Hypatia of Alexandria are all named Hypatia in her honor.
- Proverbial Wisdom: Deconstructed; when Baudolino becomes a stylite (an ascetic who lives on a pillar), people often visit him for advice, believing him to be a saint and a Hermit Guru. Playing up with their expectations, he delivers some Ice Cream Koans, and his visitors find them extremely helpful.
- Public Domain Artifact: The Holy Grail, between other stuff.
- Rape, Pillage, and Burn: What the crusaders do to Constantinople.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: While Baudolino follows Emperor Frederick to wars, he never kills anyone personally until the end when he kills the Archpoet, believing him to be Frederick's murderer.
- Sage Love Interest: Hypatia tells Baudolino the Gnostic creation myth before they first make love and eventually converts him to her faith; her teachings have a profound impact on his life.
- Self-Proclaimed Liar: Baudolino.
- Taking You with Me: After the leper Deacon John dies, his underlings hand his body to Baudolino, telling him they'll stay in the city and infect the Huns.
- The Three Wise Men: The Magi are thought to have come from the kingdom of Prester John. In order to get Emperor Frederick's support for an expedition to the kingdom, the Baudolino produces the relics of the Magi, found in a church in Milano, though he and the canon he gets the relics from both acknowledge that they're not the real remains.
- Training the Peaceful Villagers: the various monsters living on the outskirts of the kingdom are trained against the Huns: the Sciapodes use blowguns, the giants just smack the horses away, and the Panotites glide down and stab them. And then it all goes wrong.
- Unreliable Narrator: Baudolino admits that he's a great liar and decieved many people, so the veracity of his story can be questioned. Nicetas notes to himself that Baudolino says that he lied to everyone, but expects him to believe that now he's telling the truth.
- The Unseen: The satyrs.
- Veganopia: During their journey, Baudolino and his friends pass through a village of gymnosophists, who wear no clothes, have no possessions and eat only fruits that grow naturally.
- What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: In-Universe: Averted, forging Prester John's letter required debate as to how much wine and hashish should be taken by the participants: they need ideas, but they also need to be able to write them down.
- Your Mom: When Baudolino sees a bunch of people who work at building a new city (which will become Alessandria) he asks a group what are they doing. One of them says they're building a machine to scratch their cock. Baudolino responds that he needs no such machine, because as a rule, his prick is scratched by their mothers.