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Literature / Simplicissimus

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Simplicissimus (also known as "Simplicius Simplicissimus" or "Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus") is a German novel by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen, published in 1668.

It tells the adventurous life story of Simplicius in Germany (and later, many parts of the world) during the 17th century.

English translations can be read in the Project Gutenberg, here or here.


  • Adventure: In fact, the first adventure novel written in the German language.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: While Simplicius is dressed as a woman, he attracts multiple suitors. One of whom is married to yet another woman who knows that Simplicius is actually a man and wants him for that reason.
  • The Cavalier Years: The story is set during the Thirty Years' War.
  • Character Filibuster: Whole chapters are dedicated to philosophical debates.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Simplicius meets a man who thinks he was the Roman god Jupiter who decided to come to Germany and promises to help the country with its problems. However, he isn't even able to catch his own fleas.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Simplicius.
  • Doomed Hometown: Twice.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Simplicius wonders if a nobleman is a man or a woman due to his fashion.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Simplicius doesn't know his own name, or whether he has one, because his parents always call him "Bub" (boy). He also doesn't know the real names of his parents; in fact, he doesn't even know the standard German words for "father" and "mother", because he only speaks the local dialect.
  • Fish out of Water: Simplicius, having lived for years with the hermit, doesn't know much about the world. But he learns.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: The scene where Simplicius' home is plundered has this, since he doesn't understand things like rape and torture yet.
  • Mentors: After his parents get killed in the war, young Simplicissimus gets adopted by a pious hermit, who also gives him his name.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: At the beginning, our protagonist plays on his bagpipe (yes, they existed not only in Scotland), which some marauding soldiers hear; they attack the poor house of his father, rape and torture the people, and steal and destroy everything. He barely escapes unscathed.
  • Picaresque
  • Private Military Contractors: A lot of them. Our protagonist also becomes one, for some time.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Simplicius' adoptive hermit father turns out to be one.
  • Shotgun Wedding: Simplicius ends up in one.
  • Significant Anagram: Melchior Sternfels von Fuchshaim, which is an anagram of Grimmelshausen's full name. He liked to do this - in his life, he also used the pseudonyms German Schleifheim von Sulsfort, Samuel Greifnson vom Hirschfeld, Philarchus von Trommenheim, Erich Stainfels von Grufenholm, Simon Leugfrisch von Hartenfels, Israel Fromschmidt von Hugenfelß and Michael Rechulin von Sehmsdorff.
  • Tickle Torture: Simplicius' father is bound by the Swedish soldiers, who make a goat lick his soles, until he confesses where he has hidden his riches. Simplicius doesn't understand the whole situation.
  • Utopia: A man who thinks he is Jupiter describes a future one at length, complete with details about the Messianic Archetype.
  • The 'Verse: The novel belongs to Grimmelshausen's "Simplicianischer Zyklus", which also includes "Trutz Simplex oder Lebensbeschreibung der Ertzbetrügerin und Landstörtzerin Courasche", "Continuatio des abentheuerlichen Simplicissimi Oder Der Schluß desselben", "Der seltzame Springinsfeld" and "Das wunderbarliche Vogelnest".
  • Wholesome Cross Dresser: One of Simplicius' many adventures is to dress like a woman and maintain virtue.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Olivier and seven other men get their hands on some fortune. He allies with three of them to kill the other four, then allies with one of those to kill the other two, and finally kills that guy by himself.