Simplicius Simplicissimus
Frontispiece of the first edition
AuthorGerman Schleifheim von Sulsfort,[a] really H. J. C. von Grimmelshausen
Original titleDer abentheuerliche Simplicissimus Teutsch
CountryHoly Roman Empire
SeriesSimplician scriptures
GenrePicaresque novel
PublisherJohann Fillion,[a] really Wolff Eberhard Felßecker
Publication date
1668,[a] really 1669

Simplicius Simplicissimus (German: Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus Teutsch) is a picaresque novel of the lower Baroque style, written in 1668 by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen and probably published the same year (although bearing the date 1669).[1] Inspired by the events and horrors of the Thirty Years' War which devastated Germany from 1618 to 1648, it is regarded as the first adventure novel in the German language and the first German novel masterpiece.

The full subtitle is "The account of the life of an odd vagrant named Melchior Sternfels von Fuchshaim: namely where and in what manner he came into this world, what he saw, learned, experienced, and endured therein; also why he again left it of his own free will."

Plot overview

Title page of the first edition, 1669
Title page of the first edition, 1669

The novel is told from the perspective of its protagonist Simplicius, a rogue or picaro typical of the picaresque novel, as he traverses the tumultuous world of the Holy Roman Empire during the Thirty Years' War. Raised by a peasant family, he is separated from his home by foraging dragoons and is adopted by a hermit living in the forest, who teaches him to read and introduces him to religion. The hermit also gives Simplicius his name because he was so simple that he did not know what his own name was.[2] After the death of the hermit, Simplicius must fend for himself. He is conscripted at a young age into service, and from there embarks on years of foraging, military triumph, wealth, prostitution, disease, bourgeois domestic life, and travels to Russia, France, and to an alternative world inhabited by mermen. The novel ends with Simplicius turning to a life of hermitage himself, denouncing the world as corrupt.

Reception and legacy

Literary criticism

The novel is considered by some to contain autobiographic elements, inspired by Grimmelshausen's experience in the war.[3] It has been reported that as a child Grimmelshausen was kidnapped by Hessian and Croatian troops where he eventually served as a musketeer.[4] The historian Robert Ergang, however, draws upon Gustav Könnecke's Quellen und Forschungen zur Lebensgeschichte Grimmelshausens to assert that "the events related in the novel Simplicissimus could hardly have been autobiographical since [Grimmelshausen] lived a peaceful existence in quiet towns and villages on the fringe of the Black Forest and that the material he incorporated in his work was not taken from actual experience, but was either borrowed from the past, collected from hearsay, or created by a vivid imagination."[5]


Literary adaptions

The adventures of Simplicissimus became so popular that they were reproduced by authors in other European countries. Simplicissimus was recreated in French, English, and Turkish. A Hungarian Simplicissimus (Ungarischer oder Dacianischer Simplicissimus) was published in 1683.[6] The author remained anonymous but is now generally considered to be Breslau-born Daniel Speer.[7]


Johann Strauss II composed an operetta based on the novel.

20th-century composer Karl Amadeus Hartmann wrote the anti-war opera Simplicius Simplicissimus for chamber orchestra in the mid-1930s, with contributions to the libretto by his teacher Hermann Scherchen.[8] It opens:

In A.D. 1618, 12 million lived in Germany. Then came the great war. ... In A.D. 1648 only 4 million still lived in Germany.

It was first performed in 1948; Hartmann scored it for full orchestra in 1956. The chamber version (properly Des Simplicius Simplicissimus Jugend) was revived by the Stuttgart State Opera in 2004.[9]

TV series

Des Christoffel von Grimmelshausen abenteuerlicher Simplizissimus [de], a historically dramatised TV series based on the book was produced by ZDF in 1975.[10]

Comic strip

The story was adapted into a newspaper comic strip by Raymond Lavigne and Gilbert Bloch in 1954.[11]

Cultural legacy

Town mascot: Jägerken von Soest

The Hunter of Soest (German: Der Jäger von Soest) is one of the aliases Simplicius uses in the novel. The city of Soest developed this into the local mascot Das Jägerken von Soest [de] (the little hunter of Soest) in 1976. Every year a citizen is selected, who then gets to represent the town and charitable projects of his choice in costume.[12]

Simplicissimus House in Renchen

The Simplicissimus-Haus [de] is a museum in the town of Renchen. It opened in 1998 and focuses on the reception of Grimmelshausen's works in modern art.

Right in front of it stands a 1977 bronze statue by Giacomo Manzù, showing Simplicius in his Hunter of Soest character.[13]

Literary references

Grimmelshausen's Simplicissimus is used throughout John le Carré's novel A Perfect Spy (1986) as Magnus Pym's permanent key for one-time pad coding. More importantly, Pym's own life is represented as a picaresque: a boy dragged along in his father's career of frauds, and a man in the British intelligence service, making up lies and exaggerations about his life.


English translations include:

'Simplicius Simplicissimus' J.J.C.von Grimmelshausen translated and foreword by George Schulz-Behrend 1976. 'The Adventure of Simplicicius Simplicissimus' (Studies in German Literature, Linguistics and Culture) George Schulz-Behrend 1993.

The German text is publicly available through Project Gutenberg: Simplicius Simplicissimus.

PDFs of the original German-language edition, bearing the date 1669 but probably published (according to Dünnhaupt) already in 1668, may be downloaded from the Badische Landesbibliothek Karlsruhe and from the Herzog-August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel.


  1. ^ a b c Author, publisher and location all intentionally named non-existing entities, also the date given (1668) is considered false, as the first documented printing occurred in Nuremberg in 1669.


  1. ^ Dünnhaupt, Gerhard, ed. (1980). "VD 17". Handbuch der Barockliteratur: Hundert Personalbibliographien deutscher Autoren des siebzehnten Jahrhunderts [Manual of baroque literature: One hundred personal bibliographies of 17th century German authors]. Hiersemanns bibliographische Handbücher (in German) (No. 2 ed.). Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann.
  2. ^ See chapter 8:
  3. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Grimmelshausen, Hans Jakob Christoffel von" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Ergang, Robert H. (1956). The Myth of the All-Destructive Fury of the Thirty Years' War. Pocono Pines, PA: The Craftsmen. OCLC 905630683.
  6. ^ Ahmedaja, A., ed., European Voices III: The Instrumentation and Instrumentalization of Sound Local Multipart Music Practices in Europe (Vienna: Böhlau Verlag, 2017), p. 249.
  7. ^ Gyula Ortutay (1957). "A Magyar Simplicissimus" (PDF). Irodalomtörténeti Közlemények. 34. évfolyam (1–2. szám). Retrieved 2015-11-21. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ Kater, M. H., The Twisted Muse: Musicians and Their Music in the Third Reich (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).
  9. ^ George Loomis, "The vision of 'Simplicius'", International Herald Tribune, May 19, 2004
  10. ^ Fritz Umgelter (Director) (1975). Des Christoffel von Grimmelshausen abenteuerlicher Simplizissimus [Grimmelshausen's adventurous Simplicissimus] (TV series) (in German). ASIN B00JFIPU4Y. ZDF.
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Das Jägerken von Soest". Wirtschaft und Marketing Soest GmbH. Retrieved 2019-11-18. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ "Simplicissimus-Haus". City of Renchen. Retrieved 2019-11-19. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)