|Born||Hieronymus Karl Friedrich Baron von Münchhausen
11 May 1720
|Died||22 February 1797
|Known for||Tall tales|
|Spouse(s)||Jacobine von Dunten
Bernardine von Brunn
Hieronymus Karl Friedrich Baron von Münchhausen (German pronunciation: [ˈmʏnç(h)aʊzən]; 11 May 1720 – 22 February 1797) was a German nobleman and a famous recounter of tall tales. He joined the Russian military and took part in two campaigns against the Ottoman Turks. Upon returning home, Münchhausen is said to have told a number of outrageously farfetched stories about his adventures.
The Baron (in German: Freiherr) was born in Bodenwerder, Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg, into an aristocratic family of the Hanover region. His father's second cousin, Gerlach Adolph von Münchhausen, was prime minister under George III.
In 1739, he was appointed a cornet in the Russian cavalry regiment, the "Brunswick-Cuirassiers". The following year, he was promoted to lieutenant. He was stationed in Riga, but participated in two campaigns against the Turks in 1740 and 1741. In 1744 he married Jacobine von Dunten and in 1750 he was promoted to Rittmeister, a cavalry captain.
In 1760 Münchhausen retired to his manor and estates in Bodenwerder, where he lived with his wife until her death in 1790. It was there, especially at dinner parties and similar aristocratic social gatherings, that he acquired a reputation as a storyteller, developing witty and highly exaggerated accounts of his adventures in Russia. At the same time, Münchhausen was considered an honest man in business affairs. As one contemporary put it, Münchhausen's unbelievable narratives were designed not to deceive, but "to ridicule the disposition for the marvellous which he observed in some of his acquaintances".
Münchhausen married a second time, to Bernardine von Brunn, in 1794, which ended in divorce. He did not have any children.
The fictionalization of Münchhausen began in 1781–1783, when seventeen tall tales attributed to him appeared in the eighth and ninth volumes of the Vademecum fur lustige Leute.
An English version was published in London in 1785, by Rudolf Erich Raspe, as Baron Munchausen's Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia, also called The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen. It remains unclear how much of Raspe's story material derives from the Baron himself, but the majority of the stories are based on folktales that had been in circulation for many centuries before Münchhausen's birth.
In 1786, Gottfried August Bürger translated Raspe's stories back into German, and extended them. He published them under the title of Wunderbare Reisen zu Wasser und zu Lande: Feldzüge und lustige Abenteuer des Freiherrn von Münchhausen ("Marvellous Travels on Water and Land: Campaigns and Comical Adventures of the Baron of Münchhausen").
The real-life Baron Münchhausen was said to be deeply annoyed that his name had been dragged into public consciousness as the Lügenbaron (German: "Baron of Lies") through the publication of stories under his name.
In the 19th century, the story had been expanded and translated into numerous languages, totaling over 100 various editions.
Mr. Munchausen, a new collection of Munchausen adventures, was written in 1901 by the American humorist John Kendrick Bangs, and combines the traditional fictional Baron with the literary genre now known as Bangsian fantasy.
Stage and radio
Comedian Jack Pearl played a character called Baron Munchausen. The punchline to most of these jokes came when the astonished listener finally had enough and expressed disbelief, and the Baron uttered the catchphrase, "Vas you dere, Sharlie?".
Various shorts are also known to have been made about the Baron's life, including the silent films Les Aventures de baron de Munchhausen (1911) by the French pioneer Georges Méliès and The New Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1915) by the British director Floyd Martin Thornton.
In 1974 and 1975, four short cartoons were made in the Soviet Union (a fifth was made in 1995), called Münchhausen's Adventures.
A French cartoon version directed by Jean Image was made, called Les Fabuleuses Aventures du legendaire Baron de Munchausen (English: The Fabulous Adventures of Baron Munchausen). In 1984, a French cartoon sequel to the 1979 animated movie by Jean Image was made, called Le Secret des sélénites (English: Moon Madness).
Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics based a story on both the Brother's Grimm and Munchausen called The six who went Far that aired on 20 January 1988.
In 1951, the British physician Richard Asher published an article describing three cases of patients whose factitious disorders led them to lie about their own states of health. Asher proposed to call the disorder "Munchausen Syndrome", commenting: "Like the famous Baron von Munchausen [sic], the persons affected have always travelled widely; and their stories, like those attributed to him, are both dramatic and untruthful. Accordingly, the syndrome is respectfully dedicated to the baron, and named after him".
Asher's nomenclature sparked some controversy. While Asher was praised for bringing cases of factitious disorder to light, some critics objected variously that a literary allusion was inappropriate given the seriousness of the disease; that its use of the Anglicized form "Munchausen" showed poor form; that the name linked the disease with Münchhausen himself, who did not have it; and that the name's connection to works of humor and fantasy, and to the essentially ridiculous character of the fictionalized Baron, was disrespectful to patients suffering from the disorder.
The name has spawned two additional coinages: Münchausen syndrome by proxy, in which illness-feigning is done by caretakers rather than patients, and Münchausen by Internet, in which illness-feigning occurs in online venues.
There is a club "Münchhausen's Grandchildren" (Внучата Мюнхаузена) in Kaliningrad (formerly Königsberg), Russia, which contains a number of "historical proofs" of presence of the Baron in Königsberg, including the skeleton of the whale in whose belly the Baron was entrapped.
On 18 June 2005, to celebrate the 750th anniversary of Kaliningrad, a monument to the Baron was unveiled as a gift from Bodenwerder, portraying the Baron's cannonball ride. A similar monument of the Baron is also installed in his city of birth, as well as a fountain of Münchhausen sitting on the front half of his horse.
At Duntes Muiža, Latvia (German name: Dunteshof), home of Münchhausen's first wife Jacobine von Dunten, a Münchhausen Museum was opened up in 2005. The couple had lived there between 1744 and 1750, before moving back to Bodenwerder. The Latvian central bank produced a commemorative coin on this occasion.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Munchausen, Baron". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Karl Ernst Hermann Krause (1886), "Münchhausen, Hieronimus Karl Friedrich Freiherr von", Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB) (in German) 23, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, pp. 1–5
- Olry, R. (June 2002). "Baron Munchhausen and the Syndrome Which Bears His Name: History of an Endearing Personage and of a Strange Mental Disorder". Vesalius VIII (1): 53–57. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
- Fisher, Jill A (Spring 2006). "Investigating the Barons: narrative and nomenclature in Munchausen syndrome". Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 49 (2): 250–62. doi:10.1353/pbm.2006.0024. PMID 16702708. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
- Kareem, Sarah Tindal (May 2012). "Fictions, Lies, and Baron Munchausen’s Narrative". Modern Philology 109 (4): 483–509. doi:10.1086/665538. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
- "Jack Pearl". Los Angeles Times. 28 December 1982. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
- "The National Black Light Theatre of Prague: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen". Retrieved 1 November 2012.
- Varney, Allen (2007). "The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen". In Lowder, James. Hobby Games: The Best 100. Green Ronin Publishing. pp. 107–109. ISBN 978-1-932442-96-0.
- "The Surprising Adventures of Munchausen". Gamehouse. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
- "Münchhausen-Denkmal in Kaliningrad eingeweiht" (in German). Kaliningrad, RU: Russland-Aktuell. 22 June 2005. Retrieved 7 April 2011.
- "14014 Munchhausen (1994 AL16)". JPL Small-Body Database Browser. NASA. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von Münchhausen.|
- Raspe, Rudolf Erich. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Forgotten Book. ISBN 978-1-60620-845-8.
- Project Gutenberg e-text of The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen
- Bürger's Adventures of Münchhausen at Project Gutenberg (German)
- Website of the Munchausen Museum at Duntes Manor House, Salacgrīvas County, Latvia