The Legend of Thyl Ulenspiegel and Lamme Goedzak

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"Thyl Ulenspiegel and Nele in Flanders" pen drawing by the Belgian artist René De Coninck (1907-1978)

The Legend of Thyl Ulenspiegel and Lamme Goedzak (French: La Légende et les Aventures héroïques, joyeuses et glorieuses d'Ulenspiegel et de Lamme Goedzak au pays de Flandres et ailleurs) is a 1867 novel by Belgian author Charles De Coster. Based on the 14th-century Low German figure Till Eulenspiegel, Coster's novel recounts the allegorical adventures as those of a Flemish prankster, Thyl Ulenspiegel, during the Reformation wars in the Netherlands.

Background history[edit]

De Coster was one of many 19th-century nationalist writers who made use of – and considerably adapted and changed – pre-existing folk tales. In this case, Thyl Ulenspiegel is made into a Protestant hero of the time of the Dutch War of Independence.

De Coster incorporated in his book many of the original amusing Ulenspiegel tales, side by side with far from funny material - for example, graphic depictions of tortures by the inquisition and auto de fe. As depicted by De Coster, Ulenspiegel carries in a locket around his neck the ashes of his father, burned at the stake outside of the walls of the city on charges of heresy – a feature never hinted at in any of the original folk tales. This experience begins Ulenspiegel's transformation from idle prankster to hero of the Dutch Revolt.

The novel was later illustrated with a series of linocuts by Frans Masereel, the foremost Belgian modernist painter and engraver.


Thyl Uilenspiegel is born in Damme, Flanders as son of Claes and Soetkin. He is brought into this world on the same birthday as Philip II of Spain. As a child Thyl already exhibits the naughty behaviour he will become infamous for as an adult. After many stories where Thyl fools other people and especially corrupt Catholic priests the Spaniards arrest his father because of his lutheran sympathies and burn him at the stake. This causes a mental breakdown for Thyl's mother, Soetkin, who turns mad. Thyl collects his father's ashes and puts them in a bag he wears on his chest. From that moment on he is destined to fight back against the Spanish oppression.

De Coster gives Thyl a girlfriend, Nele, and a best friend, Lamme Goedzak, who functions as a comedic sidekick. The novel follows many historic events in the Eighty Years' War.


Comic book adaptations[edit]

Dutch comics artist George van Raemdonck adapted the novel into a comic strip in the 1920s.[1] In the 1940s Ray Goossens made a gag-a-day comic about Uilenspiegel and Lamme Goedzak.[2] Willy Vandersteen drew two comic book albums about Uilenspiegel, "De Opstand der Geuzen" ("The Rebellion of the Geuzen") and "Fort Oranje" ("Fort Orange"), both drawn in a realistic, serious style and pre-published in the Belgian comics magazine Tintin between 1952 and 1954. They were published in comic book album format in 1954 and 1955. The stories were drawn in a realistic style and in some instances followed the original novel very closely, but sometimes followed his own imagination more.[3]

Film adaptations[edit]

A film based on the novel was filmed in 1956 with Gerard Philipe, directed by Joris Ivens and Gerard Philipe "Les Aventures de Till L'Espiègle" (English title: "Bold Adventure"). The film was a French-East German co-production.

A film based on the novel was filmed in the USSR by Aleksandr Alov and Vladimir Naumov, "The Legend of Till Ullenspiegel" (1976).[4]

Literary adaptations[edit]

Ulenspiegel was mentioned in Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita as a possible prototype for the black cat character Behemoth.

Musical adaptations[edit]

The German composer Walter Braunfels adapted De Coster's novel in 1910 for his second opera, the full-length Wagnerian epic Ulenspiegel, first performed at Stuttgart on 4 November 1913, revived in 2011 (Gera, Thuringia) and 2014 (EntArteOpera, Zürich - a production released on DVD in 2017 by the Capriccio record company).

Wladimir Vogel was a Russian composer who wrote a drama-oratorio Thyl Claes in the late 30s or early 40s, derived from De Coster's book.

The Soviet composer Nikolai Karetnikov and his librettist filmmaker Pavel Lungin adapted De Coster's novel as the samizdat opera "Till Eulenspiegel" (1983), which had to be recorded piece-by-piece in secret and received its premiere (1993) only after the Soviet Union collapsed.

Luigi Dallapiccola drew on the novel as one source for his opera Il Prigioniero.

See also[edit]


2. ^ Bold Adventure (1956). IMDB com.