1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Eulenspiegel, Till

EULENSPIEGEL [Ulenspiegel], TILL, the name of a German folk-hero, and the title of a popular German chapbook on the subject, of the beginning of the 16th century. The oldest existing German text of the book was printed at Strassburg in 1515 (Ein kurtzweilig lesen von Dyl Vlenspiegel geboren vss dem land zu Brunsswick), and again in 1519. This is not in the original dialect, which was undoubtedly Low Saxon, but in High German, the translation having been formerly ascribed—but on insufficient evidence—to the Catholic satirist Thomas Murner. Its hero, Till Eulenspiegel or Ulenspiegel, the son of a peasant, was born at Kneitlingen in Brunswick, at the end of the 13th or at the beginning of the 14th century. He died, according to tradition, at Mölln near Lübeck in 1350. The jests and practical jokes ascribed to him were collected—if we may believe a statement in one of the old prints—in 1483; but in any case the edition of 1515 was not even the oldest High German edition. Eulenspiegel himself is locally associated with the Low German area extending from Magdeburg to Hanover, and from Lüneburg to the Harz Mountains. He is the wily peasant who loves to exercise his wit and roguery on the tradespeople of the towns, above all, on the innkeepers; but priests, noblemen, even princes, are also among his victims. His victories are often pointless, more often brutal; he stoops without hesitation to scurrility and obscenity, while of the finer, sharper wit which the humanists and the Italians introduced into the anecdote, he has little or nothing. His jests are coarsely practical, and his satire turns on class distinctions. In fact, this chapbook might be described as the retaliation of the peasant on the townsman who in the 14th and 15th centuries had begun to look down upon the country boor as a natural inferior.

In spite of its essentially Low German character, Eulenspiegel was extremely popular in other lands, and, at an early date, was translated into Dutch, French, English, Latin, Danish, Swedish, Bohemian and Polish. In England, “Howleglas” (Scottish, Holliglas) was long a familiar figure; his jests were rapidly adapted to English conditions, and appropriated in the collections associated with Robin Goodfellow, Scogan and others. Ben Johnson refers to him as “Howleglass” and “Ulenspiegel” in his Masque of the Fortunate Isles, Poetaster, Alchemist and Sad Shepherd, and a verse by Taylor the “water poet” would seem to imply that the “Owliglasse” was a familiar popular type. Till Eulenspiegel’s “merry pranks” have been made the subject of a well-known orchestral symphony by Richard Strauss. In France, it may be noted, the name has given rise to the words espiègle and espièglerie.

The Strassburg edition of 1515 (British Museum) has been reprinted by H. Knust in the Neudrucke deutscher Literaturwerke des 16. und 17. Jahrh. No. 55-56 (1885); that of 1519 by J. M. Lappenberg, Dr Thomas Murners Ulenspiegel (1854). W. Scherer (“Die Anfänge des Prosaromans in Deutschland,” in Quellen und Forschungen, vol. xxi., 1877, pp. 28 ff. and 78 ff.) has shown that there must have been a still earlier High German edition. See also C. Walter in Niederdeutsches Jahrbuch, xix. (1894), pp. 1 ff. Further editions appeared at Cologne, printed by Servais Kruffter, undated (reproduced in photo-lithography from the two imperfect copies in Berlin and Vienna, 1865); Erfurt, 1532, 1533–1537 and 1538; Cologne, 1539; Strassburg, 1539; Augsburg, 1540 and 1541; Strassburg, 1543; Frankfort on the Main, 1545; Strassburg, 1551; Cologne, 1554, &c. Johann Fischart published an adaptation in verse, Der Eulenspiegel Reimensweis (Strassburg, 1571), K. Simrock a modernization in 1864 (2nd ed., 1878); there is also one by K. Pannier in Reclam’s Universalbibliothek (1883). The earliest translation was that into Dutch, printed by Hoochstraten at Antwerp (Royal Lib., Copenhagen); it is undated, but may have appeared as early as 1512. See facsimile reprint by M. Nijhoff (the Hague, 1898). This served as the basis for the first French version: Ulenspiegel, de sa vie, de ses œuvres et merveilleuses aduentures par luy faictes . . . . nouuellement translate et corrige de Flamant en Francoys (Paris, 1532). Reprint, edited by P. Jannet (1882). This was followed by upwards of twenty French editions down to the beginning of the 18th century. The latest translation is that by J. C. Delepierre (Bruges, 1835 and 1840). Cf. Prudentius van Duyse, Étude littéraire sur Tiel l’Espiègle (Ghent, 1858). The first complete English translation was also made from the Dutch, and bears the title: Here beginneth a merye Jest of a man called Howleglas, &c., printed by Copland in three editions, probably between 1548 and 1560. Reprint by F. Ouvry (1867). This, however, was itself merely a reprint of a still older English edition (1518?), of which the British Museum possesses fragments. Reprinted by F. Brie, Eulenspiegel in England (1903). In 1720 appeared The German Rogue, or the Life and Merry Adventures of Tiel Eulenspiegel. Made English from the High-Dutch; and an English illustrated edition, adapted by K. R. H. Mackenzie in 1880 (2nd ed., 1890). On Eulenspiegel in England, see especially C. H. Herford, Studies in the Literary Relations of England and Germany in the Sixteenth Century (1888), pp. 242 ff., and F. Brie’s work already referred to.  (J. G. R.)