The Childishness of till: Hermen Bote's Ulenspiegel

by Stephen L. Wailes
The Childishness of till: Hermen Bote's Ulenspiegel
Stephen L. Wailes
The German Quarterly
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Indiana University, Bloomington

The Childishness of Till: Hernten Bote's Ulenspiegel

The cover of Erich Kastner's 1938 adaptation of twelve stories about Till Eulenspiegel is a colored illustration of the merry prankster in a village square observed by a small crowd, including four children. The adults seem bemused by Till, but the children are delighted. They mimic his gestures and follow him as their comrades in Hameln followed the piper; their faces beam and their features are mirrored in his. The artist, Walter Trier, responded in this manner to Kastner's notion of Till as an errant circus clown,' for everyone knows the childlike qualities of clowns: their simplicity, impracticality, spontaneity, and love of high jinks-as well as their particular impact on youngsters. One concludes from Trier's picture that Kastner thought Tilla child at heart, for the author had confidence in his illustrator. This was their eighth collaboration on a children's book in ten years, and Kastner had visited Trier in London to review the colored illustrations before the book went to press. 2

The tendency to make Tillchildishhas been studied as part of the rich international reception of Ein kurtzweiligLesenvonDil Ulenspiegel, published in Strassburg in 1515, that has made Eulenspiegel part of the cultural heritage of Western Europe and North America. 3 The process began well before 1864, when the first adaptation of Ulenspiegel as a children's book appeared, and continues vigorously; stories derived from Ulenspiegel or imitating it are found in many readers for German schoolchildren, with changes of the original in style and content to strengthen the children's empathy with the hero.' Although this affektierte Kindertumlichkeit may be less palatable than the boyishness of Kastner and Trier, both conceptions distort the principal figure of the chapbook and obscure the social function intended for him.

The wave of scholarship following Peter Honegger's demonstration in 1973 that the well known Low German author Hermen Bote redacted Ulenspiegel has made untenable any affirmative or sympathetic interpretation of Till.5 We may no longer take him as a champion of the peasantry, an Aryan victor in the battle of life, a representative of plebeian opposition in Marxist class conflict, or a brave outsider who indicts bourgeois values." These roles, scholarly notions on questionable textual bases, are inconsistent with the mentality of Hermen Bote, jurist and bureaucrat in the city of Brunswick, who left a corpus of historical and literary work that shows him to be devoted to hierarchical authority -both political and religious-and anxious about all but the most gradual social change. One cannot imagine him collecting, editing, and perhaps writing stories about Eulenspiegel had he thought that this vagabond would be received favorably. His term for Till, schalck, lacks the benign tolerance of later usage.' His constant violationofnormsmayentertain, hemaymake his way successfully by deceit and aggression, but Bote wouldonlyhaveviewed himasanegative example useful to expose moral and intellectual folliesendangeringthe socialorder.

Although Kastner and Trier falsify Ulenspiegel when they impute to Till the positive values of heroes in Kastner's books about children," they and other adapters have not been mistaken in imagining him a boy rather than a man. Several critics have pointed out aspects

The German Quarterly 64.2 (1991) 127

of Till's behavior that are childish. These cluster around two features that distinguish this book from others of its kind: Till's manipulation of language and his scatalogical agression.

In roughly half of the 95 chapters Till plays a trick by deliberately mistaking remarks directed at him, by speaking in terms that hide his thought, or by some other distortion of the meaning of words. Y Goethe's famous dictum -"Alle Hauptspalse des Buches beruhen darauf, daB aIle Menschen figurlich sprechen und Eulenspiegel es eigentlich nimmt'P'-c-is not adequate for the variety of misunderstandings Till engineers, but it does characterize many, and this reduction of the figurative to the literal has been associated with children. Similarly, nearly a quarter of the stories involve Till's anal or fecal misbehavior, ranging from his mooning of the villagers at age three to his offensive defecations as a grown man. This too has been associated with children, mainly through Freud's theory of anal eroticism.

In his book on political language, Ulrich Erckenbrecht treats Till in a section on "Kindliche, infantilisierte, politisierte Sprache," arguing that he deliberately regresses in speech to the level of small children as part of his protest against oppressive social structures. 11 For Erckenbrecht, Till is an Analerotiker who never made the passage to genital sexuality (134). Dieter Arendt finds Till's speech reminiscent of the linguistic humor devised by children through homonyms and metaphors. 12 In a chapter on Till's "skatologisch-fakalische Sprache und Gestik," Arendt too gives a Freudian reading of his "anal-erotischen Charakter." Till's infantile anality is "die Sprache des Ohnmachtigen" (94). Lutz Rohrich has made the most thorough effort to identify juvenile traits in Till and to interpret them. 13 In Freud's terms, the book itself belongs to the anal rather than the genital phase (27). Like a small child who feels misunderstood or ignored and starts wetting the bed again, "fallt Eulenspiegel in eine Fakalphase zuriick" (24); he feels rivalry with children, perhaps because of his own childishness; he has an infantile egocentricity but no sexual interest in women; his linguistic humor recalls that of children amusing themselves with ambiguities; as a three-year-old he tricks his fathet; and the many males with whom he conflicts later are really father figures (28).

My dissatisfaction with these psychological readings arises from several considerations. Statements about the nature of children's speech are made without evidence or documentation, as though this complex matter were commonly understood. The authority of Sigmund Freud is evoked in rather hasty formulations that leave many questions unanswered-questions that a serious effort to explain Ulenspiegel in Freudian terms must address. Since the book is a .compilation and not a fictional biography created by a single author in a sustained creative effort, what kind of psychoanalytical interpretation of the eponymous hero is appropriate?" While anality is very important in the book, where is the evidence that it may be associated with eroticism and thus make Till amenable to such categorization as Analerotiker? If Till is interpreted in these terms and if the reading is to agree with Freud's essay "Charakter und Analerotik," he must be considered either a child or a homosexual; but there is not the least evidence of homosexuality, and a principal component of infantile anal eroticism-the willful holding back of feces -is never present. 15 Obviously there is little in Till's literary portrait to associate him with adults who have an unusually strong anal erotic drive, for Freud found that such persons were ordentlich, sparsam, and eigensinnig (Freud 25). One might call Till eigensinnig, but he is not sparsam and is anything but ordentlich.

It is also problematic that these interpretations of Till's childishness harness it to modern sociopolitical ideology. Erckenbrecht, for whom Till is "ein Rebell der Sprache" (111ff.), cites Marx, Engels, Adorno, and Habermas; Arendt esteems Till as a "Zerstorer der Normen" and reminds us that anal misbehavior is traditionally linked to the defiance of authority ("verborgene Auflehnung gegen hohe und machtige Instanzen" [85]); Rohrich sees Till, in today's terms, as a radical activist and alludes to German student protests of the late sixties." Wolfgang Virmond, who considers Till's attitude toward language deliberately infantile and who exemplifies Freudian criticism as he rejects it ("infantiler Charakter mit ausgepragtem Fakalinteresse" [59]), construes Till as an historical type ("Er laBt sich verstehen als Verkorperung einer historisch regressiven Position gegen die sich konstituierende burgerliche Gesellschaft" [60]). All sympatheticreadingsofTillas critic or rebelstumble on the clear likelihood that Bote took a negative view of him.17

The childishness of Till Eulenspiegel is undeniable, and some will choose to account for it by associating traits of the chapbook with tenets in the thought of Freud and sociopolitical positions taken by Marx, but it is possible to offer an explanation based on the cultural realities and intellectual horizons of sixteenthcentury Brunswick. This will have the merit of immediate relevance, whatever its power of persuasion.


In German cities around 1500 the change from boy to man was marked not only by puberty and the need to regulate the individual's sexual behavior but also by the child's assimilation into the world of adult work. The large majority of males in cities like Brunswick were employed in the crafts, and this is the social environment more often depicted in Ulenspiegelthan any other. Indeed, those tales in which a master craftsman takes Till on as a journeyman and then suffers at his hands, are paradigmatic (see Wunderlich "Till Eulenspiegel" [6871]). They strongly evoke the vocational experience of male adolescense, for boys became apprentices at or shortly before puberty; exchanging the family's home and the father's authority for those of the master; after two to four years they became journeymen (the relative freedom of itinerancy allowing sexual experience) and practiced their trade in this capacity for an indefinite period. IS

By either criterion Till fails to make the passage to manhood. Even in the face of his widowed mother's poverty he refuses to apprentice himself:

Und bald darnach, da starb der alt Claus Ulenspiegel. Da bleib die Mutter bei dem Sun. Also ward die Muter arm. Und Ulenspiegel walt kein Handtwerck lernen und was da bei sechzehen Jar alt ... (H.2: 13)

He is beyond the age when he should have entered a master's household, but he continues to practice rope walking "bis das er ein wenig alter ward" (15). This statement does not imply days or weeks but rather, like its parallel in the preceding story ("biB er 3 Jar alt ward" [13]), the passage of a year or two. He is thus in his late teens when his mother justly chides him for still having no trade (19), and shortly afterward he leaves home to begin adventures that are a parody of journeyman years -decades of random wandering in which he pretends to training in many crafts, dupes many masters, and harms rather than benefits society.

Rohrich and others have remarked on his sexlessness. The point is plain: while Till recognizes sexuality in others and exploits it (e.g., H.31 and H.38), he never experiences sexual feeling and evidently dies a virgin. This is true for other quasi-autobiographical jest books (Rohrich 127), but one must be cautious of a generic explanation that fails to test the relevance of this feature in Ulenspiegel. Bote calls attention to Till's unnatural indifference by providing a group of eight stories involving a landlady, often an innkeeper's wife, at whose establishment Till spends the night. This familiar situation is rich in potential for sexual comedy; young men spending the night enjoy escapades in courtly romance in Chaucer's "Reeve's Tale" and its many analogues as well as in other stories." Not long before Bote began work on Ulenspiegel, Hans Folz published in Nuremberg his original tale of three students and an innkeeper's wife that begins by establishing the absence of the husband (an important convenience):

Ein stat heist Pun und leyt am Rein;

Darin die schonsti wirtin sas.

Eins mals ir wirt auswallen was, Und in der zeyt do fuget sich,

Das drei studenten fleiseclich

Sie paten herberg auff ein nacht. ~(I

Nearly all the stories of Till and the landladies begin either by noting the husband's absence or witha statementofconvivialcircumstances that suggests an erotic adventure in the offing:

er kame in ein Herberg, da was der Wirt nit daheim (49-50)

Ulenspiegel kam an ein Ort zu HuB und findt die wirtin allein (236)

Als Ulenspiegel die Nacht da bleib, da

ward er mit der wirtin reden (90)

da kam [er] in einer Wirtin HuB, die hief

Frauw Kunigine, die da ein frohliche Wir

tin was, unnd hief ihn wilckummen sein


und [er] zoch zu einer wirtin ein zu herberg. Da sach sie, das Ulenspiegel ein schon man was (102; H.34)

The suggestiveness in H.34 is allthe stronger because this woman, a widow with an eye for masculine beauty, runs her hostel in Rome, notorious for immorality in that day. Her perception, however, has no narrative consequences. The repeatedassociation ofTillwith landladies at night-and the verbal hintsarouse expectations in the reader that are invariably frustrated. Till may trick the ladies but he has no sexual response to them, unlike his comrades in other narratives of overnight. In H.84, with the husband absent, Till rises early and goes to the bed of his hostess -only to lift her out of it and singe her bare buttocks on the hot ashes of the hearth. The narrative movement toward sex is diverted to injury, the anal zone substituted for the genital, and Till asserts that this defines him: "'Sent, Wirtin, nun mogen Ihr wol von Ulenspiegeln sagen, daz er ein Schalck ist . . . hiebei mogen Ihr ihn kenen'" (242). Such manipulation of expectations in a group of stories reveals the redacting intelligence and obliges us to take Till's sexlessness seriously.

Till's failure to acquire a trade and to develop sexually signals to the readers of Ulenspiegel that he remains a child.21 This message is also sent by the scatological stories. As a natural function with unpleasant aspects, defecation is socially regulated. The basic restraint is bowel control-the child learning to time its eliminations-linked to the learning of spatial taboos, places where one may not defecate. In simple societies these taboos may be relatively few, but European urban society recognizes only one locus for the function: a toilet (of whatever variety). If the facility is available, voluntary defecation in any other setting is taboo. Toilet training is the process of encouraging bowel control and the recognition of taboos, "the first major socialization demand" made of the child.22 When it has been accomplished, the child will have changed from one who defecates spontaneously and without concern for setting to one who exerts control and accepts social conventions, usually learned from the parents. These generalizations are no less valid for Brunswick in 1500 than for Bloomington in 1990, although many details of the process as well as the taboos themselves will not be identical.

Till Eulenspiegel, who defecates on a table, in a bed, on the floor, on a hearth, on a load of plums, behaves like an untrained child. No doubt the taboos were less severe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries than they are now-an observation sometimes offered in explanation of his behavior -but that he violates taboos is amply confirmed by internal evidence: the disgust and anger of those around him. Others may also violate them (see the contest with the priest in H.12), but they do so infrequently and without pattern. Late medieval Germany provided private chambers and public latrines and expected defecation to be restricted to these whenever possible. Children learned this lesson, with thehelpofthe reveredrod, butTillrejectsit.

There is an interesting reflection of these matters in H.81, a little-discussed story that connects Till to children on the question of asocial defecation. One of his three idiosyncrasies, as told in H.21, is his shunning of children, whom he regards as rivals: "[E]r wolt nienen bleiben, wa Kinder waren, wan man acht der Kinder mer ihr Notlichkeit dann sein" (63). Had he been able to outdo them in childishness, apparently he would not have shunned them. In H.81 he takes lodging at a wretched inn, the proprietor of which has many children (234). At one point these children defecate one after the other by the front door; that is, they violate the taboo and, by doing so, behave this once as Till does characteristically. The reason is not ignorance or willfullness but the indifference of the father, who is abandoning the property and therefore allows it to be abused by his children. In the absence of paternal restraint, they make social space a toilet. This question of parental control over children's impulses is dealt with below. At this point we note that Till's verbal response is to rebuke the father, but his behavioral response is to outdo the children. Where they soiled the periphery of the house, he soils its social center, the hearth C'Da er Not het, da scheiB er auch ein grossen Huffen Trecks zu dem Feiler" [235]). In the only comments on H.81 of which I am aware Erckenbrecht criticizes Till's disapproval of the children as an unreflective bourgeois reaction, theninvokesFreud toexplainTill'sdislike of youngsters. It is simpler and more consistent with the mentality of Hermen Bote to say that Till shows himself the most childish of allby violating the taboo most egregiously.

We appreciate the emphasis on Till's childishness more clearly through a comparison with the version of this story in the Facetiae of Heinrich Bebel, published in 1508. In his 1854 edition of Ulenspiegel, ]. M. Lappenberg asserted that H.81 was borrowed almost word for word from Bebel, and Wolfgang Lindow, though cautious on the question of dependency, also says that the stories resemble each other "fast wortlich.":" This is a surprising claim, because Bebel tells the story in 68 words, Bote in about 300, and there are important differences. Chief among these is the absence of children from Bebel's version. A priest sees an innkeeper urinate (not defecate) into a kitchen pot and surpasses this by defecating behind the stove (not on the hearth). Without third parties the conflict is simpler, and the Latin text places more weight on the rhetoric of the rebuke than does the German. 24 Although the publication date of the Facetiae would allow for the adaptation of the tale by Bote for the 1510-11 printing of Ulenspiegel, we are unlikely to reach certainty on a filiation of the texts, nor is that necessary for present purposes. Comparison shows that the German story would be better composed were the excremental conflict directly between Till and the innkeeper, as is the verbal conflict, but then Till's trumping of children at their own game would be lost. 25


Turning to the verbal component of Till's mischief, one can say that if Till's abuse of language were simply his literalism, the judgment on this point of Virmond and others"daf ein Erwachsener sich wie ein Kind verhalt" -would be adequate, but literalism is not the whole picture." More broadly, Till lapses from conventional speech that achieves communication into private speech that prevents it. For example, when he says to the mother of the constipated child "also hab ich das Kind daruf gesetzt" (50) to explain his own excrement on the floor, he does not communicate the fact that he has done nothing to relieve the child's distress. These deliberate lapses effectively remove him from social groups that depend on normal discourse, with its mixture of specificity, implication, ambiguity, and context: "Eulenspiegels Rede ist Narrenrede im extrasozialen Raum,?" These larger characteristics of Till's speech have not been linked to his childishness.

The term "extrasozialer Raum" is suggestive. Till lives in many communities but belongs to none, practices many trades but professes none, talks with many people but seeks authentic communication with hardly any. His characteristic behavior with language is to destroy the approximation of understanding that has arisen between him and his victims, just as his characteristic social behavior is to abandon each community in which he has begun to function as part of the body politic. Can we find a framework of ideas that connects the verbal phenomenon to the social and at the same time associates them with the child?

"Narrenrede im extrasozialen Raum."This metaphor would not have puzzled Aristotle, who in the Politics sets forth the famous proposition that the human being is a political animal and, in the same passage, links political (communal) life to the qualities of mature human speech:

Hence it is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal. And he who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state, is either a bad man or above humanity . . . Now, that man is more of a political animal than bees or any other gregarious animals is evident. Nature, as we often say, makes nothing in vain, and man is the only animal who has the gift of speech. And whereas mere voice is but an indication of pleasure or pain, and is therefore found in other animals . . . the power of speech is intended to set forth the expedient and inexpedient, and therefore likewise the just and the unjust. And it is a characteristic of man that he alone has any sense of good and evil, of just and unjust, and the like, and the association of living beings who have this sense makes a family and a state. 2~

Communities are formed by the association of persons who have the power of moral reason and who use the power of human speech to express it. The child has not developed moral reason but is subject to appetite and must therefore be controlled and directed by an adult, as Aristotle states in his Ethics: "[C]hildren in fact live at the beck and call of appetite. .. asthechildshouldliveaccording to the direction of his tutor, so the appetitive element should live according to rational principle. . . ."29 Speech that fails to set forth the just and the unjust is therefore that of immature humans, and such persons could not form communities even if they wished. When Aristotle states that "man is born for citizenship" (Ethics 12), he means that the mature human being enters into political life based on moral reason communicated through speech. Till is never a citizen for, as one sees from his failure to use rational and moral speech, he is never mature.

It is not as far from Aristotle to Hermen Bote as first appears, for the Politics entered the mainstream of medieval political science in the thirteenth century when it was translated into Latin and attracted the attention of Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, and Siger of Brabant, all of whom wrote commentaries on it (as did a number of other Scholastics before 1500).30 The proposition that communities are constituted by rational and moral speech thus became part of Catholic political theory, as noted in this formulation by Aqui


Since language is given to man by nature,

therefore, and since language is ordered

to this, that men communicate with one

another as regards the useful and the

harmful, the just and the unjust, and

other such things, it follows, from the

fact that nature does nothing in vain, that

men naturally communicate with one an

other in reference to these things. But

communication in reference to these

things is what makes a household and a

city. Therefore, man is naturally a domes

tic and political animal.31

Till Eulenspiegel is, unnaturally, neither domestic nor political and, going against nature, does not communicate with others "as regards the useful and the harmful" -at least not in the sense that Aristotle and Aquinas intend (to seek the useful and avoid the harmful). There is good reason to imagine the well educated and political Hermen Bote shaping these stories to express a perversion of Christian communal philosophy derived from Aristotle, one in which an immature man shuns citizenship and uses speech against its natural purpose. His childishness is marked by guile, a characteristic Aquinas observes in the precociously rational child ("some few children happen to attain the use of reason at an earlier age, and they are said to be capable of guile"), and Aquinas distinguishes childhood from humanity: "When, however, a defect is not of the essence of a defective thing, then the one numerical reality that was imperfect does become perfect. For example, childhood is not of the essence of being human [pueritia non est de ratione hominis] and so the same person who was a child becomes an adult,':" It is interesting that the Aristotelian understanding of political life as rooted in the definitive properties of human speech has in recent years been supported by the studies of Jean Piaget, who finds that as children mature, they increasingly use speech for communicative rather than egocentric purposes."

Speech, political life, sexuality, bowel discipline, vocational life-in all these areas the evidence suggests that the sixteenth-century German, Catholic, urban readership of Ulenspiegel wouldhaverecognizedTillas ajuvenile throughout his many wanderings, even though he and the narrator term him "old" in chapter 89 (253).:w The authorial strategy behind this willemerge when we consider those opinions on the nature of the child that we may ascribe to Bote.


Even progressive thinkers who followed Quintilian in praising the educability of the child acknowledged the dark side of human nature in the young; Erasmus thought that the child's pronitas ad mala, the legacy of original sin, could be controlled by proper training at an early age. :~5 Thinkers more strongly influenced by Augustine, "the apostle of extreme pessimism" (51), took a gloomier view: "Corrupt from birth, or corrupted within a few years of it, human impulses exist only to be restrained ..." (50). One Scholastic authority, at the time of Ulenspiegel believed to be Thomas Aquinas, wrote that to be a child means "saying whatever comes into your head, thinking only of the frivolous cares of the moment, enjoying uncleanliness, being unreliable and fickle, reacting to the world with superstition and fear; desiring everything you see and wanting it all at once, showing lack of consideration for others, and being thoughtless and self-centered." Raising children meant thwarting their impulses and disciplining them to achieve moral and social responsibility: "Adulthood signified success in having learned to overcome the traits of childishness rooted in the instinctive, untaught, unrefined nature of man" (56).

The pessimistic views of philosophers and theologians are echoed in popular writing. Sebastian Brant paraphrases the wisdom of Proverbs in the Narrenschiffwhen he advises corporal discipline to expel folly from the child's heart. 36 Preaching in the Strassburg cathedral on Brant's book, Johann Geiler von Kaisersberg alludes to another proverb as he evokes the dire consequences of a mother's indulging her fatherless boy, a situation recalling Till's early life: "The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame upon his mother" (29:15, RSV). Geiler says that children, tainted by original sin, instinctively know how to perjure themselves, to quarrel, pilfer sweets, lie, and sin in other ways, but not to pray or to be truthful, gentle, or humble.:i7 Georg Wickram is the German author of this time most interested in child raising. His "Dialog vom ungeratenen Sohn" interprets the deterioration of the prodigal as a result of pampering in boyhood by a grandmother; the spoiled child grows up in wantonness like a young, unbroken horse." In Wickram's review of human types "Der treue Eckart," the second one censured is the child, who is going wrong because of its nature in combination with parental failures. The child in Wickram's "Zehn Alter der Welt" characterizes himself as eager for all wickedness due to his poor upbringing." Wickram contrasts good and bad children extensively in "Der Irr Reitende Pilger" when the pilgrim takes lodging with a peasant who is an exemplary father. His twelve children are seen but not heard at the table (1916-17); they know their catechism, and have been reading from the age of four (1929-50).40 The contrasting group are unruly children whom the host encountered on a trip to the city. Lacking parental discipline, they are corrupted because of their natural propensity for evil ("Die jugent sunder neygung hett / Zum bosen viI mer dann zum guten," [2419-20]). The host observes that children will go wrong from the cradle unless restrained:

Aber vii kinder man thut finden So noch nits vatter unser kiinden / Die schon auff funff jar alt sind

Aber auff aIle boBheit gschwind /

Dann bald sie aus der wiegen gohn

Werden sie alles schalks gewohn /

Sie lernen liegen schlecken stelen

Kiinnend verstossen und verhelen . . .


Till's childhood exemplifies this natural bent for evil. At age three he so aggravates the neighbors that they complain to his father; he then makes his father appear ludicrous (H.2). This violation of the fifth Commandment should not be taken lightly; it opens the narrative of his adventures. And on his deathbed he ridicules his mother (H.90), thus framing his existence with the dishonoring of parents. We know that Bote placed great importance on the fifth Commandment because in his prose "Dance of Death" the first instruction Death gives to the youth concerns the honor and obedience owed to father and mother. 41

The retellings of H.2 later in the century by Hans Sachs and Johann Fischart are interesting commentaries on this example of a wicked child." Sachs connects Till'sfirst steps of mischief ("So pald er kriechen kunt und gen, / 1st er schalckhafftig woren" [2-3]) where Ulenspiegel made the connection to play with other children (''Alsbald nun Ulenspiegel so alt ward, daz er gon und ston kunt, da macht er vil spils mit den jungen Kindern" [12]). Sachs, a good Lutheran and the father of seven children, advances the emergence of mischief in Till by some 18 months-perhaps reflecting the increasing severity of Lutheran views on the child's nature-but then postpones the trick on the father until Till is seven." Virmond thinks he made this change for the sake of psychological realism, since such deliberate trickery would not be credited to a very young boy (106). The reason is more likely the common belief that children were amoral until age seven, at which point the sense of right and wrong developed;" the three-year-old Eulenspiegel behaved wickedly without understanding his wickedness, but Sach's seven-year-old dishonored his father with full understanding. This is a sterner position. In his 1572 versification of Ulenspiegel, Fischart changes the motivation in H.2 so that the idea of the horseback ride comes from the father, not the child, arising in his wish to test the boy's truthfulness. The ride is thus the futile recourse of a befuddled parent. Fischart seizes on a deficiency in Till's upbringing in Ulenspiegel to explain the boy's wickedness: the absence of the rod of discipline. The neighbors urge he be punished -to drive folly from his heart, asBrantwouldhavesaid-butthefatherreprehensibly fails to act:

Sie sagten es dem guten Claus

So unghoflich und grob zu hauB,

DaB er sein son gantz ernstlich strafft,

Aber kein streich hat nit behafft.

o Eulenspiegel es ist schad,

DaB man die Rut gesparet hat! (161-66)

Lacking parental discipline, the child goes wrong. Thus Fischart's reading of Ulenspiegel expresses the convictions of the age.

At present it is not possible to know Herman Bote's precise role in the composition of Ulenspiegel. As printed in 1515, it shows the emergence of human nature spoiled by Adam in a boy whose parents failto apply the necessary corrections. Refusing to join the adult world, he moves through life as a willful child, injuring people and damaging property. This reading supports the scholarly consensus that Till is a negative figure, a warning to society, a troublemaker who exploits foolishness. Whereas parents must control the child, society in loco parentis must control the childish man. Ulenspiegel shows both authorities failing, and Bote's purpose in the work is to sound an alarm: "Durch den Schalk wird deutlich, in welchem zerriitteten Zustand geistige, soziale und politische Verhaltnisse sind und daB es nur des AnstoBes eines Schalksstreiches bedarf, urn bestehende Ordnungen in Zwietracht aufzulosen (Wunderlich, "Till Eulenspiegel" [83]).

In one of Bote's other works there is a section involving a young boy that supports this reading of Ulenspiegel. His "Schichtbok" is an account of six social upheavals in the city of Brunswick, the first in 1292-93 and the last, the so-called "Poverty Uprising" ("Aufruhr der Armut"), in 1513-14.45 Bote introduces each of the six sections with a simile for the disruptive social group: the first five are like oxen befouling their own stalls, like swine, dogs in a church, a wolf ravaging the herd, a witless ass. These five comparisons liken the rebels, whom Bote despised, to animals in negative aspects, but the final one likens them to a boy:

Brunswick, ick gelike dick to eynern perde. wente eyn pert dat weyt syne starcke nicht, unde leth sick van eynern cleynen junghen thornen, unde de ryt darmydde in wat stidde dar orne dat even is. (451)

Certain elements in the city behave just as they wish, like the youngster on the horse ("[se] don in der stat wat se willen, alse de cleyne junge mit dem perde"), but when the city's wrath is aroused-when the horse is angered-it strikes out fiercely (''Aver wan dat pert vortornet wart, so sleyt dat unde byt umme sick her" [451]). Whatever one may think of the quality of the simile, it is important that Bote drew a parallel between rebellious riff-raff in Brunswick and a small boy when he opened his narrative of the troubles that touched him so closely. (By his own account he was seized by the mob, beaten, threatened with beheading and dismemberment, imprisoned, and put in the stocks [456].) The authorities of Brunswick saved Bote, repressed the uprising, and executed its leaders. In reflecting on this outcome, Bote returns to his notion of "the reckless 'little boy'"46 on horseback: "Besunderen de armen unsaligen . . . de kettelden dat starcke pert, bet dat sick vortornde unde sloch se vor de schenen, dat yd on wee dede" (459).

The title page of the 1515 edition of Ulenspiegel depicts Till on horseback, holding aloft his emblems: owl and mirror. Till carries out his first narrated pranks on horseback; his first idiosyncrasy is to ride only a dun horse (H.21). For some reason Bote abandoned his pattern of animal similes when writing about the "Poverty Uprising," and the simile built on the misbehavior of a small boy with a horse may hold a reminiscence of his Ulenspiegel, published a few years earlier. In the "Schichtbok" Bote stigmatizes the rebels as "de bosen schelcke" (460), and one of them as "eyn vorgyftich schalck" (466), the same noun used twice for Till by the narrator and at least 32 times by other characters (Virmond 61). The word links Till and the Brunswick mob; both cause harm to their societies because these lack the intelligence and willto protect themselves." "The socialhavoclikelyto be caused by the wild boy whose unruly energies remained unharnessed had been for centuries the rhetorical stock-in-trade of religious and civic reformers" (Strauss 97). Hermen Bote and his readers knew well the danger of tolerating an undisciplined boy in the community, whatever his age.



Erich Kastner, TillE ulenspiegel. ZwolfseinerGeschichtenfreinacherzahlt vonErichKastner (Zurich: Atrium, 1938) 5: "1m Mittelalter, vor sechshundert Jahren, gab es einen Zirkusclown, der durch Deutschland 109 . . . Dieser Clown hief Till Eulenspiegel."

~ Their first collaboration was Emil und die Detektive (1928), and their last, shortly before Trier's death, Die Konferenz der Tiere and Das doppelte Lottchen, both 1949. On Kastner's trip to London, see Helga Bemman,

Humor auf Taille. Erich Kastner-Leben und Werk

(Berlin: Verlag der Nation, 1983) 337.

:1I cite as Ulenspiegel the edition by Wolfgang Lindow, Ein kurtzweiligLesen von Dil Ulenspiegel (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1966; rev. 1978), referring to the "Historien" by number (H.I, H.2, etc.), and I follow common practice by using the High German form of the name. On juvenilizing Till, see Werner Wunderlich, "Till E ulenspiegel" (Munich: Fink, 1984) 106-10; and Georg Bollenbeck, Till E ulenspiegel. Der dauerhafte Schwankheld. Zum Yerhdltnis von Produktions-und Rezeptumsgeschichte (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1985) 243-49.


Werner Wunderlich, "Der Schalck im Klassenzimmer. Zur Eulenspiegel-Rezeption neuerer Lesebucher," Mittelalter-Rezeption, ed. Iurgen Kuhnel, et al. (Goppingen: Kummerle, 1976) 446-76: "Der Held, oft verniedlichend nur bei seinem Vornamen Till genannt, wird zum aufgeweckten, kecken kleinen Burschen umstilisiert, in dem die jungen Leser den Spielkamaraden von nebenan wiederentdecken konnen, Die Unertraglichkeit dieses Textes wird durch eine infantile Sprache gesteigert, in der ... eine affektierte Kindertumlichkeit beschworen wird. Nur in solcher verharmlosten und verfalschten Fassung scheinen manche Lesebuchherausgeber Eulenspiegel-Geschichten fur eine kindertumliche und kindgemalle Literaturerziehung geeignet zu halten" (456-57).

:; On Herman Bote and the impact of Honegger on Ulenspiegel scholarship, see Wunderlich, "Till Eulenspiegel" 9-32 (see n. 3).


On these and other readings see Wolfgang Virmond, Eulenspiegel und seineInterpreten (Berlin: Arbeitsstelle fur Hermen-Bote-und Eulenspiegel-Forschung, 1981) 129-51.


Virmond 64: "Der Schalck Eulenspiegel ist also der Grundbedeutung nach ein Bosewicht," See also Wunderlich, "Till Eulenspiegel" 79-85 (see note 3).

x On these values see Kurt Beutler, ErichKastner. Eine literaturpadagogische Untersuchung (Weinheim: Beltz, 1967) 188-212.

~ See Virmond's tabular analysis of the tricks, victims, and wordplay in each chapter (152-57).

10 Quoted by Dieter Arendt, Eulenspiegel-i-ein Narrenspiegel der Gesellschaft (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1978)


11 Ulrich Erckenbrecht, Politische Sprache. Marx, RossiLandi, Agitation, Kindersprache, Eulenspiegel, Comics (GieBen: Lollar, 1975) 111-37.

I~ Arendt 76-85, esp. 81.

I;~ Lutz Rohrich, "Till Eulenspiegels 'lustige' Streiche?" Eulenspiegel-jahrbucn 21 (1981): 17-30.

14 David Blamires, "Reflections on Some Recent 'Ulenspiegel' Studies," MLR 77 (1982): 351-60, casts doubt on any interpretation of Till "in terms of psychological motivation or unified narrative intention on the part of the author." I agree that one will not find such intention binding all episodes in the manner of a modern novel, but authorial intention may be found in a compiled work nonetheless. It is revealed by tendencies, emphases, and arrangements that cannot reasonably be called accidental.

I:> Overt anal eroticism is normally found in the very young: "Sie [the adults under study] scheinen zu jenen Sauglingen gehort zu haben, die sich weigern, den Darm zu entleeren, wenn sie auf den Topf gesetzt werden, weil sie aus der Defakation einen Lustnebengewinn beziehen . . ." It may also be a homosexual trait: "[Mjan [wird] keine besondere Auspragung des 'Analcharakters' bei Personen erwarten durfen, die sich die erogene Eignung der Analzone fur das reife Leben bewahrt haben, wie z.B. gewisse Homosexuelle." (Sigmund Freud, "Charakter und Analerotik," Sigmund Freud. Studienausgabe, ed. Alexander Mitscherlich, et al., 12 vols. [Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer Taschenbuch, 1982], VII: 24-30; quotations 26, 29.)

In "In heutigen Kategorien ware Eulenspiegel ein 'Verweigerer,' ein 'Neinsager,' ein 1\lternativer' ... der bei den Vertretern von 'law and order' auch nicht allzu beliebt sein kann" (23); "Eulenspiegel zeigt in der MiBachtung solcher Anstandsregeln sicherlich eine Protesthaltung. Sie erinnert stark an die Wiederentdeckung der Fakalsprache durch die Studentenbewegung von 1968" (26).

17 In "Hermen Botes Radbuch. Eine allegorische Standedidaxe urn 1500," Colloquia Germanica 19 (1986): 11937, Werner Wunderlich characterizes Bote as "ein entschiedener Verfechter der bestehenden Standeordnung." See also Max L. Baeumer's discussion of conservative social thought in Bote and Ulenspiegel in "Die sozialen Verhaltnisse und der sozialkritische Charakter der Volksliteratur im braunschweigischen Raum zur Zeit des Dyl Vlenspiegel," Eulenspiegel-]ahrbuch 25 (1985): 33-47.

IX See Ernst Walter Zeeden, Deutsche Kulturin derfruhen Neuzeit(Frankfurt a. M.: Athenaion, 1968) 126-36; and Ernst Mummenhoff, DerHandwerker in der deutschen Vergangenheit (Leipzig: Diederichs, 1901) 47-66. Albrecht Durer finished his apprenticeship to his father in goldsmithing at 15, served three years as an apprentice to Michael Wolgemut, then spent six years as a journeyman. Hans Sachs was apprenticed from 15 to 17, then spent at least five years as a journeyman. As one sees from his "Summa all meiner geticht," he was proud to have eschewed the usual sexual adventures during this period.


On German courtly romance, see Theodore M. Andersson, "Rudiger von Munre's 'Irregang und Girregar': A Courtly Parody?" BGDSL(W) 93 (1971): 31150, esp. 335-46. On analogues to "The Reeve's Tale," see Larry D. Benson and Theodore M. Andersson, The Literary Contextof Chaucer's Fabliaux (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1971) 88-197. Besides the German tales mentioned there, see "Die treue Magd," "Der Schiller zu Paris C," and "Der Wirt" (summarized by Hanns Fischer, Studien zur deutschen Miirendichtung, 2nd ed. [Tiibingen: Niemeyer, 1983] 493, 518, 537).

;m "Die drei Studenten," 11. 6-11, in Hans Folz, DieReimpaarspruche, ed. Hanns Fischer (Munich: Beck, 1961) 7-21.

:!I See Philippe Aries, L'enfant et la vie familiale sous l'ancien regime (Paris: PIon, 1960) 14, where he quotes a French source published in 1500: "Curieux enfant que ce mechant garcon 'si felon et si pervers qu'il ne vault oncques aprendre mestier . . .' . . . Voiciun autre enfant de quinze ans. 'Quoique il fut beau fils et gracieux, il se refuse . . . afrequenter les filles.'"

~~ Jerome Kagan, "Psychological Development of the Child. Personality, Behavior and Temperament," Human Development, ed. Frank Falkner (Philadelphia: Saunders, 1966) 234.

:!:i j. M. Lappenberg, ed., Dr. Thomas Murners Ulenspiegel (Leipzig: Weigel, 1854) 278: "Die Erzahlung ... ist fast wortlich aus Bebeli Fecetiis ... entlehnt": cf. Lindow 234 (see n. 3).

~4 Heinrich Bebel, Heinrich Bebels Facetien. DreiBUcher, ed. Gustav Bebermeyer (Leipzig: Hiersemann, 1931) no. 60: 26-27.


H.16 has interesting similarities. A woman tells Till that her child is constipated. When she is gone, he defecates on the floor but makes her take this as evidence of a cure by moving the child in its training chair over the spot. He thus violates a taboo by behaving maliciously as the child might have done innocently (using the chair but forgetting the pot).

~Ii Virmond 76. On the varieties of verbal trickery, see Arendt 76-85; Wunderlich, "Till Eulenspiegel" 76; Virmond's entries under "Wortspiel o.a," 153-57; and Alexander Schwarz, "Verkehrte Welt im Ulenspiegel" Daphnis 15 (1986): 441-61.

n Peter Rusterholz, "Till Eulenspiegel als Sprachkritiker," Wirkendes Wort 27 (1977): 18-26, here 22. :!H Aristotle, The Politics, ed. Stephen Everson (Cambridge: Cambridge U~ 1988) 3. ~ Aristotle, TheNichomachean EthicsofAristotle, trans. David Ross (London: Oxford U~ 1954) 77-78.


See Martin Grabmann, Diemittelalterlichen Kommentarezur PolitikdesAristoteles, Sitzungsberichte der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Phil.-hist. Abt. (1941), vol. II, part 10.

:i1 Ralph Lerner and Muhsin Mahdi, eds., Medieval PoliticalPhilosophy. A Sourcebook (Ithaca: Cornell U~ 1972) 310-11.

:~:! Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Blackfriars edition and translation, 60 vols. (New York: McGrawHill; London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1964-76). Here 2a2aeA,4, resp. (31:129).

:1:1 Piaget recognizes in children "two distinct classifications of language as it functions in relation to thought, namely, egocentric speech and socialized speech"; these are developmentally sequential. In young children one finds "egocentric speech . . . which has no social function," and this yields gradually to the speech of adult discourse: '1\s the child matures his speech shows more attention to socialized language or thought that can be communicated; greater emphasis is laid on understanding by someone else . . ." (Marian E. Breckenridge and Margaret Nesbitt Murphy, Growth and Development of the }Dung Child, 7th ed. [Philadelphia: Saunders, 1963] 380). Piaget called the foundation of socialized speech l'information adoptee, which enables the child to communicate: "L'enfant parvient ase faire ecouter de son interlocuteur et agir sur lui, c'est-a-dire alui apprendre quelque chose" tLe langage etlapensee chez l'enfant, 2nd ed. [Paris: Delachaux et Niestle, 1930] 31-32). He finds that children between six and seven use egocentric speech nearly half the time, but between seven and eight "les enfants . . . cherchent aobtenir un echange et une comprehension reciproque meilleurs" (69). Till's verbal trickery depends on l'information maladaptee, on a determination to avoid l'echange et comprehension reciproque. When he plays his verbal pranks he reverts to the unsocialized speech of the young child.

:w It is possible to find antecedents or parallels to Till's traits in other literature and literary traditions: wordplay in comic tales ("Der betrogene Blinde," "Minnedurst"); scatalogical pranks in the St. Paul Neidhart play ("Neidhart mit dem Veilchen") and in the Fastnachtspiele; asexuality (as noted) in certain prankster cycles (Stricker's "Pfaffe Amis," "Der Pfaffe von Kalenberg"). It is the coincidence and coordination of these features in Ulenspiegel, and the fact that they are forced upon the readers' attention, that indicate authorial intention to use them as markers of childishness.

as jean-Claude Margolin, Erasme Declaratio de Pueris statim ac liberaliter instituendis. Etude critique, traduction et commentaire (Geneva: Droz, 1966) 401. On the relative optimism of Quintilian and his school, see Gerald Strauss, Luther'sHouseofLearning.IndoctrinationoftheYoung intheGermanReformation (Baltimore: johns Hopkins U~ 1978) 48-54, esp. 50. Further quotations in this paragraph are from Strauss. See also Klaus Arnold, Kind und Gesellschaft im Mittelalter und Renaissance (Paderborn: Schoningh: Munich: Lurz, 1980) 78-82.

:Ul "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him" (Prov, 22: 15, RSV), paraphrased by Brant: "Die rut der ziicht vertribt on smertz / Die narrheit uBdes kindes hertz" tDasNarrenschiff, ed. Manfred Lemmer [Tiibingen: Niemeyer, 1962] 12).

:17 Navicula sive speculum fatuorum . .. (Strassburg, 1510), Diii.r (abbreviations resolved): "Puer qui dimittitur sue voluntati confundit matrem . . . Ex se sciunt peierare / litigare ligurire / mentiri / et cetera peccata producere. Non autem orare: verum dicere: mansuetudinem: humilitatem etc. . . . Noli ergo dimittere eum sue voluntati: quia corrupta est hec in origine: est terra salsa corruptione originalis peccati."

:IH Georg Wickram, Siimtliche Werke, ed. Hans-Gert Roloff, 12 vols. (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1967-73), III: 133.

:l~ Georg Wickram, ~rke, ed. johannes Bolte and Willy Scheel, 8 vols. (Tubingen: Literarischer Verein in Stuttgart' 1901-06), V: 76-76.


Wickram, Samtliche Werke, VI; quoted by line.


C. Borchling, "Ein prosaischer nd. Totentanz des 16. Jahrhunderts," Niederdeutsches jahrbucn (1902): 25-31: "He stu vader vnd moder geerd, behorsam gewesen ..." (30). On the attribution to Bote, see Wunderlich, "Till Eulenspiegel" 29 (see n. 3).


Hans Sachs, "Eulenspiegel auf dem ros," Siimtlicne Fabeln und Schwanke von Hans Sachs, ed. Edmund Goetze and Carl Drescher (Halle a. S.: Niemeyer, 1903),

IV: 320-21; and Johann Fischart, "Eulenspiegel Reimensweill,"Johann Fischarts Werke. Zweiter Teil, ed. Adolf Hauffen (1892-95; Stuttgart: Union, 1973); quoted by line.

n On Lutheran opinion, see Strauss 94-107. Later printings of Ulenspiegel used by Sachs and Fischart give Till's age at the time of this trick as four (Virmond 199, n.130).

44 Strauss 99-100 and Arnold 18-21. When he turned seven, Wickram's prodigal son "fieng an zu verston was gut und bof was" iSamtlicne Werke, III: 131). Strauss (101) cites a story by Wickram of a children's game in which one child amorally cuts the throat of another so that he and his playmates can use the blood to make sausage. Note that these children are just under seven years of age ("junge kinder, funff-, sechsjerige meitle und knaben": Das Rolluagenbuchlein, ed. johannes Bolte [Stuttgart: Reclam, 1968] 130).


Text in Ludwig Hanselmann, ed., Die Chroniken der niedersiichiscnen Stddte. Braunschweig, 2 vols. (186880; Leipzig: Hirzel, 1962), II: 269-493.


George Schoolfield, "Hermen Bote: An Introductory Essay" Germanic Studies in Honor of Otto Springer, ed. Stephen j. Kaplowitt (Pittsburgh: K&S Enterprises, 1978) 281-303, here 294.


Hans Leo Reimann, UnruheundAufruhr im mittelalterlichen Braunschweig (Braunschweig: Waisenhaus, 1962) suspects serious municipal failures behind the troubles of 1513-14: "Ehe nicht die Fragen geklart sind, warum eine so breite Masse in schwere Not geriet, ohne daf der Rat etwas dagegen unternahm . . . wird eine befriedigende Darstellung dieses Aufstandes nicht zu geben sein" (113).

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