First Advisor

Louis Elteto

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in German




Hans Jakob Christoph von Grimmelshausen (1625-1676). Simplicissimus



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, 81 p.)


The bloody epoch of the Thirty Years' War and the wide spread decline of German culture and social life is the major topic in Simplicissimus, the first High German novel written by Hans Jacob Christoph von Grimmelshausen in 1668. The purpose of this thesis is to summarize the development of this novel and to find Grimmelshausen's intention in writing his book which was immensely popular upon its publication, but disappeared into obscurity during the German classical period. Since its rediscovery in the middle of the 19th century, scholars have puzzled over the satirical meaning of Simplicissimus as well as the identity of its author. By concentrating on the sources available to Grimmelshausen, researchers have proposed a variety of interpretations of the text. Some see the book as Germany's best example of the Spanish picaresque novel, others include it in the genre of "Bildungsroman", whose classic example is Goethe's Wilhelm Meister. Many readers marvel over the satirical and witty language of the novel, while others admire its sophisticated structures. It is evident that scholars have yet to reach a consensus on a comprehensive interpretation of Simplicissimus. Valuable insight could be gained from discovering Grimmelshausen's intentions. By searching the text carefully for statements made by the author about his opinion on social customs, war, family, religion etc., a composite picture of Grimmelshausen's world view was constructed. By combining these assumed attitudes and opinions with his personal development and the social and historical influences of his time, the conclusion emerged that the author wrote his novel out of an ethical didactic urge to confront his readers with the ills of their time. The economic, political and religious changes of the 17th century uprooted the established medieval structures of European life, causing millions of deaths and devastation in large parts of Germany. Grimmelshausen saw the deterioration of life directly related to the changes in the beliefs and behaviors of his contemporaries and felt compelled to alarm his fellow men. A second motivational force for his literary endeavors was the necessity to supplement his small income as tavern owner, although he certainly could not have anticipated the astonishing success of his book. The confusing array of literary forms in Simplicissimus is the result of the author's concern with his message which subordinated the adherence to a specific genre, but nevertheless produced a masterpiece of German literature.


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