Till Eulenspiegel  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Till Eulenspiegel is the protagonist of a German chapbook published in 1515 (a first edition of c. 1510/12 is preserved fragmentarily) with a possible background in earlier Middle Low German folklore.

Eulenspiegel is a native of Brunswick whose picaresque career takes him to many places throughout the Holy Roman Empire. He plays practical jokes on his contemporaries, especially scatological in nature, exposing vices at every turn. His life is set in the first half of the 14th century, and the final chapters of the chapbook describe his death from the plague of 1350. His name translates to "owl mirror", and the frontispiece of the 1515 chapbook, as well as his alleged tombstone in Mölln, Schleswig-Holstein, display the name in rebus writing, by an owl and a hand mirror. There is a suggestion that the name is in fact a veiled pun on a Low German phrase translating to "wipe-arse". (From a Middle Low German verb ulen "to wipe" and spegel "mirror", a term used in the sense of "buttocks, behind" (used in hunting jargon of the bright tail area of fallow deer); ul'n spegel would then amount to an imperative "wipe the arse!". Paul Oppenheimer, "Introduction" in: Till Eulenspiegel. His Adventures. Routledge, 1991, p. LXIII. See also Swabian salute.)

Retellings of the Eulenspiegel tradition have been published in modern literature, since the later 19th century. Notably, The Legend of Thyl Ulenspiegel and Lamme Goedzak by Charles De Coster (1867) transfers the character to the context of the Protestant Reformation and the Dutch Revolt. The Ulenspiegel (modern Dutch: Tijl Uilenspiegel) from this novel became a symbol of Flemish independence.


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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Till Eulenspiegel" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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