Baron Munchausen (/ˈmʌntʃaʊzən, ˈmʊntʃ-/;[a] German: [ˈmʏnçˌhaʊzn̩]) is a fictional German nobleman created by the German writer Rudolf Erich Raspe in his 1785 book Baron Munchausen's Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia. The character is loosely based on a real baron, Hieronymus Karl Friedrich, Freiherr von Münchhausen.
The relationship between the real and fictional Barons is complex. On the one hand, the fictional Baron Munchausen can be easily distinguished from the historical figure Hieronymus von Münchhausen; the character is so separate from his namesake that at least one critic, the writer W. L. George, concluded that the namesake's identity was irrelevant to the general reader, and Richard Asher named Munchausen syndrome using the anglicized spelling so that the disorder would reference the character rather than the real person. On the other hand, Münchhausen remains strongly connected to the character he inspired, and is still nicknamed the Lügenbaron ("Baron of Lies") in German. As the Munchausen researcher Bernhard Wiebel has said, "These two barons are the same and they are not the same."
On 18 June 2005, to celebrate the 750th anniversary of Kaliningrad, a monument to the Baron was unveiled as a gift from Bodenwerder, portraying the Baron's cannonball ride. Bodenwerder sports a Munchausen monument in front of its Town Hall, as well as a Munchausen museum including a large collection of illustrated editions of the stories. Another Munchausen Museum (Minhauzena Muzejs) exists in Duntes Muiža, Liepupe parish, Latvia, home of the real Baron's first wife; the couple had lived in the town for six years, before moving back to the baronial estate in Hanover. In 2005, to mark the real-life Baron's 285th birthday, the National Bank of Latvia issued a commemorative silver coin.
In 1951, the British physician Richard Asher published an article in The Lancet describing patients whose factitious disorders led them to lie about their own states of health. Asher proposed to call the disorder "Munchausen's syndrome", commenting: "Like the famous Baron von Munchausen, the persons affected have always travelled widely; and their stories, like those attributed to him, are both dramatic and untruthful. Accordingly, the syndrome is respectfully dedicated to the baron, and named after him". The disease is now usually referred to as Munchausen syndrome. The name has spawned two other coinages: Munchausen syndrome by proxy, in which illness is feigned by caretakers rather than patients, and Munchausen by Internet, in which illness is feigned online.
- Attributed to Baron Munchausen There really was a Baron Munchausen. His full name was Karl Friedrich Hieronymous von Munchausen, and he lived from 1720 to 1797 and fought for the Russians against the Turks. He was, it is said, in the habit of embellishing his war stories, and in 1785 a jewel thief from Hanover named Rudolf Erich Raspe published a book in England which claimed to be based on the baron's life and times.
The real von Munchausen apparently did not complain about this book that made free with his reputation, even though it included such tall stories as the time the baron tethered his horse to a "small twig" in a snowstorm, and discovered when the snow melted that the twig was actually a church steeple.
I remember the illustration that appeared with that story when I read it as a child: The baron on the ground, looking up in perplexity at his horse, which was still hanging from the steeple. I remember asking my father how the horse was going to get down, and my father speculating that he would have to wait until it snowed again, which seemed like a bleak prospect for the horse. And so I asked if the baron could feed his horse in the meantime by climbing up the steeple with hay. The mind of a child is wonderfully literal. And one of the charms of seeing "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" was to see some of the baron's other impossible adventures, looking for all the world as if they had really happened, thanks to extraordinary special effects.
Terry Gilliam's film is, in itself, a tribute to the spirit of the good baron. Gilliam must have had to embellish a few war stories himself, to get Columbia Pictures to spend a reported $46 million on this project, which is one of the three or four most expensive films ever made. The special effects are astonishing, but so is the humor with which they are employed. It is not enough that one of the baron's friends is the fastest runner in the world. He must run all the way to Spain and back in an hour, to fetch a bottle of wine and save the baron's neck. And he must be able to outrun a speeding bullet, stop it, and redirect it back toward the man who fired it.
These adventures, and others, are told with a cheerfulness and a light touch that never betray the time and money it took to create them. It's one thing to spent $46 million; it's another to spend it insouciantly. The movie begins when the baron indignantly interrupts a play that is allegedly based on his life, and continues as he tells the "real" story of his travels - which took him not merely to Turkey but also to the moon, to the heart of a volcano, and into the stomach of a sea monster so big that people actually lived there quite comfortably, once they had been swallowed.
The baron (John Neville) is accompanied on some of these adventures by his friends, including not only the world's fastest man, but also the world's strongest man, the man with the best hearing in the world, and another friend who does not have great eyesight, but owns glasses that allow him to see almost any distance. Even when he is separated from these comrades, the baron travels in good company: when a Venus appears from a seashell, she is played by Uma Thurman, the young innocent from "Dangerous Liaisons," and when the man in the moon appears, he is Robin Williams, with a detachable head that is able to spin off into the night on its own.
Some of the effects in this movie are actually quite wonderful, as when the baron and a friend return from the moon by climbing down two lengths of the same rope again and again, while the markings of a celestial globe apportion the sky behind them. In another scene, a giant feather falls softly onto a vast plain, while the baron tries to understand what strange new world he has found.
To humorous waifs of this description, without fixed origin or birthplace, did Raspe give a classical setting amongst embroidered versions of the baron's sporting jokes. The unscrupulous manner in which he affixed Munchausen's own name to the completed jeu d'esprit is, ethically speaking, the least pardonable of his crimes; for when Raspe's little book was first transformed and enlarged, and then translated into German, the genial old baron found himself the victim of an unmerciful caricature, and without a rag of concealment. It is consequently not surprising to hear that he became soured and reticent before his death at Bodenwerder in 1797.
George Cruikshank (1792-1878).The Travels and Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen: Illustrated with twenty-three curious engravings, from the baron's own designs, and five woodcuts, by G. Cruikshank. London: W. Tegg & Co., 1877.
Or perhaps this is peculiar to Baron Munchausen, the hero of Georges Méliès' ten-minute film, made in 1911 (although it's uncertain whether it was released before 1943). Otherwise known as Les Hallucinations du baron de Münchausen, or Les Aventures de baron de Munchhausen, it's generally referred to in English as Baron Munchausen's Dream.
All serves to wrap the audience in the world of the magnificent baron for an hour, before releasing us back into the frozen world of a Midwest university campus, where maybe Munchausen, at least in his imagination, did find a place on the faculty.
During the "Age of Reason" of the late 18th century, the Turkish army lays siege to a European city where a theater production about the extraordinary heroics of famed German aristocrat Baron Münchhausen is underway. A man steps forward to object that the performance is full of inaccuracies, claiming that he is the real Baron Münchhausen (John Neville). When the Turkish army approaches with gunfire, the baron undertakes his latest adventure with his promise to defend the city.
Sally represents a needed stricture upon the Baron. If he is all imagination and bluster, making up reality as he goes along, then she is the audience demanding that he finish the story he started. In her company, the old baron grows younger because he is an old story refreshed by his own retelling. He has the ability to go anywhere and does: the moon, the underworld of the god Vulcan (Oliver Reed) and the belly of a whale. Sally grounds the Baron, keeping him on narrative when he begins to stray too far. She is his witness and the vessel that will carry his stories after his final exit. Death looms over Munchausen throughout the movie, but because of Sally and the townspeople he affects, he can never truly die. 041b061a72