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Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Cheats and Devices

The Earliest Version of the Classic Legend

new material in this edition copyright © 2019


Eulenspiegel Cover


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The Earliest Text of a Classic

This book contains the earliest surviving English version of tales about Till Eulenspiegel, published in the mid-1500s and translated from a German text by an anonymous author who identified himself as N, which was published in the 1510s and was the first written version of oral tales that circulated in the 1400s.

In the nineteenth century, when Till Eulenspiegel became a favorite subject of children’s books, the tales were bowdlerized and the pranks were innocent. Eulenspiegel was often drawn wearing a jester’s cap.

In the original tales, Eulenspiegel is an opportunist who is always inventing schemes to avoid work and to cheat people out of their money. The humor can be crude, the character can be exasperating, and the pranks can be cruel—particularly when they are meant as revenge against those who resisted his schemes.

Modern readers may well find many of the tales offensive, but they are a good example of the popular humor of Europe during the early Renaissance.

The spelling and punctuation of the tales are modernized, so it is easy for contemporary readers to understand the text. They are accompanied by the original woodcut illustrations from a German edition of 1515.

We are pleased to make this classic accessible to modern English-speaking readers for the first time.