This site is dedicated to and inspired by the original Till (or Dyl) Eulenspiegel. We have, with tongue in cheek and rubber gloves, modeled our own quiz master upon his legacy of mirroring the truth.
The original Till Eulenspiegel was allegedly born in in the Saxony town of Brusnswick, Northern Germany around the year 1300. Unfortunately, there is no birth record to verify this. Just a single record of a “Widow Eulenspiegel” in the area many years later.
The Merry Adventures
Was he pure fiction or was there really a Till Eulenspiegel? Answers are scarce. Beyond a chapbook, published around 1510-1515, chronicles 96 of the Eulenspiegel’s adventures and the legends handed down, all we really have is a rumored grave site, a possible widow, and of course many statues, as proof of Till Eulenspiegel existence.
Owl and the Mirror
Even the meaning of his name is subject to debate. In high German, his name translates to “Owl Mirror”. Some scholars claim he is wisely holding up a mirror to the victims of his pranks. In these tales, Till often exposes foolishness and folly. The quintessential Joker, he is almost always witty. He accomplishes this by means of using, and taking, his victims words literally.
Sometimes this works out for him well, other times not so well. His fortunes are often bleak and in at least one of his incarnations he is hung because of his perfidy.
“Eulenspiegel: all the chief jests of the book depend on this: that everybody speaks figuratively and Eulenspiegel takes it literally.”Paul Oppenheimer’s introduction to Till Eulenspiegel:His Adventures, paperback published by Oxford University Press, 1995
Another theory about the name
Maybe, because it may be difficult for some to find the wisdom “behind” his tales outlined in the books, a second theory emerges. For instance when, as a lad, he bares his bottom to the crowd. Some, also, might find it hard to glean a noble or wise motive when he tricks his victims into handling (or, in some cases eating!) his feces. Of course to be fair, maybe they never saw The Help.
I guess it’s not too surprising that some think that the name of Eulenspiegel’s is a twist on the old low German slang, “ul’n Speghel”. Which loosely translates to “Asswipe”
Either theory could fit the legend, so perhaps it was meant to be both. A sly literary double entendre that pays homage to both aspects of Till’s tales.
Medieval Viral Star
By the late 1500’s his story was being told and published in French, English, and Dutch.
Whatever his origins or the meaning of his name, Till went viral , the old fashioned way. Beyond the chapbooks, his story spread by way of the tales that grannies told their grand kids. Through the jokes told at pubs, clubs and stables.
Yep, our prankster Till was ahead of his time in many ways, and at the same time, perhaps even timeless, right down to the fecal humor.
By the mid 1500’s the tales of his escapades and outrageous wit had spread far and wide. Making him a standard figure of folklore throughout much of Europe and even further
We enjoy it when the pious charade is exposed. When the hypocrite gets their comeuppance. And we really enjoy it when in his merry way, Till figuratively tells them all to “Eat my shit”.
Maybe the key to his appeal is that his actions mirror our own inner impulses to strike back at bullies, show off and even expose the truth when the reality conflicts with the narrative of the powerful and greedy.
Maybe this is why Till inspired works of art by classical composers, rebellion, authors and scholars throughout the years.
Published in 1867, “The Legend of Thyl Ulenspiegel and Lamme Goedzak” tells of the adventures of Flemish martyr Till (Thyl) Eulenspiegel during the Reformation wars in the Netherlands. For many, he became the symbol of the Flemish revolt.
Much in the way of Coster, but hopefully not as tragically, we have appropriated the clever peasant trickster to become our modern day, American quiz master. As our proctor, he holds up a mirror for you to better see the truth. To prepare you. To educate and amuse while Exposing the truth. Making us think, making us laugh. Even when the jokes on your, you can feel the joy.
Kathy Sweeney, Curator