Peasant Autonomy
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Story 9

A forest in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany – about 1630


for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Péter Molnár)


Dear reader, I am of most humble origins. But, as you can see, I still managed to learn to write. I will tell how this happened. As a child, I lived at a small farm in the middle of the forest. It was my task to herd the sheep. One day a lot of monsters showed up out of the forest. They were half bull, half man. The bulls had no horns, but the men had iron on their bodies. Later on I understood that they were soldiers on their horses, but I had never seen a horse before. The soldiers went to our farm, smashed everything to pieces, slaughtered a lot of animals, and killed my mother, father, sister and our servant. I was able to flee into the forest, and to hide in a hollow tree. Oh, what a terrible time it was.

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Mark van der Velden)


When the soldiers finally moved on, I didn't know what to do. Nothing was left of our farm. I wandered through the forest, living on berries, nuts and mushrooms, when suddenly I heard a man singing. I watched him from behind a bush. How strange he looked: a long beard, his hair tangled, a garment made of all sorts of different pieces of cloth and leather. But finally I came out, because I was so awfully hungry.
The man proved to be a hermit. He had a tiny hut with only one iron cooking pot. He caught fish in a stream, gathered leaves in the forest to eat, and had a small vegetable garden with some beans and so on. A friendly pastor from a village many kilometres away brought him a bit of salt from time to time.

The hermit felt sorry for me. He was surprised at how little I knew, and that's why he called me Simplicissimus, what means most simple, as he explained to me. He told me stories from the Bible, and taught me prayers. When he noticed how eager I was to learn, he later on also taught me to read and write. When the hermit died peacefully a few years later, I moved on into the wide world.


The novel Simplicius Simplicissimus (1668) from the German writer Hans von Grimmelshausen tells the life of an ordinary peasant boy who goes from one adventure to another.

Go to:
= the next page: The courage of the Ceddo - a village in Senegal – around 1700, story 10.
= the Table of contents, story 9.