Monday, February 2, 2009

Recounting the Baron's Tales, Finally (or Again.)

So I’ve begun reading something I probably should have read long ago.
The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen.
It’s the “accepted as most complete” version by Rudolph Erich Raspe.

I talked in this post about how much I enjoyed Terry Gilliam’s movie about the wacky escapades of the famed prestigeous “liar.” Why I never bothered to seek out the most complete and well-known compilation of the stories is beyond me. It's not like me, in fact. Perhaps out of sight out of mind? Or maybe too many other pursuits?

Well, I’m reading it now. It’s quite as I expected it to be in content. Fortunately the Baron is the narrator, so Gilliam factored correctly for his film. It’s much more satisfying to have Munchausen recount his own adventures. They have a “matter-of-fact” quality, despite the outlandish occurrences. Plus, his snide commentary can be just as amusing as the ventures.

One drawback exists, which upon examination, I must add, conversely could be construed as a boon in the writing rather than a hindrance to the literature which I am admonishing for the very same style of construction. Didn’t quite follow that sentence? You were meant to have trouble with it. You see, Munchausen often reads like a pretentious textbook lecture. Take, for example, how Munchausen begins:

Some years before my beard announced approaching manhood, or, in other words, when I was neither man nor boy, but between both, I expressed in repeated conversations a strong desire of seeing the world, from which I was discouraged by my parents, though my father had been no inconsiderable traveller himself, as will appear before I have reached the end of my singular, and, I may add, interesting adventures.

Works well, though, especially since it's generally supposed to be a prestigious, verbose man telling you his tales around a table or something of the sort. But - it’s not a conducive match to morning blahs and noisy trains. (You might recall that most of my reading is done in transit.) Quite fun, nevertheless. It just may take me longer to read, as it seems I must maintain a mindset to do so.
I already see one place where Gilliam rearranged. One of the Baron’s ideas is intact, but he wound up changing the medium, of sorts. In Gilliam’s he escapes from the Moon using a lock of the Queen (of the Moon)’s hair woven into rope. In the written tale, he uses straw that he happens to find. And rather than visiting the Moon, he merely makes his way there to retrieve a hatchet he accidentally threw up to far, i.e. to the Moon.

It will be interesting to see the re-packaging of what I already know of the story. I just hope the retooling doesn’t shed a bad light on a movie I hold dear. But then, if it does, perhaps I can find the right filter. For Raspe is not the sole creator of the tales of the Baron. And we all know the Baron can’t be trusted as having told the same story twice without embellishment.

And didn't they do a wonderful job of making up John Neville to look like the Gustave Dore drawing above?

Viva the Baron!

Barren Munchausen??

No comments: