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Hieronymus Carl Friedrich von Münchhausen
Münchhausen c. 1740 as a Cuirassier in Riga, by G. Bruckner
Born (1720-05-11)May 11, 1720
Died February 22, 1797(1797-02-22) (aged 76)
Nationality German
Occupation Nobleman, military officer
Known for Tall tales
Spouse(s) Jacobine von Dunten
Bernardine von Brunn

Hieronymus Carl Friedrich von Münchhausen (German pronunciation: [ˈmʏnç(h)aʊzən]; 11 May 1720 – 22 February 1797) was a German nobleman and a famous recounter of tall tales. He joined the Russian military and took part in two campaigns against the Ottoman Turks. Upon returning home, Münchhausen is said to have told a number of outrageously farfetched stories about his adventures.[1]

Münchhausen's reputation as a storyteller has been exaggerated by writers, giving birth to a fully fictionalized literary character usually called simply Baron Munchausen.

Münchausen syndrome and the Münchhausen trilemma are named after him.


Manor House at Bodenwerder, now Münchhausen Museum

The Baron (in German: Freiherr) was born in Bodenwerder, Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg, into an aristocratic family of the Hanover region. His father's second cousin, Gerlach Adolph von Münchhausen was prime minister under George III.

Münchhausen started as a page to Anthony Ulrich II of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, and followed his employer to the Russian Empire during the Russo-Turkish War (1735–1739).[2]

In 1739, he was appointed a cornet in the Russian cavalry regiment, the "Brunswick-Cuirassiers". The following year, he was promoted to lieutenant.[2] He was stationed in Riga, but participated in two campaigns against the Turks in 1740 and 1741.[2] In 1744 he married Jacobine von Dunten[2] and in 1750 he was promoted to Rittmeister, a cavalry captain.[2]

In 1760 Münchhausen retired to his manor and estates in Bodenwerder, where he lived with his wife until her death in 1790.[2][3] It was there, especially at dinner parties and similar aristocratic social gatherings, that he acquired a reputation as a storyteller, developing witty and highly exaggerated accounts of his adventures in Russia.[4] At the same time, Münchhausen was considered an honest man in business affairs.[2] As one contemporary put it, Münchhausen's unbelievable narratives were designed not to deceive, but "to ridicule the disposition for the marvellous which he observed in some of his acquaintances".[5]

Münchhausen married a second time, to Bernardine von Brunn, in 1794, which ended in divorce. He did not have any children.[2]


Doré's caricature of Münchhausen


The fictionalization of Münchhausen began in 1781–1783, when seventeen tall tales attributed to him appeared in the eighth and ninth volumes of the Vademecum fur lustige Leute.[3]

An English version was published in London in 1785, by Rudolf Erich Raspe, as Baron Munchausen's Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia, also called The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen.[2] It remains unclear how much of Raspe's story material derives from the Baron himself, but it is known that the majority of the stories are based on folktales that have been in circulation for many centuries before Münchhausen's birth.[2]

Series of postcards of Baron Munchausen

In 1786, Gottfried August Bürger translated Raspe's stories back into German, and extended them.[2] He published them under the title of Wunderbare Reisen zu Wasser und zu Lande: Feldzüge und lustige Abenteuer des Freiherrn von Münchhausen ("Marvellous Travels on Water and Land: Campaigns and Comical Adventures of the Baron of Münchhausen").[2]

The real-life Baron Münchhausen was said to be deeply annoyed that his name had been dragged into public consciousness as the Lügenbaron (German: "Baron of Lies") through the publication of stories under his name.[4]

Munchausen rides on a cannon ball

In the 19th century, the story had been expanded and translated into numerous languages, totaling over 100 various editions.[citation needed]

Mr. Munchausen, a new collection of Munchausen adventures, was written in 1901 by the American humorist John Kendrick Bangs, and combines the traditional fictional Baron with the literary genre now known as Bangsian fantasy.

Stage and radio

Comedian Jack Pearl played a character called Baron Munchausen. The punchline to most of these jokes came when the astonished listener finally had enough and expressed disbelief, and the Baron uttered the catchphrase, "Vas you dere, Sharlie?".[6]

In 2011 the National Black Light Theatre of Prague mounted a production of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.[7]


Baron Münchhausen underwater (Gottfried Franz, 1896)

In 1943, Bürger's book was adapted into a German feature film, Münchhausen, with Hans Albers in the title role. This was Germany's fourth full-color motion picture.

The 1958 German film Münchhausen in Afrika was directed by Werner Jacobs.

In 1961, the Czech director Karel Zeman directed Baron Prášil (Baron Munchausen), using animation and live actors.

In 1974 and 1975, four short cartoons were made in the Soviet Union (a fifth was made in 1995), called Münchhausen's Adventures.

In 1979 Mark Zakharov made a Russian film, based on a play by Grigori Gorin, The Very Same Munchhausen, relaying the story of the Baron's life after the adventures portrayed in the book.

In 1983 a French cartoon version was made, called Le Secret des sélénites (English: Moon Madness).

Terry Gilliam adapted the stories into the 1988 film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, with John Neville as the Baron and nine-year-old Sarah Polley as Sally Salt.

Various shorts are also known to have been made about the Baron's life, including the silent films Les Aventures de baron de Munchhausen (1911) by the French pioneer Georges Méliès and The New Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1915) by the British director Floyd Martin Thornton.


In 1962, the stories were adapted to comic form for Classics Illustrated #146 (British series), with cover illustration by Denis Gifford.


In 1998, James Wallis produced a multi-player storytelling/role-playing game titled The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen.[8]

In 2012 JoyBits released a puzzle/hidden-object game called The Surprising Adventures of Munchausen.[9]


German commemorative stamp for his 250th birthday in 1970

Medical nomenclature

In 1951, the British physician Richard Asher published an article describing three cases of patients whose factitious disorders led them to lie about their own states of health. Asher proposed to call the disorder "Munchausen Syndrome", commenting: "Like the famous Baron von Munchausen [sic], 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".[3]

Asher's nomenclature sparked some controversy. While Asher was praised for bringing cases of factitious disorder to light, some critics objected variously that a literary allusion was inappropriate given the seriousness of the disease; that its use of the Anglicized form "Munchausen" showed poor form; that the name linked the disease with Münchhausen himself, who did not have it; and that the name's connection to works of humor and fantasy, and to the essentially ridiculous character of the fictionalized Baron, was disrespectful to patients suffering from the disorder.[4]

The name has spawned two additional coinages: Münchausen syndrome by proxy, in which illness-feigning is done by caretakers rather than patients, and Münchausen by Internet, in which illness-feigning occurs in online venues.


Latvian commemorative coin of 2005

There is a club "Münchhausen's Grandchildren" (Внучата Мюнхаузена) in Kaliningrad (formerly Königsberg), Russia, which contains a number of "historical proofs" of presence of the Baron in Königsberg, including the skeleton of the whale in whose belly the Baron was entrapped.

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.[10] A similar monument of the Baron is also installed in his city of birth, as well as a fountain of Münchhausen sitting on the front half of his horse.

An international tour of the places visited by Baron Münchhausen was established as a joint venture of Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, and Kaliningrad.

At Duntes Muiža, Latvia (German name: Dunteshof), home of Münchhausen's first wife Jacobine von Dunten, a Münchhausen Museum was opened up in 2005. The couple had lived there between 1744 and 1750, before moving back to Bodenwerder. The Latvian central bank produced a commemorative coin on this occasion.

In 1994, a main belt asteroid was named 14014 Münchhausen in honor of the Baron.[11]


  1.  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911) "Munchausen, Baron" Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.) Cambridge University Press 
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 Karl Ernst Hermann Krause (1886). "Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB)" (in de). Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot. pp. 1–5. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Olry, R. (June 2002). "Baron Munchhausen and the Syndrome Which Bears His Name: History of an Endearing Personage and of a Strange Mental Disorder". pp. 53–57. Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Fisher, Jill A (Spring 2006). "Investigating the Barons: narrative and nomenclature in Munchausen syndrome". pp. 250–62. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 
  5. Kareem, Sarah Tindal (May 2012). "Fictions, Lies, and Baron Munchausen’s Narrative". pp. 483–509. Digital object identifier:10.1086/665538. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 
  6. "Jack Pearl". December 28, 1982. Retrieved 1 November 2012. 
  7. "The National Black Light Theatre of Prague: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen". Retrieved 1 November 2012. 
  8. Varney, Allen (2007). "The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen". In Lowder, James. Hobby Games: The Best 100. Green Ronin Publishing. pp. 107–109. ISBN 978-1-932442-96-0. 
  9. "The Surprising Adventures of Munchausen". Gamehouse. Retrieved 1 November 2012. 
  10. "Münchhausen-Denkmal in Kaliningrad eingeweiht". Kaliningrad, RU: Russland-Aktuell. 22 June 2005. Retrieved 7 April 2011.  (German)
  11. "14014 Munchhausen (1994 AL16)". JPL Small-Body Database Browser. NASA. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 

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