Book Review: The Life of Courage by Johann Grimmelshausen

the life of courageA few months ago I reviewed Simplicius Simplicissimus, a best-selling German novel set during the Thirty Years War. It seems Grimmelshausen, its author wished to capitalize on its success, so he wrote this sequel. Which is to be honest, much shorter and a lot more fun. The subtitle The Notorious Thief, Whore and Vagabond, is a pretty good summary of one very bad girl’s adventures in wartime.

The story is told as a rebuttal to Simplicissimus, who at one point tells of an encounter he had with a woman of ill repute. Said woman takes exception to the way she is portrayed and gives us the REAL story.

A young Bohemian teenager, cast out into the world in the early days of the Thirty Years War, Courage quickly abandons her real name and all of her morals. Courage is in fact, the nickname for her ladyparts, which get an astonishing amount of use in the course of the war. She marries so many times I lost track, but her husbands tend to die in battle, so she’s always looking for a new one, while supplementing her income with prostitution and swindles of all kinds in the meantime.

The lucky recipient of a spell that makes her bulletproof, Courage is happy to join in battle and the plunder that inevitably follows. She starts out on the imperial side, but over the years, as her reputation follows her, her beauty deserts her and she contracts a well-deserved case of syphilis, she’s forced to find men where she can get them and eventually ends up on the Swedish-Protestant side before finally joining a band of gypsies where she can put her various skills to use.

Completely unapologetic for her bad behavior and all the trouble she’s caused, Courage is an enjoyable scoundrel of the highest order, and yes, she makes the roguish Simplicissimus look like a mere amateur. Ultimately, he’ll be sorry he tangled with her.

While this was first published in 1670, I read a recent and excellent English translation that did a wonderful job capturing the vitality of this interesting character and time.

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2 comments on “Book Review: The Life of Courage by Johann Grimmelshausen
  1. Natalie K. says:

    You read the strangest stuff! (That’s a compliment, as I read some pretty strange stuff, too!) 🙂

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