Daily Illuminator

August 11, 2008: It's All True

In 1988, Terry Gilliam directed The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, presenting a rather sanitized version of one of the Baron's adventures, crafted for mass consumption. Many people are aware of this film.

Fewer are aware of The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen, published in 1895. These tales are closer in factual content to his legendary activities. These volumes are difficult to find, although I personally won an autographed, leather-bound set in a thumb-wrestling match in the Balkans in 1983. Lost them several years later, in a hurricane, but that's another story.

However, the most sought-after edition was published in 1808. Collectors believed all copies to have been destroyed. Only the efforts of one James Wallis unearthed what is likely the last copy. Tales of his pursuit of this manuscript have been confirmed to have induced at least three heart attacks, nine fainting episodes, and one case of intense gastrointestinal distress. While he has taken a vow of silence regarding the entire tale, he may, if plied with flattery and expensive drinks, relate a portion of the harrowing story.

The rest of us can read the lost manuscript, distributed exclusively through the digital portal known as e23, in the form of The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. This parlor game allows participants to test their tale-telling skills, aspiring to the bar set by the Baron himself.

The difference is, of course, that the Baron's adventures were all true.
-- Paul Chapman


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