of the Month: August 2005
Eulenspiegel hard at work teaching a jackass to read in
This month we take a look at a contemporary stein designed by Bjorn Wiinblad
in 1975 and produced by Rosenthal, renowned German manufacturer of tablewares.
This stein is one of a series in Rosenthal's studio-linie (studio line)
depicting the rascally tales of Till Eulenspiegel.
Webster's Deluxe Unabridged Dictionary identifies Till Eulenspiegel as a
14th Century Brunswick peasant whose pranks and drollness were the subject of
widespread tales and the inspiration for a tone-poem by Richard Strauss. Encyclopedia
Americana adds: "Reputedly, Till was historical and died in 1350 of the
Black Death. His grave near Brunswick is still pointed out. ...The key to Till's
popularity lies in his escapades in almost every town in Germany as well as
towns in Denmark and Poland. He even traveled to Paris, where he was a
schoolmaster at the Sorbonne. He beguiled his employers in almost every
occupation: doctor, dentist, smith, cobbler, tailor, tanner, butcher, horse
dealer and monk."
The six steins in this series are a creamy porcelain color with line drawings
depicting Eulenspiegel's various mis-adventures. The steins have an unusual
cloverleaf or quatrefoil cross-section which is carried through to the brushed
pewter lid. Three of the steins are signed "Wiinblad '75", two are
signed simply "Wiinblad" and one is unsigned.
Now let's take a look at how Eulenspiegel bamboozled the professors of the
University of Erfurt by teaching a jackass to read.
Tales of Till Eulenspiegel
29. How Till Eulenspiegel taught a
jackass to read an old psalmbook in Erfurt.
Translation by Carolyn Place. The number preceding the title indicates the
position of this tale within the 95 original episodes published in 1515.
Artwork by Bjorn Wiinblad which decorates one of the Rosenthal steins
depicting the antics of Till Eulenspiegel.
Eulenspiegel came to Erfurt where there is a large and famous University.
The professors of the University had heard much about his sly cunning and
sniffed to themselves that he would not play tricks as he did in Prague
(referring to another tale involving University students), and they decided they
would give Eulenspiegel a donkey to teach as there are many donkeys in Erfurt,
young and old.
They sent for Eulenspiegel and said to him "Master, you have advertised
that you can quickly teach every creature to read and write. Now, here are the
gentlemen of the university wanting to give you a young jackass to teach. Do you
believe you can teach him?"
He said yes, but he must have time. Since it was an unreasoning creature, it
would take him 21 years. Eulenspiegel thought to himself, "There are three
possibilities: The Rector of the University dies and I'll be released. I die and
none can admonish me. My student dies and I will likewise be free." In the
meantime, he would be paid a good wage to perform such a feat. So Eulenspiegel
took the donkey and pulled him to a tower in a lodging place. There he alone
built a stall for his pupil and took his old psalmbook and lay it in the manger.
Between each page he lay grains of oats, which in order for the donkey to get
them, it had to turn the pages with its tongue. When the donkey found no more
oats between the pages it would bray "Eee aah, Eee aah!"
|Teaching the donkey to "read", Till hides oats in
When Eulenspiegel noted this he went to the Rector and said, "Herr Rector,
would you like to see how my pupil is doing?" The Rector replied,
"Dear Master, are you saying the student accepted your teaching?"
Eulenspiegel replied, "He has as yet a coarse style and he is difficult to
teach, yet with great diligence, I have brought him to the point where he knows
a few letters and can recognize and name some vowels. Won't you go with me to
hear and see this?"
The good student had fasted all day. At 3:00 PM Eulenspiegel came with the
Rector and various Masters of the University and lay a new book before his
pupil. As soon as the donkey found it in the manger, he flipped the pages over,
looking for oats. When he found none, he began to shriek in a loud voice, "Eee
aah, Eee aah!"
Then spoke Eulenspiegel: "See, dear gentlemen, he can only say now the two
vowels I and A, but I hope he will get better."
A short time later the Rector died. That ended Eulenspiegel's obligation to his
student and he could leave with the money he'd acquired. He thought to himself,
"If you should make all the jackasses in Erfurt wise, you'd need a lot of
sweat!" Since he had little eagerness for that task, it remains undone.
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