Online Encyclopedia

FORTUNATUS

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V10, Page 727 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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FORTUNATUS, the legendary hero of a popular European chap-book. He was a native, says the story, of Famagusta in Cyprus, and meeting the goddess of Fortune in a forest received from her a purse which was continually replenished as often as he drew from it. With this he wandered through many lands, and at Cairo was the guest of the sultan. Among the treasures which the sultan showed him was an old napless hat which had the power of transporting its wearer to any place he desired. Of this hat he feloniously possessed himself, and returned to Cyprus, where he led a luxurious life. On his death he left the purse and the hat to his sons Ampedo and Andelosia; but they were jealous of each other, and by their recklessness and folly soon fell on evil days. The moral of the story is obvious: men should desire reason and wisdom before all the treasures of the world. In its full form the history of Fortunatus occupies in Karl Simrock's Die deutschen Volksbucher, vol. iii., upwards of 158 pages. The scene is continually shifted—from Cyprus to Flanders, from Flanders to London, from London to France; and a large number of secondary characters appear. The style and allusions indicate a comparatively modern date for the authorship; but the nucleus of the legend can be traced back to a much earlier period. The stories of Jonathas and the three jewels in the Gesta Romanorum, of the emperor Frederick and the three precious stones in the Cento Novelle antiche, of the Mazin of Khorassan in the Thousand and one Nights, and the flying scaffold in the Bahar Danush, have all a certain similarity. The earliest known edition of the German text of Fortunatus appeared at Augsburg in 1509, and the modern German investigators are disposed to regard this as the original form. Innumerable versions occur in French, Italian, Dutch and English. The story was dramatized by Hans Sachs in 1553, and by Thomas Dekker in 1600; and the latter's comedy appeared in a German translation in Englische Komodien and Tragodien, 162o. Ludwig Tieck has utilized the legend in his Phantasus, and Adelbert von Chamisso in his Peter Schlemihl; and Ludwig Uhland left an unfinished narrative poem entitled "Fortunatus and his Sons." See Dr Fr. W. V. Schmidt's Fortunatus and seine Sohne, eine Zauber-Tragodie, von Thomas Decker, mit einem Anhang, &c. (Berlin, 1819) ; Joseph Johann Gorres, Die deutschen Volksbucher (1807).
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