Grimmelshausen was born at Gelnhausen. At the age of ten he was kidnapped by Hessian soldiery, and in their midst tasted the adventures of military life in the Thirty Years' War. At its close, Grimmelshausen entered the service of Franz Egon von Fürstenberg, bishop in Straßburg and in 1665 was made Schultheiss (magistrate) at Renchen in Baden.
On obtaining this appointment, he devoted himself to literary pursuits, and in 1668 published Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus Teutsch, d.h. die Beschreibung des Lebens eines seltsamen Vaganten, genannt Melchior Sternfels von Fuchsheim, the greatest German novel of the 17th century. For this work he took as his model the picaresque romances of Spain, already to some extent known in Germany. Simplicissimus is in great measure its author's autobiography; he begins with the childhood of his hero, and describes the latter's adventures amid the stirring scenes of the Thirty Years' War. The rustic detail with which these pictures are presented makes the book one of the most valuable documents of its time. In the later parts Grimmelshausen, however, over-indulges in allegory, and finally loses himself in a Robinson Crusoe story.
The historian Robert Ergang, however, draws upon Gustav Könnecke's Quellen und Forschungen zur Lebensgeschichte Grimmelshausens to convey the assertion that "the events related in the novel Simplicissimus could hardly have been autobiographical since [Grimmelshausen] lived a peaceful existence in quiet towns and villages on the fringe of the Black Forest and that the material he incorporated in his work was not taken from actual experience, but was either borrowed from the past, collected from hearsay, or created by a vivid imagination.
Among his other works, the most important are the so-called Simplicianische Schriften:
His satires, such as Der teutsche Michel (1670), and gallant novels, like Dietwald und Amelinde (1670) are of inferior interest. He died at Renchen on August 17, 1676, where a monument was erected to him in 1779.
Editions of Simplicissimus and the Simpliclanische Schriften have been published by
A reprint of the first edition of the novel was edited by R. Kügel for the series of Weudrucke des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts (1880). See the introductions to these editions; also