Simplicissimus'' beginning was one of a child of pure innocence. Since he lived far removed from any other influences except the small, barely sufficient farm near the Spessart forest, he presented himself as nothing short of a simpleton. His main job was looking after the livestock, and when told to look out for the foxes who came to raid the chickens, Simplicissimus mistook some soldiers for foxes. Since he had never seen either a fox or a knight before, he interpreted them in the only way he knew how. The soldiers were soldiers of the Thirty Years'' War and plundered his family''s farm as Simplicissimus escaped into the forest.
Deep in the forest, he met a hermit. This hermit asked him many questions that Simplicissimus could only answer in the most naïve manner. He could not even tell the hermit his real name. He stated that his father called him "boy." For two years the boy stayed with the hermit and learned from him. The hermit died and the pastor who gave Simplicissimus supplies was captured by the soldiers. The small town nearby was plundered. Simplicissimus again escaped to the forest but ended up having even his small hut plundered. He was taken as prisoner to the Governor of Hanau. The soldiers questioned Simplicissimus, and again he could not tell his name, nor much of his history. A pastor came to Simplicissimus'' rescue by stating that the pastor had seen Simplicissimus in a hermitage with the old man, who happened to be a nobleman disenchanted with the war.
As Simplicissimus'' life went on, he began his climb in status. He became a page, but his simpleton ways were not those of the court. He was at a grave disadvantage. He ended up looking and playing a fool. He commented liberally about society, and during a great feast, he saw men acting with such bad manners he thought that they were representing themselves as beasts instead of men. The more he saw the more Simplicissimus realized a fool''s ways were better suited for survival than the ways of a courtier.
Again his circumstance changed and he became a prisoner to the Croats. He learned to serve many masters. He escaped dressed as a girl, but he was destined to serve as a lady''s maid. He was then discovered to be male and ended up as a horse boy, at which time he met his friend Ulrich Herzbruder. Simplicissimus gave Ulrich money to escape, which Ulrich successfully did, and again Simplicissimus'' situation changed.
Simplicissimus was beginning to become educated as to the ways of the world.
He had begun to climb the ladder of success. He went through the military ranks, and although he plundered, he never took from the poor, always the rich. He had plenty of wealth and had a reputation as a superior forager, something he was taught by the hermit. Later, Simplicissimus discovered someone had attempted to steal his name and reputation, and had committed crimes in his name, wearing the green garb synonymous with Simplicissimus. Simplicissimus discovered and punished this man. From this time forward, Simplicissimus aspired to become a nobleman, but his fate would not allow it. The Swedes captured him.
During his incarceration with the Swedes, Simplicissimus established himself with the ladies. The Swedes, after hearing of his reputation as a soldier, offered him a position in their armies, but Simplicissimus turned them down. The Swedes allowed him to roam around the city at will. A young daughter of a colonel attracted Simplicissimus and they married. Shortly after, Simplicissimus pledged his alliance to the Swedes.
Then his life changed again. On a trip to Cologne the Swedes convinced him to go to Paris. There he lost his fortune in a robbery, but he gained many adventures in love. Then Simplicissimus used a ruse to return to Germany; he impersonated a doctor. He never made it back to Germany. Instead he was captured and forced to become a soldier in another army. He met Oliver, who had taken advantage of his good friend Ulrich. Soldiers kand Simplicissimus traveled onward.
Following the war, Simplicissimus visited a Swiss spa and stumbled upon an old man who happened to be his peasant father. Simplicissimus discovered that his peasant father was actually his foster father and that the old hermit of noble birth was his real father. From that time on, he had many adventures, including getting married again only to have his wife die after a year. In the end, Simplicissimus returned to the life of his real father, and became a hermit.