Baron Münchhausen pulls himself out of a mire by his own hair  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Baron Münchhausen pulls himself out of a mire by his own hair[1] is an episode from Baron Münchhausen. It is one of the added Bürger episodes.

In original German:

Ein andres Mal wollte ich über einen Morast setzen, der mir anfänglich nicht so breit vorkam, als ich ihn fand, da ich mitten im Sprunge war. Schwebend in der Luft wendete ich daher wieder um, wo ich hergekommen war, um einen größern Anlauf zu nehmen. Gleichwohl sprang ich auch zum zweytenmale noch zu kurz, und fiel nicht weit vom andern Ufer bis an den Hals in den Morast. Hier hätte ich ohnfehlbar umkommen müssen, wenn nicht die Stärke meines eigenen Armes mich an meinem eigenen Haarzopfe, samt dem Pferde, welches ich fest zwischen meine Kniee schloß, wieder herausgezogen hätte.

In an unidentified translation:

Another time, I wanted to jump over a bog that hadn’t seemed too wide at first. I was already floating in the air, when I decided to turn around to where I came from, for I needed a bigger run-up. Nontheless, I jumped too short the second time. Not far from the other side I fell into the bog. Here I would have undoubtedly died, if not the strength of my own arm, grabbing my own pigtail, had pulled me, including my horse —which I squeezed tightly between my legs—out of it.[2]

In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche references this hair-pulling feat:

"The desire for "freedom of will" in the superlative, metaphysical sense, such as still holds sway, unfortunately, in the minds of the half-educated, the desire to bear the entire and ultimate responsibility for one's actions oneself, and to absolve God, the world, ancestors, chance, and society therefrom, involves nothing less than to be precisely this CAUSA SUI, and, with more than Munchausen daring, to pull oneself up into existence by the hair, out of the slough of nothingness. (sich selbst aus dem Sumpf des Nichts an den Haaren ins Dasein zu ziehn)."

See also

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