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STRUWWELPETER

Jun 26, 2012

MERRY STORIES AND FUNNY PICTURES

 

"Die Geschichte vom Daumenlutscher" (The Story of the Thumb-Sucker)


If you, like me, have ever wondered why Germans are so good at abiding by rules, I am going to posit the theory it’s because they grew up on a steady diet of stories promising an agonising death if they didn’t eat their soup or stop rocking backwards on their chair.

Let's talk about Der Struwwelpeter (1845). Der Struwwelpeter is a popular German children's book by Heinrich Hoffmann. It comprises ten illustrated and rhymed stories, mostly about children. Each has a clear moral that demonstrates the disastrous consequences of misbehavior in an exaggerated way. The title of the first story provides the title of the whole book. Literally translated, Struwwel-Peter means Shaggy-Peter.

"Struwwelpeter" (Shaggy-Peter)
As children's literature scholar Penni Cotton writes, Hoffmann wrote Struwwelpeter in reaction to the lack of good children's books. Intending to buy a picture book as a Christmas present for his three-year-old son, Hoffmann instead wrote and illustrated his own book. Hoffmann was persuaded by friends to publish the book anonymously as Lustige Geschichten und drollige Bilder mit 15 schön kolorierten Tafeln für Kinder von 3–6 Jahren (Funny Stories and Whimsical Pictures with 15 Beautifully Coloured Panels for Children Aged 3 to 6) in 1845. It was not until the third edition in 1858 that the book was published under the title Struwwelpeter. The book became very popular among children throughout Europe, and, writes author and researcher Penni Cotton, the pictures and characters showed a great deal of originality and directness.


  1. "Struwwelpeter" describes a boy who does not groom himself properly and is consequently unpopular.
  2. In "Die Geschichte vom bösen Friederich" (The Story of Bad Frederick), a violent boy terrorizes animals and people. Eventually he is bitten by a dog, who goes on to eat the boy's sausage while he is bedridden.
  3. In "Die gar traurige Geschichte mit dem Feuerzeug" (The Dreadful Story of the Matches), a girl plays with matches and burns to death.
  4. In "Die Geschichte von den schwarzen Buben" (The Story of the Black Boys), Nikolas (that is, Saint Nicholas) catches three boys teasing a dark-skinned boy. To teach them a lesson, he dips the three boys in black ink, to make them even darker-skinned than the boy they'd teased.
  5. "Die Geschichte von dem wilden Jäger" (The Story of the Wild Huntsman) is the only story not primarily focused on children. In it, a hare steals a hunter's musket and eyeglasses and begins to hunt the hunter. In the ensuing chaos, the hare's child is burned by hot coffee and the hunter falls into a well, presumably to his death.
  6. In "Die Geschichte vom Daumenlutscher" (The Story of the Thumb-Sucker), a mother warns her son not to suck his thumbs. However, when she goes out of the house he resumes his thumb sucking, until a roving tailor appears and cuts off his thumbs with giant scissors.
  7. "Die Geschichte vom Suppen-Kaspar" (The Story of the Soup-Kaspar) begins as Kaspar, a healthy, strong boy, proclaims that he will no longer eat his soup. Over the next five days he wastes away and dies.
  8. In "Die Geschichte vom Zappel-Philipp" (The Story of the Fidgety Philip), a boy who won't sit still at dinner accidentally knocks all of the food onto the floor, to his parents' great displeasure.
  9. "Die Geschichte von Hans Guck-in-die-Luft" (The Story of Johnny Head-in-Air) concerns a boy who habitually fails to watch where he's walking. One day he walks into a river; he is soon rescued, but his writing-book drifts away.
  10. In "Die Geschichte vom fliegenden Robert" (The Story of the Flying Robert), a boy goes outside during a storm. The wind catches his umbrella and sends him to places unknown, and presumably to his doom.

A link to an English translation of the entire book is here.

 

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