Sunday, April 09, 2006

Der Struwwelpeter (Slovenly Peter)

Listening to this morning's Weekend Edition on NPR radio I was jarred into alertness by a report on the return of Der Struwwelpeter (Slovenly Peter). This was a book we had as children, so terrifying that when I think of it I sometimes tell myself that I must be making it up. But it was a real thing. The book was first written in 1845 by Heinrich Hoffman. The color illustrations were magnificent, but they featured children having their fingers cut off with giant scissors because they had not been good children, stuff like that. It was all about frightening children into behaving. I suspect our book was from around the turn of the century. Artistically, it would probably be worth a fortune today. I have no idea what ever happened to it. Perhaps one of my brothers has it.
I tell of naughty girls and boys,
Of ill-bred children, full of noise,
Who play with lights and fire when able,--
Who rock their chairs beside the table,
Till falling down the dinner comes,--
Who suck at once at both their thumbs
Who would not let their nails be cut,
Until at last so long they got,
That from the hands away they stretched,
Until the floor below they reached.

1 comment:

adagio said...

i understand that many german children's books - those from the 1930's-40's, anyway - had a harsh moral flavour. der struwwelpeter certainly fits that description.