A little over 150 years ago a German father decided that there were no good books to read to his son and endeavored to write and illustrate his very own. There were several lessons he aimed to teach his child and, being German, he didn’t beat around the bush. The lessons included things like:
- If you play with matches you will burn to death and cats will cry on your ashes.
- If you don’t eat your supper you will starve to death.
- A tailor with giant shears will snip your thumbs off if you don’t stop sucking them.
And so was born Struwwelpeter (Shock-Headed Peter) a book I was completely unaware existed until a good friend said, “You really have to get this book.” I did, because I do everything he says, and I don’t regret it a single bit. In an age of sterile, soulless books for children this is a most refreshing one – and that goes for the adult as well. I’d much rather read about a boy suffering for his maltreatment of animals than I would anything shat out by the Baby Einstein empire. Not many books have morals like if you go out in a storm you will be blown to your doom.
The book’s title comes from one of the book’s stories about a boy who is poorly groomed – so no one likes him. Compared to the other tales he gets off pretty easy.
You can find Struwwelpeter on Amazon.
I grew up with those books, and I still have nightmares about them. You should also read Wilhelm Busch Max und Moritz.
Christ, I also had this book as a child. My dad was a psychologist and kept this book from his youth as a testament on how not to educate children. It scared the crap out of me for many years, and yet I totally loved it and used to sneak into his office to page through it. Some of the morals are a little twisted though, like the one where the kids are teasing the black kid, so as a punishment, a wizard dips them in ink, because…you know, being black is a punishment. Exactly…wrf!? Then, I suppose I’m not a racist so maybe it worked?
Oh my goodness, that book gave me nightmares as a child. My mother used to read it to me in the 70s, asa 5 year old I was TERRIFIED of getting not only my thumbs cut off but ALL my fingers as punishment for biting my nails. Today I also have a severe spider phobia – which I worked out yesterday in a sudden jolt of “childhood memory recovery” has derived from the picture on the front of the Struwwelpeter book (with the long nails), As a young child they looked like spiders to me, and to this day I imagine spiders crawling on my as though they were hands with long fingers. Very disturbing to see this book and the images online now (35 years later) and realise the long-lasting effect it’s had on me my entire life. I am now studying child psychology and I am appalled that my parents thought it appropriate to scare the crap out of me as a young child with this book. No wonder I haven’t spoken to them in years. Having seen this now and reliving the trauma of childhood memories, I believe showing me this book as a child is tantamount to child abuse.