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File:Scissorman.jpg

Der Struwwelpeter (Shaggy-Peter or Shockheaded Peter), written and illustrated by Heinrich Hoffmann, is an 1845 German children's book filled with cautionary tales. These cautionary tales are more grim than others, however -- they often end in death or dismemberment for the child. They are a source of plenty of Nightmare Fuel, too.

There are ten stories, each of them rhyming and illustrated. They are:

  • "Shockheaded Peter" ("Struwwelpeter"): Peter doesn't groom himself, until he is universally detested.
  • "The Story of Bad Frederick" ("Die Geschichte vom bösen Friederich"): A mean kid terrorizes adults and animals, until a dog bites him, causing him to lie through a bitter medicine treatment.
  • "The Dreadful Story of Pauline and the Matches" ("Die gar traurige Geschichte mit dem Feuerzeug"): Pauline plays with matches and burns to death.
  • "The Story of the Inky Boys" ("Die Geschichte von den schwarzen Buben"): Three kids who tease a black boy get their just desserts when Nikolaus (or "Agrippa" in at least one translation) dips them into ink.
  • "The Story of the Wild Huntsman" ("Die Geschichte von dem wilden Jäger"): A hare steals a hunter's rifle and eyeglasses and hunts him.
  • "The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb" ("Die Geschichte vom Daumenlutscher"): Little Suck-a-Thumb's mother warns him not to suck his thumbs, but he does anyway. So the Scissorman snips them off.
  • "The Story of Kaspar who did not have any Soup" ("Die Geschichte vom Suppen-Kaspar"): Kaspar (or Augustus, depending on the translation) refuses to eat his soup, so over five days, he slowly wastes away and dies.
  • "The Story of Fidgety Philip" ("Die Geschichte vom Zappel-Philipp"): Philip fidgits too much at the dinner table and spills the food onto the floor.
  • "The Story of Johnny Head-in-Air" ("Die Geschichte von Hans Guck-in-die-Luft"): Johnny doesn't pay attention to where he's walking, so he falls into a river. (He lives, though, unlike some of the other stories.)
  • "The Story of Flying Robert" ("Die Geschichte vom fliegenden Robert"): Robert goes outside during a storm and the wind picks up his umbrella, carrying him off never to be seen again.

Needless to say, please don't read these stories to your children if you don't want them to have nightmares.

An English translation was done by Mark Twain under the title Slovenly Peter (though that translation was not published before 1935).

Struwwelpeter was adapted into the opera Shockheaded Peter (premiered in 1998), with music by The Tiger Lillies.


Struwwelpeter provides examples of: Edit

 Here is cruel Frederick, see!

A horrid wicked boy was he;

He caught the flies, poor little things,

And then tore off their tiny wings,

He killed the birds, and broke the chairs,

And threw the kitten down the stairs;

And oh! far worse than all beside,

He whipped his Mary, till she cried.

 And see! oh, what dreadful thing!

The fire has caught her apron-string;

Her apron burns, her arms, her hair?

She burns all over everywhere.

    • As well as Kaspar, who didn't eat his soup.

 Look at him, now the fourth day's come!

He scarcely weighs a sugar-plum;

He's like a little bit of thread,

And, on the fifth day, he was -- dead!

 Soon they got to such a height,

They were nearly out of sight.

And the hat went up so high,

That it nearly touched the sky.

No one ever yet could tell

Where they stopped, or where they fell:

Only this one thing is plain,

Bob was never seen again!

 The pussy-cats heard this,

And they began to hiss,

And stretch their claws,

And raise their paws;

"Me-ow," they said, "me-ow, me-o,

You'll burn to death, if you do so."

 Just look at him! there he stands,

With his nasty hair and hands.

See! his nails are never cut;

They are grimed as black as soot;

And the sloven, I declare,

Never once has combed his hair;

Anything to me is sweeter

Than to see Shock-headed Peter.

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