Thursday, March 8, 2012

Der Struwwelpeter - The German Fairy Tale Book

If you have never heard of this book you are not alone. Outside of my family, everyone I have talked to about this book had no idea what it was. Let me start out by telling you that I am of direct German descent. My mother was born in Germany, her mother (my grandmother - we call her omi) was born and raised in Germany and all of her family is still living there. Needless to say I had a lot of German influence while growing up! Der Struwwelpeter is one of the fairy tale books that were read and ingrained into my memories as a young child. The 'tales' in the book aren't very long but their shocking and harsh endings are unforgettable.

Here is a little background on the author...

This book was written by Heinrich Hoffman (1809-1894) in 1845 as a Christmas present. Hoffman was a German psychiatrist who reportedly was upset he couldn't find a good book about teaching manners to children so he made his own for his then 3 year old son.

His friends persuaded him 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), but it wasn't until the third edition in 1858 that the book was published with the title Der Struwwelpeter and it became a household name.

Below is a short synopsis of each tale:

1. "Struwwelpeter" is about a boy who does not groom himself properly and is consequently unpopular.

2. "Die Geschichte vom bösen Friederich" - (The Story of Bad Frederick)is about a violent, mean-spirited boy who terrorizes animals and people. As the tale progresses he is bitten by a dog, becomes bedridden and the dog gets to eat the boy's dinner.

3. "Die gar traurige Geschichte mit dem Feuerzeug" - (The Dreadful Story of the Matches) is about a girl who plays with matches and burns to death.

4. "Die Geschichte von den schwarzen Buben" - (The Story of the Black Boys)is about three boys teasing another boy about the color of his skin. Nikolas (that is, Saint Nicholas) catches the three boys and to teach them a lesson, he dips them 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 about a hunter getting his musket and eyeglasses stolen by the rabbit he is hunting and begins to be hunted by the rabbit. In the chaos, the rabbit's child is burned by hot coffee and the hunter falls into a well, presumably to his death.

6. "Die Geschichte vom Daumenlutscher" - (The Story of the Thumb-Sucker) begins with a mother warning her son not to suck his thumbs or a man will come and cut them off. The boy does not heed the warning and after the mom leaves the house he begins to suck his thumb when suddenly a man appears and cuts off his thumbs with giant scissors.

7. "Die Geschichte vom Suppen-Kaspar" - (The Story of the Soup-Kaspar) is about a healthy, strong boy who proclaims that he will no longer eat his soup and over the course of five days of refusing to eat his soup, he wastes away to nothing and dies.

8. "Die Geschichte vom Zappel-Philipp" - (The Story of the Fidgety Philip) is about a boy who won't sit still at the dinner table and 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) is about a boy who doesn't ever watch where he's walking. One day he walks into a river and his writing-book drifts away.

10. "Die Geschichte vom fliegenden Robert" - (The Story of the Flying Robert) is about a boy who goes outside during a storm. The wind catches his umbrella and sends him to places unknown, and presumably to his doom.

Variations on the tales in this book have been made into a musicals, plays and even small films throughout the years!

Here is a link to a page that has translated the whole book into english and it even has all the artwork with it!

Want this book?? Purchase it Here:            

What is your opinion of the tales? Would you read them to your child in this day and age? Which one did you find the most horrific? The most fascinating?

1 comment:

  1. Yes - this book still creeps me a out a little, although the overall message is a good one, the stories themselves are troublesome...