mind expanding nonsense

Struwwelpeter

Well, you can take Hansi out of Deutschland, but you can’t take the Deutschland and out of Hansi. My Mother immigrated from Germany to America in 1929; a good year to leave Germany, a bad year to land in the States. She didn’t bring much with her, but she did bring Struwwelpeter.

I heard all about him as a kid growing up in Los Angeles in the 50’s. Whenever I didn’t comb my hair, or let down in other grooming and personal hygiene areas, I was accused of being a “Struwwelpeter”. I had no clue about this Struwwell-guy. And because Mom had a pretty thick accent (despite having lived in California for 20 years prior to my landing in the States), I thought she was saying Strudel-Peter, and I sure wanted some of that for desert. Needless to say, my grooming went down the tubes as a youth, while my waist-line expanded.

So, Der Struwwelpeter was a popular children’s book in the 1850’s, written by Heinrick Hoffmann (can’t get more German than that), which consisted of rhymed, illustrated stories; each with a clear moral which demonstrated the consequences for misbehavior in an exaggerated way. Struwwelpeter literally meant Shaggy Peter, and appears above. Mark Twain even ripped-off Struwwelpeter, calling him Slovenly Peter. Doesn’t have the same kick, so no wonder he didn’t catch on in the States.

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 sausages while the youth is bedridden. As much fun as torturing small animals is, who would continue to do so if you knew that their pet would turn around and bite one’s Weiner off? I always kept my dog at a distance after hearing that one.

In “Die Geschichte vom Daumenlutscher” (The Story of 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. Let’s see; thumb sucking or thumb amputation? I went for No Thumb sucking. I later learned their were far more desirable things on which to suck which also came in pairs.

In “Die Geschichte von den schwarzen Buben” (The Story of the Black Boys), 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. Well, old Hansi can be dipped in black ink too, if that didn’t happen in the United States. Santa Claus sure taught us a lesson about teasing and not being nice to certain folks, when he dipped our President in black ink.

Last one: In “Die gar traurige Geschichte mit dem Feuerzeug” (The Very Sad Story of the Matches ,and two bratwursts mouthful of German), a girl plays with matches and burns to death. Don’t get more moral laden or terrifying than that one; and how uber-German. Message: there’s inherent danger in everything, even playing with matches. As a kid I heard such admonitions as, “Don’t lick that dinner knife, You could cut your tongue off” or this classic, “Never run while holding that screw driver, you could fall and poke your eye out”.

With DNA like this, is it any wonder I ended up in Corrections. With hidden danger lurking everywhere, I had to choose a career as a Probation Officer, wherein I could advise people of the consequences of misbehavior, some of which could have disastrous results on ones freedom.

There’s even more of this good stuff out their, but I gotta go. Struwwel-Hansi, over and out.  But look for The Struwwel Peter Principal coming soon.

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Comments on: "Struwwelpeter" (19)

  1. Our Struwwelpeter was the local bobby (policeman), who put the fear in you if you misbehaved.

    As for the poor personal hygiene problem, this improved remarkably when certain body parts dropped (also in pairs) and the female sex suddenly had something going for them.

    Bill
    Reminiscing, Ashton-under-Lyne, UK

    • Did what the female sex suddenly have going for them, also come in pairs? Something to indeed reminisce about Bill, don’t ya think?

  2. Those Germans have a knack for molesting children with horrific lessons about why you need to be good. Fortunately my German forbears were more distant and so I missed the horror. My wife, however, is first generation and both her parents came from Germany about the same time as your mom. She is scarred for life.

  3. Your sister Heidi said:

    I was always envious of you for being the first born, but I guess being the little girl did have its advantages. While you were growing up with the horror stories from Struwwel Peter Mom read to me from Johanna Spyri’s book “Heidi” (what else)! And we all know that Heidi was such a sweet and innocent little girl who wanted to help everyone. I realize now that Mom sure knew what she was doing: You went into corrections and I went into education. Can’t get much better than that. God bless her and our German heritage.

  4. geezerpussrex said:

    Ah Ha! Exposure to Struwwelpeter as a youth had a lasting influence on Der Hansi. Even when he’s being bad on the geezer creeks, his attention to personal hygiene never falters. He isn’t squimish and bears up with fish gutting and outhouse plopping, but he maintains his teeth and fingernails like no other. The only thing that slows his coffee and beer swilling is his flossing. His trusty nail file is seldom far away. God only knows the rest of his sanitary saga. Dr. Hoffmann and Mom did their jobs well. The old noodlehead, numskull stories left their indelible marks on America’s finest blog writer.

    • Geezerpuss….that just goes to show ya that if you maintain the basics in the area of personal hygiene, you can sluff-off in a lot of other areas that people will seldom notice. If your teeth sparkle, and your nails kept well manicured, people won’t notice that wad of shit in your pants; unless they’re standing down wind.

  5. Oh God, I recognized this immediately from a Children’s Lit course that I took in college. I distinctly remember that first picture from a lecture our professor gave us about The Thumb Sucker. First she showed us that picture, and then, to quote the professor, “here comes the troll with the scissors.” I guess it’s no worse than Grimm’s version of Cinderella, where we find out that her sisters are not the right fit for the glass slipper as it cuts off chunks of their feet.

  6. I showed my wife this post yesterday and she immediately recognized Peter. It was the only book provided by her parents while growing up but her father read it to her not her mother.

    • Ralph…I’m sorry to hear that your wife was scared for life by Struwwelpeter. Hopefully she got a mild dose, instead of full strength German morality. Be patient with her 🙂

  7. The Struwwelpeter books sound like a good idea for teaching children morals. They make more sense than inventing a devil who only gets you when you’re dead.

    I like stories that rhyme. My favourite as a kid were the adventures of Rupert the Bear. They were proper poetry, everything rhymed perfectly.

    John
    Feeling nostalgic in Leamington Spa, England

    • John….Mother Goose is a great collection rhymes also. I just re-read a lot of them for “special treatment: on my poetry blog, The Blithering Idiot. Aside from the more familiar ones, you can sure hear the English origins of these little tails. The Germans will scare you straight any which way they can.

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