mind expanding nonsense


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 thumb. 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, and fulfilled all my sucking needs with Popsicles.

In “Die Geschichte von den schwarzen Buben” (The Story of the Black Boys), Saint Nicholas catches three boys teasing a dark-skinned boy (that would never happen in America). 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. Old Saint Nick (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 a two bratwurst 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 down 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.


Comments on: "Struwwelpeter" (14)

  1. In Sicilian households they did not use books. We learned our lessons by being beaten with the giant wooden salad spoon. I never saw them old broads use it for salad though so could not fathom why they called it a salad spoon unless to make chopped lettuce of our butts. .

  2. I think a lot of these stories evolved from pagan origins, before the Christians came in and scared the bejeebers out of everyone with Satan and his eternal fiery pit for kids who engaged in “misbehaviors”. 😉

  3. I LOVE these stories! European children’s tales are brilliant. I could never stand do-good-er Dorothy and other American kids stories. They lacked a truth, and a message.

    • The Germans had a way with kids; Scaring them shit-less via Struwwelpweter, or the Brothers Grimm.


  4. I thought they only grew those weird nails in Asia. So Germans also like riot hair and long fingers? I’m getting a whole new picture here.

  5. Scary childhoods prepare us well for intimidating adulthood…

  6. I have never heard of Stewwelpeter, nor have I ever heard cautionary tales with quite this much fear attached. Horror, actually! Yikes. But I am very amused at the tie-in to your chosen profession. I think you may have hit upon some rather accurate analysis of the situation. If only the career criminal was susceptible to such warnings!

  7. Paul J. Stam said:

    Even in Central Africa where I grew up, I heard about Struwwelpeter from my Germanic/Dutch father. Anyway, thanks for liking “Learn, Learn, Learning – Am I?” on papermudandme.wordpress.com. – Aloha – pjs.

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