Saturday, August 25, 2007

Shock-headed Peter

The above link is so long it's probably shit, but do try to find the 1844 German "Struwwelpeter" (in English, "Shock-headed Peter") online. Subtitled "Merry Stories and Funny Fables" (by Heinrich Hoffman), it's anything BUT merry or funny! It's all about kids who do bad things like play with matches or don't eat their food or suck their thumbs... And, boy, do they pay the price! Their getting burnt up or dying of starvation or getting their thumbs cut off in these "fairy tales" is weirdly brutal, but fascinating!

My German mom was born in 1941 and this book was a part of her childhood, which she read to me when I was little. Its weird, utterly evil, frightening illustrations have been ingrained in my memory since I was a kid. Until recently, I had no idea that anyone else had even seen such a thing! (Just recently the "Ovation" US cable channel had a program about some British guys who were touring with a stage performance based solely on the book. The stage show was cheesy---a big unshaven slob of a lead singer dressed in pseudo Weimar-Berlin garb emoting about "Fire! Fire! Fire!" But the fact that someone had been inspired by this book was still interesting to me.)

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