In an erawhen parents who discipline their kids can be treated like felons, and everybody,"in the wake of Littleton," is maundering about the effects of violententertainments on young minds, you wouldn't think Heinrich Hoffmann'sDerStruwwelpeter would have much of a following. In fact, unless I'm mistaken,it seems to be enjoying a kind of cult revival.
First publishedin Frankfurt in 1845, Der Struwwelpeter-usually translated as eitherSlovenly Peter or Shock-Headed Peter (in France he's the euphoniousPierre L'ébouriffé)-is an illustrated collection of cautionarytales originally intended for children age three to six. That alone is amazing:These little ditties are grimmer than the Grimms, more gory than Gorey. For Hoffmann's tykes, the price of being disrespectful or disagreeable tends tobe hideous death, dismemberment or disfigurement.
Little Conrad,in one of the best-known tales, won't stop sucking his thumb, even when hismother warns him that the evil tailor will cut them off with his giant scissorsif he doesn't quit:

Mammahad scarcely turn'd her back,

The thumbwas in, alack! alack!

The doorflew open, in he ran,

The great,long, red-legged scissor-man.

Oh! children,see! the tailor's come

And caughtour little Suck-a-Thumb.

Snip!Snap! Snip! the scissors go;

And Conradcries out-Oh! Oh! Oh!

Snip!Snap! Snip! They go so fast;

That bothhis thumbs are off at last.

In "TheDreadful Story of Pauline and the Matches," a child left home alone playswith fire, with predictable results:

Now see!oh! see, what a dreadful thing,