Tuesday, March 2, 2010

blame it on betty m

The Tragic Tale of Kaspar

before

                                                     
after


The Sad Story of Pauline
                                                      
before
                                                      
after

Because, in her comment to the last post, Betty M reminded me of Strewwelpeter, that whimsically gruesome collection of cautionary tales for 19th century children. As you'll see in the before-and-after pictures above (labeled for your convenience)(click to enlarge) it's the macabre details that give the book its distinctive, um, charm.

Chubby Kaspar refuses to eat his soup and, shortly thereafter, starves to death, leaving behind only a little grave festooned with an oversized soup tureen.

Pauline, ignoring the sage warnings of her talking cats, plays with matches and is, alas, reduced to a heap of ashes. However, her shiny red shoes (apparently made of asbestos) manage to survive the conflagration in remarkably good shape.

Though the book is wildly inappropriate for children, I have to admit that, as a timid child, I loved it. Because -- and it's not hard to understand why -- just about the only things that didn't terrify me were the ones I should have been afraid of.

21 comments:

Beruriah said...

Baby Man would love this. Seriously. I know he's only two but he has a fascination with scary things. Not that I'm going to show him this just yet.

Of course, he doesn't understand finality. He thinks that if you cover your head with a blanket you become a "dead ghost," (no, I don't know where he learned "dead") but if you uncover yourself you're fine. If only....

Magpie said...

Love those stories...I might should dig them out.

There's an awesome "opera" that the Tiger Lillies did: http://www.tigerlillies.com/2003/index.php?main=recordings&pubId=11

Snip, snip...

myskytimes said...

I remember that Heinrich Hoffman wrote the Struwwelpeter for his own 3-year-old son because he couldn't find anything age-appropriate. *chuckle*

I was terrified about the story about the boy that doesn't want to stop sucking his thumb (don't know the english title) so a tailor comes with gigantic scissors and cuts off both his thumbs. And we don't even want to start on the Brothers Grimm... they wrote some pretty gory stuff, too. Yeah, sweet dreams, little me...

Kristin said...

So many of the old fairy tales are much more gruesome or violent than the modern versions. I LOVED THEM!

Tash said...

These are AWESOME. Reminds me of the Ghastlycrumb Tinies, and my cousin put them up in his toddler son's room which we all thought was a laugh riot (although I think my aunt was not amused).

I didn't respond to the previous, but I *loved* to scare myself with the Grimm fairy tales (we had an old-timey version with woodcut illustrations) and I've always been a fan of Tomi Ungerer's "Zerelda" and gave that to Bella at a young age -- because it's never too early to teach cannibalism, I say. (Ironically, it's a foodie book.)

Clarabella said...

Holy smokes, I totally forgot about Strewwelpeter. Probably a good thing.

christina(apronstrings) said...

The books that are the most wildly inappropriate for children are the best, no?

Caro said...

I loved them too. I must keep an eye out for a copy.

angie said...

I was just about to write the same thing as Tash about the Gashlycrumb Tinies: A link for anyone interested.

areyoukiddingme said...

Those cats are certainly very sad, aren't they?

areyoukiddingme said...

Come to think of it, one of my prized possessions is a copy of Mother Goose as done by Charles Addams (of Addams Family fame). It is hideous and delightful! But, I haven't shown it to my daughter yet...maybe when she's 4.

niobe said...

@areyoukiddingme: Of course, it would have been more helpful if the cats had started weeping their torrential tears just a wee bit sooner, since they might have managed to douse the flames.

But the black mourning bows tied to their tails are a nice touch.

Alexicographer said...

My husband, who's been wildly insensitive to my struggle with infertility (he has kids from an earlier marriage, so it's been much more "my" issue than his) reports being so scarred from reading Jemima Puddleduck to our son that he cannot -- ever -- read the book again. Certainly Beatrix Potter's got plenty of good stuff in her books. I have been astonished by how often infertility pops up in children's books though, aside from Puddleduck, nothing's springing to mind (right now).

after iris said...

Brilliant.

Tash and Angie - I have a framed poster of the Gashlycrumb Tinies on the wall of my sitting room!

Audrey said...

Wait. You mean Pauline didn't walk over hot coals? I figured that was why her shoes were left behind.

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Delenn said...

I love those types of stories--I am guessing more for the "train wreck" effect.

I love reading Brothers Grimm tales in their more original "grim" state.

Panamahat said...

That was also one of my favourite books as a child. I never found it gruesome. I think it suited my moralistic judgemental nature!

Meim said...

Nominated you for a blog award =]

Rachel said...

My BIL bought that book for my 2 year old while in Germany. We don't speak German, but my son always wants to read it. I keep hiding it and he keeps finding it, yesterday he wanted to know why the hand of the woman with scissors was bleeding, I explained as best I could. I just hope he doesn't get nightmares from that book.

Anonymous said...

My German parents tried to read it to us but we were terrified of it (however, the neighborhood kids LOVED it and would beg for my mom to bring it out). The only story I liked was the Pauline one -- because there were cute cats in it, and they survived.

When I had children, my parents attempted to introduce them to it. I had my husband put it on top of their china cabinet, where my 5'2" mother couldn't reach it.