Welcome back to *LOVEFEST 2012*, in which I blather on and on about how much I love my friends and the awesome presents they send me even though I totally don’t deserve them.
Yesterday, we learned about Jim and his wonderful t-shirt present which I love love love. Thank you again, Jim. You are great.
Today, we learn about a present from ACROSS THE SEA. I got this one during tax season, and had no time to dedicate to how amazing it was until now. Now I have more time. Not ALL the time, but more. So let’s talk about my present that winged its way to me across the sea!
Today’s present comes to me from the lovely Elaine. Elaine lives in England. She is funny and intelligent and wise and I like her very very much. She has a beautiful dog named Poppet who I want to snuggle someday and writes a great blog and is savvy to the ways of the interwebs in a way I only wish I could be.
One day, Elaine emailed me and said, “I found something I think you would like. Could I mail it to you? It is a book of fairy tales in both German and English. With frightening illustrations.”
Now, listen. I have learned that, out of nowhere, I love German. (Well, not out of NOWHERE. It helps that I know someone that lives there. But I mean, I was never obsessed with it before, and I’m not a spring chicken.) German is my new favorite thing. German has words in it that are both whimsical and evocative, and also there are umlauts. What? You want examples? Oh, don’t even worry, I have examples.
Here’s one. Ready? Gemütlichkeit. It apparently means (per an ENTIRE WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE!) “an environment or state of mind that conduces a cheerful mood and peace of mind, with connotation of a notion of belonging and social acceptance, of being cozy and unhurried.” All of that, in one word, WITH AN UMLAUT.
Or – I have more, I totally have a notebook of them started, don’t even think I don’t – überglücklich, which means delirious or jubilant. TWO UMLAUTS. Two! I like all the syllables in German words. They’re totally a mouthful. Also, I kind of want to learn German JUST to read poetry in original German. Because when I find a pretty German poem, and then I look at it in German, it looks a hell of a lot more interesting in the German. And not just because of the umlauts.
Anyway, Elaine, as she also loves German, found this book, and thought of me, and then sent it to me. I had never heard of this before. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you: STRUWWELPETER.
Super-upsetting, right? Look at his scary fingernails and creepy long braid and one squinty eye! I think you have to click to see some of that detail. Sorry. Cell phone camera is the easiest way to get photos on here, but the quality – meh, not so much.
According to Wikipedia, this was a book of children’s tales written in 1845 by a German psychiatrist (you’ll see, as we go on today, why NO ONE SHOULD HAVE GONE TO HIS PRACTICE EVER) as warnings for children, just in case they were to misbehave. You know. That’s not upsetting at all. (SIDE NOTE: this is not the first time things like this have crossed my path. For example, when I was a child, that children’s rhyme “if I die before I wake” used to PETRIFY my poor little brother. He was CONVINCED if someone said it, he was GOING to die before he woke. There are a lot of scary nursery rhymes and fairy tales for children. People that wrote them were kind of a twisted bunch. I mean, you’ve read Grimm’s original fairy tales, right? Or Hans Christian Andersen’s? Those don’t end well. Not well at all. Children get eaten and die and such.)
There have also been operas based on this. Here are a couple of clips Elaine sent me. Listen, they’re kind of creepy. Heads up, people.
That one’s in GERMAN. Sigh. I like that a lot.
This is the creepy one. I couldn’t get far. Things are happening in here that look like what might happen if you dropped acid and then went to the circus.
Anyway, who wants to learn about Struwwelpeter? Also known as Shockheaded Peter, here to scare children into behaving? What’s that? You all do? Oh, excellent. I took a lot of photos.
First, here’s the awesomeness. See, here on the right side, you have the story in English, and the illustrations. The terrible, bloody, horrendous illustrations. We’ll get more into those in a bit.
Then on the left, you have the entire story in GERMAN. Which makes me happy, because I can look at it in German and try to puzzle out which word means what.
So, you’re asking, what’s Struwwelpeter/Shockheaded Peter about? Oh, don’t worry. I’ll tell you. It’s worrisome, though. Just so you know.
There are ten stories. All are worrisome.
First, there’s a little story about our titular (hee! Tit!) character, Shockheaded Peter.
Shockheaded Peter is a worry (his photo’s the one above with the gross nails and hair and such) because he doesn’t take care of his personal hygiene. His nails are all “grimed and full of soot.” And he has NEVER combed his hair. Not even ever. What a mess you are, Shockheaded Peter. What a mess.
On the cover of the book, he has a belt buckle that says “Life” and it’s all covered in blood. On the back, he’s standing in a graveyard and his beltbuckle, still all bloody, says “death.” I THINK SHOCKHEADED PETER IS THE DEVIL OR SOMETHING YOU GUYS.
OK, so let’s see. What’s first?
THE STORY OF CRUEL FREDERICK.
That’s the photo of Cruel Frederick above, the screamy-ass kid with the yellow pants.
Cruel Frederick “caught the flies, poor little things,/And tore off all their tiny wings” (yeah, so…budding sociopath, I guess) and “threw the kittens down the stairs” (WTF) and – AND! – “far worse than all beside,/He beat his Mary ’till she cried.” Um. He’s like a little kid, he has, what, a girlfriend? That he beats? What the hell? Also, in that photo up there, if you click, there are DEAD BIRDS all around him. Cruel Frederick deserves whatever he gets.
So one day, our boy Freddie beat a dog with a whip until he was almost dead. That dog had enough, so he bit Fred “until he bled.” Shit, I would have ripped his damn leg off, dog.
Guess what happened to Fred?
He apparently got some sort of heinous infection, which is lovingly detailed in the ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING ILLUSTRATION, and, well, he died.
Here’s his little coffin, with his dead arm hanging out.
What did we learn in this one? Don’t abuse animals or people or you will die of an infection, possibly rabies, or whatever the German equivalent thereof might be.
What new German word did we learn that we love the most? Bitterböse. It seems to mean indignant. I am often bitterböse. Also? UMLAUT.
Next: in a title that should win many of you over, we have “The Dreadful Story about Harriet and the Matches.”
I bet, if you apply yourself, you can imagine what happens to Harriet.
Harriet was an efffing firebug. Her mom and nurse told her not to touch matches, but then one day went out and left her alone with these two meddlesome cats and a metric shit-ton of matches. She knew she wasn’t supposed to touch them, but “…when they burn they look so pretty!” (ZOMG TOTAL ARSONIST.) The cats, who apparently talk, tell her that she’s going to burn to death. Worrisome deathmonger cats.
So Harriet started lighting all the matches and dancing around all entranced by the fire while the cats were all “YOU EFFING FIREBUG YOU’RE GOING TO BE THE DEATH OF US ALL.”
She then set her apron on fire and burned to a crisp while the cats supposedly were horrified but it sure as hell looks like they’re cheering on the fire in the photo.
Then all that is left of her is her apparently flame-retardant shoes, and the cats cry a river. No, literally. Look. LOOK AT THE RIVER.
What did we learn in this one? Don’t play with matches or you’ll burn to death and die and your cats will talk and also cry.
What new German word did we learn that we love the most? Schürze. It means apron. But I like how it tastes in your mouth. SCHURZZZEEEEE. Also? Umlaut.
Next: “The Story of the Bully-Boys.”
This one’s a little confusing.
So it was a hot day, and a man with a green umbrella went for a walk, and three boys came out and…I’m not sure what happened. It doesn’t even say they bullied him. It just says they came outside, with their accouterments, like a wooden hoop, flag, and toys. To be honest, one of the toys seems to be a noose, and in the photo, one of the bully boys seems to be flipping off the air, but no one’s bothering the green-umbrella-fella. Is green umbrella a euphemism for gay? Are they gay-bashing him? I don’t get this one at all.
Then a giant comes out and tells them to leave green umbrella alone, but they don’t. The giant is four times as tall as they are. So, because they aren’t listening to him, the giant “smashes all their tiny heads.”
What? You want to see? Oh, you can, it’s ok, the book shows you. IN DETAIL.
What did we learn in this one? Don’t live on a street with a giant, because he will kill you. Gleefully. For doing nothing wrong at all.
What new German word did we learn that we love the most? Ruckzuck. It means jiffy. Like, in a jiffy. RUCKZUCK! I’m totally going to start using this. Ken, do people use ruckzuck in really real Germany or only in this book that would warp a child’s mind were you to give it to them? Also? Ken? We need to have a talk about what constitutes correct children’s literature in Germany at some point.
Next: “The Story of the Man Who Went Out Shooting.” No, no. That’s not a euphemism. He really went out shooting. With a gun. A GUN gun. Not a…nevermind.
The man who went out shooting was a rabbit hunter, and the rabbit didn’t like that, so when the hunter got hot and sleepy and took a nap, the rabbit stole his gun.
AND WENT ON A MURDERING SPREE.
When the man woke up, the rabbit was sticking the gun in his face. He ran away, but the rabbit kept chasing him until he fell, “arse over tit” (heh) into a well. As he fell in, the rabbit shot him.
Was the rabbit done? Nope.
He then went to the hunter’s house and murdered his wife as she was drinking her morning coffee. Think this is bad? IT GETS WORSE IN A MINUTE.
Then the rabbit went to HIS OWN HOUSE and murdered HIS OWN KID. Why? Doesn’t say. Because he was a psychopath, I think. Listen to this: “And as she stood upon her toes,/The hare shot her through the nose./She died with nose in hand,/And she didn’t understand.”
WHAT THE HELL. “Nose in hand?” WHAT THE HELLLLL.
Then, for whatever reason, the rabbit committed suicide. Probably because the cops were coming and the rabbit didn’t think he was cut out for the big house. And don’t worry. It’s totally shown. In really crisp detail. Nothing kids like better than watching an anthromorphized animal kill himself and his child, and seeing all the blood. NOTHING.
What did we learn in this one? Anya from Buffy was right. Never trust a bunny.
What new German word did we learn that we love the most? Spritzt. It means injected. I like it because it sounds like what it means. “I just spritzt him with his medication!”
OK, these have been pretty bad. Ready for one that’s worse? Sure you are.
“Snip Snip – The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb.”
This isn’t going to end well, you know that already, right?
Little Suck-a-Thumb’s real name is Conrad. Conrad can’t stop sucking his thumb. Listen, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. Someone I know VERY WELL sucked her thumb until THIRD GRADE and she turned out JUST FINE. I mean, so she tells me. Heh. Heh heh. I don’t know her THAT well or anything. I CERTAINLY don’t know her well enough that she’s the one writing this post or anything.
Conrad’s mom is a horrible woman who liked to scare her children, and much like Harriet the Firebug’s mom, leaves Conrad alone one day. She tells him as she leaves that he’s not to suck his thumbs. Why? “That great tall tailor, he always comes/For naughty boys who suck their thumbs;/And ‘ere they wonder what he’s about,/He’s got his great long scissors out.”
He sounds like a child molester full of euphemism to me, but whatever, maybe things are different in old timey Germany.
You know Conrad was all sucking his thumbs the minute his mom left, right? Right.
A man with a huge head came in with gigantic tinsnips and cut Conrad’s thumbs off, of course. I mean, what else were you expecting?
When Conrad’s bitch of a mom comes home, SHE LAUGHS AT HIM. “Ha! Ha! said Mama, I knew he’d come/For naughty little Suck-a-Thumb!” WHAT THE HELL GERMANY.
Then Conrad bleeds to death as his mom points and laughs.
What did we learn in this one? Sometimes your family members are assholes. Wait, that’s not what we learned? Get better locks? Did we learn get better locks? No? Oh, don’t suck our thumbs? FINE. Don’t suck our thumbs.
What new German word did we learn that we love the most? Geschwind. It means quickly. I like it because it has WIND in it. You go QUICKLY as GESCHWIND.
Now: “The Story of Augustus and the Soup.”
You know nothing good’s going to come of someone named Augustus. Augustus GLOOP! Augustus GLOOP!
Augustus was a fat, fat child who liked to eat all the food.
Randomly, he stopped eating. It’s not explained why, and I can only assume, as all adults do in this book, the parental units in his life failed to care enough to do anything about it.
After five days (BEST. DIET. EVER.), healthy, plump Augustus went from the boy above, to:
And then “on the fifth day, he was – dead!”
Well. Thanks for bringing him to the DOCTOR, Mom and Dad, which might have saved his LIFE. Also, the only thing they served this kid was soup. Maybe you could have given him something else? I know, I know, kids that refuse food, we’re not supposed to cater to them. IF YOUR CHILD IS STARVING TO DEATH YOU CAN GIVE HIM SOME TATER TOTS.
What did we learn in this one? Um…five-day-soup-diets are really effective? Old-timey German parents didn’t care if their children starved to death? What’s that? Always eat everything that’s put in front of you? FINE.
What new German word did we learn that we love the most? Vielleicht. It means perhaps. Vielleicht you should have parents who let you have chicken nuggets once in a damn while, old-timey Germans.
Next: “The Story of Fidgety Phil.” Hee! “Fidgety Phil.” That’s so a name I would give someone. I already love this. This can’t be that bad, right?
Fidgety Phil can’t sit still at the dinner table. He “wriggles and giggles” and he rocks in his chair like it’s a rocking horse. Do you think his parents are understanding and sweet about it? IF YOU DO YOU HAVEN’T BEEN PAYING ATTENTION. Also, there is a good chance that Fidgety Phil is the first documented case of ADHD. THIS IS SCIENCY YOU GUYS.
So his shenanigans caused him to fall over, and in his haste to pull himself back up, he yanked on the tablecloth, causing everything on the table to fall down on him. Food, dishes, silverware, etc. Oh, PHIL.
Oh, shit. Oh, wait. OH PHIL.
“Where is Philip, where is he?/Ah, there he is and he bleeds./There’s a blood-stained table cloth lying on him,/There’s knives and forks, they’re all stuck in him!”
So Phil died. Probably his parents were totally sad, though, and tried to save him?
“Mama and Papa wonder how/They’re going to have their dinner now?”
THESE PARENTS ARE TERRIBLE TERRIBLE PEOPLE.
What did we learn in this one? Sit still at the dinner table, I suppose, but also, THESE PARENTS NEED TO TAKE A CLASS OR SOMETHING.
What new German word did we learn that we love the most? Runterkippen. ZOMG RUNTERKIPPEN! It means to drink something in one gulp. In college I did a lot of runterkippening which led to making a lot of bad decisions, like peeing behind an abandoned hotel.
“The Story of Johnny-Head-In-Air.” Huh. I’m often Amy-Head-In-Air, this ought to be enlightening.
Johnny-Head-in-Air doesn’t pay attention to what’s going on around him because he likes looking at the clouds instead. One day this led him to smack into a dog, and they both fell down. You’re an asshole, Johnny. Pay attention. If you want to look at clouds, go sit in the park like a freeloading hackysacker or something.
Then because he can’t learn his LESSON he goes for another head-in-the-air stroll BY THE RIVER. Do you think he paid attention? Nope.
Fell right the hell in. Died dead dead dead.
And then this happened, and I’ve been laughing about the awesomeness of it for days, and I think it should be my new avatar everywhere that needs one.
These totally awesome fish swam up over his dead body and sang him a little song. “DEAD! DEAD! DEAD!” Look how cheery they are! I mean, they’re total assholes, but “Dead! Dead! DEAD!” This is HYSTERICAL. I mean, if you ignore the dead drowned child in the photo. Don’t feel too bad, he got what was coming. (Also, this book seems to tell me that dead in German is “tot.” I like that because it reminds me of “totally.” This kid is TOTALLY dead. The fish tell us so. Over and over and OVER.
What did we learn in this one? Pay attention to where you’re walking, ya damn hippie.
What new German word did we learn that we love the most? Erschreckt. It means frightened. Doesn’t it LOOK like it should mean frightened? “I was so erschreckt of those death-fish I peed behind the abandoned hotel.”
Finally, FINALLY, we have: “The Story of Flying Robert.” Oh, fun! He’s going on a plane! Right? Right, you guys? Right?
Robert liked rainstorms and going out in them with his green umbrella. Didn’t we learn that was a euphemism for him being gay? So is Robert gay? THIS IS CONFUSING, OLD-TIME GERMANS.
One day there was a gigantic wind and it took him away. “One thing is plain;/He was never seen again.”
He didn’t die in a bloody fashion? It’s like someone else wrote this one and the Shockheaded Peter one at the beginning that was barely a story. I’m not even giving you pictures of this one, because seriously, they are BORING. They’re a guy with an umbrella, then a teeny guy and an umbrella floating over a town. That’s it. BORING. What a letdown, Flying Robert.
What did we learn in this one? Don’t carry green umbrellas in the wind and rain. IF YOU LIKE PINA COLADAAAASSSSS AND GETTING CAUGHT IN THE RAIIIINNNNN….sorry, the 70s slipped in, it happens, moving on.
What new German word did we learn that we love the most? Regenschirm. What do you think this means? Something EXOTIC and MYSTERIOUS? Just umbrella. That’s why German makes me happy. REGENSCHIRM! Get out your regenschirm, Frances, we need to beat our way through a crowd of homeless to get to the Land’s End outlet!
OK, so now you can see: this is obviously THE BEST BOOK EVER, except if you are a child. Then you should NOT be reading this book. NO NO NO. Ever. It will turn you into a killer of epic proportions. DON’T DO IT SLAPPY.
Thank you, Elaine. Hours and hours and hours of entertainment from this, seriously. And more hours to come. So, so appreciated. (I do think, however, I may wait til he’s 30 to share it with The Nephew.)
Happy Wednesday! Watch out for The Great Long Legg’d Scissor Man! *shudder*