Monday, November 15, 2010

More Stuff To Frighten Your Children

I enjoyed ruining your childhood memories by instilling a primal fear of Tinkerbell so much, I thought I'd continue down that general path today. I could just go Brothers Grimm if I wanted a quick hit. But Brothers Grimm is too obvious. Too easy.

I'm hitting up the Struwwlpeter, an 1845 "children's book" by Heinrich Hoffman, translated into English a few years later by Mark Twain, and which you might have heard Dwight Schrute read in an episode of The Office. The first edition of the book was printed anonymously, titled "Funny Stories and Whimsical Pictures with 15 Beautifully Coloured Panels for Children Aged 3 to 6".

Lies. Blatant lies.

Let's begin with the title character, Struwwlpeter, or 'Slovenly Peter':

See this frowsy "cratur"
Pah! it's Struwwelpeter
On his fingers rusty,
On his two-head musty,
Scissors seldom come;
Lets his talons grow a year
Do any loathe him? Some!
They hail him "Modern satyr -
Disgusting Struwwelpeter."

Which one to do next... let's go with the story of Augustus Who Not Have Any Soup:

Augustus was a chubby lad;
Fat ruddy cheeks Augustus had;
And everybody saw with joy
The plump and hearty healthy boy.
He ate and drank as he was told,
And never let his soup get cold.
But one day, one cold winter's day,
He threw away the spoon and screamed:
"O take the nasty soup away!
I won't have any soup to-day:
I will not, will not eat my soup!
I will not eat it, no!"

Next day! now look, the picture shows
How lank and lean Augustus grows!
Yet, though he feels so weak and ill,
The naughty fellow cries out stillÑ
"Not any soup for me, I say!
O take the nasty soup away!
I will not, will not eat my soup!
I will not eat it, no!"

The third day comes. O what a sin!
To make himself so pale and thin.
Yet, when the-soup is put on table,
He screams, as loud as he is ableÑ
"Not any soup for me, I say!
O take the nasty soup away!
I won't have any soup to-day!"

Look at him, now the fourth day's come!
He scarce outweighs a sugar-plum;

He's like a little bit of thread;
And on the fifth day he was-dead.

That's right, kids. Soup is the only food in the world, and going even one day without it will cause you to start visibly wasting away. In five days, you will die. Never mind the survival experts who figure an initially-healthy person can potentially, according to doctor's reports, go as long as 4-6 weeks without food (more typically, figure a week), and that victims of the Holocaust- much of which took place in, yes, Germany- managed to survive for several months on 300-600 calories a day. The obese- which we might classify Augustus as, given that he's chubby with fat ruddy cheeks at the start- can go anywhere from 3-25 weeks. Surely, he will live past Day 5.

But anyway. Onwards! Let's go next to the story of Flying Robert.

When the rain comes tumbling down
In the country or the town,
All good little girls and boys
Stay at home and mind their toys.
Robert thought, - "No, when it pours,
It is better out of doors."
Rain it did, and in a minute
Bob was in it.
Here you see him, silly fellow,
Underneath his red umbrella.

What a wind! Oh! how it whistles
Through the trees and flow'rs and thistles.
It has caught his red umbrella;
Now look at him, silly fellow,
Up he flies
To the skies.
No one heard his screams and cries;
Through the clouds the rude wind bore him,
And his hat flew on before him.

Soon they got to such height,
They were nearly out of sight!
And the hat went Up so high,
That it almost touch'd the sky.
No one ever yet could tell
Where they stopp'd, or where they fell;
Only this one thing is plain,
Rob was never seen again!

You've got to really look closely for this one to make any sense at all. If you do some interpretation on the last illustration, out in the far distance, you can see something that might be a tornado. It's almost certainly out too far to catch Robert with his umbrella, and even if Robert did get caught up, he could always, I don't know, let go of the umbrella. Nobody ever said anything about any particular attachment to it, merely a preference for walking in the rain.

As for the tornado itself, tornadoes do happen in Europe. They're not nearly as common as they are in the United States, but tornadoes do hit Germany, and everywhere else in Europe. So if that's what Hoffman was going for, no arguments on that. If he was simply going for a rainstorm, though, we've got issues.

But let go of the damned umbrella, Robert.

And finally, we simply must read the story of Little Suck-a-Thumb.

One day, Mamma said, "Conrad dear,
I must go out and leave you here.
But mind now, Conrad, what I say,
Don't suck your thumb while I'm away.
The great tall tailor always comes
To little boys that suck their thumbs.
And ere they dream what he's about
He takes his great sharp scissors
And cuts their thumbs clean off, - and then
You know, they never grow again."

Mamma had scarcely turn'd her back,
The thumb was in, alack! alack!

The door flew open, in he ran,
The great, long, red-legged scissorman.
Oh! children, see! the tailor's come
And caught our little Suck-a-Thumb.

Snip! Snap! Snip! the scissors go;
And Conrad cries out - Oh! Oh! Oh!
Snip! Snap! Snip! They go so fast;
That both his thumbs are off at last.
Mamma comes home; there Conrad stands,
And looks quite sad, and shows his hands;-
"Ah!" said Mamma "I knew he'd come
To naughty little Suck-a-Thumb."

I can't find for certain whether tailors in that era went door-to-door. But... um... yeah.

No comments: