Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Fairytales vs Scarytales

The highlight of my trip into work is not (surprise, surprise) my detour into Pret for my once weekly treat of hot chocolate. It’s walking past the most gorgeous little toy museum just before I get to our mews. Think puppets, china dolls, wooden instruments and toy theatres. It’s as far away from Bratz dolls as you can possibly get. 

They also always have a beautiful selection of books in the window and one day I noticed a particularly memorable one from my childhood, Struwwelpeter, which alternately amused and terrified me. Given to me by an Austrian aunt (who clearly thought I needed disciplining) this is not the book for children with delicate sensibilities.

The book contains around ten rhymes, and in each one a misbehaving child suffers dire consequences for their bad behaviour. For instance, in Die Geschichte vom Daumenlutscher a little boy who will not stop sucking his thumb, gets the offending digit cut off by a tailor with giant scissors.

And he gets off lightly. The poor little girl who plays with matches burns to death, the boy who won’t eat his soup starves, and the child who doesn’t watch where he’s going falls into a river. That’ll teach them.

After having seen this article about terrifying French children’s books I did start wondering if this is generally how our continental cousins discipline their offspring? By relying on terrifying fairytales to hammer home the importance of, among other things, good manners and personal hygiene. Are the French/German kids generally better behaved?

What do you think? Would reading Struwwelpeter to your little ones inspire them to behave like little angels? Or would it send them cowering under the pillows come bedtime? What’s the scariest book you remember from your childhood? I have to admit Maurice Sendak’s illustrations do come to mind…


  1. Hmmm... We are in the middle of terrible twos...where can I get a copy express delivery, and in english?!

    1. As with most things, Amazon! And in English. Hope it helps... ;)

  2. I think children are less fragile than we think. My daughters favourite book when she was 8 or so was Hillaire Belloc's cautionary tales for bad children. In this one a liar burns to death! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cautionary_Tales_for_Children