The Slovenly Peter

The profile of Dr. Heinrich HoffmannE.T.A. Hoffmann

        -Born on 1809 in Frankfurt am Main into a well-to-do middle-class family

        -His father, Philipp Jacob Hoffmann, an architect and urban engineer

        -by 1833 completed medical studies at the university of Heidelberg and Halle

         then one year in Paris as an intern

        -1835, returned to Frankfurt, helped established one of the first clinics for the          poor.

        -had a strong social conscience, committed to democratic change but never       participated in radical movements, was to become a prime representative of the     progressive forces that constituted the educated bourgeois elite of Germany

        -loved to write songs, ditties, and poems that he performed to commemorate or        celebrate particular events; he joined a club which organized readings and     lectures; he supported free speech for the press.

        -He was known and respected by his friends and the public as an occasional poet      who could write songs and poems for all kinds of gatherings and events.

         He published a collection in 1842.

        -the origins of Strruwwwelpeter

         1844 Christmas

         Carl, then three years old

         bought a notebook and composed five stories in verse, sketched pictures in color.

         #1 Edition, 1845

        Original title: Slovenly Peter or Amusing Tales and Droll Pictures for Children from   3 to 6 by Reimerich Kinderlieb (the colorful rhymester who loves children), 5 tales    in rhymed verse: Fredrick, Black Boys, Wild Hunter, Soupy Casper, thumbsucker

        Sold 1500 copies within four weeks

        Immediate popularity and commercial success speaks to its extraordinariness and the timelessness of its appearance.

        #2 Edition, 1846

        added two more tales: Matches, Fidgety Philip

        changed the pseudonym to Heinrich Kinderlieb

        #5 Edition, 1850

        added two more tales: Hans, Flying Robert,

        Strruwwwelpeter’s image and ditty were moved to the front

        Real name appeared on the cover

        -Hoffmann did not like the dry, educational pamphlets that were inherited from the Enlightment; what he found lacking in these books was a consideration of a child’s ability to approach text and illustration and especially, a child’s desire for drama and action

        -during his examination of terrified or restless children, he had repeatedly diverted the small patient’s attention by drawing figures – not unlike Struwwelpeter – letting their hairs and nails grow on paper to absurd lengths.

        So, the book was design to draw attention (to civilize), shock, dupe, and amuse

        Children were engaged emotionally

        -the book is first and foremost a civilizational book, in which the value of self-discipline, and self-restraint as well as respect and tolerance for the other are stressed.




Children’s literature in the first half of the 19th Century:

        If you spare the rod, you spoil the child

        Educational messages of civility and obedience were the rule in a children’s book

        the fairy tales by the Brother Grimm

        Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Red Shoes”

        corporal punishment is commonplace

        So, Strruwwwelpeter did not approach the question of cruelty, sadism, and punishment very differently from other children’s books and fairy tales of the time



The book:

        -the best known and most influential German picture book

        -as a picture book: mark the beginning of modern picture book through its interplay of picture and text

        -a blend of popular and pedagogical, nothing like it had existed before it appeared on the German market in 1845.

        -rely heavily on oral lore, popular culture, fairy tales

        -cartoon-like exaggeration (humor and keep fiction and reality apart), a hint of revolt against conformity and complacency, parody, satire

        critique of the illustration (see Eva-Maria Metcalf p. 207)

        -Hoffmann’s drawing speak to the senses instead of the intellect

        -in his drawings size are determined by the importance and emotional value invested in the figures as fits the naïve style

        -a certain ambiguity

        e.g. Konrad,

                the slovenly peter

                flying Robert (whose fate we can only imagine)

                Hoffmann’s unwillingness to subdue the protagonists’ spirit of adventure with their need to conform (except Konrad)


        -punishment is not meted out by adult educators or authority figures but appears to be a natural result of the child’s actions (except Konrad)




Hoffman’s original painting in Thumbsucker