Struwwelpeter (“Shock-headed Peter” to his English friends), though unholy infant terror is a better description of what lies between these covers. Depraved, violent, sometimes fatal retribution for those who offend against the Hoffman’s merry code — transgressions including such mortal sins as fidgeting, failing to eat soup, sucking thumbs, playing with matches, being careless with umbrellas and walking along vacantly — along with more recognisably modern ailments like animal cruelty and racism. So:
- Animal cruelty: A dog bite, some unpleasant medicine and redistribution of Frederick’s pudding to victim dog.
- Playing with matches: Death (human combustion).
- Casual racism: Being compulsorily dyed black by a bearded giant.
- Hunting: Your quarry turns the tables and you find yourself, your spouse and her coffee cup being shot at by a bespectacled rabbit. (Rabbit’s own child suffers collateral damage being scalded by falling coffee). In fairness fairly credulous hunter allowing himself to be overpowered and outfoxed by a rabbit. No-one emerges out of this tale with much credit.
- Thumb sucking: Forcible amputation of thumbs by large man in red trousers with giant shears.
- Not eating soup: Death (starvartion)
- Fidgeting: Having the dining room table collapse on you and incurring wrath of your parents.
- Walking vacantly: Near-drowning. Loss of schoolbook. Mirth of fish.
- Playing with umbrella in a storm: Death (cause of death not articulated; body never recovered).
Never did me any harm, though.