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Historical Character

The First Published Children's Book by:
Heinrich Hoffmann

Der Struwwelpeter ("shock-headed Peter" or "Shaggy Peter") is an 1845 German children's book by Heinrich Hoffmann. It comprises ten illustrated and rhymed stories, mostly about children. Each has a clear moral that demonstrates the disastrous consequences of misbehavior in an exaggerated way. The title of the first story provides the title of the whole book. Der Struwwelpeter is one of the earliest books for children that combines visual and verbal narratives in a book format, and is considered a precursor to comic books.

Der Struwwelpeter is known for introducing the character of the Tailor (or Scissorman) to Western literature. Some researchers now see the stories in the book as illustrations of modern child mental disorders.


Hoffmann wrote Struwwelpeter in reaction to the lack of good books for children. Intending to buy a picture book as a Christmas present for his three-year-old son, Hoffmann instead wrote and illustrated his own book. In 1845 he was persuaded by friends to publish the book anonymously as Lustige Geschichten und drollige Bilder mit 15 schön kolorierten Tafeln für Kinder von 3–6 Jahren ("funny stories and droll pictures with 15 beautifully coloured panels for children of 3–6 years"). The book was one of the first uses of chromolithography (a method of making multi-colored prints) in a children's book.

For the third edition, published in 1858, the title was changed to Struwwelpeter, the name of the character in the first story. The book became popular among children throughout Europe.

Struwwelpeter has been translated into several languages. In 1891 Mark Twain wrote his own translation of the book, but because of copyright issues Twain's "Slovenly Peter" was not published until 1935, 25 years after his death.

British twin illustrators Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone provided new illustrations for an English translation published in 1950.

The stories


Nikolas, as he is about to dunk three boys in his inkstand. Illustration from a 1917 edition.

  1. Struwwelpeter describes a boy who does not groom himself properly and is consequently unpopular.

  2. Die Geschichte vom bösen Friederich ("The Story of Wicked Frederick"): A violent boy terrorizes animals and people. Eventually he is bitten by a dog, who goes on to eat the boy's food while Frederick is bedridden.

  3. Die gar traurige Geschichte mit dem Feuerzeug ("The Very Sad Tale with the Matches"): A girl plays with matches, accidentally ignites herself and burns to death.

  4. Die Geschichte von den schwarzen Buben ("The Story of the Inky Boys"): Nikolas (or "Agrippa" in some translations) catches three boys teasing a dark-skinned boy. To teach them a lesson, he dips them in black ink.

  5. Die Geschichte von dem wilden Jäger ("The Story of the Wild Huntsman") is the only story not primarily focused on children. In it, a hare steals a hunter's musket and eyeglasses and begins to hunt the hunter. In the ensuing chaos, the hare's child is burned by hot coffee and the hunter jumps into a well.

  6. Die Geschichte vom Daumenlutscher ("The Story of the Thumb-Sucker"): A mother warns her son Konrad not to suck his thumbs. However, when she goes out of the house he resumes his thumb-sucking, until a roving tailor appears and cuts off his thumbs with giant scissors.

  7. Die Geschichte vom Suppen-Kaspar ("The Story of Soup-Kaspar") begins as Kaspar (or "Augustus" in some translations), a healthy, strong boy, proclaims that he will no longer eat his soup. Over the next five days, he wastes away and dies.

  8. Die Geschichte vom Zappel-Philipp ("The Story of Fidgety Philip"): A boy who won't sit still at dinner accidentally knocks all of the food onto the floor, to his parents' great displeasure.

  9. Die Geschichte von Hans Guck-in-die-Luft ("The Story of Johnny Look-In-The-Air") concerns a boy who habitually fails to watch where he's walking. One day he walks into a river; he is soon rescued, but his briefcase drifts away.

  10. Die Geschichte vom fliegenden Robert ("The Story of Flying Robert"): A boy goes outside during a storm. The wind catches his umbrella and lifts him high into the air. The story ends with the boy sailing into the distance.

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