Hidden away in a pretty red villa in Frankfurt´s Westend is the Struwwelpeter Museum.
The name Struwwelpeter (or sometimes translated into Shockheaded Peter) derives from a childrens book Heinrich Hoffmann wrote in 1845.
Hoffmann, a wealthy doctor and psychiatrist, was unhappy with the lack of suitable books for children available at the time and decided to write one himself.
First called "Lustige Geschichten und drollige Bilder mit 15 schön kolorierten Tafeln für Kinder von 3–6 Jahren (Funny Stories and Whimsical Pictures with 15 Beautifully Coloured Panels for Children Aged 3 to 6) the title changed soon changed to Struwwelpeter, the name of the character in the first story.
It became very famous in Europe and remains unforgotten till now.
At least in Germany hardly anyone won´t know about the cruel and memorable stories with their overly clear moral messages. They remain influential although nowadays you wonder how suitable they actually are for children.
To give you a little taster and to fresh-up your memories, here are the summaries of the stories:
- "Struwwelpeter" describes a boy who does not groom himself properly and is consequently unpopular.
- In "Die Geschichte vom bösen Friederich" (The Story of Bad Frederick), a violent boy terrorizes animals and people. Eventually he is bitten by a dog, who goes on to eat the boy's sausage while he is bedridden.
- In "Die gar traurige Geschichte mit dem Feuerzeug" (The Dreadful Story of the Matches), a girl plays with matches and burns to death.
- In "Die Geschichte von den schwarzen Buben" (The Story of the Black Boys), Saint Nicholas catches three boys teasing a dark-skinned boy. To teach them a lesson, he dips the three boys in black ink, to make them even darker-skinned than the boy they'd teased.
- "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 falls into a well, presumably to his death.
- In "Die Geschichte vom Daumenlutscher" (The Story of the Thumb-Sucker), a mother warns her son 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.
- "Die Geschichte vom Suppen-Kaspar" (The Story of the Soup-Kaspar) begins as Kaspar, a healthy, strong boy, proclaims that he will no longer eat his soup. Over the next five days he wastes away and dies.
- In "Die Geschichte vom Zappel-Philipp" (The Story of the 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.
- "Die Geschichte von Hans Guck-in-die-Luft" (The Story of Johnny Head-in-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 writing-book drifts away.
- In "Die Geschichte vom fliegenden Robert" (The Story of the Flying Robert), a boy goes outside during a storm. The wind catches his umbrella and sends him to places unknown, and presumably to his doom. (source: wikipedia)
The museum presents the different stories and their main characters, displays many different editions, explores the life of Heinrich Hoffmann and shows a variety of advertising and products the Struwwelpeter has been used for in the past.
A small museum that might get overlooked easily but a truly wonderful one for children and grown-ups.
The villa itself is beautiful and atmospheric and I spend much longer than planned browsing through the stories once well known but now fallen into oblivion.
I highly recommend it, go and have a look yourself when you get to Frankfurt!
opened from Tuesday to Sunday between 10 and 17 o´clock.