Teach your children well: a cautionary tale

Once upon a time, back about 150 years ago, a German doctor couldn’t find a storybook with stern enough cautionary messages for his son.

So he wrote one himself. 

shockheadedpetertigerlilliesFast forward to a decade ago, when I was introduced to the book via the Tiger Lillies’ stage show based on it.  (Thank you Album 88 Freeform.) Of all the things I regret not seeing, this may be the biggest. 

He warned them not to make fun of people for the way they are!

He warned them not to make fun of people for the way they are!

I bought the book for my kids plus copies for anyone else I thought might appreciate it, and I’ve continued to be drawn to the artwork and the sentiment behind it. The “avatar” on this site is Harriet, aka Pauline — she’s a bit of a pyro. Besides nasty Peter who won’t comb his hair or cut his nails, there’s a spacey “head-in-air” little boy who wanders into the river,  a picky eater who wastes away until he’s dead, a rabbit who steals a hunter’s gun and shoots him with it, and some bullies who pick on a “black-a-moor” and are rewarded with being dyed black themselves by a giant scholar of sorts (gotta love, really, how progressive this one must’ve been for its time)

Freakiest of all is the little boy whose mother warns him . . . but he sucks his thumb anyway and a guy runs in with giant scissors and — snip snap snip! — cuts off his thumbs. Warning: nightmarish graphic violence!

"Pretty Stories and Funny Pictures"

"Pretty Stories and Funny Pictures"

It’s so old it’s public domain. You can see it online here, including a page or two translated by Mark Twain, who knew funny when he saw it,  or here. Here are the original graphics

If you’re the read-aloud type, click here to have it read to you.  Here’s a ‘tween the wars version, with more 20th-century misbehaviors, and a much less frightening modern-day one,which does absolutely nothing for me. 

Next time you need a baby gift, don’t say you can’t think of anything.  Or just go ahead and buy a copy for yourself.

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