The Moveable Struwwelpeter Series from Marianne Petit
Based On The Children's Books by Heinrich Hoffmann
In 1845 a German psychiatrist named Heinrich Hoffmann wrote a series of short children’s stories that all contain a strong moral emphasis and show the consequences of misbehavior. It was a cold winter’s night, during Christmastime, when Hoffmann went out in search of a picture book for his three-year-old son. Not finding anything of substance, Hoffmann went home and wrote and illustrated his own children’s book that consisted of ten short stories. Nine of these stories contain children and feature strong moral lessons, while the tenth one is about a rabbit that picks up a hunter’s rifle and turns into the hunter rather than the hunted. Hoffman’s friends finally convinced him to publish anonymously, and the book first came out under the (translated) title Funny Stories and Whimsical Pictures with 15 Beautifully Coloured Panels for Children Aged 3 to 6.
Little Suck a Thumb
It wasn’t until the third edition, in 1858, that it was published with its well-known name, the Struwwelpeter series. Struwwelpeter translating into Shaggy-Peter, which is a name based on one of the stories. It soon became a popular and beloved children’s book all over Europe. Since it was published the story has been adapted into everything from stage plays to films, and even an English adaptation written in 1848 titled Slovenly Peter by Mark Twain. It has also appeared throughout popular culture in things such as the television show The Office and a song titled “Hilf mir” by the German band Rammstein. Struwwelpeter remains a celebrated book today although some wonder if the age range, 3 to 6, is a little bit incongruous with the actual content.
Little Suck a Thumb
Today, these children’s stories have come alive visually through Marianne R. Petit’s handmade moveable artist books. Petit has created a series of quirky moveable books that capture the gruesome side of these tales, while still showing Petit’s artistic side and consist of tunnel books, carousel books, and flag books. Petit’s hand is evident in her work giving it an appropriately unpolished look, with raw edges and a somewhat roughhewn look and feel. However, her moveable books have become popular in their own right with moveable book fans both in the US and in Europe.
Petit’s moveable books based on this children’s series include Augustus Who Would Not Eat His Soup, which is a series of six tunnel books that portrays the story of a boy named Augustus who would not eat his soup, and ends up wasting away. These books also include LED backlighting. Then there is Shockheaded Peter, the story for which the title comes from, it is an accordion moveable book that tells the story of Peter who is a filthy boy with uncombed hair and dirty nails, as a result no one wants to be around him.
The Story of Flying Robert is a flag book, which tells of rainy days, when other children would stay inside and play, but not Robert. He went outside and got blown away. Petit’s most recent moveable book is a carousel book titled Pauline and the Matches. This is a story of Pauline who played with matches while her mother was away, and burned herself to ash. Finally, Little Suck A Thumb (also with LED lights) is a gruesome tale about a boy named Conrad who will not stop sucking his thumb, and so the tailor comes in and cuts his thumbs off.
One day Mamma said “Conrad dear,
I must go out and leave you here.
But mind now, Conrad, what I say,
Don’t suck your thumb while I’m away.
The great tall tailor always comes
To little boys who suck their thumbs;
And ere they dream what he’s about,
He takes his great sharp scissors out,
And cuts their thumbs clean off—and then,
You know, they never grow again.”
Marianne R. Petit is an associate arts professor at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. Petit teaches courses in digital media, animation and storytelling. She also oversees the assistive technology and social justice curriculum. In addition to her teaching she is also the co-founder of Greylock Arts, a non-commercial art space that is dedicated to interactive new media and emerging art practices.
In addition to moveable books Marianne R. Petit also works in animation and video, dioramas and installations and web and interactive art. Marianne tells us “I am interested in storytelling, the stories of others, and the multiple ways in which stories can be told. I work in a variety of media including: book, animation, dioramas, installation, and online spaces. Recently I have been exploring paper engineering with embedded electronics.”
As a fan of moveable books, Petit’s collection is a must-have. They are part of literature history since they are based on such a well-known and admired collection of children’s stories. These moveable books truly are an impressive addition to any collection.
To view Marianne R. Petit’s work and for ordering information contact:
23 Sandy Gallery
Phone: Laura Russell at 503-927-4409