A Deuce of Fairytale Fearsomeness
Have you ever heard of STRUWWELPETER (“In English, “Shockheaded Peter”)? Me neither. It was written in 1845 by a guy named Heinrich Hoffman. (I’m betting the title tipped you off that the book was written by a German guy.) Apparently it inspired Tim Burton to create Edward Scissorhands. (Edward would seem to be a combination of the characters Struwwelpeter, who never cut his nails or hair and was ostracized for it, and Scissorman, who cut off the thumbs of little children who sucked their opposable appendages too much.) A book of children’s stories from the time before children’s literature had to be sanitized and safe, it’s chock full of Horrors for the impressionable minds of the little wunderkin. My favorites are the stories of the boy who beat his dog, only to be mauled by it (Good for the dog!) and the hunter who gets shot by the rabbit he’d set out to kill. (Good for the rabbit!)
How would one go about categorizing such stories, though? Would the tales of STRUWWELPETER even qualify, given that we know who wrote them? There IS a classification system for folklore, however, a comprehensive and ambitious one. It’s goal is to contain and categorize every folktale of “Indo-European” origin. (That’s a lot of folklore, folks!) The ATU Tale Type Index, the current system, is the evolution of the “Index of Types of Folktales” started in 1910 by a Finnish scholar named Antti Aarne.
Antti, meet Heinrich. Heinrich, meet Antti. You guys have a lot in common. Y’all figure out where in the system to stick Struwwelpeter and Scissorman and the dog and the rabbit. Be careful with the rabbit, though. It’s packin’ a rod!