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December 2002 - Nr. 12


The Editor
Winter Air
Elizabeth Kuehn
Hier O.K. Berlin!
K-W and Beyond
Art Transcends...
Herwig Wandschneider
Never Forgotten
Dick reports...
Sybille reports
Ham Se det jehört?
Cultural Landsmarks...
To the Comic Book
Christkind Eröffnet...
Märklin's Model Trains
Familienfest Weihnachten
Not Just Fun
Begehbares Bild
Renewable Energy
Karneval Eröffnung
Airship Inventor
Loriot Begeistert
Peter Ustinov

Heinrich Hoffmann: Paving the Way to the Comic Book

  TWIG - It started as a Christmas present. The year was 1844, and Heinrich Hoffmann, a Frankfurt doctor, wanted to give his son Carl a children’s book for the holidays. He went shopping, but what he found in the bookstores were "long tales, stupid stories," unfit for the lively imagination of a child, he later explained. He finally came home, having made just one purchase: a blank notebook.

Hoffmann’s idea was to create the book himself, bringing colorful pictures and words together to tell a vivid tale. He set to work drawing a character he had used to entertain his younger patients, Der Struwwelpeter (Slovenly Peter), who did not want to comb his hair or cut his nails. The first version of Hoffmann’s book contained five poems and a picture illustrating the boy’s appalling grooming habits. When his friends read the book, they encouraged him to publish it. He added more tales about bad children, each taking a moral lesson to an absurd extreme, and each illustrated with a series of images from which the thread of the narrative could be drawn. Hoffmann published the book in 1845, under a title that translates as "Funny Stories and Droll Pictures with 15 Beautifully Colored Plates for Children Ages 3 to 6."

Those who have read Hoffmann’s stories might be surprised to hear them described as "funny." They tell of children whose faults are punished by torture or death: a thumb-sucker loses her thumbs to a bogeyman with giant scissors, a girl plays with matches and is burned to ashes, a boy doesn’t eat his soup and dies of malnutrition. Yet something about this first "comic book" struck a chord with children. Eventually republished as Der Struwwelpeter, with pictures by a professional illustrator, it has been reprinted hundreds of time and been translated into some 30 languages. The book has also served as an inspiration to many other children’s authors, including the popular American writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak. "Graphically," Sendak once said of Hoffmann’s work, "it is one of the most beautiful books in the world."

Text and images from Der Struwwelpeter can be viewed at the website of a museum dedicated to Hoffmann at www.heinrich-hoffmann-museum.de. An exhibition of books and other works drawing on the Struwwelpeter theme is on display in Korbach (Hessen) through January 12.


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