Henrich Hoffmanns Struwwelpeter
    by John Cech

You're hearing the English group The Tiger Lillies with part of Fidgety Phil, from their Junk Opera that they based on Heinrich Hoffmanns hilariously awful Struwwelpeter or Shock-headed Peter -- it s an off-kilter, campy musical accompaniment to Childrens Good Manners Month.

Hoffmann was a German physician who in the early 1800s, the story goes, went out to buy a book for his ill son, but all he could find were heavy-handed, moralistic tales. So Hoffmann decided to write and illustrate his own stories for his child, and the result became an extremely popular satire of all those sagas that were meant to scare children into proper behavior. They were so over-the-top that one couldn t help but laugh at them. Theres Harriet who plays with matches and turns herself into a pile of cinders; Johnny doesn t watch where hes going and ends up falling into the river and .... well, I ll stop there. And these are the tame ones. Yet these grotesque, Monty-Pythonesque fables have stayed timeless -- the Tiger Lillies Junk Opera was a smash hit with family audiences when it toured this country last year. For after all, what kid, young or old, hasnt been just a little shock-headed, once upon a time.

Copyright 2001 by John Cech

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September 2001
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"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."