Scary Children’s Stories

My parents introduced me to some weird stuff when I was younger. I love being able to bond with other people from my generation about TV shows, games, and movies that were popular when I was growing up. However, I  have a handful of children’s stories from my childhood that I’m positive none of my friends would understand. Maybe, just maybe, if I share my memories with you, it will shed some light on why I am the way I am.

Let’s start with the weirdest, shall we? My dad bought me the English translation of  a German book called Der Struwwelpeter which was written in 1845–how relevant! Translated, it’s called Shockheaded Peter. It’s a collection of short stories about naughty kids who all get what they deserve…in a way. One of my favorites was about a boy who kept sucking his thumbs even after he was told not to over and over by his mother. This scary man comes to the boy’s house one day and cuts off his thumbs to teach him a lesson. As a child/pre-teen, I felt like this was an appropriate punishment (as long as it didn’t happen to me). Was I a Nazi in my past life?

Where did that man find those giant scissors?

One of my other favorite stories in this book is about a little girl who plays with matches and accidentally lights herself on fire. Oops. That’s what you get for being a pyro. The illustration is the best part of this story–I love the cat’s tears flowing into her ashes. Moral of the story, Germans are crazy as hell.

Stop drop and roll, foolio.

And then there’s Edward Gorey. I’ve touched on him before, but not in detail. His work is a little more well-known than Heinrich Hoffmann’s–the author of Der Struwwelpeter. One of my favorite Edward Gorey pieces is called The Ghastlycrumb Tinies which is essentially an alphabet book using children’s names and different ways to die. Some are pretty tame. For example, “A is for Amy who fell down the stairs.” That doesn’t seem like such a bad way to go. But others like, “K is for Kate who was struck with an axe” or “R is for Rhonda consumed by a fire” are slightly haunting.

RIP Kate.

Another brilliant story by Edward Gorey is called The Hapless Child. The main character of the story’s father dies at war. Her mother dies of depression shortly after, leaving the child with her uncle. He sends her to boarding school where she is teased endlessly. She runs away and is kidnapped by this guy who keeps her in a basement and forces her to make paper flowers in a dimly lit room. She starts to starve and go blind. Eventually she escapes, but because of her lack of sight, she couldn’t see and gets run over by a car. Her father actually wasn’t dead and it was his driver who ran her over. He looked at her, but didn’t recognize the child because she was so changed. So she died on the street. Such a great story for a kid to read! So uplifting and light!

Seems like cozy quarters.

And lastly, a quick touch on The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy written by Tim Burton. We all know who Tim Burton is. And if you don’t know who Tim Burton is, I refuse to make an attempt to describe him. And Helena Bonham Carter for that matter. The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy is a collection of short stories and poems. It’s not as scarring as the others, but this poem always stuck with me along with the illustration. I wonder why?

The Boy with Nails in His Eyes

The boy with nails in his eyes

Put up his aluminum tree.

It looked pretty strange

Because he couldn’t really see.

Ummm more importantly, how is he still alive and celebrating Christmas?

Good news is, half of us are probably better at writing poems than Tim Burton.


25 thoughts on “Scary Children’s Stories

    • Haha yeah they aren’t that well-known. Just some good parenting tips!

      Yeah that picture is the best. I don’t know if Tim Burton actually drew it, but I wouldn’t up it past him.

  1. springfieldfem says:

    We were separated at birth! My great-granny used to read me hellacious stories like those when I was a kid, like the really, gory Grimm fairy tales (Robber Bridegroom? Shivers. Seriously) or Hans Christian Anderson. Now my parents wonder why I grew up to write such, ahem, spirited short stories. I particularly liked one she told me about being asleep before midnight or some creature would come out and sew your eyes shut.

    Ah. Grandma.

    • Clearly we are the same person. Your great g-ma sounds awesome! Never heard of Robber Bridegroom…! Looking it up pronto! Ahh sewing your eyes shut? Omg. I used to sleep with my arms above the covers so my mom would know that no one cut my arms off. Like, wtf was my thought process?

      So normal.

  2. Addie says:

    I have Ghastlycrumbs. It’s put away for an eventual grandchild in my Gamma’s Closet of Goodies. I’d like to think I’ll have a grandchild who will appreciate the book before they are 21.

  3. I had a Ghastlycrumb Tinies calendar for 2010. I stopped using it because I had no plans that entire year. Still fun to have.

    Those are some pretty ghastly children’s stories. Why put all that fear into us? Isn’t everyone in Germany a goth? It seems like every clip I see from Germany is at a Rammstein concert.

    • I love calendars. I don’t know why. Ghastlycrumbs in calendar form sounds like the best.

      I love putting fear into people. It’s like my favorite job. Germans scare me sooo much. All the Germans that I’ve met are like psycho nymphomaniacs. Creeps.

  4. What can I say, we wanted you to be aware to the horrors of being consumed by fire. We wanted you to count your blessings that you had us for parents. By carefully and methodically exposing you to the most severe childhood traumas we were able to secure our place as greatest parents in the world. That was the plan and I’m pretty sure it worked. : )

    • Your plan definitely worked. I was also always very nervous to be alone, or have you guys out of my sight because I thought I would get kidnapped and die. So thanks for that. Hahah severe childhood traumas are the best. The definitely made an impression! 😀

  5. “Shockheaded Peter” Sounds like my kind of book…

    Not all of us are great at poems though, I mean the best I can come up with is:

    Roses are red.
    Bacon is also red.
    Poems are hard.


    • The main story, Shockheaded Peter, was about a boy who didn’t take care of himself. His hair grew wild and his nails grew out like claws. He basically became a freak. Haha perhaps being a fellow Peter, you can relate? 😉

      Wow. Have you ever considered quitting your job and becoming the next poet laureate?

  6. Anyone who traces the “secret origins” of fairy tales will be horrified, right, Lily?
    They were actually quite gruesome!
    Here’s to surviving childhood!
    Good for you, Lily.

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