Shock-headed Peter – A Cautionary Poem about Cleanliness, with an MP3

This poem comes from the German book Der Struwwelpeter oder lustige Geschichten und drollige Bilder by Heinrich Hoffman. It was first published in German in 1844.  It’s a collection of 10 poems that are cautionary tales.

An English version was translated and published 4 years later, in 1848, called, "Struwwelpeter: Merry Tales and Funny Pictures".

Your kids don’t want to groom themselves?  Just read them this poem about Shock-headed Peter.  It’s a cautionary story about what happens to children when they don’t keep themselves neat and clean… they can turn out like Shock-headed Peter!

MP3 of Shock-headed Peter

Shock-headed Peter by Heinrich Hoffman


Just look at him! there he stands,

With his nasty hair and hands.

See! his nails are never cut;

They are grimed as black as soot;

And the sloven, I declare,

Never once has combed his hair;

Anything to me is sweeter

Than to see Shock-headed Peter.

Read by Kara Shallenberg.

This poem was originally written in German.  Here’s the original text with two recordings in the original German:

MP3 of Struwwelpeter

MP3 of Struwwelpeter 2nd Version


Sieh einmal, hier steht er,
pfui, der Struwwelpeter!
An den Händen beiden
ließ er sich nicht schneiden
seine Nägel fast ein Jahr;
kämmen ließ er nicht sein Haar.
Pfui, ruft da ein jeder:
Garstger Struwwelpeter!

1st German recording by Roman Buettner.
2nd recording by  Elli

Interestingly, Mark Twain came upon this book when he was in Berlin in 1891. He translated it as a Christmas present for his three daughters. Here’s Twain’s translation of this poem:

See this frowsy “cratur” —
Pah! It’s Struwwelpeter!
On his fingers rusty,
On his tow-head musty,
Scissors seldom come;
Let his talons grow a year, —
Hardly ever combs his hair, —
Do any loathe him? Some!
They hail him “Modern Satyre —
Disgusting Struwwelpeter.”


Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Saturday, January 21st, 2012 at 10:18 am and is filed under Countries & Cultures, England, English, German, Germany, Heinrich Hoffman, Languages, Poems, Poems about Children, Poems about Cleanliness, Poems about Neatness, Poetry, Poets, Recordings, Recordings of Poems, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

One Response to “Shock-headed Peter – A Cautionary Poem about Cleanliness, with an MP3”

  1. nana Says:

    This book, that my mother used to read to us when I was a children, I fond it in french to read to my own children. It’s a timeless book !
    TY Lisa

Leave a Reply