The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb
One of the highlights of going to visit my Amma as a small boy used to be reading the old hardback copy of "Struwwelpeter: Merry Tales and Funny Pictures" by Heinrich Hoffman – although it was the inspiration for several recurring nightmares, there was something grotesquely compelling about the book that meant I couldn’t stop re-reading it. The idea that any of the stories could have been described as "Merry Tales" or that this could in any way be considered a children's book was (and still is) bizarre.
My favourite story was always "The Story Of Little Suck-a-Thumb"; it’s the completely cold and matter of fact way in which the unfortunate boy’s mother reacts to her son's mutilation at the hands of the tailor and the freakish illustration of the "great, long, red-legged scissor-man" himself leaping in through the open door with his enormous shears that completely captivated me then (and now).
One day Mamma said "Conrad dear,
I must go out and leave you here.
But mind now, Conrad, what I say,
Don't suck your thumb while I'm away.
The great tall tailor always comes
To little boys who suck their thumbs;
And ere they dream what he's about,
He takes his great sharp scissors out,
And cuts their thumbs clean off—and then,
You know, they never grow again."
Mamma had scarcely turned her back,
The thumb was in, Alack! Alack!
The door flew open, in he ran,
The great, long, red-legged scissor-man.
Oh! children, see! the tailor's come
And caught out little Suck-a-Thumb.
Snip! Snap! Snip! the scissors go;
And Conrad cries out "Oh! Oh! Oh!"
Snip! Snap! Snip! They go so fast,
That both his thumbs are off at last.
Mamma comes home: there Conrad stands,
And looks quite sad, and shows his hands;
"Ah!" said Mamma, "I knew he'd come
To naughty little Suck-a-Thumb."
The complete nightmare can be downloaded from Project Gutenberg