1845 | Germany

Just Deserts

The great tall tailor always comes to little boys that suck their thumbs.

One day, Mama 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 that 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.”

Mama 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.

Mama comes home; there Conrad stands.
And looks quite sad, and shows his hands—
“Ah!” said Mama, “I knew he’d come
To naughty little Suck-a-Thumb.”


Heinrich Hoffmann

From Struwwelpeter. A physician and psychologist, Hoffmann claimed to have written and illustrated this story and other tales in a similar tone for his three-year-old son after being disappointed with the selection of children’s books he found while shopping for a Christmas present in 1844. He published the collection of rhymes under the pseudonym Reimerich Kinderlieb and did not reveal his identity until the book’s sixth edition. Hoffmann directed the state mental hospital in Frankfurt am Main from 1851 to 1888.