On Halloween

Hankie given to me by Uta
One of the hankies in the collection that Uta gave me.  Looks like a werewolf story, but not one I’m familiar with.

Today, on Halloween, when the veil between life and death is said to be thinnest, I like to invite the darkness inside of me to find another place to dwell.  I like to open myself up to those who exist in other worlds to visit me, as long as they come with good intentions and an open heart. I like to see the dark days ahead as a gathering time, the slow and deliberate beginning to the new year.  Like the dropped seed gaining strength on the forest floor until it’s time to bloom again.

22 thoughts on “On Halloween

  1. Oh, how neat! A Struwwelpeter-hankie!

    I’m not sure if you know of the “Struwwelpeter”. “Struwwelpeter” is a nick name and means messy-haired-Peter. It’s a collection of stories the German doctor Heinrich Hoffmann wrote and illustrated for his little son in 1844, which was subsequently published. They’re all cautionary tales and some are quite gruesome. The one on the hankie is “Hans-guck-in-die-Luft” – “Hans-stares-in-the-air” is how I’d translate it.

    There are others, about not playing with fire, about not wasting your food, not sucking your thumb (or an evil taylor will come and cut them off), not being cruel to animals, etc. My nephews love them, gruesome as they are. Probably the same effect as with the Grimm’s fairy tales, which also have an odd fascination for kids.

    The stories are also rhymed very well and lend themselves well to being remembered (my older nephew actually knows them by heart and “reads” them to us).

    Here’s a link to the stories, with translated versions by Mark Twain. Sadly, the translations don’t quite capture the charm of the originals, since he apparently put the emphasis on rhyming more than keeping what the story said (the second-to-last line of Twain’s translation is not even in the original poem at all). But they do give a sense of what the stories are about:


    And in Frankfurt, there’s even a Museum. They have a webpage, and while it is in German, they have an area where someone reads the stories and where an animation is made from the illustrations, so you can follow along even without knowing the language:


    On the left, in yellow, are all the stories listed.

    I love that you got a Struwwelpeter-hankie 🙂

  2. The central figure in Uta’s hanky is not a werewolf, but Struwwelpeter, a boy whose lack of attention to personal grooming led to an unsightly profusion of hair and nail growth. His story is one of 10 in a book published in Germany in the mid-19th century as a series of fables devoted to improving children’s behavior by suggesting, for example, that playing with matches will get you burnt to a cinder, or that sucking your thumb would lead to amputation of the offending digit. The boy on the top right side of the hanky, ill-advisedly striding along not looking where he’s going, is having his body fished out of a flooded gutter on the bottom right. It would be surprising, although certainly eye-catching, to see such a bizarre textile incorporated into one of your beautiful scarves or quilts.
    Happy Halloween.

  3. I am intrigued by that hankie but it’s a little scary. Going to have to research and see if I can find any type of story like that.

  4. Maria, the pictures are from a once popular book of Victorian German moral stories for little children which translates as “Shockheaded Peter”. The stories are “Little nose in air” and a boy who never cuts his fingernails or brushes his hair–the scissorman comes and chops off his fingers. I had this as a child and roared with laughter and my children thought them hilarious also–they are so crude even if meant to be frightening that they come across as funny.

  5. This is actually taken from a book called “Struwelpeteter” by the “Brothers Grimm” in German it’d be called “Brueder”, and Struwelpeter is the name of the guy in the center. “Struwel” refers to his wild hair. It’s a German book and I still have mine from when I was a child growing up in Munich, Germany. The story of the boy winding up in the water is called “Hans Guck in die Luft” or (John looking in the air) and refers to most children who never watch where they’re going, hence he winds up in the water soaking wet, as he wasn’t looking where he was going. Who knew that they made hankies from stories out of that book. Now you know the story on the hanky.

  6. Honestly… this is so deceiving with its pink border and storybook layout. Makes me laugh to think of a little old woman wearing it on her head or a sweet old man using it as a hanky – But I guess some children’s stories are quite violent – Humpty Dumpty and the Brothers Grimm… I will be curious how you will incorporate this into your art – probably not a sweet newborn baby blanket!

  7. it looks like an illustration of the tale Hans Guck in die Luft from Der Struwwelpeter,a rather harsh German children’s book of the nineteenth century which taught them how to behave.

  8. Hi Maria,
    The story behind this hankie is a childrens book. The boy’s name is Peter. He never cut his hair or his fingernails. He didn’t pay attention to where he was going, always looking into the air until one day he fell into the water. It was a teaching kind of book for children to pay attention and keep your nails cut and clean as well as your hair. I guess my mother bought it for me because I hated to have my nails cut many years ago.

    1. Uta, I gotten quite a few people who know the story. Of course I should have thought to ask you. It’s really a fabulous hankie. I’m going to make it into a pillow for one woman whose mother used to tell her this story.

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