Story – Germany


„Wenn du dauernd am Daumen lutscht, dann kommt der Schneider mit der Schere und schneidet dir die Dauman ab!“

“If you keep constantly sucking your thumb, the Tailor will come with his scissors and cut your thumbs off”

I was told this very often as a child, seeing as I had great difficulty overcoming the habit of thumb-sucking. I was approximately between the ages of 6 and 10. This idea of the tailor who comes with his scissors to cut off your thumbs is very popular in Germany, not only among young children but amongst adults. It is quite brutal a story to tell a child but I later received a book which contained this, and many other stories of disobedient children who were brutally punished. As I grew up in Singapore but spent a lot of time in Germany, I still learned this piece of folklore in Germany. The book that this story stems from, entitled Struwwelpeter, was published in 1845. The 10 short stories are written in rhymes and come with illustrations. From speaking to my grandmother, she says she did not use this as means to persuade my younger cousins who were born in the very late 90’s or after 2000 because it has become too controversial. To me this is a sign that its use is decreasing or going through a phase where its use is becoming dormant. My grandmother says that these stories were around before her time, and that all of the stories from Struwwelpeter were used prevalently in the 1900’s. I believe that they were very popular because they came in rhymes and were easy to remember. My grandmother says she was able during her child to recite several of the stories by heart. The graphic illustrations which came with the original publication of the book were fascinating to children and provoked interest. I believe the stories are less prevalent today because children are growing up much faster and are exposed to many aspects of society at an early age, such as graphic violence. The story no longer is believable to children of 6 to 8, but perhaps when they are younger. Similarly, I would like to make the personal observation and assumption with a comparison to Santa Clause, who, many years ago, without the development of technology and communication was believed to exist among children until a much older age. My grandmother vaguely recalls, and would like to stress vaguely that she believed in Santa Clause until about the age of 10, while most children today, like my younger cousins at ages 6 and 7 have completely denounced him.


Struwwelpeter. Hoffmann, Heinrich. Papel-Moewig Verlag Kg. 1845. page 8.

Original Excerpt:

Die Geschichte vom Daumenlutscher

“Konrad!” sprach die Frau Mamma,
“Ich geh aus und du bleibst da.
Sei hübsch ordentlich und fromm.
Bis nach Hause ich wieder komm’
Und vor allem, Konrad, hör!
Lutsche nicht am Daumen mehr;
Denn der Schneider mit der Scher’
Kommt sonst ganz geschwind daher,
Und die Daumen schneidet er
Ab, als ob Papier es wär’.”

Fort geht nun die Mutter und
Wupp! den Daumen in den Mund.

Bauz! Da geht die Türe auf,
Und herein in schnellem Lauf
Springt der Schneider in die Stub’
Zu dem Daumen-Lutscher-Bub.