In Loss We Often FInd Ourselves


The Story of Augustus from Struwwelpeter by Heinrich Hoffman via Project Gutenberg

When I was a child I was given several books which come under the category of – Cautionary Tales for Children. They are basically stories about children who ended up very badly because they didn’t follow the rules which the adults in their lives gave them to follow.

You know…

Don’t stick your fingers in the electric socket – says an adult authority figure.

Why? – says child, curiosity challenging authority.

Because I say so… and you’ll die if you don’t listen to me – says adult, pissed off that their authority was challenged.

Child thinks adult doesn’t know what they’re talking about (which is often true but don’t let an adult know you know that) and is just being too negative (why does not listening to an adult always seem to have bad consequences), and child has to find out for themselves what life is all about. Life is an adventure, surviving the adventure is a challenge, children know this, why do adults want to make life such a boring chore!

Child sticks fingers in socket, gets a shock, decides never to do that again.

See… now I know why not to do this – says child to itself – but now I also know that adults exaggerate everything. I’m still alive. Maybe I’ll try some of those other things adults tell me not to do because it will kill me. I need to have my own experiences not be imprisoned from ever doing anything because adults live in perpetual fear of death. I’m a child, I live my life for life, not in fear of death. Besides I’m immortal until I grow up and realise I’m not.

And so it goes.

Struwwelpeter is very un-PC, and racist, but those are things an adult would see in the book. Children tend to see the delightfully twisted humour in it.

Out of all the loss I’ve had in life – and loss is something we all have to deal with, it is considered natural and normal in nature, but in human nature we often fight it because it seems so cruel and we do like to hang on to everything for dear life rather than letting go, we also find pain less tolerable as we age and become fearful of loss, whereas children are fearless (to a degree, they just handle fear better than adults do by screaming rather than denying the scream) – the thing I have managed not to lose is being able to see life through the eyes of a child. My eyesight has dimmed a little because that’s what happens when you become an adult and get older, but I still retain a certain child-like wonder when I look at the world. I can still see the beauty and fascination in everything and everyone… I’m just a tad more cynical.

Sometimes we lose ourselves when we lose something, we definitely lose our minds a little when we lose someone we love… sometimes the loss of something or someone precious allows us to find ourselves. It’s a strange thing how sometimes by losing everything you find so much more. Children understand this more than adults do, perhaps that is why they are so resilient. Perhaps they know that when you lose something or someone you really need to feel the loss and mourn, and shout, and scream, and lose your sanity for a while, because if you don’t feel it, don’t feel the loss with every atom of your being, you’ll lose something far more vital… the ability to feel.

We often deal with loss and the pain of loss by numbing ourselves… and as we lose more, we become more numb until we feel nothing. That is a far greater loss.

The Story of Augustus is not my favourite Struwwelpeter story, but I used it rather than my favourite because it touches upon something very prevalent in society – weightloss – and our obsession with it. It’s funny how we worship some kinds of loss and don’t see those as loss at all even if we use the word ‘loss’ to describe it.

Just some thoughts lost in a post.


  1. II don’t know who you are, but I wish I did, I was read “Strewwelpeter” when I was a small child (1943) and still remember some of the stories. “The Long Red- legged Scissor- Man” “Johnny Head-In-Air “etc;. I wanted to learn the story of Augustus and came across your writing. Brilliant, just brilliant, thank you for your thoughts on Loss.


    • Thank you very much 🙂

      It’s a wonderful book, and I’m so grateful for Project Gutenberg as it holds many of the treasures of literature which are sometimes hard to find. I used to get called Johnny Head-In-Air as a child.

      Struwwelpeter was one of my favourites alongside Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales for Children. I also had a penchant for Japanese tales, like the Peach Boy (Momotaro), and Old Peter’s Russian Tales. A great way to learn about life with a darkly humorous twist.

      My mother used Struwwelpeter to try to get me to do things or not do them, like eat my soup, stop sucking my thumb, not fidget, but I just enjoyed the stories 😉


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