My First Book

I am going to blatantly assume that most of you don't remember your first book but maybe you do remember a book, a special book you loved when you were growing up / started school / were in highschool, etc. If you do have such a book take a moment and think about it - I bet you're smiling right now.

I have many such books. I am a bookworm, I have always been one. I know for a fact that my dad was always reading something or other to me and as soon as I was taught how to read myself there was no stopping me. I devoured so many books, my room practically resembled a library and that's exactly where my dad send me to fuel my addiction of books. I don't think I ever walked out of the library with less than ten books. The librarian forever reminded me that I only had four weeks to read those books and that there would be a fine if I didn't bring the books back in time...I was back for more two weeks later.

It bugs me somewhat that I don't remember my first book although if I look at some of my old baby pictures I assume my first book was one of dad's beloved crime novels and judging by the below picture I probably ate said book. You see, I had a bit of a thing for paper back in the day...don't judge!

Spiegel Magazine, one of my preferred choices

Anyhow, to cut a long story short, while on holiday (post and pictures to follow) I got the chance to properly relive the excitement I must have felt when I was handed my very first book. While shopping with my sister I stumbled upon a fabulous little gem, a simplified Chinese translation of a book called "Struwwelpeter: Merry Stories and Funny Pictures" by Heinrich Heine. Despite the 3am start I had that day and it being 30+ degrees Celsius outside, I was ecstatic and giddy beyond belief much to the amusement of my sister. Within five minutes of spotting the book, I was stood at the checkout, waiting to pay for my little gem. I was actually quite wary when the girl behind the counter took the book away from me to scan it - for a moment I thought I'd never get it back. I did get it back, nicely wrapped and inside a carrier bag, and when my sister and I left the shop there was a small spring in my step.

蓬头彼得 (Péngtóu Bǐdé)

"Der Struwwelpeter" (Shock-headed Peter / the literal translation would be "Shaggy Peter" however "Slovenly Peter" is the 1848 title of the story following Mark Twain's translation into English) is a book I grew up with. The stories were read to me from a very early age and back then I could probably recite most of them by heart. It's a very popular children's book in Germany (and considering that it has been translated into almost 120 languages, the rest of the world agrees!) though adults love it too - to this day it still makes my dad smile. If you ask me the book a little more effective than preaching parents or teachers. By means of funny pictures and rhyming words Heinrich Heine teaches children to be obedient, to finish their meals, to be polite, to be kind, etc. The book also teaches tolerance. It cautions children about what will happen when they don't listen, when they are rude and careless, when they do things they're not supposed to do, when they whine and daydream. What's I like the most about the book though is the fact that all the lessons are subtle. It's a very effective way to get the message across for good.

I'm beyond excited to own a copy of the of this little gem. I have no idea where my original German copy has vanished to but this Chinese one will do just fine. Unfortunately the book does not feature any Pinyin so unfortunately as a Mandarin Chinese novice I'm really struggling to read the stories however thanks to Pleco Optical Character Recognizer add-on to my Pleco iPhone app, I'm slowly working my way through the book. While on holiday I converted the story of 蓬头彼得 into Pinyin and translated it back into English just for fun (yes, I love translating and no I'm not joking!). I had no access to the internet to check out the 'official' translation but I since compared my version to the existing English Version and I really didn't do all that bad.

I decided to share the story of 蓬头彼得 [Péngtóu Bǐdé] with all of you because once you have the Pinyin (if you're not that confident with Chinese Characters just yet) the translation reads surprisingly easy. It sounds fun and it's definitely a little treat to put some fun into your studies. So without further ado, here is the Chinese version of "Der Struwwelpeter" with the matching Pinyin (including the tones) so you can all read this with me. In addition to that I'm also going to supply you with the original German text, the 'official' English translation and (just because I can) the English translation I put together while I was on holiday.

Simplified Mandarin Chinese Translation (by Wei Maoping):

Péngtóu Bǐdé

Qiáoqiao tā zhàn zài zhèlǐ,
Hēihēi zhè péngtóu bǐdé!
Kànkan yō tāde mùyang,
Tóufā yā bùràng shūlǐ,
Zhǐjia ā bùcéng xiūjiān,
Jīhū yǒu zhěngzhěng yī nián.
Rénrén jiànle dōu jīngjiào:
Péngtóu bǐdé chǒu bā guài!

English Translation:
(This translation and the other stories can be found on

Shock-headed Peter Just look at him! there he stands, With his nasty hair and hands. See! his nails are never cut; They are grimed as black as soot; And the sloven, I declare, Never once has combed his hair; Anything to me is sweeter Than to see Shock-headed Peter.

Original German Translation (by Heinrich Heine):

Sieh einmal, hier steht er,
Pfui! der S t r u w w e l p e t e r!
An den Händen beiden
Ließ er sich nicht schneiden
Seine Nägel fast ein Jahr;
Kämmen ließ er nicht sein Haar.
Pfui! ruft da ein jeder:
Garst’ger Struwwelpeter!

And last but not least here is the result of my translation of the Chinese version (my only aid was a dictionary). I tried to stay as true as possible to my Chinese 'original' but as you can see I did take some liberties when translating to make it sound at least somewhat fluent. It was surprisingly easy to put the translation together and I had to admit I'm just a little pleased with myself that I managed to make sense out of a little Chinese rhyme.

Look at him, standing here,
This shock-headed Peter!
Oh take a look at his appearance,
Ah, he refused to have his hair combed,
Or his nails trimmed,
For almost a whole year.
Everyone who saw him, cried out in fear:
Shock-headed Peter, such an ugly person!

I hope you found this a little useful. I will try to post some more stories over the coming weeks but as I have a Chinese exam on the 22nd of October there won't be any contributions from me until at least after that date! :-)