Scary Children’s Books From Around the World

The most notoriously upsetting children’s book is definitely Struwwelpeter, the German collection of cautionary tales. The original 1845 version by Heinrich Hoffman is horrifying enough, but we are particularly terrified by (and enamored with) these updated illustrations by the brilliant Sanya Glisic. These illustrations are from ”The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb.”

In Death and Burial of Poor Cock Robin, circa 1865, the sparrow kills Cock Robin and then all the other terrifying creatures of the forest talk about how they’ll bury him. An excerpt: “Who saw him die? I, said the Fly, with my little eye, I saw him die. Who caught his blood? I, said the Fish, with my little dish, I caught his blood.”

This cautionary early ’90s Russian children’s book includes such important lessons as: “You like to fight with your fellow-friends? Then you’ll be bitten by different snakes!” and “If you plan not to listen to father wild black cats would scratch your brother” and “If you are greedy as old and don’t share balls probably you would be eaten by wolves.”

Jorōgumo (which is literally translated as “whore spider”), from Gojin Ishihara’s 1972 children’s book Illustrated Book of Japanese Monsters.

Lustiges Kinderbuch, a 1908 German cautionary children’s book with illustrations by Ernst Seifert. The moral being mostly that bad bad boys get what they deserve.

1948 children’s comic The Magic Underground Castle by Japanese cartoonist Rokuro Taniuchi highly terrifying.

Outside Over There, by Maurice Sendak. This scene depicts ghostly French horn-playing Ida’s baby sister being stolen by goblins, who leave a terrible ice replica in her place.


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