chicken yard

Max and Moritz

For the rockets launched in 1934 by Wernher von Braun, see Aggregate_series#A2
Max and Moritz (A Story of Seven Boyish Pranks) is a German language illustrated story in verse. This highly inventive, blackly humorous tale, told entirely in rhymed couplets, was written and illustrated by Wilhelm Busch and published in 1865. Many familiar with comic strip history consider it to have been the direct inspiration for the Katzenjammer Kids.

Cultural significance

Busch's classic tale of the terrible duo (now in the public domain) has since become a proud part of the culture in German-speaking countries. Even today, parents usually read these tales to their not-yet-literate children. To this day in Germany , Austria, and Switzerland, a certain familiarity with the story is still presumed, as it is often referenced in mass communication. The two leering, cretinous faces are synonymous with mischief, and appear almost logo-like in advertising and even graffiti.

Max and Moritz is the first published original foreign children’s book in Japan which was translated into rōmaji by Shinjirō Shibutani and Kaname Oyaizu in 1887 as Wampaku monogatari ("Naughty stories").

The pranks

It is not necessary to reprint the entire story here, as it is both long and freely available on the internet. A summary of the pranks (and sample from the preface) should provide the essential flavor.

There have been several English translations of the original German verses over the years, but all have maintained the original trochaic tetrameter:


Ah, how oft we read or hear of
Boys we almost stand in fear of!
For example, take these stories
Of two youths, named Max and Moritz,
Who, instead of early turning
Their young minds to useful learning,
Often leered with horrid features
At their lessons and their teachers.

Look now at the empty head: he
Is for mischief always ready.
Teasing creatures - climbing fences,
Stealing apples, pears, and quinces,
Is, of course, a deal more pleasant,
And far easier for the present,
Than to sit in schools or churches,
Fixed like roosters on their perches

But O dear, O dear, O deary,
When the end comes sad and dreary!
'Tis a dreadful thing to tell
That on Max and Moritz fell!
All they did this book rehearses,
Both in pictures and in verses.

First Trick: The Widow

The boys tie several crusts of bread together with thread, and lay this trap in an old widow's chicken yard, causing all the chickens to become fatally entangled.

Second Trick: The Widow II

As the widow cooks her chickens, the boys sneak onto her roof. When she leaves her kitchen momentarily, the boys steal the chickens using a fishing pole down the chimney. The widow hears her dog barking and hurries upstairs, finds the hearth empty and beats the dog.

Third Trick: The Tailor

The boys torment a well-liked tailor who has a fast stream flowing in front of his house. They saw through the planks of his wooden bridge, making a precarious gap, then taunt him by making goat noises, until he runs outside. The bridge breaks; the tailor is swept away and nearly drowns (but for two geese, which he grabs a hold of and fly high to safety).

Fourth Trick: The Teacher

While their devout teacher is busy at church, the boys invade his home and fill his favorite pipe with gunpowder. When he lights the pipe, the blast knocks him unconscious, blackens his skin and burns away all his hair.

Fifth Trick: The Uncle

The boys collect bags full of May beetles, which they promptly deposit in their Uncle's (Fritz) bed. Uncle is nearly asleep when he feels the bugs walking on his nose. Horrified, he goes into a bug-killing frenzy with a shoe.

Sixth Trick: The Baker

The boys invade a bakery which they believe is closed. Attempting to steal pretzels, they fall into a vat of dough. The baker returns, catches the breaded pair, and bakes them. But they survive, and escape by gnawing through their crusts.

Final Trick: The Farmer

Hiding out in a farmer's grain storage area, the boys slit some grain sacks. A farmer arrives and immediately notices the problem. He puts the boys in the sack instead, then takes it to the mill. The boys are ground to bits and devoured by ducks. Later, no one expresses regret! (The mill really exists in Ebergötzen, Germany, and can be visited)

External links

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