Alice in Wonderland is the atom bomb of children’s literature. If you want to know why, you only need to read Martin Gardner’s Annotated Alice, which will tell you what you need to know. In the same year, 1865, Wilhelm Busch published the German Alice: Max und Moritz.
What is Deutschland’s Alice like? Both poems take as their target the moral children’s story. The idea that a story to be read to a child should teach the child a lesson and prepare her to be a good adult. But where Carroll and Tenniel take that idea and trounce over it, Busch explodes it. It becomes larger than life. Larger than (previous) fiction. Was Busch the first to recognize the comic anarchy of Struwwelpeter? No, but he turned it into something magical as opposed to simply creepy or perhaps a little disturbingly funny.
Max and Moritz, bless their black little hearts, are Deutschland’s tricksters, primordial and archetypal. Spirits of mischief, conspiring with each other, giggling with delight at what they work. When Carl Jung wrote about the Trickster in his books on archetypes, was he thinking of Max or Moritz? He was Swiss, so perhaps not.