Teach Kids The Alphabet With These Medieval Death Prints

These days, kids' books are all about sunshine and happiness, big red dogs, and soulless steam engines with disturbing amounts of free will. But what about parents who want to prepare their children for crushing realities of life? What about those who want their little darlings to get a head start on becoming totally hardcore? Luckily, a series of angsty medieval illustrations might help with that.

Hans Holbein the Younger was a 16th-century German artist and printmaker, best known for his iconic Robert Baratheon fan art The Ambassadors. Like many of his contemporaries, Holbein was slightly obsessed with death, drawing more skulls in his works than a suburban eighth-grader with too much eyeliner.

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And since the whole tragic black death scene was so 1340s, artists like Holbein were into a more ironic death art genre called Dance of Death, or Danse Macabre, which typically showed Death irreverently waltzing people to their graves. One of Holbein's greatest contributions was his own Dance of Death, a collection of woodcut illustrations showing iconic medieval characters getting harangued by a fun-loving skellington there to remind them their time is finite.

Hans Holbein the Younger"Can we wrap this up? I need to be in Bavaria in ten minutes to drop a gargoyle on an abbot's head."

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Now, these complicated memento moris are great for adults, but what if you want to put the fear of death into those little nippers still learning to read? Fortunately, Holbein also included illustrations of the complete alphabet (which back then was 24 letters, because using J's and U's was just showing off). These were typically used to embellish the first letter of a page, but why not collect them all in a lovely metal book of ABC's? Forget about apples and xylophones, with these illustrations, you can teach your kids about stuff that actually matters. So A is for Atrophy ...

Hans Holbein the Younger

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B is for the Beast ...

Hans Holbein the Younger

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C is for the Cries of the damned ....

Hans Holbein the Younger

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P is for Pain, the suffering of a thousand souls ...

Hans Holbein the Younger

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T is for Terror, which lies in the hearts of all mortals ...

Hans Holbein the Younger

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And Y is for You, because death comes for us all, even little children sleeping gently in their beds.

Hans Holbein the Younger

Sweet dreams!


For more attempts at witticisms and his personal recipes for toilet wine, do follow Cedric on Twitter.

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