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Literature / Peter No-Tail

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Pelle (left) and his love interest, Maja (right), from the 1981 animated film

Peter-No-Tail (Swedish: Pelle Svanslös) is a series of children's books written by Gösta Knutsson, which have also been adapted to two animated movies, among other media. The books follow the titular character, an anthropomorphic cat, notable for not having a tail, living in the Swedish city of Uppsala, and his shenanigans. The main antagonist is yet another cat (just like pretty much all named characters in the series) named Måns, and his helpers Bill and Bull. They usually scheme for Pelle to embarrass himself in front of other characters, or just get him in some kind of trouble, but since this is a children's book series, it seldom goes well for them in the end.

Pelle has also appeared on TV and in movies. In The '80s, he starred in appeared in two animated films, Peter-No-Tail (1981) and its sequel Peter-No-Tail in America (1985), both of which were directed by Swedish animators Stig Lasseby and Jan Gissberg.


In 1997, a Julekalender TV series with the characters aired, this time with live actors in costumes and cat makeup. It retold many of the stories from the books, but changed up a number of details (including moving the time period of the events to December, with winter sports and Christmas preparations being constant recurring themes. This series got a sequel movie in 2000, named Pelle Svanslös och den stora skattjakten (Peter No-Tail and the Great Treasure Hunt).

And 2020 saw a new animated movie, titled Pelle No-Tail (trailer here, which was more a re-adaptation of the original stories.


Peter-No-Tail provides examples of:

  • Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal: Most of the cats are depicted wearing hats and scarves of some sort. Pelle himself wears a green bowtie and a brown cap.
  • Animated Adaptation: Two animated films in 1981 and 1985. In addition, there was also a series of animated shorts from the 1960s, but those were never released in English, and also seemed to only have a narrator and no actors.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Måns, who hates Pelle for having no tail, and demanding that Pelle be "deported back where he belongs". He outright disdains cats from the countryside as well. Since the books were first written in the 1930s and as a protest against Nazism, it's pretty clear this trope is in effect.
  • Badass Adorable: Pelle, the titular character, is this.
  • Cats Are Mean: Måns, definitely, given the series centers around cats. The other cats usually avert this though, and Bill and Bull are Downplayed examples.
  • Cat Concerto: In the first movie, Pelle is shown to be able to sing, which to humans, sounds like cat howling. Måns, realizing Maja's owners hate cat howling, tells Pelle that Maja loves singing, expecting Maja's owners to spray Pelle with a hose later when he goes to sing to Maja. Luckily for Pelle, Maja almost immediately warns him, but also invites him inside, so Måns ends up soaked instead.
  • Chaotic Stupid: Bill and Bull, Måns' helpers, are this a lot, which usually leads to failure at Måns' part.
  • Character Tics: In the books, Pelle will lick his nose sometimes, and this can mean two things: it can either mean he's disappointed, or that he's excited.
  • Cultural Translation: The Finnish translation localizes the setting to Helsinki.
  • Cursed with Awesome:
    • Having his tail been bitten off by a rat when he was a kitten, Pelle does, as the title suggests, have a goofy-looking stump in place of his tail. Which makes him a target for bullies, such as Måns, but he also has advantages due to this: Måns and other cats will sometimes get their tails hurt due to them being in the way, which is something Pelle can obviously avoid, and once, Pelle managed to win a race due to him having no tail, as his entire body had passed the finish line before the opponent. Plus, he looks absolutely adorable.
    • Pelle's daughter Maj, who inherits her father' stump, gets to experience one of its advantages when she climbs a tree in order to stay out of a dog's reach. She would have been caught between the dog's jaws if she'd have had a tail the dog could have gotten hold of.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Two notable instances are found:
    • Måns when he is tired of either Pelle's or Bill and Bull's crap.
    • Pelle when questioned about his tail by strangers, examples include "I forgot it at home" and "That's just a breed we have down the country. Pure."
  • Dragged into Drag: Downplayed in the first movie, where one of the ways Måns tries to humiliate Pelle in the race is forcing him to wear a pink dress and claiming it's a uniform. Though the dress is not particularly extravagant to begin with.
  • Dub Name Change: Downplayed with Pelle to Peter. "Pelle" is just the Swedish form of "Peter". This is only the case with the animated movies—the English versions of the books still call him "Pelle" (albeit, "Pelle No-Tail" rather than Svanslös). The 2020 movie follows suit.
    • The other characters, like Måns and Maja do have their names changed in the English dubs of the movies. Elaka Måns' name in English would be "Mean Magnus", but the British dub calls him "Mean Mike", while the American dub refers to him as just "Max". Maja's name is a Swedish form of Mary or Maya, while the English dubs of the first film calls her "Molly" (and her last name is changed from Gräddnos, meaning "Cream-nose" to "Silk-nose"). The American and British English dubs also change a lot of the characters' names as well, with the American one changing Birgitta and Olle's names to Brenda and Phillip respectively, despite the original names not even sounding very foreign.
  • Easily Forgiven: Pelle seems totally incapable of carrying a grudge. No matter how many times Måns tries to mock and humiliate him, Pelle will be just as friendly to him the next time they meet.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Pelle would prefer that other characters would drop saying "Svanslös" when referring to him, but the nickname is sticking.
  • Evil Sounds Raspy: Måns is this in the movies.
  • Fantastic Racism: With the earlier books being written in the WWII era, they are built to be "satire of its time". That being said, Pelle's lack of tail makes him a target for bullies, especially Måns, who written to be some kind of mix between Hitler and Mussolini.
  • Humble Hero: Pelle. Even though Måns will constantly accuse him of being an arrogant, good-for-nothing Small Name, Big Ego (a description that fits Måns better than it does Pelle), he's anything but. While he definitely knows his own worth, he isn't the type to brag or put on airs.
  • I Am What I Am: See Fantastic Racism above. It happens that Måns gets to him, so that he feels ashamed over having no tail, but he usually quits moping sooner or later and feels his own humble pride over it.
  • Inexplicably Tailless: Only in the animated films, which state Pelle was born without a tail. In the books, it was bitten off by a rat.
  • Localized Name in a Non-Localized Setting: The above-mentioned British dub of the first film at least. See Dub Name Change, but despite that, the British dub still mentions Sweden several times.
  • Love Interests: Maja Gräddnos is this to Pelle, and they become a happy couple, too. Maja is one of a few to call out Måns in action.
  • Nice Girl: Maja, Pelle's lover, is this, usually concerned for Pelle when Måns schemes against him or when Pelle gets ridiculed.
  • Nice Guy: Pelle is generally nice to everyone he meets, be they cats or other animals; even if they've treated him badly in the past. In the early books he has some problems with dogs, but these vanish after he befriends a dachshund named Max.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: What usually happens when Måns tries to get Pelle in trouble.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Måns is this. Once, he even suggested "deporting Pelle back to where he belongs", which in Pelle's case is the countryside, but as Fantastic Racism above states, it just might be deeper than so.
  • Skilled, but Naïve: Pelle is very knowledgeable for a cat and ends up being good at most things he tries, but he's extremely gullible and will always believe the best of everyone, making it easy for Måns to trick him into getting in trouble.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Måns thinks he's the toughest, smartest and coolest cat in the city, even though it's time and again demonstrated that he really isn't.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Can also be seen as Characterization Marches On for a great number of the secondary characters. In the early books, pretty much all the other cats can be nasty to Pelle — Måns is consistently the ringleader and the most malicious one, but the other cats are all too happy to join in on playing mean pranks and singing mocking songs. As the books go on, though, most of the other cats become friendlier or at least neutral towards Pelle, leaving Bill and Bull as the only ones who still go along with Måns.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Pelle will always try to see the good in others, even Måns. See Skilled, but Naïve above.
  • World of Funny Animals: Zigzagged overall. The first books and the 1981 animated film had Pelle and other cats living among humans, with Pelle belonging to a family with two children, Birgitta and Olle. Later books and the 1985 film imply that the cats are the primary inhabitants of the world minus any humans. The 1997 series compromises a little by having the cats live among humans but never showing the humans on-screen.