Sunday, August 24, 2008

On Fright or Fiction: (or Not Suitable for Children)

Once upon a time most all stories had a frightening element. They taught a lesson, frightened for the fun of it or just to keep the reader awake, they all had the element of fear. Peter got in trouble for not having a healthy fear of the Wolf.

My mother had a children’s book from her childhood I got to see once. It was full of lessons Like Johnny Suck-A-Thumb, he came in the night with his giant scissors to cut the thumbs off of children that sucked their thumbs at an age too old to do such a thing. The picture was of a ugly gristled old man with scissors the size of hedge clippers jumping around in triumph, holding a child’s thumb in his other hand presumably for his supper.

In the days before Disney got a hold of fairy tales: brownies hurt people and did mischief, ogres killed and maimed, good guys made mistakes and good people died. Cinderella was a gory story of people willing to mutilate themselves to try to win the prize deserving or not. All the sisters cut off large chunks of their feet to get into the slipper and the blood trailing behind them was the give away. And by the way the fairy god mother was a talking bird. (Go ahead and get an original translation of Tales of the Brother‘s Grimm.)

Hans Christian Anderson wasn’t much better but considered the Disney of his day because his stories weren’t so gruesome. But since when did stories have to have nice sweet characters and have sunshine and roses endings. (Ann Rice and Steven King aside.)

The point of all this is a family member (an aspiring children’s book writer) is afraid I’m going to hell because I write stories about ghosts, witches, death and suicide. Pardon, but have you read your bible lately? They’re all in there. Religious beliefs are a personal thing in my way of thinking. And you can believe what you like I’m not a spiritual leader. But I do think Disney went to hell for telling lies to children and left them unprepared for a real world of child molesters and madmen.

Fear has it’s place in our lives and helps keep us out of trouble. We need it or the afore mentioned authors wouldn’t be so wildly popular. A lack of it in our youth maybe? But rest assured, I’m not trying to be the next big thing in horror on the book store shelves. (Nice if it happened though.) Did you forget how you raised me? I just don’t believe in sugar coating the world in pink fluffy frosting and pretending everything is all right or will soon be for all time. All rainbows and unicorns get tiring after a while and too much sugar rots the teeth. Fear is just a tool to an end. I don’t discount it because it doesn’t come in a box with a pink ribbon on top. Or doesn’t it sometimes?

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