It’s not that Grimm

Upon entering my living room then looking left you will see three framed photographs of wooden struts embedded upright upon a desolate sandy beach. The sky is overcast; a moment captured no doubt minutes before a coming storm and though each picture at first looks to be different from its neighbour, closer inspection reveals that each photograph is of the same scene, an illusion created by the skill of the photographer; capturing the moment utilizing different angles. I often stare at those pictures imaging myself within that cold unpopulated landscape, and the longer I look, losing myself to the images, the more I get the feeling that there is somebody, or something looking back at me.  I get the notion that one day if I look too hard, the watcher will reveal itself; a face appearing from behind the wooden struts, a grin wide upon its face.  An unsettling image perhaps, but one that I return to time and time again.  You have no doubt encountered something similar , whether it be your eyes returning to the screen displaying something you know will frightened you, but you look anyway,  or perhaps the turning of a page knowing the next line of text will horrify you with its revelation.  Whatever the medium, the act of being frightened, facing the unknown and if I may be crude for a moment: having the shit scared out of us, intrigues, draws and beckons us.  It has always been this way, and I daresay it always will. All of which brings me (in a round-a-bout way) to ….

Fairy stories.

Recently there was an article in one of the leading newspapers citing that fairy stories were too scary for children. The wolves, witches, and woodsmen found within these tales regarded as being not only terrifying, but overtly sexual; the themes to adult, the violence to real. Now, I don’t know what fairy tales they are reading their kids but I don’t seem to recall the big bad wolf banging away at little red riding hood or the woodsman revving up his chainsaw to indulge in an orgiastic bloodlust. Perhaps, I would have enjoyed them more if they had, but let’s stick to the status quo for now.

Of course there are sexual undertones to a lot of fairy stories, the tale mentioned above being full of them, but do you really think a child of five is going to get these underlying themes? If you have a young child who stops you half way through reading them a bedtime story to ask ‘Mummy, do you think that’s a metaphor for cunnilingus?’’ then it’s not the story you should be worrying about but your parenting skills. The same goes for violence. Yes, in the wonderful Grimm’s tales there’s a lot of beheadings, people burnt alive and all manner of inventive deaths but I don’t think a child will go to bed imagining the tearing of flesh or rivers of blood. I would think they go to bed happy that the princess was rescued and good triumphed over evil.

Of course, I can only go by my own experience. My sister and I were read to every night (Bless my father for this) and in those tales we encountered the entire spectrum of ghoulishness. Did we wake up screaming every night? Nope, we slept through and the next day asked for more. I also think had my father thrown the fairy books away and began reading something without the virtues of terror, my sister and I would have gotten bored very quickly and turned on the TV. Thank God that didn’t happen. Those tales were the seeds from which our hunger for books began, our eagerness to read flowered, and our passion for language grew.  And that surely, even if we had of woke up screaming, would have been worth a few sleepless nights.

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