Bring on the scare

Earlier this week I found myself enthusiastically agreeing with an article in the Sydney Morning Herald with the engaging headline Why it’s good to horrify children.

The thrust of the article by Irish author John Connolly, linked above for your viewing pleasure, is that scary books are good for kids. That young adults might actually take some useful life lessons from these tales. That stories where characters conquer the darkest of situations might just show kids that they can overcome tough times too.

Mr Connolly and I are of a very similar vintage and grew up in the era before bookstores developed YA sections. Judging from his article, we worked our way through the same canon of adult authors: Wyndham, MacLean, Fleming, King, Stoker, Mary Shelley and more. (The Shining scared me silly and it took me until this year to summon the courage to watch the movie (alone) – only to be scared all over again.)

Prior to tackling these adult authors I had early exposure to horror through the Grimm brothers’ collections of ‘fairy tales’. Anyone considered the subject material of Rumplestiltskin lately? Deceit, death penalties, abduction, pledging your first born child…

Anyway, I endorse Mr Connolly’s words for a few reasons:

1. I reckon young readers need to explore the dark side from a safe place. Where better than in books?

2. Whenever I visit schools or conduct writing workshops I can guarantee that the students, no matter how lively, will shut up and listen if I discuss things I’ve seen from my crime reporting days. The darker and gorier the better.

3. Storytellers have been using scary tales since the beginning of time to teach lessons to children. I’m familiar with the story of the Nargun from the indigenous Gunai Kurnai clans of south eastern Victoria. The Nargun lived in a cave or “den” under a waterfall, pictured here, and would come out after dark to snare children who had wandered too far from their family campfires. At its simplest, it was a horror story of children being eaten by a monster. At a functional level, it assisted with birth control by deterring teens from sneaking off and getting frisky – and kept them away from a particularly sacred site.

Hmmm, wonder if I can conjure up a Nargun before my kids hit adolescence?

5 thoughts on “Bring on the scare”

  1. i could not agree more! JK Rowling said the very same thing years ago when people started to get antsy about Harry and Dementors.
    I LOVED being scared to death when I was younger. Stephen King literally escorted me through my teens. John Connelly is a legend! His book, The Book Of Lost Things is one of my very favourites and the Crooked Man scared th bejebus outta me!

    I am ALWAYS being asked for scary books at school, esp from the grade 3/4s. Kids do love to be scared from a ‘safe’ place.

    If you manage to find a Nargun would you mind asking if it has a brother… 🙂

  2. Hi Tye – will keep an eye out for that Nargun. It is mostly stone apparently – so could look good in the garden.

    I think I did most of the King collection as a kid. The Stand is still one of my favourites, although not as scary as The Shining. And Mr Connolly is on my To Do list.

    Keep on scaring those students.

    NB: Where are the pix in the big red dog suit?

  3. The Clifford ones you mean? I am struggling to remember how you know about this…did I send them to you? Or would you like me too? Library stocktake is sending me senile… 🙂

  4. Yes, Clifford. A distant memory from when the Little Dragon was a tot. Think the day in the dog suit got a mention on Twitter. Sounded like a photo opp to me! T

  5. Lol! You do have a great memory:) I have so far spent a day as Grug, Clifford, Geronimo Stilton, A Safety House….I think thats it though…?
    I will email you the clifford pics right now though!

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