My parents introduced me to some weird stuff when I was younger. I love being able to bond with other people from my generation about TV shows, games, and movies that were popular when I was growing up. However, I have a handful of children’s stories from my childhood that I’m positive none of my friends would understand. Maybe, just maybe, if I share my memories with you, it will shed some light on why I am the way I am.
Let’s start with the weirdest, shall we? My dad bought me the English translation of a German book called Der Struwwelpeter which was written in 1845–how relevant! Translated, it’s called Shockheaded Peter. It’s a collection of short stories about naughty kids who all get what they deserve…in a way. One of my favorites was about a boy who kept sucking his thumbs even after he was told not to over and over by his mother. This scary man comes to the boy’s house one day and cuts off his thumbs to teach him a lesson. As a child/pre-teen, I felt like this was an appropriate punishment (as long as it didn’t happen to me). Was I a Nazi in my past life?
One of my other favorite stories in this book is about a little girl who plays with matches and accidentally lights herself on fire. Oops. That’s what you get for being a pyro. The illustration is the best part of this story–I love the cat’s tears flowing into her ashes. Moral of the story, Germans are crazy as hell.
And then there’s Edward Gorey. I’ve touched on him before, but not in detail. His work is a little more well-known than Heinrich Hoffmann’s–the author of Der Struwwelpeter. One of my favorite Edward Gorey pieces is called The Ghastlycrumb Tinies which is essentially an alphabet book using children’s names and different ways to die. Some are pretty tame. For example, “A is for Amy who fell down the stairs.” That doesn’t seem like such a bad way to go. But others like, “K is for Kate who was struck with an axe” or “R is for Rhonda consumed by a fire” are slightly haunting.
Another brilliant story by Edward Gorey is called The Hapless Child. The main character of the story’s father dies at war. Her mother dies of depression shortly after, leaving the child with her uncle. He sends her to boarding school where she is teased endlessly. She runs away and is kidnapped by this guy who keeps her in a basement and forces her to make paper flowers in a dimly lit room. She starts to starve and go blind. Eventually she escapes, but because of her lack of sight, she couldn’t see and gets run over by a car. Her father actually wasn’t dead and it was his driver who ran her over. He looked at her, but didn’t recognize the child because she was so changed. So she died on the street. Such a great story for a kid to read! So uplifting and light!
And lastly, a quick touch on The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy written by Tim Burton. We all know who Tim Burton is. And if you don’t know who Tim Burton is, I refuse to make an attempt to describe him. And Helena Bonham Carter for that matter. The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy is a collection of short stories and poems. It’s not as scarring as the others, but this poem always stuck with me along with the illustration. I wonder why?
The Boy with Nails in His Eyes
The boy with nails in his eyes
Put up his aluminum tree.
It looked pretty strange
Because he couldn’t really see.
Good news is, half of us are probably better at writing poems than Tim Burton.