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Evolution of Children’s Horror Literature
The book, entitled “Welcome to the House of the Dead”, became an instant bestseller and became the first in the highly successful “Goosebumps” series. “Welcome to the House of the Dead” tells the story of a town called Dark Falls, a place that hides a secret – all the inhabitants are the living dead, and they need fresh blood to keep them “alive”. Whenever a new family arrives in the sound, they move into The Dead House. The heroes, Josh and Amanda, learn this secret and proceed to save their parents, send the townspeople back to their graves, and escape from Dark Falls.
Author Robert Lawrence Steen has written 62 books in the series, as well as several spin-offs. Steen, who has been called the “Stephen King of children’s literature”, has said that many of his books are inspired by classic science fiction and horror stories, and are also influenced by classic fairy tales. “Night of the Living Mannequin” is a variation on the “Pinocchio” theme – twin sisters Lindy and Chris find a discarded ventriloquist dummy and Lindy decides to keep it. As she develops comedy routines with a dummy, Chris gets her own dummy. One night, the girls walk into their room to find the mannequins lying on the floor, the younger mannequin’s arms around the older mannequin’s neck. Coincidence? No – the latest dummy is alive and malicious. After a series of unpleasant events, the girls manage to get rid of the mannequin, but then discover that the other one is also alive.
Christopher Pike is another successful writer of children’s horror stories. He includes references to Egyptian, Hindu, and Greek mythology in his novels, and quotes authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Agatha Christie, and Stephen King. His 24-book Spooksville series includes one called “Wicked Cat,” in which Adam and his friends find a black cat while walking through the local woods. Strange things begin to happen in the city; a house burned down and suddenly a tree falls. In every strange case, the cat is there, watching everything with its strange green eyes. Then it turns its supernatural powers on Adam and his friends…
Another notable children’s author is Lee Stryker, the pen name of Australian children’s author Margaret Clark. She chose her name after hearing about Stine’s “Goosebumps” series and decided she wanted her children’s horror fiction to appear alongside his books in bookstores. There are 12 books in her Hair-Raiser series, with titles like Revenge of the Vampire Librarian (don’t forget to reclaim the libraries during the book…) and The Mummy’s Curse, where a Man brings back a new wife after a business trip to Egypt. But who is MUMMY because she smells weird and uses a lot of bandages and bandages and the cats act weird when she’s around.
Writing children’s horror isn’t a new concept, and it didn’t start with fairy tales. Originally, fairy tales were not meant to be read to children. The writings of the Brothers Grimm were intended for adults and met the then growing demand for literature based on local folklore in the early 19th century. Anyone who has seen the movie “The Brothers Grimm” will probably agree with me – this movie is definitely NOT for children! As the horror genre evolved, “Dracula” and “Frankenstein” made the average fairy tale seem a little childish, so adults reworked and rewrote the various stories to make them more suitable for children. In the Victorian era, the average Grimm fairy tale was far less graphic and violent than the original, and Disney’s treatment of the stories has further “tamed” them.
While the Grimms were creating their collection of fairy tales for adults, other writers were already creating children’s stories, many of which contained elements of horror. Hans Christian Andersen’s Children’s Tales was published in 1835, and some of the stories in the book are great references to children’s horror literature:
“Red Shoes” is a pair of beautiful, cursed slippers that force the wearer to dance non-stop. A vain young girl slips them on her feet and can’t stop dancing. The problem is so bad that she can’t go to church and can’t attend her adoptive mother’s funeral because she can’t stop dancing. Condemned to dance forever as a warning to all vain children, she asks the executioner to cut off her legs. As the story continues, she is haunted by animated shoes that dance in front of her as she moves on wooden legs with the help of crutches.
“Little Mermaid”, longing to be with the handsome human prince she is in love with, gives the witch her tongue in exchange for a potion that turns her tail into legs. She must force the prince to marry her to give her a soul, and she sets out for her love, even though every step she takes is as painful as waking up on sharpened knife blades. Although she is mute, the prince falls in love with her and is mesmerized by the way she dances for him, unaware of the agony she goes through at every step. The course of true love never materializes and the prince marries someone else. The affectionate mermaid throws herself into the sea and turns into foam.
“The Little Match Girl” selling matches on icy streets to keep warm. One New Year’s Eve, she lights matches to keep warm. In their light she sees wonderful warm banquets with tables full of wonderful food and a sparkling Christmas tree. Looking up, she sees a shooting star and remembers that it means someone is about to die. As she lights her last match, she sees her grandmother, the only person who has ever been kind to her. Her grandmother has come to take her to heaven, and the next morning her frozen body is discovered surrounded by burnt matches.
“Water Babies” by Charles Kingsley the film features Tom the chimney sweep who meets a young girl named Ellie at her house. After being chased, he falls into a river and drowns. He is turned into a water baby and goes on several adventures learning life lessons under the tutelage of fairies. Once a week he is allowed to see Ellie, who had the misfortune of falling into the river right after Tom. In the end, he proves himself worthy of returning to human form and lives a fulfilling life. He reunites with Ellie, but they never marry.
Children’s horror writing is a complex genre, and while the stories may have changed a bit over the years, a young, enthusiastic audience still demands this type of book. It’s a genre that will be with us for many years to come.
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