Monday, January 11, 2010

I just feel like maybe it's a little phobia-promoting

I don't know if you've read any children's books recently?

For the most part, they tend to teach something - the alphabet, colors, animals, shapes. As they get a little more sophisticated, they might teach behavioral things, like manners, hand washing, etc.

So Jordan got a set of Beatrix Potter books for Christmas from Nick's parents. The only one I was actually familiar with was Peter Rabbit. But I hadn't read it since childhood, so I pulled it out.

To begin with, I don't exactly understand why Peter has a human name, when the rest of them are Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail. But that doesn't actually matter.

What struck me was this: not long after you begin the story, you learn that Peter's father was killed. And stuck in a pie. And eaten!

What kind of book is this for kids?

Hi, this is a story about a cute little bunny. Whose mom tells him to behave, because remember what happened to Dad? He did something he wasn't supposed to, and then he was murdered. And eaten.

And the lesson here is that you should behave, and do what your mom tells you to. Because otherwise, you will likely be murdered and eaten as well.

If you're lucky, and you do misbehave, you might escape, but without your clothes, and you'll just barely make it home alive.

The H-E-double toothpicks?


  1. i remember loving the Beatrix Potter stories but i definitely don't remember those details. maybe that's part of why i'm a tough-love kinda person... there are consequences to your actions and sometimes it's being killed and eaten.
    or something like that

  2. I think kids tend to gloss over the stuff they don't get (or aren't ready to get) and just focus on what they understand. My mom read me Beatrix Potter all the time and I have no memory of that detail, either.

    On a macro-level, there's so much focus these days on protecting kids from the evils of the real world, which I think is a mistake. I firmly believe that kids need to learn how to deal with the world, not shielded from the yucky parts.

  3. I wonder if remembering these details depends on whether you read the stories yourself, or had them read to you. I fell into the former category, and thus had no well-meaning but censorious parent to edit out the bad parts.

    Also, I am curious about "The H-E-double toothpicks" thing. Not because I've always heard "double hockey sticks", but rather because until a year or two ago, I had never heard anyone say that without a "what" in front of it. Is it a regional thing, do you think?

  4. Tee-hee.

    Seen any Disney movies lately? They almost all start by killing off the mom.

  5. Haha! Yeah, pretty grisly. Read any of Grimm's fairy tales?

    In the French translation of Peter Rabbit, the bunny names are Ploufsette, Tifsette, Queue-de-Coton, et Pierre. :)

  6. My partners kids had never been allowed to climb trees, or ride bikes, or scramble over fences and around rocks at the Beach, until they came to stay with me. Now they spend their time climbing over water tanks, getting filthy dirty scrambling over rocks at the beach and looking in rock pools, they love it and it does them good to scrape knees and get prickles in their feet.
    Dont censor your children too much we were brought up on these stories and its the generation of early 20 somethings coming through now that were censored from all this stuff that are having the problems now.
    Jemima Puddleduck was my fav, she is such a ditz :)

  7. Oh and lets face it, Rabbit is delicious.

  8. notsojenny - Wow, you ARE tough love!

    Wendy - I agree with you that kids need to be taught to deal with the world as it is. There are so many evils to deal with, though. I get all freaked out thinking about them, honestly.

    Dagny - You know, I have no idea. The H-E-double toothpicks I get from Betty. But leaving off the "what" - I don't know if that would be regional. I suppose that would make the most sense?

    Mommy Writes - Agh! I do remember that in Bambi - it upset me so much!

    A.S. - No, not in ages and ages! But I suppose we'll be doing that soon.

    I had no idea! They certainly are a mouthful in French, non?

    Go-Betty - Wow - they are lucky you came into the picture! What's childhood without trees and bikes and dirt and scraped knees? Seriously!

    I haven't ever read Jemima Puddleduck - but of course she's on my list!

    As for rabbit, I hear it tastes like chicken. :)

  9. That IS scary.

    But you know what I also think is scary? Goodnight Moon? That little rabbit lady in the rocking chair freaks me out.

    and what's up with that page that has nothing on it but says "goodnight nobody"?

    That sounds like it should be a horror movie name to me. Goodnight Nobody.

  10. Children's books I remember fondly. However, to this day I'm terrified of both E.T. and Willy Wonka. Totally not movies for kids!

  11. Childrens books are fucked up, its true.

  12. And ring around the rosey is about the plague. Ah, childhood. :)

  13. Wait until he's in 2nd grade and wants to read the "Captain Underpants" series.

  14. This is also a well known Disney Phenomenon (de doo de doo doo)

    *waves from Down Under*


    Just take a look at this, the most popular german children's book, this was a regular in every child's book collection. my son unfortunately wants to read it every once in a while, it's absolutely horrific, BUT it taught is valuable lessons as well.


  16. oh there are so many books/movies that traumatized me as a child:

    lion king: dad getting trampled = not cool

    bambi: mom getting shot = also not cool

    land before time: can't remember what happens, but it's sad

    the velveteen rabbit: okay, i think this is supposed to be a happy book, but at some point they talk about the toys having souls and how they're so sad when you don't play with them anymore. and this is why i will grow up to be a hoarder.

  17. Oh this is a funny observation. So many of these children's stories (and songs) are really morbid. I just had a conversation with my mom this weekend about the song "Three Blind Mice" (one of my daughter's toy's plays it). They got their tails cut off with a carving knife, for god's sake!
    Found you through Masala Chica's blog! Happy to be visiting.

  18. Masala Chica - I have to revisit Goodnight Moon. And absolutely, that's a horror title. Goodnight Nobody...floorboards creak...

    HKW - Willy Wonka was definitely creepy. Roald Dahl is an excellent, and very twisted writer.

    Chelsea - No kidding. I never gave it any thought before.

    Andie - Yes, that's right!

    Jules - I know nothing about them except that I love the title.

    GaryQ - Thank you for that. That person is right on.

    And hello Down Under!

    Nina - Yikes! I just read the descriptions - those stories are so scary! Getting your thumbs cut off, getting burned to death - aaaaaaaagh!

    Maxie - Very not cool on the killing of parents. And now you are going to make me a toy hoarder!

    Sarah - That is pretty dreadful and graphic.

    Thank you for visiting!

  19. My 2.5 year old nephew is into Snow White right now, which begins with her being led into the woods by a hunter who is supposed to cut her heart out. On orders of her stepmom.
    And all the original Grimm Bros fairy stories are worse. They got toned down for Disney.
    (Also, I've been enjoying your blog for years...I'm a friend of Wendy's!)

  20. I tell my children every day that they will be eaten if they don't behave. Seems to work.

  21. I am now thinking of other children's books and movies that are similarly disturbing and I'm feeling all kinds of cynical.


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