HALLIE EPHRON: I recently came across a recipe for gingerbread cookies (I LOVE thin crisp gingerbread cookies with lemon icing) and the picture showed cookies that were hand-shaped. (Thanks for the picture, Pam Novotny!)
Back came a memory from one of the Mary Poppins books: Mary Poppins takes the children went into a sweet shop. The old Old OLD woman shopkeeper, Mrs. Cory, snaps off a few of her own fingers and gives them to the kids to eat. Turns out her fingers are made of gingerbread.
Repeat after me: Ewwwwww.
Needless to say that image has stuck with me, and inspires me today to ask: What are the slightly offy, somewhat icky or slightly scary images that have stuck with you from your favorite children's books?
LUCY BURDETTE: All you had to do was read a Grimm Brothers story to be scared to DEATH! But more closely related to your memory Hallie, how about the Wizard of OZ, when Dorothy throws a bucket of water on the Wicked Witch of the West, who then melts into a green puddle. And that's a good thing, but isn't the image terrifying?
HALLIE: Lucy, you sent me scurrying back to find that passage in the book... it comes about 2/3 of the way through, and then Dorothy et. al. have a whole bunch of adventures getting back to Glinda (left out of the movie, fortunately.) And in the book it's silver, not ruby slippers, and the puddle is only green in the movie:
"Well, in a few minutes I shall be all melted, and you will have the castle to yourself. I have been wicked in my day, but I never thought a little girl like you would ever be able to melt me and end my wicked deeds. Look out--here I go!"RHYS BOWEN: So many books were scary to an imaginative child. Hansel and Gretel about to be baked in the oven so they shove the old witch in intead?
With these words the Witch fell down in a brown, melted, shapeless mass and began to spread over the clean boards of the kitchen floor. Seeing that she had really melted away to nothing, Dorothy drew another bucket of water and threw it over the mess. She then swept it all out the door. After picking out the silver shoe, which was all that was left of the old woman, she cleaned and dried it with a cloth, and put it on her foot again. Then, being at last free to do as she chose, she ran out to the courtyard to tell the Lion that the Wicked Witch of the West had come to an end, and that they were no longer prisoners in a strange land.
What was that German one called StrubelPeter? Remember his fingernails grew so long, and another child ate until he burst and a small girl caught on fire. Yuck.
But the book I found worrisome was The Water Babies. It was obvious to me, even as a kid, that those people all drowned. And that Tom was treated unfairly because he was low class and had no one to stick up for him. And Ellie conveniently falls into a tide pool and hits her head so she can continue in the story. Really a book about heaven and hell, I suppose.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Well, Dorothy's tornado. For gosh sake. When I was a kid, I would lie in the wayback of my parents station wagon and watch for them, I was so afraid. I was the self-appointed and secret tornado scout--I didn't tell anyone in the family I was doing it, because I didn't want them to be scared. I guess I'm another Wizard of Oz victim.
I was also pretty haunted by the Hansel and Gretel witches oven, too. I really thought about it. And wouldn't it HURT Rapunzel if someone climbed up her hair? On the other hand, Little Red RH would never have believed the wolf was her grandmother. I mean--come on.
(Rhys, I tried to read Water Babies, and I was completely baffled. And The Little Princess? No. No way. Way too sad.)
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I was a great lover of fairy and folk tales as a child - I read all the "Coloured" Fairy Tale Books by Andrew Lang - but I still remember getting my hands on one of those original version story books and being horrified by the foot torture in Cinderella and Snow White.
In the former, Cinderella's step-sisters cut off their own toes and/or heels in order to "fit" the glass slipper. In the latter, the Evil Queen is condemned to dance at her step-daughter's wedding in red-hot iron shoes welded to her feet.
The version I read had a description of how she crawled away to die in the snow...can you imagine putting that in the hands of a child? It still creeps me the hell out.
(By the way, the much under-appreciated miniseries THE TENTH KINGDOM uses that original story to great effect in it's back story about the present-day Evil Queen.)
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Julia, I read all the Andrew Lang color fairytale books, too! And also loved the miniseries THE TENTH KINGDOM! And yes, those original Grimm are bloody and violent....
I also remember reading Madeleine L'Engle's WRINKLE IN TIME and being truly frightened by IT [sic — name of the Big Bad] as well as Robert C. O'Brien's THE SILVER CROWN. That one haunted me for years and I'm currently rereading it with Kiddo.
Oh Lordy, I also remember seeing the uncut version of the film THE EXORCIST on HBO as a young kid — maybe 9 or 10? Messed me up FOR YEARS AND YEARS. Seriously scary stuff.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I thought all the Grimm and Anderson stories were creepy. Those guys were warped, really! But the thing that gave me nightmares from The Wizard of Oz was the evil, flying, singing monkeys. Ick. Makes me shudder just to think of them.
But the story that most creeped me out wasn't a children's book, it was being taught about Noah's Arc in Sunday school. I thought it was horrible, absolutely unthinkable, that God would drown everyone in the world except for Noah. I've never had a Noah's Arc set, even as a child, and I wouldn't see the recent movie. Scarred for life!
HALLIE: So, gentle and not-so gentle readers, share the images from kiddie lit that creep you out... still.