Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Scary is Forever

"We don't want to be scared. We want to be terrified."

She was eleven years old and she was talking to me in the calm, patient tone of a grown-up talking to a baby. She has younger siblings. She has experience.

Kind of hard to scare a class of fifth graders brave enough to take on the world. Nothing gets to them, really, not zombies, not werewolves, not ghosts, no nothing. No matter what scary, gory, terrifying story you pull out of your storyteller's sleeve, they will tell you 'it was great, but can you tell us a really scary one next?'. It kind of ruins your self-esteem as a storyteller after a while.

We talked about what makes scary stories scary today. They came up with a nice long list. Of course there were things like ghosts, vampires, witches and haunted houses; but there were also stalkers, kidnappers, and men with knives. The girls, very cleverly, added 'story' and 'descriptions', noting that they have an important role in making a tale scary. There were also eyeballs, loud noises, haunted buildings, and Math. And Chucky. They all seemed to agree Chucky was the scariest thing they have ever seen. Go figure.

I told them Halloween was over, and it was time to tell some other stories (mainly because I think I have told enough scary stories to last me till this time next year); but one of the girls looked up and said "Halloween is all year round." They also told me scary stories were the only kind they liked.

(Of course that is not true, whatever I start telling them they listen with their mouth hanging open anyway)

I am curious what a child psychologist would say to all that. All storytellers know scary stories are very important to children; not because they like the blood and gore, but because this is how they learn about fear in a safe way. While they listen to these stories they get to experience all the emotions - fear, worry, stress - but inside the world of the story which makes them distan enough to deal with. Their imagination only allows them as many details as they can handle, and filter out the rest.
It also gives a great opportunity for the tricksters to crawl around on hands and knees and pinch the legs of others to make them jump, but that's a different story.

As you could see from my previous post, the fire alarm was a great addition to the genre of jump tales; but to really, truly terrify a group of fifth graders... that remains to be seen. I have been adamant that from next week on I'm not going to tell any more scary tales; we are going to explore some other genres, adventures, and cultures. Still, all this talk about terror and horror made me thing a lot about this age group and their connection to fear. There is a lot in this world to be scared of.

This is why I want to attach my favorite song on the topic to this post. This is how kids shoud be raised.

Voltaire - Goodnight Demon Slayer

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