Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Missing Piece of My Childhood

Okay, so I know it's been more than a month since my last post. This post was very hard to write, and you will see why.

So, a couple posts ago, I talked about "The Great Fairy Tales Treasure Chest." I mentioned that, when I was a little kid, my family had books four and five of series one, but they were the individually sold versions of them. The cover of book five looked like this:

Now, although we had both of these books simultaneously, I only knew about the book four for quite a long time. I was one of those kids who would take the books off the shelves occasionally, and sometimes find some cool book I had never seen before.

Actually, come to think of it, my memory just triggered a little bit. I think I actually DO remember knowing about both books at the same time, I think I didn't look at book five because I wasn't interested in it at the time. I don't know anymore. The point is, I didn't look at this book for a long time and would only look at book four.

So, anyway, it do happened that it occurred to me one day that I had never looked at "the book that was like the Red Riding Hood book, only it was pink and had different stories in it."

So, I decided to take it off the shelf and look at it. I opened it up, and was greeted by a picture of three pigs. One was standing around eating carrots, and had yellow stripes on his shirt. One was sitting in a wheelbarrow, and had blue stripes on his shirt. And the third was pushing the wheelbarrow, and had red stripes on his shirt.

There were other pictures on that page. The pig with blue stripes was binding together some straw to put on his half-finished house. The pig with yellow stripes was nailing some boards on the roof of his house. The pig with red stripes was putting the finishing touches on a brick house.

"It's The Three Little Pigs," I thought to myself.

The pictures were pretty good. I enjoyed looking at them very much. In this version of the story, the Wolf didn't fall in a pot of water, but instead upon the flames of the fireplace, and there was a picture of it.

I had my dad read the book to me a couple times. There was a second story in it, and it was illustrated on the cover. But I never asked my parents to read it to me (I was still too young to read at the time), because it didn't look interesting (if I didn't remember being disinterested in it though, and had someone tell me that I was, I wouldn't believe them for a second, because it's one of my all time favorites now). I DID look at the illustrations though. There were dwarfs, and a girl with dark hair, and a queen looking into a mirror and frowning, and an illustration I distinctly remember, with the girl with dark hair lying on the ground next to a doorway with and old woman standing next to her, and an illustration of her in a coffin outside.

Everybody knows what story I'm talking about already. But, I did not know the title at the time. It was only after this book got thrown in the trash and was gone forever that I finally realized what story it was, since I saw the Disney movie a few months later (and even then, it was only my guess what the story was, because I was using logic. I hadn't figured out yet how to look up these kinds of things online. I must have been a very logical thinker though, because I was completely right, and I was so young!)

Now, you might think that the fact it was thrown in the trash indicates that I looked at it so much that it fell apart. But, alas, that was not the case. It's time for the story of one of my worst phobias.

When I was younger, I didn't pay much attention to detail in pictures. I liked pictures, of course, but, I didn't pay much attention to detail.

That changed only a few weeks after my "discovery" of this particular book. I was sitting on the floor (it's a big book), and for some reason, it was then that I decided to look at the details. Then, it happened...

I got to the page where the Wolf fell into the fire, and I noticed something; standing next to the fireplace was one of the pigs. He had a spade in his arms that was raised over his head. Now, since I didn't know why he would be doing something like that, I found it very weird. So weird, in fact, that I was scared of it. I instantly told my parents that the picture frightened me. They understood (though they didn't know the exact reason), and they put the book on the shelf, and told me a wouldn't have to see it.

Unfortunately, when you have brothers, things don't always go as planned. One of my brothers liked to look at books, and he would often take the book down and look at it. I was so terrified that I didn't dare to enter the family when he was looking at it. And this got even worse, because he had the habit of leaving books sitting open on the couch when he was done looking at them, and it sometimes ended up that the book would end up open to the page with the frightening illustration when he left it there, I was scared out of my mind.

Eventually, Dad got down every single book version we had of "Three Little Pigs" and opened them to the pictures of the Wolf falling into the pot of water in those versions. "Do these ones scare you?" he asked me. I answered no, ad they asked me why I was scared of a particular illustration. What was different about it that it scared me so much?

I realized that they didn't know exactly why it scared me. They were thinking about the illustration in terms of how the majority of small children would be frightened by it (i.e.: the Wolf burning up). I wanted to explain to them the real reason, but I didn't have a wide enough vocabulary back then, so I couldn't.

So, my parents threw the book in the garbage. For the next for days, until the trash from that can was taken to the outside trash can, I never threw anything away when my parents asked me to, when normally I would have been glad to. I was so afraid of the book that was inside.

I've realized since then that have a really bad phobia. A phobia of bizarre images. And, unfortunately, It's not something I can avoid. A particular one that I've seen again and again accidentally is the original Denslow illustration of the Wicked Witch melting from the "Wizard of Oz." It pops up again and again online, and I have never gotten less afraid of it.

Ironically, the illustration that started it all doesn't actually scare me anymore. I was at Walmart about five years later, and they had some hardcover books there. One of them was this particular book:

Okay, no. It wasn't actually that book. I just got tired of looking for an image of it on Google Images (I can't remember the title of the book. I remember it was orange, and it had the picture of the pigs with the wheel barrow on the cover). That IS an illustration from the book though. The last illustration from the story to be exact. I have a good memory.

Anyway, my mom took the book and started looking at it. I recognized the pictures immediately. "Oh no," I thought. Mom didn't recognize the pictures. I had to think fast. I dived at the book, and tried to snatch it before the page could be turned to the picture that started at all.

But I was too late. I saw the picture. But it didn't scare me anymore, much to my surprise. And to my even greater surprise, I felt so happy seeing the pictures in that story again. I had thought before that I would never see them again, and I was glad about it. But seeing them there, at Walmart? It was like meeting an old friend after so many years.

The picture did not scare me anymore because I didn't find it weird anymore. I knew exactly why the Pig had that spade raised over his head. (If only I could find a way to think that a Wicked Witch with three pigtails and a goofy frown wasn't weird. If only.)

Unfortunately, Mom said she was only going to buy me one book that day. One of the books there was a Thomas the Tank Engine book, and being a big Thomas fan, I somewhat wanted that one too. So, I thought for a few minutes, and finally, I chose...

Thomas the Tank Engine.

I've come to regret that decision ever since. I have never found another book with those illustrations ever since that day (and haven't even seen the picture that started the whole thing since that day).

I will order a book with those illustrations some day, because they hold a nostalgic value for me. But right now, I'm only about to enter college. I don't have the money to order books online right now. But I will eventually obtain a copy of "The Three Little Pigs" with those illustrations, and I will not lose it again.

Okay. yeah, this post had hardly anything to do with fairy tales. Sorry about that. But I promise that my next post will talk about another fairy tale. One that I actually mentioned in this post...


  1. Ah, the joys of traumatizing picture books. I could tell plenty of similar stories. Luckily I didn't have any silings young enough to still be into picture books, so I cold get around the frightening images by rembering what stories came before and after the scary one, and later the page numbers in order to avoid them. If the paper was thin and kind of see through, I would sometimes slip a piece of paper between the pages to cover up the scary one. A method I still used at the age of 15 with my annotated Aliceto cover up Albrecht Dürere's picture of Knight, Death and Devil which was put in there to show case its similaritiesto Tenniel's picture of the Jabberwocky. With other scry pics I had sort of a strange fascination and would look at them over and over. A child's version of a horror movie I guess. I never would've told my parents about the scary pictures, because to me loosing a whole book over a single picture wasn't worth it. I think some of these books are still with my parents. Knight, Death and Devil still frightens me, but I should be over the other pictures. Maybe I should give those books a second chance

  2. You bring up an interesting topic, which is the difference between what adults think children will find scary, and what children actually find scary. Sometimes in our attempts not to traumatize children we remove the violence, which also removes the parts where justice is served and they get the bad guy-which can be the most comforting/empowering part for the child! What frightens each child can't really be predicted, so it's good for the parent/adult to be sensitive, but not necessarily to censor for the child