NO GO THE BOGEYMAN by Marina Warner


Scaring, Lulling, and Making Mock
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Warner continues her erudite and entertaining investigation of fairy tales (begun in From the Beast to the Blonde, 1995) in a new study of the pleasure we derive from the fearful figures in tales and songs. Novelist and scholar Warner shifts her focus here to the mostly male characters, like ogres and the bogeyman. But the truer subject is fear itself and the “ambiguous satisfactions of scariness.” In an eclectic survey that ranges from classical myth to pulp fiction, from Fra Angelico to Quentin Tarantino, and with a wonderful selection of 100 vivid illustrations, Warner examines the undeniable attraction that fear has held for the young and the old throughout Western history. Warner’s learned yet stylish and funny narrative jumps easily in time from ancient Greece to modern Hollywood. To manage the wide-ranging material thematically, Warner divides her text into three sections. In “Scaring,” she looks at the monsters, ogres, and bogeyman figures who fill our tales, eating human flesh and acting as alter egos. “Lulling,” examines the cradle songs that have been traditionally sung to soothe and protect infants and, as Warner points out, to allow frustrated parents and nannies an opportunity to vent their anger. Finally, “Making Mock” explores the role of comedy as a bulwark against fear. Warner offers a fresh perspective on how fantastic terrors are used in tales to allay real ones. One of the most refreshing and poignant of Warner’s contributions is her unsentimental observations on contemporary life, especially modern childhood. Dinosaur-shaped cookies and stuffed animals in the form of hideous insects play as much a role in her analysis of managed fear as do the very real stresses that modern childhood places on parents and the family. Warner’s compelling study of how we deal with fears through stories will be enjoyed equally by cultural historians and by any parent who has observed a child delighted by Beatrix Potter’s Roly Poly Pudding or by Sendak’s Wild Things.

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 1999
ISBN: 0-374-22301-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1999


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