Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tragedy Stories

I'm terrible with ages, but sometime around when I was six or seven, I discovered that not all stories have to have a happy ending. This was a huge revelation to me as a child. Up until then, all the stories I'd been reading, all the television shows I'd been watching, and all the movies I'd seen all ended well for the main characters. I guess I thought it was a requirement that things had to be wrapped up positively in order for a story to be considered valid. I was thrilled to hear this didn't have to be! That at the end of the story, something bad could happen; a character could even...die. Imagine all the new possibilities! I was so excited.

Immediately I began work on a new series of stories called Tragedy Stories. A typical Tragedy Story of mine would go something like this: A baby alligator (I loved alligators, so I often wrote about them) got lost from it's home. He had to walk 100000000 miles (I'd usually just add a bunch of zeroes to the end of the number to make it look really impressive) to find his way back to his family. Just as he was about find them, he got hit by a car. The end. Or: A butterfly flew 9800000000 miles (another number that I thought would make an impression on grown-ups), and just as he reached home, he lost a wing and could not fly. The end.

At this time my mom had a reunion at Hampton University, and she took me and my four year old brother with her. I only remember two things about that visit. The first was that I got hit in my eye area with a toy car (my brother and I were throwing it back and forth to each other up and down a flight of stairs. I was at the bottom). I remember crying determinedly for a really long time in hopes I would get taken home, but no such luck. At some point I got tired of crying and moved on to something else.

The second thing I remember was that I was seated for dinner next to a hapless Alum of my mom's. I turned to him and began to explain with gusto and intensity my Tragedy Stories. I think I told him every single one I'd written, and to show off, threw in some bonus ones I made up on the spot. I remember him having an uncomfortable deer-in-the-headlights sort of expression. At the time I figured that was just how he wore his face.

My grandmother was horrified when I told her about the Stories. She begged me repeatedly to change the tragic endings to happy ones, after I read some of the stories to her. But I wouldn't budge. Changing the endings would defeat the whole purpose of the so-named Tragedy Stories. That logic didn't appease her in the least.

I have noticed, in more recent years as I've gone through my old stories, that these particular tales are mysteriously missing.


Anonymous said...

Oh no! Do you think Granny was behind the mysterious disappearance?! What a shame. And what a complete hoot that you/a child so young was so hungry for "alternate" possibilities! :o) that a banana slug...?

Former Mushroom-Haired Child said...

Hello there SG!! Why yes, it is a banana slug in the photo! You are very observant. And I'm not sure if my grandmother was behind the mysterious lack of these stories surviving into the future, but she was the one who saved all my other stories, so it does make a girl rub her chin (or stroke my beard thoughtfully--if I had one) a bit.

Anonymous said...

That is hilarious! I wrote mysteries when I was seven. But for some reason that was not interesting to anyone but me. I was completely baffled by the lack of depth of the children in my class. I can relate.

Anonymous said...

You know, I'm taking a class on German fairy tales, and believe it or not, most of the fairy tales are tragic..or at least violent. A perfect example:

In in the story The Maiden With Know Hands, a young girl's father unknowingly makes a deal with the devil promising her to him. Whenever he comes to get her she cries and her tears (since she is so pious and innocent) won't let him get near her. Since she wipes her tears on her hands, the devil demands that her father chop off her hands so he can take her. That doesn't work either b/c even the tears on her amputated limbs ward him off. (They actually use the word "nubs" in the story, but that just sounds to wrong...) Anyway there's more to the story, which I think actually does end "happily" but geez, the girl got her hands cut off!!

LOL I had to share it...that is definitely one of the more interesting classes I've taken. :)

BTW I LOVE your blog.

Former Mushroom-Haired Child said...

anonymous: that's interesting that you wrote mystery stories as a child. I guess some kids aren't the Cinderalla/ Snow White types, huh?

lagrimasvioletas: Hi there! Thank you so much for telling me about the German fairy tale. I have heard they can be pretty violent, which is such a contrast to how we approach children's stories here. And thank you so much for your kind words about the blog!