Scary children don’t always have to draw blood. They can send shivers down your spine. They might make you question your own morals. They are manipulative. Or they terrify you because they are so naive and you fear for the consequences. Here’s my list of children who have sent goose bumps through me as I’ve turned the pages over the years.
EDMUND in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
I’ve always found ten-year-old Edmund to be one of the scariest children in fiction—right from when I was a young reader myself. Edmund was one of four children who explored the magical world of Narnia. But the White Witch got him on her side through promising him an aristocratic title and “seducing” him with a drug-laden Turkish Delight drink and a ride through the snow. In return, he betrayed his sister Lucy. How awful is that? The good news is that Edmund later reformed. But I’m still not sure I entirely trust him. Can people really change?
DRACO MALFOY from the Harry Potter Series
Another turncoat who is prepared to sacrifice his friends or rather, classmates, including our much-loved Harry Potter. Draco (what a name!) works in the “scary stakes” because we all knew someone like him at school. In my case, it was a sneaky girl who told one of the teachers that I’d gone out of bounds one lunchtime. I’d actually gone to sit by a lake to write a poem in some peace and quiet. The film made DM seem even scarier because we all saw the same face. What a cunning bully! Why can’t kids like that be suspended?
JACK in Lord of the Flies by William Golding
I have to be honest here. I skipped parts of this book when I first read it because it scared me so much. All those horrible boys on an island! What kind of adult bullies are they going to grow into? And that’s what’s terrifying. The island bit does it as well. There’s no escape. Jack is particularly scary because he becomes more and more bloodthirsty to get what he wants. But maybe he has an excuse, like Carla in My Husband’s Wife…….
MATILDA by Roald Dahl
Matilda both scares and intrigues me. It’s a winning combination. This is a child with guts who isn’t frightened of taking on her teacher. I was lucky enough to meet Roald Dahl in person at a furniture auction in 1984. I happened to be looking at a grandfather clock with the intention of bidding for it when a very tall stranger advised me not to buy it because it wasn’t the “right shape.” We got talking and I suddenly realized who he was. Dahl then kindly allowed me to interview him for a homes magazine so I went to his house and met his second wife. There were bowls of chocolate everywhere. He was very nice to me but when the phone rang, he barked down the line at the unfortunate caller. It was then that I glimpsed a shade of scary Matilda.
LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD
I know. Everyone is meant to love her. But her naiveté terrifies me. So does her mother. Who, in her right mind, would send a little girl through the woods? We just know something is going to happen. Maybe Red Riding Hood is not as naive as she looks. Perhaps she’s part of a setup to lull the wolf into a sense of complacency before he meets his grisly end. If so, RR is doubly scary. Either way, it put me off the color red from an early age. Let’s face it: red is for blood. Little Blue Riding Hood just wouldn’t have had the same curb appeal.