Ooooh. An excellent piece by Ursula Dubosarsky published in the Australian Age awhile ago, looking at Vixen Sharp Ears (aka The Cunning Little Vixen), a novella written by Czech Rudolf Tesnohlidek in 1920, and published for the first time in English in 1985 with illustrations by Maurice Sendak. The book sounds fabulous, and I’m going to hunt it down.
She begins by talking about her experiences of darkness as a child:
My favourite memory of this kind of darkness is from my NSW state primary school in the 1960s. Once a week we girls were parted from the boys and made our way out to an old crumbling 19th century house at the back of the playground, known ominously as "Marshall House". There we huddled together in a shadowy room that smelt as green as a drain, straining to see the needles and threads and our little bits of useless sewing, while we told each other stories.
Unsurprisingly, these were largely ghost stories that revolved around sightings of the apparently doomed Marshalls who had lived in the house, and the various terrible ways they were said to have met their deaths. We were all very impressed, I remember, by the desperate scrawl in lead pencil that one of us discovered down near the skirting board on one of the peeling floral papered walls, "I was dead 100 years ago."
Don’t we all have those creepy half-manufactured, half-found moments as children?
Such a smart piece. Read the whole thing. (And read The Red Shoe already, if you haven’t. So wonderful.)