Daily Archives: 05/11/2021

Warnings and bogeymen

Threats to children about bogeymen seem to exist in all cultures. The common feature is the invocation of a non-existent monster to scare children into good behaviour. The idea is fundamentally abusive, although one must suspect that most children soon learn to take the stories with a pinch of salt, especially if their friends seem to be warned about different bugaboos. Nobody they know ever gets “taken,” and I suspect that the twinkle in the eye of the adult tale-tellers plays a mitigating part too. Even so, in his later years Charles Dickens bore resentment against a childhood nurse who terrorised his dreams with such tales.

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