Words are powerful. Books are powerful. They can give hope and inspire folk to rise above the ordinary and do extraordinary things. They can also install fear of everyday objects.
I first read the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at my Uncle and Aunt’s house. Their copy of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was a well-worn paperback. I read it. Was I inspired? Was I entranced by Narnia and the adventures of the Pevensie siblings? Maybe. But what I was left with, when you really stripped it down and got to the bare bones of it … was a terrible fear that if I didn’t close my wardrobe doors before I slept, the Wicked Witch would come bursting through it on her chariot with hand raised and expression evil… and kill me.
So the wardrobe doors were always firmly shut, lest worlds seep through and threaten my very existence.
One would think that one burden from the literary realm would be enough; one burden to haunt a little girl would be sufficient. But no. Oh no. Not at all. I was afraid, you see, for a terrible period of time … of the bath.
I wasn’t afraid to bathe, you understand. It was more of what could be in the bath.
Please look at the image below and imagine being someone gifted with an extremely vivid imagination listening to the audiobook with this cover:
Then try to picture how it was to go into the bathroom, at the dead of night, to answer a call of nature. Replace the bobbies with me and …
It was terrifying. Even when it wasn’t night time, a suspicious glance at the bath first just had to be given. To make sure, you know.
I even planned how someone could drag a corpse over the rooftops and dispose of it in our innocent bathtub (they would, perhaps, start at our next door neighbour’s roof and then jump across to our’s. Then with gymnastics worthy of an Olympian climb through the narrow slit of the bathroom window with the body and deposit it in our bath. Logic does not stand up to Fear).
A child’s mind is a fertile thing. Plant a seed by written or spoken word and it will grow. Through Wardrobes and Bathtubs.
In your childhood, were you ever gifted oh so kindly with a phobia by a book? Or perhaps you escape unscathed?