The stuff I blog when I tire of relevancy

Yesterday, I watched Ponyo, an animated Japanese children’s movie. It reminded me of another movie, Spirited Away, and a quick check at Netflix told me they were both directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Spirited Away won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2003. The animation in these movies is gorgeous, though some of the imagery disturbs me, as do the stories.

Fujimoto @2008, 2009 Nibariki-GNDHDDT

In the one I saw yesterday, I’m not sure I ever understood what the father of Ponyo was. Though he lives and breathes underwater, he looks human, with bizarre hair,  but he’s horrified that his daughter—born a fish—wants to become human. In the English-language version, Liam Neeson is the voice of this character, and though I’m a Neeson fan, his voice coming out of this character’s mouth only added to the weirdness.

Although both these movies mesmerized me, they seem so different from American animated children’s movies, I’m surprised our children like them. Then again, I don’t see a lot of children’s movies anymore, so maybe they’ve changed. Or maybe I should be comparing them to our folk tales of old. These two Japanese movies did remind me of the fairy tales I read as a child. The ones that frightened me.

Did I worry there might be real witches with candy houses and ovens built for children? You bet. Did it cross my mind that my father might do something like indenture me to spin straw into gold for the rest of my life? In a word, yes. Think of all the tales that feature a wicked step-mother. I did … every time my parents argued. As an adult I understand those tales reflected the harshness of the times in which they originated, but as a child that aspect flew over my head. A part of me believed these things might be possible.

Gran Mamare @2008, 2009 Nibariki-GNDHDDT

This image from Ponyo particularly spooked me. Every time I stand at ocean’s edge, I fear I am seconds away from seeing something huge—and alive—rising out of it. So, even though she was beautiful, the image of Ponyo’s mother gave me pause.

Sometimes imagination is a curse.

Tell me, did any children’s stories worry or scare you? Or were you precocious enough to go deeper, analyzing the symbolism and allegory?

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16 thoughts on “The stuff I blog when I tire of relevancy

  1. I cannot for the life of me recall ever reading any fairy tales. Think I read Cinderella once but that’s it. Nobody read to me (long story) so I picked books myself and for some bizarre reason, I gravitated towards my father’s science fiction and horror collection, and so, instead of reading Sleeping Beauty, I was reading I Robot….go figure, maybe that’s why I am so strange 🙂

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    1. Ha! I hit the science fiction quite early too (8) but before that I remember reading ‘Water Babies’ and having a recurring dream for years afterwards about walking with my parents into deeper and deeper water in a meadow. For some reason this was not a nightmare but it was unsettling. In the dream, I was a small child (5 or 6) hand in hand with my parents on either side. The meadow was beautiful, the grass very green and clean. As we walked through the meadow, the lushness turned to clear water in the way of flooded fields, and we just continued walking until we were beneath it. Nobody drowned, nothing happened, it was eerily exotic but simple and clean.
      My biggest nightmare came from a picture of a bird-eating spider in one of our encyclopedias. I avoided that whole volume almost forever!

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    2. No one read to me either, Alannah, at least that’s my memory. I can’t picture any books in our house at all, so I think my memory is correct. I suppose I read these stories from school or library books.

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  2. Funny, but when I think of the story that scared me the most as a child, it’s not a book, but a movie, not even a children’s movie. Yes, it was Jaws. I think I am still affected as an adult by it…I am certain I look around any body of water with an initial feeling of despair.
    Any story that took place in the woods certainly scarred me. Little red Riding Hood comes to mind. Nothing spookier to me than the woods if I let my imagination get carried away.

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  3. Reading wasn’t important in my house when I was small. As in jenniferneri’s case, not a soul read fairy tales or stories to me. But when I was in the seventh grade I began reading for escape. I was too old for fairy tales by then and so my first book was a horror story. I don’t recall it having any effect on me other than the normal taboo feelings of reading something wicked. But my parents were and are huge TV buffs and movie buffs. We went to the drive-in theater all the time. I remember being subject a movie, I think it was Walking Tall at far too young of an age. There was a scene that left me somewhat scarred for life. As a woman, I’ll never venture into the woods alone or at least without something slung over my shoulder for defense and I’m not talking about a bit stick or bear spray. Isn’t it odd how something so simple as a trip to the movies with your parents can cause so much anxiety for the remainder of your life.

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    1. I’m getting deja vu here. Didn’t I have a poll once, asking whether you were read to as a child? If I remember correctly, many of us had not been.

      I don’t think the origin of your fear of woods is odd, Trista. They say the first five years of a child’s life are the most important in forming the personality. I fear looking at an uncurtained window at night because I just know I’m going to see some THING looking back at me. I’m sure this fear was formed very early from a book or movie because there is no event in my life to account for that phobia.

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  4. Pre-school, my mom read to me — mainly Walt Disney’s Stories. I still have the book, in which I’d long ago scrawled my name.
    In kindergarten I read a lot of norse and greek mythology — and so from then on saw all fables, fairy tales, and fantasy stories [and all religion] as symbolism and allegory.

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  5. The Ooompa Loompas (sp?) scared me. A neighbor took us to see it and after that I had nightmares of being taken away by the short, orange people. To make it worse, my middle brother, used to lurk in the hallway at night singing their song.
    I don’t remember being afraid of the stories I read as a kid, but the movies, sometimes.
    In our house, we love, Hiyao Miyazaki films. Totoro or “Our Neighbor Totoro”, is the all time favorite. Spirited Away is second. I love all the cultural things that get shown and how, a lot of it does not translate into something we believe in ours. It’s all a trip to strange-land. Btw, if you watch Totoro, see the original version, not the newly dubbed version wherein Dakota Fanning was used for the voice of the big sister, Satsuki. I love Dakota Fanning, she’s got amazing talent. But the two voices for the sisters, the original in English version, are spot on.
    (I really couldn’t get into Princess Mononoke. It was a too out there for me, and too bloody. It’s more of a traditional Japanese anime that teens became so popular.)

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