Cover image for No go the bogeyman : scaring, lulling, and making mock
No go the bogeyman : scaring, lulling, and making mock
Warner, Marina, 1946-
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, [1998]

Physical Description:
xii, 435 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
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BF575.F2 W33 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The author of From the Beast to the Blond considers the enduring presence and popularity of figures of male terror, establishing their origins in mythology and their current relation to ideas about sexuality and power, youth and age. 100 illustrations. 30 color plates.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

This is a fulsome, intellectual romp: a deeply compelling study that takes us across stories and legends, painting and illustration, linguistics and wordplay, in search of just what is hiding under the bed. Warner calls it "a cultural exploration of fear." In part one, she examines the stories of fathers eating/devouring/giving birth to their children, from the bogeyman to Goya; in part two, she describes the linguistic roots of the repetitious, melodious, and occasionally hostile "baby-rocking songs," as folksinger Rosalie Sorrels once described lullabies; in part three, mockery as defense is illuminated in a section that includes an entire chapter on banana humor. As she did in Alone of All Her Sex (1983) and From the Beast to the Blonde (1995), Warner brings to her latest work a fierce intelligence honed on things we don't think much about but have always known: that our fears help define who we are and who the Other is; that children need to know what to fear and how to manage and overcome that fear; that some corners of the soul are very dark indeed; and that, sometimes, humor can lighten even the darkest of them. It's a marvelous working of art, folktale, and cultural memory: some of the essays, like the origin of the sound "boo," or the deconstruction of Carmen Miranda, are worth the price of admission on their own. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido

Publisher's Weekly Review

Noting an unprecedented and growing fascination with the grotesque in contemporary life, British cultural historian Warner (From the Beast to the Blond: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers) has amassed an eclectic compendium of fact, folklore, history and art, examining the seductive charm of monsters, ogres, witches and other figures of horror from centuries past. According to Warner, the enormous popularity of R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series of juvenile fiction, the dark comedies of filmmaker Quentin Tarantino and the use of "Quasimodo humps and lumps and lopsided pads" by designer Rei Kawabuko in her spring 1997 collection for Comme des Garçons are only the latest manifestations of a long-standing gothic tradition. She pinpoints three ways that horror serves to allay and confront human fears of abuse, abandonment and death: scaring (fear as a positive visceral experience); lulling ("Lullabies weave a protective web of words and sounds against raiders who come with the night..."); and making mock (dark comedy as a defense against fear). Freewheeling from text to text, Warner looks at fairy tales, cannibalism in Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and Roald Dahl's The BFG, the Circe myth, the sexual symbolism of the banana and the visual art of Francisco Goya, Michelangelo Caravaggio, Louis Desprez and Albert Eckhout. Arguing that bogeymen and monsters are frequently cast as our alter egos, Warner demonstrates the strong ties between these figures and children, both as sources of identity (as in Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are) and of danger. Though sometimes digressive, this encyclopedic and kaleidoscopic volume will keep fans of the grotesque reading late into the night. 100 b&w illustrations and 30 color plates (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this companion volume to her acclaimed From the Beast to the Blonde (LJ 10/1/95), Warner provides a fascinating cultural exploration of fear. Noting that "the ambiguous satisfactions of scariness have been cultivated more intensely during this century than ever before," she traces the "bogeyman" and other frightening figures of folklore and fairy tales through centuries of mythology, religion, literature, art history, and popular culture, examining both the psychic and cultural mechanisms for arousing and controlling fear and the use of lullabies and jokes as defenses against it. Learned, well written, and full of interesting detail, this is a stimulating and entertaining read, offering insights on almost every page. Extensively researched and copiously illustrated in black-and-white and color, it will serve as a resource for scholars in many fields and should appeal to general readers as well.‘Julia Burch, Cambridge, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This provocative book is about fear, "one of the most everyday yet least examined of human feelings" according to Warner (Trinity College, Cambridge). The author departs from her earlier work on female imagery and mythology (begun in books on Joan of Arc and the Virgin Mary and continued in From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers, 1995), focusing in the present title on masculine myths. Three methods of "coping with anxieties" make up the main sections of the book: "Scaring" looks at the use of frightening representations of bogeymen to provide "ecstatic relief from the terror that the thing itself would inspire"; "Lulling" at lullabies sung to soothe; "Making Mock" at comedy to overcome fear of the bogeyman. The text is exhaustively researched; Warner piles on examples drawn from sources in many disciplines--mythology, linguistics, painting, popular culture, music, and contemporary children's literature. Much of the book deals with the image of the bogeyman as devourer, yet the final chapter on bananas comes as a surprise. Lavishly illustrated, beautifully designed, and a pleasure to read, this study is rich, rewarding, and persuasive. Highly recommended for upper-level undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty in literary and cultural studies, theory, art history, and women's studies. E. R. Baer; Gustavus Adolphus College



Chapter One `HERE COMES THE BOGEYMAN!' In a poem written in Germany in 1782, the poet Goethe evoked the Erlking, or the King of the Alders, wooing a boy who is riding with his father through the dark forest: `You sweet child, come, come with me!' he calls out, `we shall play lovely games together, there are flowers of many colours by the water's edge, my mother has many garments of gold.' The child immediately recognizes the danger as the Erlking himself, and cries out. But his father reassures him, `In dürren Blättern säuselt der Wind.' (`It's the wind rustling in the dry leaves'.) Again the Erlking entices the boy: `Meine Töchter sollen dich warten schön; Meine Töchter führen den nächtlichen Reihn, Und wiegen und tanzen und singen dich ein.' (`My daughters shall be your lovely attendants: every night my daughters dance a round dance, they will rock you and dance you and sing you to sleep.')     With the chanting refrain of a ballad, the boy remonstrates again, but again in vain, as his father once more dismisses his fears of what he sees: `Es scheinen die alten Weiden so grau.' (`It's the old willow-trees looking so grey.') But each time, his words deepen the wraith-like horror of the child's assailant.     The Erlking loses patience. He desires the child for his own, the internal rhymes pointing up his ineluctable resolve: `Ich liebe dich, mich reizt deine schöne Gestalt; Und bist du nicht willig, so brauch' ich Gewalt.' (`I love you, I am charmed by your beautiful shape; and if you are not willing, I will use force.') He seizes the boy, who cries out again; the father shudders, spurring on their horse to reach home faster. But when he arrives:     `In seinen Armen das Kind war tot.' (`In his arms the child lay dead.')     Goethe's poem, in the spirit of Romanticism and German literary nationalism, uses a simple, often monosyllabic vernacular vocabulary and the rocking stresses of the ballad form to create a haunting epitome of a recurring nightmare.     `The Erlking' was written when Goethe was still a young poet, in the period when the scholarly circle of Clemens Brentano and Bettina von Arnim was forming, the milieu that would produce Achim von Arnim and Brentano's Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Boy's Magic Horn , 1806), the founding anthology of German songs, and would also nurture the young Grimm Brothers' enthusiasm for fairy tales. Interestingly, it was a mistranslation of a Danish legend that inspired the figure of the Erlking. Johann Gottfried Herder misunderstood the Danish for `king of the elves', but his was one of those momentous, wondrous, mythopoeic errors that enriches culture, for a `King of the Alders' belonged by nature to the damp, dark, spooky forests of Germany and to its native folklore. A slip of the ear or of the pen shifted the whole uncanny underworld of the fairies into the deep native woodland above ground, where it threatened more closely, more thrillingly.     `The Erlking' is a song and a poem at once, expressing a timeless fear and at the same time producing a recognizable contemporary Gothic frisson . It personifies death as a danger above all to the young, who are credited with a more intense perception of the other world in the first place; this intimacy with the supernatural makes them vulnerable to its charms and its desires. Fear is the child's bedfellow. `The Erlking' makes a characteristic Romantic move when it dramatizes the father's tragic dismissal of the threat; the poem leaves its subjects nameless, thus bidding for universality and widening the reach of the menace. The late eighteenth century saw a decisive change in attitudes to children, and the poem reflects it: the thoughts and apprehensions of children should not be dismissed, for they can be privy to some things we should know and should fear ourselves.     The Erlking tale still circulates locally in different communities, as part of their contemporary `urban legends'. On Dartmoor, in Devon, for instance, the story is still told of the demon huntsman Dewer who comes riding by Hameldown Tor, his black dogs with their flaming eyes streaking ahead of him and his hunting horn sounding. One day, as he passes, a man making his way home asks him what sport he has enjoyed that day. With a laugh, Dewer throws down a sack into his hands. When the man reaches his kitchen and opens it, expecting some tasty fowl or other piece of game, he discovers instead the body of his own child.     Where one century perceives the stalker as Death, another sees him as Eros: Angela Carter, in her consummate collection of fairy tales, The Bloody Chamber (1975), included a version, which, like Goethe's poem, angles the terror through the fascinated eyes of the Erlking's prey. She is a Carter heroine, in thrall despite herself to the woodland spirit's feral, eldritch charms: `He is the tender butcher who showed me how the price of flesh is love; skin the rabbit, he says! Off come all my clothes.'     Child-stealers, night-raiders, cradle-snatchers: they inspired a rich and sinister body of tales that had every appearance of medieval and superstitious primitiveness, but continued to be retold at the height of the Enlightenment. Spirit assassins come in all shapes and sizes, as goblins, as little people and even as belles dames sans merci . The unfamiliar in every aspect moulds the phantom, and so, like witches, bogeys are crooked or moley or warty, or they limp or suffer from other unusual physical traits--fairies are often marked out, in the British tradition, by their red hair. Female demons predominate in earlier mythologies, but by the early-modern period male predators are increasing in numbers and prominence. Racial differences contribute, too: the coco in Spain is imagined as a black devil, as he is in Italy, where he is simply called l'omo nero . This tradition has survived in those countries longer than in England, where `black-man' is no longer an alternative phrase for a bogey or hobgoblin, as it was in Middle English.     Roman comedy featured a masked monster called Manducus (`Jaws') with clattering teeth and another, Dossenus, ever chomping. In northern Europe, trolls haunted the forests. These supernatural, underground creatures of Scandinavian folk tales come in varying sizes, from elf to giant, and are known by grandiose names, like Borbytingarna. They used to be terrifying until their recent domestication as sweet furry dorks. In Russian legends, the bannik and his wife, the bannikha , among many malign goblins, would suffocate or flay their victims in the night if they showed disrespect. The predatory witch Baba Yaga, who has a special liking for children, has developed into a far more definite, even individual, figure, with her woodland cottage that runs about on chicken legs, and her unusual mode of flight: she ferries through the air in a pestle and mortar, sweeping her tracks with a besom as she goes. Baba Yaga, Old Hag Yaga, like many other crones in fairy stories, fences her domain in the forest with the bones and skulls of her victims, whose eyes glow by moonlight. She sets snapping teeth on her door for a lock, with hands to bolt it and human limbs to support it; the tiles are made of pancakes and the walls of pies; a big oven blazes in the hearth where Baba Yaga sleeps at night: she is a close cousin of the witch in the gingerbread house from `Hansel and Gretel', and clever children can trick her into doing herself a great mischief. The derivation of `Yaga' is disputed, but could be related to Slavic words for `grudge' or `brawl', or, perhaps more illuminatingly, to a Russian word for eating. For Baba Yaga is by no means always malignant; she is a cunning woman, in control of natural and supernatural magic and, above all, of food supplies. But she dispenses her hospitality capriciously. Baba Yaga has witchy traits, and the witch in nursery lore often stands in for the female ogre, sharing some of her characteristics, though she is seldom built on the ogress' Brobdingnagian scale. Instead she can take the shape of a bird or a cat or a simple old woman, like the jealous queen in `Snow White'.     Nightmare visitors are not usually imagined as beating their prey, like Mr. Punch, in his delirium of baby-battering in the puppet play Punch and Judy. Raiders from other worlds want children for themselves. They are covetous, and the implication is that they have lost a baby or cannot have one and feel the lack. So they can be `boo-baggers', who carry bags in which they stow babies and their other victims, principally children. Sometimes they are night-riders, like witches in the fears of the witchfinders, who described Sabbath orgies at which babies were sacrificed to the devil in a sacrilegious imitation of the Eucharist. Agostino Veneziano in the early sixteenth century made a terrifying engraving--`Lo Stregozzo', (The (Carcass)--showing a witch's grand nocturnal parade in her high chariot of bones, hauled by naked and muscly slaves who have grabbed naked babies and carried them off; she sits high up on the coachman's box, urging them on, with more infants whom she has snatched for her purposes stowed around her. The fears here concentrate on the fate of miscarried, still-born and hence unbaptized babies, who, according to orthodox Christian belief, died in a state of original sin and therefore could not go to heaven. This issue is extremely complex, and inspired much debate as well as anguish. Eventually, the state of limbo, neither paradise nor hell but a condition of painless suspension, was devised to assuage the distress that parents--and others--felt at the fate of such innocents. Before the establishment of limbo in popular belief (it was never formally approved), numerous manoeuvres and devices were adopted in order to prevent the damnation of infants. Joan of Arc, for example, was credited with resurrecting a baby for long enough for it to receive the sacrament and save its soul before it died.     Records of babies rallying in this way, to give the breathing space for baptism, recur in Protestant as well as Catholic communities, showing that the loss and the terror lie deeper than theological definitions of salvation and that different ideas of divine providence do not mitigate the parental pain of bereavement. The loss of infants may have been expected in times of high mortality, but it was not a matter of indifference. The stories communicate fatalism, but this is not identical with resignation. Rather they offer explanations, from the irrational store of the imaginary, in order to rationalize loss. In Ireland, the Tuatha Dé Danann traditionally left changelings behind in the cradle. In Scottish ballads, a demon with the misleading name of Lammikin nips and stabs infants until their mother is woken; then Long Lankin, as he is also known, proposes to drain the mother's blood into a basin. In Jewish folkore, Lilith, Adam's unruly first wife who was repudiated for her rebelliousness, roams at night looking for babies, to suck their blood or otherwise destroy them. Even the Snow Queen, in Hans Christian Andersen's famous and beautiful fairy tale, retains traces of this terror, for she abducts her child victims, like the boy Kai, to her palace in the far north where she freezes them into statues of blue ice. The ogresses' Greek precursor, Lamia, can give a clue to the animus that is ascribed, in fantasy, to female child-stealers: for like her Jewish counterpart Lilith, Lamia began to prey on babies after she suffered ostracism and after her own children, yet more offspring of Zeus' philandering, had been killed by his jealous wife, Hera. The coral branch that Jesus wears in many paintings of the Madonna and Child is a survival of pre-Christian Middle Eastern magic against these raiders of the nursery. Recently, a remarkable, uncanny children's book by Valerie Dayre, L'Ogresse en pleurs (The Ogress in Tears), infused the old myths with contemporary fears: the malign protagonist wanders the world, searching for her prey, and, after several frustrated assaults, finds a delicious boy baby whom she instantly gobbles. Dayre's book, powerfully illustrated by Wolf Erlbruch, vividly expresses contemporary maternal fears when it closes with the ogress weeping, for it is her own child, whom she has (inadvertently) eaten, all other children failing to satisfy her appetite. This glassy-eyed, ravening and ancient hag embodies contemporary anguish about infertility and violence towards children in the same way as fairy tales like `Donkeyskin' tell of father-daughter incest, concealed under the deep disguise of `Once upon a time'.     Bogeymen and women are frequently imagined as single, anomalous outsiders--the Cyclops in his cave, the witch in her gingerbread house. This is not invariably the case, however: ogres are often king of the castle in a domestic setting--consider the giant at the top of the beanstalk. When the witch in her lonely cottage on the edge of the forest and the ogre in his remote castle prey on the young, their malignant envy of others who have and can bear children may appear to be their underlying motive for raiding cradles and devouring infants. Or, to reverse the point of view, those who are blessed with offspring fear that their good fortune may inspire destructive envy. The Egyptians even devised a deity with special powers in this area: the popular dwarf god Bes, whose squat, grinning figure has been excavated from birth niches, appeased forces that might harm mothers and children; he was set to watch in lying-in rooms and night nurseries, to protect against the jealousy of childless women.     Such stories, it has been argued, also provide a consoling explanation for mysterious cot deaths, or even, as suggested by Judith Devlin in The Superstitious Mind , a justification for neglecting babies with birth defects or other problems. A changeling could be discreetly made to disappear, as an evil gift of the fairies, or even of the devil; to dispose of a human child on the other hand, however unwanted or damaged at birth, lay beyond the frontiers of acceptable conduct. Doris Lessing in her dystopic fable, The Fifth Child (1988), chillingly reworked the theme. Infanticide, in cases where there was nothing untoward, could thus be concealed--blamed on `the fairies'. Although perpetrators were sought out, and blamed, with anger equal to the feelings that raged in the case of Matthew Eappen's death and Louise Woodward's trial in Massachusetts in 1997, their crimes were attributed to witchcraft and possession, not to personal malevolence.     As in many cases of witchcraft accusations, guilt and fear underlie the famous story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin in Westphalia, which was suffering from a plague of rats. A mysterious minstrel appeared; he was dressed in motley and played a pipe, with which he charmed all the rats to follow him out of the town. But when he came back for the fee he had been promised, the good burghers of Hamelin refused to pay him. So he played his pipe again, and this time all the children danced in his wake until he led them into a mountain, which closed over them. Only two were left to report what had taken place: one boy who was blind and another, who was lame. They had not been able to keep up with the merry throng.     In 1842 Robert Browning turned the tale into a bouncy ballad, and children perform the drama today for summer crowds in the town square at Hamelin: a cautionary tale about unfair dealing that the prosperous mercantile town tells itself. More recently, the composer Thomas Ades responded more sensitively to the sinister, even supernatural, quality of the legend, with Under Hamelin Hill , an eerie piece that captures on a chamber organ the seduction of the Pied Piper's irresistible music.     For the legend also warns, as so many tales of fairy folk do, that the fey and the pied, the eldritch and the elf are dangerous to humans in their capriciousness: they personify the unpredictable mischief-making of fate. The Pied Piper story is dated to 1240, when Hamelin is known to have suffered a similar plague, and in several ways its hero prefigures many spectres who come to haunt Germany. Though not dwarfish or otherwise monstrous, the Piper appears in the motley sometimes worn by the devil, and even more often by the fool who mocks truth, while the mountain, which uncannily opens when he plays in order to swallow the children, is the familiar habitat of elves and dwarfs and giants and other messengers from the dark side.     After the invention of print, goblins known as `child-guzzlers' ( Kinderfresser ) and `child-frighteners' ( Kinderschrecker ) were disseminated in Germany and its neighbours through grotesque broadsheets. These are often associated with Carnival. Yet one such alarming dwarf makes an early appearance in the margin of a lavish private book of hours of 1533 belonging to the Duke of Lorraine, so the theme was not confined to popular or even secular settings. This dwarf is grabbing at naked putti no smaller than he is, and he bears a pannier on his back to which he has strapped children he has already stolen. In Berne, Switzerland, there is a statue on which a sixteenth-century polychrome sculpture of a kind of Mr. Punch stands, children slung about him from his belt, in his pouches, on his back and under his arm, while one dangles from his jaws, like a fish in a pelican's beak: it is called the Kindlilfresserbrunnen , or Childguzzler Fountain. Jolly dancing and musical bears are carved around the pedestal and the bobble on the ogre's cap was regilded when the statue was restored in the 1920s; it is a great favourite with schoolchildren in the town.     In the mid-seventeenth century, Constantijn Huygens, secretary to the Prince of Orange and a committed, kindly and enlightened father, kept a pioneering journal about his children's progress; there he noted how he threatened his daughter when she was naughty with a hooded doll in a black cape called Lijs Huyck. In 1695, around fifty years later, Isabella de Moerloose of Ghent, one of the earliest women autobiographers, recorded in her memoirs how bugbears or bogeys were invoked during her childhood. One was called the bullebak , a typical comical giant name, and yet another was a more sinister, sexual, beastlike figure.     Moerloose's book appeared two years before `Barbe bleue' (`Bluebeard'), `Le petit Poucet' (`Tom Thumb') by Charles Perrault and other menacing tales by Marie-Jeanne L'Héritier and Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy, and the spectres the stories conjure cohere with many of the imagined threats. Isabella describes `the man with the long coat, of whom it was said that he looked for firstborn children in order to kill them, and that he put a ball in their mouths so they would choke'. She added, however, that she and her friends thought that this was a story her parents had made up in order to keep them from coming in late. Most interestingly of all, she records testing the truth of it several times by putting a ball in her mouth; she then discovered that she could still breathe and so discounted her parents' warnings. The overtones of the threat are clear and reveal that fears about children's safety three hundred years ago sometimes included fear of sexual violation and abduction.     Bluebeards, ogres and child-snatchers are close cousins to other wandering and hungry spirits that nurses--and mothers and fathers--have invoked to scare, cajole or bully children into obedience and quiet. If the death of a child was feared, the fear was also used as a weapon. The most notorious of night visitors, the Sandman, comes through the window and throws sand in wakeful children's eyes.     Today, his horrific nineteenth-century shape has been largely set aside, and he survives as a friendly and even whimsical helper, like Wee Willie Winkie. The nursery rhyme goes: The Sandman comes on tiptoe, Will through the window peep, And look at the little children Who ought to be asleep. And when a sleepless child he spies, Throws sand into its eyes. Lullaby, lullaby, O sleep, my darling child. But in E.T.A. Hoffmann's eponymous fairy tale (1817), the old nurse explains, `Oh! he's a wicked man who comes to little children when they won't go to bed and throws handfuls of sand in their eyes, so that they jump out of their heads all bloody; and he puts them into a bag and takes them to the half-moon as food for his little ones; and they sit there in the nest and have hooked beaks like owls, and they pick naughty little boys' and girls' eyes out with them.' The Sandman here has borrowed witch's clothes: witches were accused in the Inquisitor's manual, the Malleus Maleficarum , of stealing men's penises and storing them in nests up trees.     There is an echo of this horrific fantasy in an anonymous German lullaby of peculiar shivery menace. Bird feathers appear, logically connected at first to the baby's eiderdown or duvet, but they slip into metaphor and evoke the child as a nestling in danger of being blinded: Close your little eyes, my child, For outside blows a terrible wind, If the child won't sleep at all Blow it will right into his bed, Blow everyone of the feathers out And end by blowing his eyes out!     Freud, much affected by Hoffmann's `The Sandman', explored the symbolic substitution of eyes and genitals and used it to refine his theory of the castration complex in his famous essay on the Uncanny. As a result, Hoffmann's spook haunts adult nightmares: in David Lynch's Gothic-erotic cinematic horror tale Blue Velvet , Roy Orbison's soupy rendering of the harmless hit song `In Dreams' turns nasty when it is sung over the prowling of the child kidnapper and sex killer played with unfettered menace by Dennis Hopper. (Continues...) Copyright © 1998 Marina Warner. All rights reserved.