Goats, Bobcats and Writing Dark

goatsgruffwebWe live in the country. Sometimes it’s terrific, like when we play ball as a family in the front field or have friends over for do-it-yourself fireworks on the 4th of July. Other times it’s not so great. Like when one of our pet goats becomes dinner for bobcats and scavengers.

Messy things happen in the country. Brutal things.

When my kids were younger, we read a couple funny books about goats. One of them, Gregory, the Terrible Eater, was about a young goat who would rather eat nutritious people food than the junkyard trash his parents forced on him. And the other one – a Norwegian fairy tale called The Three Billy Goats Gruff – is a classic, though I would probably categorize it as children’s horror.

 “Well, come along! I’ve got two spears,
And I’ll poke your eyeballs out at your ears;
I’ve got besides two curling-stones,
And I’ll crush you to bits, body and bones.”

That was what the big billy goat said. And then he flew at the troll, and poked his eyes out with his horns… and after that he went up to the hillside. There the billy goats got so fat they were scarcely able to walk home again.

(Yes, I read this out loud to my young children. I will completely understand if you unsubscribe from this blog and call CPS.)

Our billy goat, however, was not so lucky. By the time we found him in the back woods, nature had mostly taken care of his bits, body and bones.

Life is brutal.

As writers, we cannot shy away from the dark realities of life. Sometimes we need to write fun pieces like Gregory, the Terrible Eater. Truth can be found in this kind of humor, especially for parents of picky eaters.

But often we need to write more like The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Because even children can sense trolls and bobcats under the bridge, waiting to gobble us up.

“Snip, snap, snout.
This tale’s told out.”

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  1. #1 by ritakowats on September 23, 2013 - 2:47 pm

    Yes. We do need to speak and write truth…sometimes prophetically. Thank you for expressing this, couched in refreshing humor.

    • #2 by annaldavis on September 23, 2013 - 7:49 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for commenting!

  2. #3 by Krista on September 23, 2013 - 2:57 pm

    LIKE! Don’t worry, I’m not unsubscribing or calling CPS. LOL! In fact, I remember reading that same scary story as a kid! You know, we have to give kids more credit, and our readers a lot of credit. Life can be scary, but our purpose of writing about the scary stuff is to give the reader the hope the hero will defy the scary stuff, prevail, and ultimately win the battle.

    • #4 by annaldavis on September 23, 2013 - 7:52 pm

      Thanks Krista! A lot of the stories we read as kids have shockingly dark themes. I think that darkness makes a great backdrop for light. I agree with your point that the best stories are ones in which the hero prevails and wins the battle.

  3. #5 by Larry Who on September 23, 2013 - 3:10 pm

    Most Christian writers coat their novels in vanilla flavored scenes as if this is the real world for us believers. Yet, the Bible does not do that at all. It shows real life, with some of it being gruesome and horrible.

    • #6 by annaldavis on September 23, 2013 - 7:58 pm

      Larry, this is a crucial concept. The Bible is one of the most explicit books in the world.

  4. #7 by Vicki Blancett on September 24, 2013 - 6:32 pm

    Not only does the darkness give a great backdrop for light but opens the door for parents to speak to their children about light and darkness, good and evil whether in fiction or the Bible. Reading together is one of the best ways parents can engage and teach with their children.

    • #8 by annaldavis on September 25, 2013 - 1:24 pm

      I agree completely. We’ve had some of the best discussions after reading books of all kinds. And yes, I’ve already heard: “mom, why is *that* in the Bible!?” Kids are terrific at asking the hard questions. Thanks for reading and commenting, Vicki! :-)

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