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Murder themes rampant in children's classic books

ANI | November 03, 2013, 11.11 am IST
A still from the 1937 animated film 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'.
A still from the 1937 animated film 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'.

If you thought that modern children's books are too violent for their young readers, try re-reading classic books for kids from the past.

From ‘Snow White’ to ‘Tarzan of the Apes’ to ‘Harry Potter’, literature for children and teens has always been awash in violence and murder, according to a new book by Michelle Ann Abate, associate professor of literature for children and young adults at The Ohio State University.

"There has been a lot of hand-wringing recently about the final installments of the ‘Harry Potter’ books and the ‘Hunger Games’ novels because of their violence. But that level of violence is nothing new for children's books," Abate, author of 'Bloody Murder: The Homicide Tradition in Children's Literature' said.

"We tend to have a selective memory that forgets the detailed and sometimes graphic violence found in some classic books for children," she said.

Abate said she was inspired to write Bloody Murder when she was doing research for an introductory literature class she was hoping to teach at Hollins University in Roanoke, Va.

She wanted to talk about instances of murder in children's literature, which she first assumed would be relatively limited.

But Abate said she was surprised at how long her list grew as she thought about it.

In fact, she soon learned that homicide is so pervasive in children's books that "Murder - Juvenile Fiction" is its own classification category in one major library database.

A search for the word "murder" in that database found more than 3,000 citations for novels, stories, poems and plays meant for young readers.

One need to look no further than the quintessential children's stories, fairy tales, to find violence and murder, Abate said. In the Grimm Brothers' version of Snow White, the title character is murdered not once, but multiple times.

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