Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, I stole my big sister’s book.
Thankfully my sister didn’t mind, and said I could have it. At least, I don’t remember there being a problem about it, which is probably a good thing.
I had no idea what was in it because I couldn’t read yet. But that didn’t matter. Most “real” books in the house were too big and most likely better suited for me as a booster seat. But this book was different. It was like a real book you would have at school. The poster child for real books. I felt more grown up just holding it. It had a hard cover, small typeface, more text than pictures, a table of contents. It smelled like a real book. It fit well in my small hands. I carried it under my arm with importance.
Because now that I owned a grown up book, I decided to treat it as such. I pored through the book, pretending it was very important research. Highlighting blocks of text, crossing out words, adding check-marks.
Eventually I learned to read, and it became a nightly ritual to choose one fairy tale before bed. I continued this habit even into adulthood. Some people have the Bible on their nightstand. But this exact copy of Grimm’s has been my bedside companion probably for most of my life.
I’m not sure if I realized just how dark and disturbing so many of the stories are. I think my immature brain at the time only absorbed what it was able to handle. There must be a brain guardian, like a bouncer in there somewhere that only filters in what your brain can handle, and pushes out the rest. I never thought of the stories as scary. Which probably explains, well…..a lot about myself.
Every time I read a story, I unpeeled another layer. Whatever my brain guardian decided I could handle.
And many of the stories begin with walking through woods. Being abandoned, lost, fleeing, hiding, hunting…and eventually stumbling upon a strange cottage in the dark woods. And this is where their story would really begin. The woods and the cottage, it changed people.