One-Minute Book Reviews

October 30, 2007

Why Do Children Like to Read About Witches and Other Scary Things? Halloween Quote of the Day (Agatha Christie)

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 7:14 pm
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Agatha Christie, the mystery novelist, loved playing frightening games in childhood. Here she tries to explain why:

“Why did I like being frightened? What instinctive need is satisfied by terror? Why, indeed, do children like stories about bears, wolves and witches? Is it because something rebels in one against the life that is too safe? Is a certain amount of danger in life a need of human beings? Is much of the juvenile delinquency nowadays attributable to the fact of too much security? Do you instinctively need something to combat, to overcome — to, as it were, prove yourself? Take away the wolf from the story of Red Riding Hood and would any child enjoy it? However, like most things in life, you want to be frightened a little — but not too much!”

Agatha Christie in Agatha Christie: An Autobiography (Ballantine, 1978).


  1. I think its a need to affirm one’s own mortality. I think it’s deep-seated, hence the unconscious desire in children to do it. Everyone needs to feel that adrenaline rush because it confirms that you’re ALIVE. Fright, terror, and paricularly coming through it unscathed (!) fulfills a great part of that need. As a human being one wants to experience the full range of emotions, and yes, to a degree, that includes fear, but the fear that thrills, not puts us in real mortal danger.
    I’ve tried to do my own small bit by writing a scary Halloween short story;Pumpkin Number Six in my own blog, read it if you dare!

    Comment by kevmoore — October 31, 2007 @ 6:28 am | Reply

  2. Hallowe’en tends to remind us of the frail curtain between life and death and how a good dose of fright reminds us that we’re on the living side.


    Comment by knightofswords — October 31, 2007 @ 1:25 pm | Reply

  3. Just to carry both of your comments out an extra decimal point: The traditional literary explanation is that reading about scary things provides an outlet or catharsis for those feelings of fright or even terror.

    Wish I weren’t so severely computer-challenged right now so I could go for a couple more decimall points …

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — October 31, 2007 @ 1:34 pm | Reply

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