15 February 2013

"No honey, there's death in it."

Last weekend, before the big Blizzard hit, I stopped at the library to pick up a few movies and books.  I chanced to overhear the following between a girl (age 9 or so) & her father who were browsing DVDs in the children's room:

Girl: "Can we get Bridge to Terebithia?"

Dad: "No, it has death in it."

She pleaded, but the answer was a firm no.
I was amazed.  I managed to hold my tongue, but barely.

How is it possible to read much of anything worth reading, or watch anything worth watching, and completely avoid "death"?

A short list of books/films you'd miss out on:
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  • Charlotte's Web
  • Bambi
  • The Lion King
  • Wuthering Heights
  • Jane Eyre
  • Oliver Twist
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin
  • Up
  • Old Yeller
  • Les Miserables
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • The Three Little Pigs
  • Hansel & Gretel
  • Jack & the Beanstalk
  • Babe
  • Every single Shakespeare tragedy or history play
  • Downton Abbey
  • Little House on the Prairie.  (OMG, death all over the place.  My sister and I used to watch this every day at 4pm, huddled together in the family room, crying our eyes out right along with Pa and Half-Pint.  Dead people, dead pets, dead horses, dying, dying, dead..... we loved it.)
  • Star Wars (all of them)
  • King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table
  • The Iliad
  • The Odyssey
  • Gone with the Wind
  • True Grit
  • The Bible (Could a book be packed with more death?  I think not.)

"Beware!  There's death in it!"
(courtesy Jeremy McWilliams,
Flickr Creative Commons)

Now, I'll grant you that some of these are NOT appropriate for a 9-yr-old.  The Shakespeare plays can be pretty horrific: dead little princes in Richard III, Julius Caesar stabbed on the floor of the Senate, Romeo & Juliet ("For never was a story of more woe. Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.") And Macbeth is just a bloodbath ("out out damn spot!"). 
I can understand wanting to shield your child from gratuitous violence or carnage.  I do that.  But death of any sort?  (Even if it's the "bad guy"?)  Death is a part of life.

Last night at my Knitting Group I polled my fellow knitty gals about stories with "death in it."  One friend mentioned Finding Nemo!  (Among the most upsetting prologues to a children's film - but the only way to set up the fear and conflict of the story.)  And remember what last weekend's storm was called?  Oh yeah... NEMO.

So... what's YOUR favorite tale involving death?


  1. Death is a fact of life -- I was 11 when my father died of a heart attack.

    Violent, bloody death or death without conscience I could see keeping from young children (maybe some older kids as well in the case of the latter), but death in general? We can't shield our children from every "inconvenient truth". How about both A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, both of which include the death of the protagonist's parents?

  2. That must have been very hard for you....

    I LOVED both of those books as a kid (and still do)! Thank you for adding them to the list!

  3. If "after the fact" death counts, Aimee, I absolutely loved the *Boxcar Children* series as a little girl. It was about the children of a family who were orphaned and eventually found their curmudgeonly grandfather. As I recall, I wasn't bothered by the thought of death, kind of took it in stride. What a disservice to "protect" kids from life and its ultimate manifestation. It's how I see the ongoing conflicts over "right to life." The fact, biological and otherwise, is that the only thing conception guarantees is death.