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Bedtime Harry Potter reading: fear & nightmares

harry-potter-and-the-goblet-of-fireLast night was all about being scared at my household. Firstly, the four-year-old comes up to me just before bedtime and starts a rather surreal conversation.

“Daddy, I’m scared of the tomatoes.”

“You what!”

“Daddy, I’m scared I’ll dream about the tomatoes again. They’re swirling round and round (does hand action to illustrate) above my head and then they try and get me.”

“Don’t worry, no-one has ever been injured by a tomato. They can’t hurt you.” (Although I automatically think of that crazy festival in Spain where everyone throws over-ripe tomatoes at each other. Someone has probably come a cropper there.)

After getting the four-year-old to bed successfully, I returned to reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with the seven-year-old. After 254,789 pages, we are finally reaching the climax of the book after much teenage angst. We rattled through the third task of the Triwizard Tournament and as the chapter ended I quickly glanced at the text on its first two pages.

My daughter egged me on: “Read it, read it, Daddy.”

My glance had revealed that in Harry Potter’s world the sh*t had just hit the fan and the book was becoming ‘darker’ as the critics like to say. I hestitated, wondering if the seven-year-old was ready for this. But I wanted to continue too and on we went.

She didn’t flinch at the death and didn’t seem to really understand the self-mutilation part. I halted and asked: “Is this too scary?”

“No, Daddy. Carry on.”

We ploughed on regardless and finished the chapter, which reminded me very much of the Hellraiser movie by Clive Barker.

“Are you sure that wasn’t too scary for you? There was lots of nasty stuff going on there.”

Again, she assured me she was fine. I disappeared into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Five minutes later, my daughter appeared and whispered, “Daddy, I’m scared. I think I’m going to have nightmares.”

Thanks JK, I thought. My daughter eventually got to sleep around 9.45pm after much parental reassurance. Thankfully, both children did not have nightmares although the four-year-old again brought up her fear of swirling airborne tomatoes at breakfast.

I remember reading Tom Sawyer as a child and being pretty scared by Injun’ Joe. But on the whole, I didn’t really become spooked by literature. It was movies that gave me nightmares. I will never watch The Exorcist again.

UPDATE – The four-year-old had mixed up tomatoes with tornadoes and she was scared of tornadoes hitting our house. The girls watched The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz movie at the weekend and, of course, a tornado picks up a house and sends it swirling into Oz. This all makes perfect sense to me now.

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