I remember having a terrible nose bleed one night when I was about seven or eight. It was a bad one that just wouldn’t stop. Mom called all of her friends who each had a different remedy. One said to pinch my nose. That didn’t do anything but make me feel like I was choking to death, which made me even more distressed.
After trying several methods, something finally appeared to be working. Mom put a couple of pillows under my head to raise it up and put an ice bag on the back of my neck. By this time I was pretty much freaking out. I hated the sight of blood; especially my own. There was a need to keep my mind off of myself as we waited for the bleeding to slow down and eventually stop for good.
We told lots of stories in our family, but we didn’t have a lot of books around. Dad finally found Gulliver’s Travels and began to read it to me.
This is a picture of Gulliver similar to the one Dad showed me when he was reading the book.
In book one, which is the one we had, when the ship Gulliver is traveling on is destroyed in a storm, Gulliver ends up on the island of Lilliput, where he awakes to find that he has been captured by Lilliputians, very small people — approximately six inches in height. Gulliver is treated with compassion and concern. In turn, he helps them solve some of their problems, especially their conflict with their enemy, Blefuscu, an island across the bay from them. Gulliver falls from favor, however, because he refuses to support the Emperor’s desire to enslave the Blefuscudians and because he “makes water” to put out a palace fire. Gulliver flees to Blefuscu, where he converts a large warship and sets sail from Blefuscu… eventually to be rescued at sea by an English merchant ship and returned to his home in England.
That night was the only time I read or had Gulliver’s Travels read to me. I remember wondering who was the most afraid. The big guy tied up by all the little people or the little people wondering if the big guy was going to get loose and hurt them.
I know Dad wasn’t purposefully trying to scare me, but the other story he often referred to was the “real” Jack in the Beanstalk story, which was an old English fable first published in 1711.
Dad would go around the house and in his deepest voice say the words to the song from Jack the Giant Killer.
I smell the blood of an Englishman.
Be he alive or be he dead
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread
Violence was so much more acceptable when I was a kid. Even most of the Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes are violent. Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall and couldn’t be put back together. Old Mother Hubbard never did find her poor dog a bone. Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet eating her curds and whey and along came a spider and sat down beside her and scared Miss Muffet away. Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.
My Mother Goose book was tattered and torn.
I guess the difference is we weren’t told we should be traumatized back then…