I had grand plans for my first post to be something serious, but then I found this that I had written and never posted, so I thought, eh. The best laid plans. So, here it is. This is one of the things that you can expect from me (with some serious things in there occasionally).
I know it sounds cliché, but I enjoy thinking about books that influenced or impacted me as a kid. When I wrote the original post, I had been talking with my sister and her roommate about the Hobbit Movies (which I may talk about here later), which morphed into a discussion of the most traumatic childhood reading deaths.
So here, for your enjoyment, are the top fifteen traumatic book moments from my childhood at the hands of brilliant authors. Seriously, read these books. Obviously, here be spoilers.
Of course, these are cut off at the end of my childhood, so series like The Hunger Games, The Lunar Chronicles, and A Song of Ice and Fire are out (though all are highly recommended).
(Spoilers for the Anne of Green Gables Series, Little Women, The Redwall Series, Jurassic Park, The Hobbit, Bridge to Terebithia, Harry Potter, Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, and Meet Addy: An American Girl).
15. Old Yeller in Old Yeller. I put this here because I never read the book-the movie was too sad and I wasn’t going to walk myself right into THAT sob-fest. I’ve heard it’s a great book, but that several boxes of tissues are required.
14. The fact that Jo and Laurie don’t get together in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Less traumatic, more disappointing; I kept hoping that they would figure it out. I can understand it, talking to other people I see the reasons that they didn’t get together, but I did want him to figure out that he couldn’t change her (and that he didn’t really want to).
13. Joy’s death in Anne’s House of Dreams by LM Montgomery. Joy was the first child of Anne and Gilbert, and she died soon after her birth. She only had a few pages, but those few pages conveyed grief and did make a mark on my young self.
12. Beth March’s death in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. When I reread Little Women, I skip this section. Beth March was never my favorite, I always liked Meg best (though Jo was cool too), but I remember being very upset. Why do people keep killing off main characters?!
11. Mrs. Bankvole and Friar Hugo from Mattimeo by Brian Jacques. Before George RR Martin started killing off innocent characters, there was Brian Jacques. These two were causalities of Slagar the Cruel’s revenge plot and his kidnapping of all the children of Redwall Abbey. One of my favorite books, these deaths brought a reality to this fictional world and made me fear for the other characters.
10. Rose from Martin the Warrior by Brian Jacques. Seriously, Mr. Jacques? She dies a hero, but still, it was awful that she did die. I remember hating this book, and I think that was part of the reason.
9. Where the Red Fern Grows. Just…the whole book. The second book I ever cried at. That ending. Still cry.
8. John Hammond in Jurassic Park by Michael Crighton. Poor idiot, just trying to let kids see dinosaurs only to be eaten by compys. If I had thought this book would have a happy ending for anyone (even the survivors were traumatized!), this proved me wrong. The creator killed by his creation (very Frankenstieny of you, Mr. Crighton).
7. Veil in The Outcast of Redwall by Brian Jacques. The basic idea of this book is that a ferret is raised by a mousemaid in Redwall Abbey (the former being generally evil in the Redwall Universe) and he struggles to overcome his father’s legacy of evil and the evil he fears inside of him. His father ferret is also engaging in war with Sunflash the Mace, the coolest Badger Lord ever written. In the end, Veil embraces the Dark Side and runs away to join his father. His adopted mother goes after him, with some amazingly written consequences.
6. Matthew Cuthbert’s death in Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery. This is high up here because Matthew Cuthbert was an amazing character and his death was really sad. It was also one of the first times a major character was killed off; I loved the balance he added to the Green Gables family. LM Montgomery never replaced him, but she gave Anne and Marilla other characters to love, and Matthew’s legacy lived on, at least to readers.
5. I was a big fan of the American Girls books growing up, but the first book about Addy is one the most punch-packing thing I have ever read. It was written for a younger audience (eight or so), but man. First, Addy missed some little green worms while clearing the tobacco plants and is forced to eat them. Then, her father and brother were sold further South. There may have been a whipping involved too. Then Addy and her mother escape North, but they have to leave their baby behind.
I was so furious that this kind of thing happened to people, that I followed up with some reading on the Trail of Tears and Japanese Internment during WWII. (It took me a year or so to be proud to be an American again; I finally realized that great countries can do terrible, awful things, but we can’t let them define us, just make sure they never happen again). This book set the stage for the rest of the Addy series, and made her the bravest girl I had ever read about.
4. Methusialeah’s death in Redwall by Brian Jacques. I know that any death I put after my childhood realization of the horrors of slavery is going to look silly, especially when this one is a mouse, but this one really got me. Actually, all the deaths in this book were pretty awful. Gossun the shrew’s death helped cement my fear of snakes and I felt bad for Stella the Vixen, even if she was treacherous.
3. Sirius Black’s death in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling. I have to not include books six or seven in here, because I was 18 and 20 when they came out (otherwise, several more deaths would be included here). But man! This death, I felt so bad for the guy. And Harry loses another father figure.
While Cedric Digory and Frank the Muggle from Goblet of Fire were shocking, Rowling spent three books getting us to like Sirius and imagining him as a Marauder. He was the first in a long line of major good guys that we had grown to love to bite the dust, and that makes his death all the more traumatic.
2. Thorin and Fili and Kili’s deaths in The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien This is one of the first books that I remember reading on my own, so this one certainly packed a punch. I remember feeling that these three characters were safe (why would Tolkien kill the king and BOTH his heirs?) But no. Thorin was killed saving the others, and Fili and Kili killed trying to save him. Thanks a lot JRR. Thanks a lot.
1. Leslie’s death in Bridge to Tereabithia by Katherine Paterson. I feel like anyone who says they didn’t cry at this was lying. I had never cried at a book before, but I just bawled.