This is one of those great debates in children’s literature: should the bad guy be really and truly bad? After all, kids know there is good and evil in the world. Matthew Cody seems to side with C.S. Lewis:
“Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end of the book. Nothing will persuade me that this causes an ordinary child any kind or degree of fear beyond what it wants, and needs, to feel. For, of course, it wants to be a little frightened.”
Myself, I sometimes believe this, and other times want fairy stories where no harm is permanent and it’s all a good trick in the end.
I can confirm that Matt definitely believes this — I’ve read his next novel, and the bad guy is one you’ll not soon forget.
For myself, I come down firmly on the side of C.S. Lewis in this. And, in fact, if we’re truly talking about the original fairy tales that the watered down versions of Cinderella and Hansel & Gretel, to name a few, are based on, those tales were all about being frightened.
What do you think? I believe this debate really centers around middle grade fiction, as by the time we reach YA, our eyes have lost whatever shutters society might have put on us, and anything “evil” is pretty much evil, as in reality. And honestly, we don’t have to look any further than Harry Potter for another example of a series where the author doesn’t shield her young readers from the reality of fear and death.
To the comments! I look forward to reading your thoughts.