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  • Writer's picturePaula Wesselmann

Bone-Chilling Tales

October is one of my favorite times of the year when the fall is like a paintbrush waiting to be animated with color. As I rush about with my grandson, James, he shouts, “Look Grandma, pumpkins. Where’s Pete, Charlie, and Meredith?” These are three pumpkins that touched my childhood, family, and classroom children every Halloween.

"I don't know," I said as I glance at the orange shapes piled high in front of the grocery store.

James frowned up at me.

I smiled and hugged him. "They will let me know when it's the right time to find them."

Again James frowned.

“I hear them in my head and feel their presence in my heart. I think this year they will be at the Green Bluff farm.”

My grandson and I are a perfect fit. We see magic in many things, especially around Halloween. Every night before James goes to sleep, I read to him. I love the Brothers Grimm fairytales like Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, and all the others. When I first started reading these stories, I had forgotten how cruel the stories are like in Hansel and Gretel when their father abandons his children in the forest. I had some explaining to do with James. When I look back at my early childhood, all I remembered was Hansel dropping white pebbles along the path to find his way home. I didn’t recall the original versions of the Brothers Grimm, so I looked up these German scholar-authors, Jacob Ludwig Karl Grimm (1785-1863) and Wilhelm Carl Grimm (1786-1859). They collected and published folklore. Their two volumes, "Children's and Household Tales," were traditional oral tales such as "Cinderella" and the ones I mentioned above. What I forgot was these Disney-rated versions from the Brothers Grimm aren’t like the original stories.

The tales reflected the violence and cruelty of those centuries. In the original "Cinderella," the stepsisters cut off their heels and toes to fit into the glass slipper, and in the "Rapunzel" version, she gets pregnant after she and the prince spend days together. I laughed when I learned that Little Red Riding Hood encouraged the wolf to eat her grandma so she could inherit. It sounds a little like today's "Investigation Discovery." How interesting history is when we can go back in time and understand the century.

As I began writing the series, Pumpkins To The Rescue A Friend Is Forever and Apache Fog, I realized I had to understand and create what children are dealing with today. The stories have a theme of friendship, peer pressure, bullying, and victim. The section of Family Time – Lessons and Fun Activities provide moments for valuable discussions. I created good and evil in each story so the child can see and understand the differences. Witch Rachel wants to turn good kids into bad kids, while Pete, Charlie, and Meredith want to teach them to make good decisions that will keep them safe. The magic of storytelling comes to life with the battle between good and evil, but not as grim as the Brothers Grimm. Everything evolves, and storytelling offers life lessons that depict the times we live in. When we can see history as it was, then we can understand our lives more clearly. This autumn, may Mother Nature and Jack Frost make you smile with the magic of their brush as the beauty of a new fall season unfolds.

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