I have heard all kinds of justifications for terrifying young children with fairy and folk tales. The popular notion when I was studying child psychology in the 1960s was that it exposed children to fear within a safe environment (i.e. the bedroom with the reassuring presence of a parent) so that they would be less fearful in the outside world. I thought it was poppycock then and I still think so. There are "experts" now telling us not to read sanitised versions of fairy tales to our children and grandchildren but to give them the full Brothers Grimm version with all the gruesome details.
Except on the warmest nights, I go to sleep with my head under the covers, a habit that started when I was very small because of the strange lullaby about a Grey Man that my mother used to sing. I can't remember all of the words but these still haunt me: Hush, there's a Grey Man coming up the stairs. Hush lest the Grey Man catch you unawares. For he's crawling and he's creeping, and his bogey eyes are peeping, just to see if everybody's fast asleep.
Hush, little one, don't let him catch you. Hush little one, don't let him see. Hide head beneath the clothes, count ten upon your toes. For where the Grey Man goes, it's black as night." I suppose she needed a little help in getting four children to settle down at night, especially when my father was working late!
The Grey Man was my nightmare character, the next generation suffered the terrors of Mr Noseybonk, a character in a children's tv programme called Jigsaw.
I have read that it was not the intention of the creator of the character to inspire terror in a whole generation of children but many 30-somethings have lingering nightmares of the man with the white face and long nose.
Nowadays, Noseybonk writes features for The Dabbler. In fact he has just written a handbook for bloggers, Blogmanship: How To Win Arguments On The Internet Without Really Knowing what You Are Talking About It is available as an eBook from Amazon or you can do what I have just done and get a copy as a PDF file for a mere 2GBP.
Despite his literary talents, Noseybonk is not a nice character, I think of him as the opposite of the Fiddler on the Roof. According to Wikipedia the Fiddler is a metaphor for survival, through tradition and joyfulness, in a life of uncertainty and imbalance whereas the equally ubiquitous Noseybonk represents the dark side of life, his long nose sniffs out our secrets and weaknesses and exposes them through sarcasm, parody and cruel humour. His handbook will probably amuse you and will certainly equip you to win arguments on the internet or in real life if you enjoy arguing. Noseybook tells us that arguing for arguing's sake on the internet is a male-dominated activity but he devotes a whole appendix to the 'ploys' of ladyblogmanship. I won't breach his copyright by quoting them here but I will be having a serious word or two with my son* at the weekend!
*as editor of The Dabbler, he should take responsibility for what he publishes!
While writing about the Grey Man, I remembered that I had mentioned him in a previous post and searched it out. It was really interesting to read that post and the 58 comments that followed. I can see many examples of the techniques described in Noseybonk's handbook. If only I'd had a copy back then, I might have held my own a bit better.