Just over forty years ago, I was brought into this world at Huddersfield’s Princess Royal hospital.
Like all newborns I’d like to think I entered the world full of innocence and without fear.
I don’t remember much of those early years in the mid-1970s but I do remember my first exposure to absolute soul-numbing horror.
As a toddler my Mother would often take me to visit her parents who would then read to me.
I love reading, I always have but in those days I would beg my Granny to read me a specific book; a book that both terrified and enthralled me.
After a recent conversation regarding the book, my Mother has kindly sourced a copy – all the way from the states – and so I present to you, the book that stands as a prologue to my love of supernatural horror.
This tale of paranoiac horror was my first exposure to the concept of malign “other” that was a springboard to a world of imaginary darkness so terrifying that even now, as a grown adult, I haunted by the story’s theme.
The story is a simple one (surprisingly enough for a children’s book). It follows the woes of an innocent, yet nameless, rabbit who is being stalked by a dark and sinister shadow rabbit.
Published as “A Happiness Story Book”, my adult eyes notice that the intention of the book is to show a transition in the rabbit from its initial unhappiness through to the joy of new found friendship at the end of the tale.
This is far from the case through the eyes of young Armaitus.
As we follow our tormented protagonist through the tale, we see it driven to despair as it tries to rid itself from the ever present pursuit of his shadow.
So desperate is the rabbit that it even tries to kill the shadow creature to gain some freedom from the beast.
As a child, each step in the rabbit’s descent to despair carried me along with it. Already open to the paranormal world about me, this tale taught me that I was not alone, even in the darkness, and that was somehow comforting in its discomfiture.
If I could gain this feeling from a book then it would suppress my own night terrors maybe… again, this was far from the case.
The tale ends with the rabbit risking its life to seek advice from a wise owl, an owl that chooses to offer advice rather than rend the tiny mammal in its razor sharp claws.
The rabbit attempts and succeeds in reconciliation with its nemesis, who displays an unnerving ability to both talk and move independently of its host.
Reading this tale again I realise that, subconsciously, I learnt an important lesson from this book.
It is better to embrace your demons and learn from them than flee and fight them in futility.