What I remembered most about my childhood was that when I was 8, I would read the same book every night and hid it below my pillow before I went to sleep. It became a ritual for me to read the book even though I didn’t understand what it was about. I struggled to understand the words, but even more I struggled to understand the meaning. I continued to read it until it became weathered and torn and soon the pages gradually disintegrated with age. I couldn’t explain the urgency, yet I somehow felt like it held the answer to the aura of sadness that surrounded us and to why the things around me that were happening happened; in my young mind I knew something was wrong but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
It was some 10 years later that I suddenly remembered the book again and asked my sister,
“Siapa yang tulis that book yang ada orang tu jadi gila, pastu tanam kucing dia dalam dinding tu?”
Then I began to remember having The Happy Prince being read to me and how I cried reading The Nightingale. It was quite some years later that I understood that Wilde’s Happy Prince wasn’t intended for children and that Wilde’s ‘kid stories’ dealt with homosexuality and religion.
In fact all of my childhood storybooks were filled with stories of sadness and insanity. There were usually about princesses or mermaids who perfect wives by day and ghosts by night. About suspicious husbands who followed their demon wives and discovered that they had actually sold their souls to be with their husbands. About ghosts who have been assigned a life of penance, about ghosts whose heads floated in the water and bled jewels.
It was some 15 years later I began to question why I never had normal fairytales stories to read during my childhood. The Brothers Grimm were as normal as it gets. And we all know how twisted they really were.