To celebrate Terrifying Tuesday on The Review’s Facebook page, here’s a little bit about a horror book I read about a year ago. The cover gave me the creeps, it was on the side where I was sitting so therefore had to be read!
Personally, I had never heard of this person/creature called ‘Long Lankin’. It wasn’t until after I had read the book that I done some research, only to discover it derives from a very old child ballad, the oldest reference to the tale I could find dating to 1775. There is even a study on it!
“This paper is an attempt to come to terms with a ballad unique in its often-motiveless brutality … Ballads, among other folk materials, circulate because they are “true”. There is in every ballad which has been passed on over a couple of centuries a nub of truth. This truth, though not historical or factual, is often psychological, having to do with interior states of mind.” [http://jonandrika.org/wp/articles/lamkin-terror-of-nurseries accessed 24.03.15]
Well, there ya go. I can see why the book was written, based on the above. Anyway, back to the interesting stuff, the actual book. Atmospheric, the written language was a delight; everything descriptive writing should be without being flowery or over the top. With each change of season, environment and captivating scene the reader is transported there. From the lush, green meadows where this ‘thing’ lurks, to the dank, dark and mouldy rooms of an old manor house, this story really fires the imagination.
As for Long Lankin himself, the reader is never quite sure what it is. A man, damaged, revengeful and oozing evil, yes. But seen through the eyes of a child, as oft happens in this book, it becomes more than a nasty old man. It’s evil personified, a stinking wretch of a creature that steals into your bedroom undercover of darkness, changing shape to fit through doors and cupboards so it can satisfy its’ bloodthirsty need for children. Lovely.
I’m probably making it sound more fantasy but that’s children’s imagination for you. I was a child that hated the dark (still not a lover of it if I’m honest); a child that to this day could swear blind there were ‘things’ watching me from the corner of the bedroom so yes, this book played to all those fears. But do not let that detract from the obvious – this book is a fab read. The story flows well, no plot holes, no jagged paragraphs. The essence of fear is bubbling away all the time, even on the sunny summer, carefree days the children seem to appear to enjoy, doing childhood things during school holidays. As most of us did but this story focuses on a young girl, Cora, looking after her even younger sister and feelings of being ‘dumped’ in the middle of nowhere, to stay with someone they don’t know, even if it is an aunty. Then the writing turns to focus on fear of loss and being alone, creepy houses, unfamiliar noises; strange adult behaviour that kids don’t always understand. The story stays true to the origins of the ‘child ballad’; playing to the fears of loss and abandonment children can suffer.
You’ll want to keep a light on after reading it …