I am delighted to welcome Andy Riley to the blog today, author of the fantastically funny ‘King Flashypants and the Evil Emperor,’ for a guest post on his most frightening villain in children’s books.
The most frightening villain in children’s literature
Ever since I bought Moominland Midwinter from Woolworth’s when I was at primary school, I’ve been terrified of the Groke -a nightmarish creature which Tove Jansson created for her Moomin books and cartoon strips.
She’s a shambling, slithering, hillock shaped monster. She’s described as having legs but you never see them; they are underneath some sort of skirt which appears to be part of her body. She seems to move like a snail does, leaving a trail behind her – a cold, icy trail. Every living thing she passes over dies. And apparently she eats people. Everybody in Moominland is terrified of her. So was I. She seemed to symbolise everything strange, threatening and unknowable. I was much more spooked by the Groke than I was by vampires or ghosts.
Then, in her last appearance in the books, in Moomipapa At Sea, Jansson hints at how lonely she is. Although she is a creature of the cold, she seems to be fascinated by light and warmth – but with her deadly freezing touch, she can never reach either. Maybe she’s not a villain at all, but a misunderstood, tragic figure. We never learn for sure. The Groke remains mysterious, unknowable, scary.
When I’m writing and drawing the King Flashypants books I think of the Groke often. Not for my main villain, Emperor Nurbison, who is more in the Ming the Merciless/Richard III mould, but for the mysterious fringes of the Flashypants world. I put in details on the maps, like an unexplored island and the ‘weird meadow’, to give me some riddles and unknowns to explore with readers later. All stories need a bit of mystery. Children’s stories most of all.
To help me remember, the key to my drawing shed has a little cuddly Groke keyring I bought from the Moomin museum in Finland. If there’s a more eerie plushie keyring in the world, I’ve yet to see it.
Andy is an Emmy award winning comedy writer and cartoonist, scriptwriter for BBC One’s ‘Gangsta Granny’ and ‘The Boy in the Dress’, as well as the hit animation ‘Gnomeo and Juliet.’ To find out more about Andy you can visit his website or follow him on Twitter @Andy Rileyish
In case you missed the rest of the blog tour you can still join in with more fantastic guest posts.
A huge thank you to Andy and Hachette for inviting me to be part of the ‘King Flashypants’ blog tour.