Marina Warner's 'No Go the Bogeyman' (1998) is a mesmerizing, rollicking, and joyously politically incorrect examination of the sociological origins of the nighttime bedroom phantasm known throughout the West as 'the bogeyman,' a being that the author links directly to the cannibalistic ogre figure so prevalent in classic fairytale lore.
The bogeyman, Warner theorizes, is a psychological and metaphorical shadow manifestation of the 'bad father,' who corresponds almost exactly to the 'wicked stepmother' of fairytale tradition. Warner believes that these negative parental images are obscure, metaphorical, and atavistic visages from an early time, when overt and covert competition for immediate survival amongst family members was a terrifying fact of daily life.
Warner suggests that while most parents may today fulfill the required roles of guardian, nurturer, and provider in most cases most of the time, every adult has the inherent potential to relinquish one or all of them, and become an abandoner at best, and a predator, child killer, or cannibal at worst.
Not that Warner lets children off easily: like Camille Paglia, Warner refuses to see children as essentially benign, innocent, and tender-hearted. Warner sees infancy in particular as a time of "unappeasable demands and violent greed," behavior which, by a strange but spontaneous circularity, is often the very behavior by which "ogres and giants--and cannibal witches" are defined. Thus, part of the reason such tales exist and are read to impressionable children is because the stories teach their young audiences to recognize and reject their own worst personal and social inclinations.
Does the human need to eat, and thus destroy other life at some level, result in a continuous but little realized psychic cycle of guilt, self-loathing, anxiety, and horror for mankind, especially when commingled with incestuous familial entanglements? Are we all 'monsters' of some kind at some level? In a hilarious but acute look at the present-day "American identity," the author perceives many Americans as "pillowy and flaccid and fluffy and fat, like babies," members of a "generalized cult of childishness, a widespread, let's pretend infantilism" which "then fosters the image of the monster babies: they have something which we lack, which we desire. Baby envy has eclipsed penis envy."
Warner also deftly illustrates how Freud's Oedipal theory, in which the young male child secretly desires to destroy the father with whom he feels competitive, is the direct inverse of the ogre's desire to devour his children and thus, Kronos-like, eliminate any competition his offspring may represent in the years to follow. Thus while the son, partially projecting a sense of his own unacceptable instincts, sees the father as the "child-guzzler," the father may perceive his child as a life-sucking parasite that may rob him of his future, drain away his vitality, and one day assume his place and position if something isn't done to prevent it.
The profusely illustrated 'No Go The Bogeyman' features wonderfully erudite commentary on an enormous number of diverse subjects, including the myths surrounding Kronos, the Cyclops, Scylla, and Circe, Goethe's poem 'The Erkling,' the artwork of Goya, Hieronymus Bosch, Caravaggio, Jacque-Louis David, William Hogarth, Gustave Dore, Richard Dadd, and Henri Rousseau, Lewis Carroll's 'Alice' books, Dante's Divine Comedy, Punch & Judy shows, Beatrix Potter's 'The Tale of Samuel Whiskers,' Maurice Sendak's 'Where the Wild Things Are,' 1933's 'King Kong,' Bigfoot legends in America, David Lynch's 'Blue Velvet' (1986), Josephine Baker, Carmen Miranda, Halloween celebrations, and Carnival.