Frightening fairy tales go back thousands of years, in the oral tradition. In the dim, distant past of prehistory, people were telling each other dark stories of gruesome monsters. There is little doubt that some fairy tales such as ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, originated before the Indo-European language split 5000 years ago and academics estimate that the tale of The Smith and The Devil is 6000 years old. Even more astoundingly, Julien d’Huy of the Sorbonne believes that Homer’s Odyssey myth about the cyclops Polyphemus. who eats sailors without even roasting them (!), appears to stretch back 18,000 years into early Stone Age; he believes that the original tale spread with the haplogroup X2 as it dispersed around the world. It may even be that the biblical myth of the serpent in the Garden of Eden could be 60,000 years old – this ultimate gothic story is buried deep in our prehistory and subconscious.
That said, with regard to our own more immediate history, we have an eleventh century written manuscript of the Old English story ‘Beowulf’ emerging from the oral tradition of The Dark Ages of England and set in sixth century Scandinavia; it is the first Scandi-noir, written in Old English! This tale, interestingly, also deals with a man-eating monster, ‘a god-cursed brute’ called Grendell, who stalked the fens.
The gothic is therefore an integral part of our cultural and anthropological heritage; at the very least, it is the subject matter in the ancient oral story-telling tradition. The gothic novel, itself, dates back to Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764);
Gothic Horror Clips
Click on the links to access introductory gothic clips to begin the topic with English Literature A Level groups….
This is a created trailer with German headings but shows some interesting images from the 1922 version of ‘Nosferatu – A Symphony of Horror’.
Interesting clips and events from ‘Nosferatu’ again – but has dreadful electropop music over it which spoils it!
Gruesome body finding and darkness from the end of the 1978 version of ‘Halloween’ – not for the faint hearted!
A power point range of still images from ‘The Exorcist’ which gives an introduction to gothic ideas.
The trailer for the 1931 version of ‘Dracula’.
The scene from the 1931 version of ‘Frankenstein’ when the monster is brought to life for the first time.