Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Genesis of a Nightmare

I have had a recurring nightmare for most of my life.
Never knew why or from where it came.
All I know is that the dream is always the same, and it terrifies me.
In the dream, I am trapped in a cellar, backed up against a pillar post, and wolf-like dogs are coming at me, snarling and threatening to attack and tear me to shreds. (I always wake up, in a sweat, heart pounding in terror, before the actual tearing me to shreds part happens.)
The dream never varies and is always extremely vivid.
As a result of this recurring nightmare, I have a distinct fear of all barking dogs, regardless of their size.  I also can't deal with even a friendly dog wanting to "kiss" me or play with me when it starts growling and showing its teeth (even though today, as an adult, I know it is playing).  This fear extends to John's dog, Toop, and every dog that went before her, and you've never met friendlier dogs than the English Setter breed.
Anyway, the reason I'm talking about this nightmare is because yesterday, I discovered the genesis of that horrific dream.
Some months ago, I was reminded of a book set that my father had when I was a child.
It was a treasured set and he introduced each of us to it as we reached an age where we were reading and, I guess, were old enough to treat the books with the respect that they commanded.
My sister remembers the set too, but we don't know what happened to it when my father's personal effects were distributed.  Apparently, none of us received it but each of us thought it was coming to us on his demise.
So I went on a quest to find a copy.
It didn't take long to identify the set in question -- it had distinctly hideous drawings -- and as soon as I saw it on the net, I knew it was the right one.  Turns out it was published in 1943 -- the year my parents married.  I can only assume that it's importance to my father was its publication date (other than it was a first-run copy and he loved books).
Eventually, I found a "new" set at a price I was willing to pay, ordered it and arranged a convoluted method of getting it to me (thank you my little chickadee and your "June bug friend" for your assistance with that little project).
And yesterday, the books arrived at my door.
At first, I thought perhaps I had ordered the wrong thing. It's funny how everything is so much smaller than you imagined, once you're grown.  I had thought the books were "huge" (ie at least 14" in height) but I guess to a child, they seemed fairly big.  This set is about 8 x 10 and carries, without a doubt, the most hideous drawings I've ever seen.
This is them alright!
I am now the proud owner of  "Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre:  Two Volume Box Set with Slip Case" by Random House Publishers, 1943, 1st Edition, hardcover.  Illustrated with Wood Engravings by Fritz Eichenberg.
As I was flipping through the pages of Wuthering Heights, glancing at the drawings, one page in particular caught my attention.
There was my nightmare: the depiction of the character Heathcliffe's dogs attacking the visitor Mr. Lockwood while he waited in the kitchen (it was Heathcliffe who had gone to the cellar).
Now, I can only assume that I must have seen these pictures long before I was truly able to read (perhaps when the books were introduced to my older siblings) because I know that my nightmare started well before I would have been an appropriate age to have actually read the book.
I also know that, while I love to read anything and everything about the Bronte family (even having gone so far as to get side-tracked in my family tree research and taken the time to look up some of their records on occasion), I have never read Wuthering Heights.
I'm guessing that I never read it because the images in these books scared me too much!
Perhaps now that I know the genesis of that nightmare, that recurring dream will stop.
I wonder if my fear of dogs will lessen any?

1 comment:

Natalie said...

Well isn't that most interesting!