Neil Gaiman on the Importance of Darkness


It’s no surprise that Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite writers. There is no one who taps into the darker realms of the subconscious quite like he does. For this reason, I was mesmerized when I read an article from Brain Pickings talking about Gaiman’s reimagining of Hansel and Gretel. It is a dark tale, to say the least, and in the video clip that is embedded into the post (which I encourage you to watch), Gaiman points out that reading the story as a kid was the first time he realized that people are meat and that some people could eat you. It was a terrifying realization which I believe influenced his artistic direction.

Gaiman points out that being exposed to the darkness is important for young people, because ultimately it will empower them to face the darker aspects of life when confronted by them.

I think if you are protected from dark things then you have no protection of, knowledge of, or understanding of dark things when they show up. I think it is really important to show dark things to kids — and, in the showing, to also show that dark things can be beaten, that you have power. Tell them you can fight back, tell them you can win. Because you can — but you have to know that.

I recently watched “Alien” with my daughter, and while she was scared, she saw that people can be resourceful when confronted with something terrifying, and if they remain calm and keep their wits, they can overcome that which terrifies them. It is an important lesson. My wife questioned why we would watch something that was so scary. Gaiman answers the question much more eloquently than I ever could.

I encourage you to read the article on Brain Pickings. It is short and also includes stunning illustrations from the book, done by Italian graphic artist Lorenzo Mattotti. Also watch the short video that is near the end of the article, which has Gaiman and Art Spiegleman discussing the importance of dark tales.

My reading list just got one book longer!



Filed under Literature

10 responses to “Neil Gaiman on the Importance of Darkness

  1. “Gaiman points out that being exposed to the darkness is important for young people, because ultimately it will empower them to face the darker aspects of life when confronted by them.”

    So true Jeff! I look forward to reading the article. I believe that people told stories, and perhaps still do, because life makes more sense that way. Stories amplify and condense meaning and resonate more or less according to time, place and circumstance.

    Great post!

    • You’re so right, Debra. Stories are important, and sharing stories plays a critical role in the human experience. Just curious–have you read much Gaiman? If not, I highly recommend American Gods. In fact, I am considering reading that one again 😉


      • No, this is the first I have heard of him. I llok forward to reading the article and thank you for mentioning the book. I like the title. 🙂

      • Based upon your blog posts, I suspect you will love Gaiman’s books. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is also amazing (I reviewed it on my blog a while back… You can search for it). He is up there with Umberto Eco for me, and that is lofty praise. Thanks for your comments.

  2. Jeff, I looked over at the illustrations as you suggested in the link you provided us and it looks spectacular. A dark tale done to the extreme!

    • I was most impressed with the illustrations. I’m quite interested in reading this. Gaiman is such an imaginative writer with a unique voice. I was fortunate enough to attend a storytelling event in which he spoke. He was truly inspiring!

  3. Alex Hurst

    Drat!! Another book for me, too!! This looks fantastic. Popping over to check out that link now. Thanks for the heads up. 🙂

    • LOL! I’ll share a bit of wisdom that was passed on to me by the owner of a used book store. I was standing with a stack of books, trying to justify my purchase to myself in light of sagging shelves that were already weighted down with unread books. He told me that having shelves of unread books ensures a long life, since you cannot die if you have unfinished business in life. I bought the books and I’m still alive. 😉 And if you need another reason, any book by Neil Gaiman is worth owning. I’m certain you’ll agree.

      Hope you have a wonderful and inspiring day!