6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

Think back to when you were a child and your parents would read you to sleep ... or to when you learned how to read yourself to sleep while, let's face it, your parents were out at the dog track. Children's books were, and are, a magical window to fun and adventure written by authors who are presumably too lazy to write something for adults.

And now that you've grown up, chances are A) your literary tastes favor more refined fare, like Nietzsche and Dean Koontz, and B) you subsequently missed the fact that your cherished books of yesteryear went completely apeshit the moment your mind migrated to adult concerns, like taxes and the butts of Instagram.

The World Of The Berenstain Bears Gets Pretty Damn Dark

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The Beloved Series:

The Berenstain Bears have made headlines in the past few years for having their books packaged with homophobic garbage food, and the theory that the spelling of "Berenstain" proves that part of the Earth's population came from a parallel universe, Jerry O'Connell-style. But the series' legacy will always be those pastoral picture books that deal with everyday issues, such as cleaning your room, learning table manners, and forcing yourself to play baseball to live out the shattered dreams of your oafish father.

The Berenstain ROom Bears The Berenstain Spars the and MESSY oy TAE FORGET THEIR PIRST YA POCKSS OON MANNERS Str Stan Jan Berenstoin The Berenstain Be

Where Things Went Wrong:

The Berenstain-verse got surprisingly intense, and like dinner at Phil Spector's house, guns eventually made an appearance. The Berenstains started branching out into children's chapter books that addressed weightier subjects. One such subject? Fucking school shootings.

The Berenstain Bears and NO GUNS ALLOWED S W ar StaJanBerenstain

The Bear County Second Amendment: The Right to Arm Bears

The post-Columbine book No Guns Allowed has its heart in the right place, looking to tackle the issue of gun control in the same way messy rooms and junk food had been so swiftly dealt with. But like finding out that Narnia was teeming with meth-heads and gang wars you never knew about, this book reveals that the brightly colored Bear County of your childhood was secretly a pretty fucked-up place. For starters, everyone's obsessed with firearms and violence, as seen in this illustration featuring a bear unloading a shotgun, which, let's face it, is going to be your new desktop background.

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

Also, their boxing follows Rock 'em Sock 'em rules.

Mama Bear even has visions of anthropomorphic guns chasing her, also known as Tom Selleck's happy place.

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

The only way to stop a bad dream with a gun is a good dream with a gun.

Things get really fucked up when one of the creepy kids (the one with the hat and glasses that clearly signify a descent into madness) shows up to school with a gun.

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

It turns out to be just a rubber-band gun, and thankfully the kid isn't taken out by the SWAT team that shows up -- yup, you heard that right, Bear County has a goddamn SWAT team.

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

Presenting the Internet's only G-rated image of a bear unloading on another bear's backside.

Another book reveals that Bear County has become overrun by drugs, because kids everywhere were clamoring for The Berenstain Bears to be more like The Wire.

The Berenstain Bears BiG ATS and the DRUG FREE ZONE Stan & Jan Berenstain

The Berenstain Bears And The Most Blatantly Obvious Public Drug Deal In Recorded History

The story follows the hunt for a drug kingpin whose been flooding the streets with narcotics. Probably because "Bearoin" seemed a little on-the-nose, the drugs are just called "Happy Pills"-- which frankly sound like they might be the only way to escape the shitstorm that is life in Bear County. By the time you get to the book about computers in which a child Internet-dates an older man ...

The Berenstain Bears BiG IN CTLA 3et LOST ERSPACE CYBERSPACE BRAND NEWY Stan & JanBerenstain

No way! protested Queenie. You talked into the idea of me computer-dating an older guy. And now I'm talking myself out

... you'll long for the days when the biggest problems in life were an upset stomach from eating all those lost hikers.

The Magic Tree House Kids Are Surrounded By Death

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

The Beloved Series:

Sadly, the biggest adventure most kids with treehouses face is clearing out the empty beer bottles and used condoms left there by trespassing teenagers. But the Magic Tree House book series takes place in a world where a treehouse is an instrument of magic, transporting kids through time and space, enabling them to battle pirates, ride dinosaurs, or help the CIA fake the moon landing.

MAGIC MAGIC HOUSE #4 HOUSE #1 TREE TREE Pirates Dinosaurs Past Noon Before Dark Mary Pope Osborne Mary Pope Osborne MAGIC HOUSE #8 1 TREE Midnight on

"Magic Tree House: Dawn Of The Lizardmen Illuminati, coming soon."

Where Things Went Wrong:

In a later installment, the kids travel back in time to meet Abraham Lincoln -- you know, the guy who abolished slavery but is somehow commemorated on the cheapest forms of currency. Once at the White House of yesteryear, the kids meet Tad and Willie, Lincoln's sons -- one of which tries to fight our hero. So, if there's one historical takeaway here, it's that Lincoln's son was kind of a dick.

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

"You're going to need a proclamation to emancipate my foot from your ass."

Hopefully, the kids reading this story don't know their history well enough to remember that Lincoln's sons died tragically: Willie at 12 from a fever, and Tad at 18 from heart failure. It's like reading a Hardy Boys book that ends with Frank getting hit by a car and Joe finding a tumor.

Eventually, the kids travel back further in time and meet Lincoln himself, when he's a small boy. Because of their meeting, Young Lincoln is kicked by a horse, knocked unconscious, and starts bleeding from the head -- so for a minute it sure seems like the Magic Tree House kids may have inadvertently created a chilling dystopian future where slavery's still legal and Daniel Day-Lewis has only two Academy Awards.

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

"Four hemorrhages and several brain cells ago ..."

Luckily, young Lincoln doesn't die. When the kids travel forward in time and meet old Lincoln, they have a nice chat while failing to mention that he probably shouldn't be making so many outings to the theatre. Back in the present, the Tree House kids realize that most of the people they meet die horrible deaths -- young Willie died just one year after they met him. So hopefully the rest of the books are just about the kids coping with the unconsidered moral implications of their wacky adventures.

The Final Mary Poppins Book Is About Freeing A Child Slave

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

The Beloved Series:

Mary Poppins, everyone's favorite non-Fran Drescher nanny, is most famous because of the classic Disney movie. But the beloved character first appeared in book form, which spawned several sequels that never became movies, probably because the author, P.L. Travers, hated Walt Disney.

Mary Poppins P. L.TRAVERS


Where Things Went Wrong:

The eighth and final book, Mary Poppins And The House Next Door, found the adorable Banks kids getting a new neighbor: Mr. Banks' old governess, whom he hates almost as much as P.L. Travers hated Walt Disney. She isn't alone, either; she's accompanied by a small, dark-skinned boy, whom she keeps locked in a goddamn trunk! It's not some kind of magic trunk, either; it's literally a human being stuffed inside luggage.

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

The chest fell with a thump on the pavement. It was followed by neither kangaroo, nor monkey, but by small, strangely dressed boy, a

"Wait, let's not settle on 'boy' just yet. I've heard of these platypus creatures."

It turns out the kid's name is Luti, an island "native" who's been taken from his home to get a Western education -- which seems to be entirely composed of reading books while living with this old lady: He's not in school or anything. In exchange for being taken to England (in luggage) he's basically this lady's slave, feeding her and giving her medicine. Oh, and he's not allowed to leave the house. Even a spoonful of sugar isn't enough to swallow this bullshit.

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

Is ... is that a fucking head?

After finding Luti sobbing to himself one night (because he understandably misses his home and family), Mary Poppins decides to free the poor child. They escape and, bizarrely, ascend to the moon, where the man in the moon sends Luti home, via some kind of magic cloud.

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

Our guess is that cloud came from a different Mary.

By the way, this book didn't come out in, like, the '30s or some unenlightened time -- it was written in 1988. That's the same year Die Hard came out. If John McClane had enlisted a child slave from a vaguely defined tropical island to help him reclaim Nakatomi Plaza, people would have lost their goddamn minds.

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

The Arthur Books Become A Complex Web Of Creepiness

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

The Beloved Series:

Since the 1970s, the Arthur books have told quaint stories about how the titular aardvark has reached childhood milestones such as receiving a Valentine, losing a tooth, and writing his R-Rated Golden Girls slash fiction.


He has to write it by hand following the events of Arthur Gets Banned From The Family Computer.

Where Things Went Wrong:

After years of turning out cute, aardvark-based stories, Arthur's world begins getting ... strange. For example, the book, and later episode of the TV series, 1,001 Dads is a perfect storm of batshit craziness. The story starts with a Father's Day picnic, and since Buster's parents just got divorced, everyone assumes his dad won't bother to show up. So the kids hatch a scheme to recruit a new dad for Buster -- which involves randomly approaching strange men and asking them to become their friend's dad. As if this premise isn't unsettling enough, one of the men is a terrifying clown.

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

So, basically, a regular clown.

Luckily, this tactic doesn't lead to an Arthur Mysteriously Disappears book. When approaching strangers falls through, the kids decide to build a dead-eyed robot father for the kid, which immediately begins short-circuiting.

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series


Another TV adaptation of an Arthur book changed the story to feature The Backstreet Boys, who show up as neither humans nor animals but some kind of disturbing, Island Of Dr. Moreau-esque mutant abominations. No one wants it that way.


Teeeell me why ... no, seriously, why? Whhhhhhhy?

Then there's the story that focuses on how Arthur is terrified people will see him in his underwear -- meaning he'd probably be pretty pissed off about the cover of this book.


Though it'd be worth it for someone to finally teach him the right order to put clothes on.

He's so scared of exposing himself he even has nightmares that he's an amoeba who splits apart from his pants ...

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

And another nightmare where his pants fly off, turn into a fanged monster, and try to eat him -- think of it as denim dentata.

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

In the end, he does expose his underwear to the whole school, because kids need to learn that life is a never-ending parade of humiliation that usually confirms your worst fears.

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

"Grower not a shower, huh?"

Winnie The Pooh's New Adventures Are Mostly Existential Nightmares

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

The Beloved Series:

We all grew up with it: A.A. Milne's Winnie The Pooh, either a charming tale of the power of a child's imagination or the unfortunate story of how a small boy instills his playthings with the saddest possible attributes, like gluttony, arrogance, and clinical depression.


"Why bother?" *sigh*

Where Things Went Wrong:

Like everything in the universe eventually will be, Winnie The Pooh was acquired by Disney. And they did a lot of great things with the character, not least of which, the family-friendly company tempered his flagrant nude exhibitionism by giving him a T-shirt to cover at least part of his shame. They also made some great movies and produced a comic strip in which Pooh's a complete dick.

But like music, fashion, and your parents' marriage, things got weird in the '80s. Disney rebooted the Pooh franchise with a TV series: The New Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh -- but for some reason, most of his new adventures were creepy as fuck. For example, there's the episode in which Rabbit grows to hate how ungrateful Pooh and the gang are, so he packs up his shit and runs away ... only to be abducted by a junk dealer seconds later.

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

In the original script, they just shotgun him down Easy Rider-style.

Rabbit is put up for sale in a crappy shop where he runs afoul of Piglet, Tigger, and Pooh's evil murderous doppelgangers.

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

There's also an army of violent, angry crayons -- we can only guess because the wife of whoever wrote this episode had an affair with a Crayola executive.

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

"The color is called 'Adulteress Crimson.'"

Strangely, more than one episode features characters losing their very identities. There's one where Tigger is forced to have a bath that erases his stripes. When he emerges, his friends don't believe he's Tigger, because apparently Kafka wrote for The New Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh.

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

"I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me.
I cannot even explain it to myself."

Similarly, there's an episode where Pooh loses his appetite, causing his friends to think he's an impostor, and they start to believe that everyone is an impostor. The craziest part of all of this is that the conceit of the Winnie The Pooh stories is that this is all in Christopher Robin's imagination. So maybe the happiest ending to this story would be to get him out of the Hundred Acre Wood and into the nearest CAT scan machine.

The End Of Narnia Is Crazy Depressing

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

The Beloved Series:

The Narnia books -- C.S. Lewis' magical story of a mythical fairyland, that just so happens to trick children into loving Jesus. And why wouldn't they? If the New Testament was about a badass lion battling an evil witch, a lot more kids might show up to Sunday School. It's also notable as the only fantasy series in which Santa Claus shows up and distributes medieval weapons to children, which probably led to a lot of disappointing Christmas mornings for kids who asked for crossbows and morning stars.

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

"You'll shoot your eye out."

Where Things Went Wrong:

We're guessing that a lot of you probably didn't finish the series -- hell, even the movie franchise can't seem to make it all the way to the end. The final book, The Last Battle, is an appropriately wacky story that begins with a talking ape dressing a donkey up like Aslan the (Jesus) lion, in order to create a false god, which is either an allegorical critique of Darwin's theories or proof that these books were a shitshow of random craziness.

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

Either way, jackasses are involved.

The original kids from The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe return minus Susan because, as her brother puts it, she's "not a friend of Narnia" anymore -- which really makes Narnia sound like a fucking cult. So what happened? Well, she got into lipstick and nylons:

"Oh Susan!" said Jill. "She's interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations. She always was a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up."

A lot of people, including J.K. Rowling, interpret this as Susan abandoning Aslan (Jesus) because she's discovered sex, which is kind of a shitty lesson to impart to kids. Speaking of shitty, the book ends with a damn apocalypse ... just like another famous book. As everyone is migrating from Narnia to the true Narnia dimension (don't ask), Lucy asks Aslan if he's going to send her back to the real world, at which point, this creepy exchange happens:

"No fear of that," said Aslan. "Have you not guessed?"
Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them.
"There was a real railway accident," said Aslan softly. "Your father and mother and all of you are -- as you used to call it in the Shadowlands -- dead. The term is over: The holidays have begun. The dream is ended: This is the morning."

6 Bafflingly Dark Moments In Beloved Children's Book Series

"Well ... bye."

So, no need to worry, kids; you all died a violent death. Thanks, Aslan. How is it OK to end a children's book with the message that death is a "holiday" and things will only start to get good if you die in some kind of horrible vehicular wreck? That's not going to convert them to Christianity; it's going to convert them to wearing black nail polish and listening to The Cure.

J.M. McNab co-hosts the pop culture nostalgia podcast Rewatchability, which can also be found on iTunes. Follow him on Twitter @Rewatchability.

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