Monday, October 24, 2016

Bradbury 31, Day 24: "The Small Assassin"

There are only eight more days until Halloween and I'll be featuring a Ray Bradbury story which is season-appropriate up 'til then! How about "The Small Assassin," a story best summed up as "killer baby." Bradbury published it in 1946 and it's perhaps the most primordial example of Bradbury's recurring "children are terrible" theme. You can't go much further back than infancy! Now, some people will tell you a child only a few months old couldn't possibly plot murder against it's own parents. Well, I kinda like the story's explanation:
"What is more at peace, more dreamfully content, at ease, at rest, fed, comforted, unbothered, than an unborn child? Nothing. It floats in a sleepy, timeless wonder of nourishment and silence. Then, suddenly, it is asked to give up its berth, is forced to vacate, rushed out into a noisy, uncaring, selfish world where it is asked to shift for itself, to hunt, to feed from the hunting, to seek after a vanishing love that once was its unquestionable right, to meet confusion instead of inner silence and conservative slumber! And the child resents it! Resents the cold air, the huge spaces, the sudden departure from familiar things. And in the tiny filament of brain the only thing the child knows is selfishness and hatred because the spell has been ruddely shattered. Who is responsible for this disenchantment, this rude breaking of the spell? The mother. So here the new child has someone to hate with all its unreasoning mind. The mother has cast it out, rejected it. And the father is no better, kill him, too! He's responsible in his way!"

This was a popular tale to imitate; I've certainly found a few imitators in Atlas Comics of the 1950s such as John Romita's "It!" in Strange Tales #4. EC Comics used their relationship with Bradbury to print an authorized version by Al Feldstein & George Evans and did it expertly, in my opinion.

The first place I heard of "The Small Assassin" was actually the television adaptation on The Ray Bradbury Theater. It was dramatized pretty well, and while I've complained that this series frequently spoiled the conclusions of horror stories, this time they did it just right. "A scalpel."

Another ghoulish Ray Bradbury tale tomorrow!

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