#FolkHorror: Lullaby

Shirley Jackson Experience & Fiction

I have been reading the excellent biography of Shirley Jackson by Ruth Franklin, which of course makes me turn to Jackson’s own writing for various things (some books are still packed in boxes alas, and it is too hot to spend time in the garage looking for them). I decided to re-read this essay which I’ve not thought of in a while and was struck how good it is. Point one: always use magic. Point two: for writers ‘nothing is ever wasted.’

I wrote and recorded this little lullaby for something that didn’t end up happening. So I decided to choose from great images from the British Library Flickr account (the source of so many of Kit Marlowe’s inspirations for Absolute Twaddle).

So many lullabies are a bit scary when you get right down to it. They give voice to horrible, even absurd fears. The music and cadences soothe the child, but the words allow the parent to name the fears they have the better to ward them off. Federico García Lorca even wrote a lecture on the power of those murder ballads. Those who study them see that strength in expressing fears:

“People have said that lullabies are the space to sing the unsung,” Pettit said. “A place to say the unsayable. You’re alone. Nobody is listening, and you can express the feelings that are not okay to express in society.”

Name the worst and take away its power — or something like that. You be the judge: here’s a plague lullaby for our times with appropriately creepy images on the platform of your choice.